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I Will Shoot! We explain why Nigeria's armed forces bully civilians

“Park there! Inner light!” This is not about meditation. This is a Nigerian checkpoint scenario.

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This post is not going to exactly solve the problem, but it will explain why.

“Park there! Inner light!”
This is not about meditation. This is a Nigerian checkpoint scenario.
I asked 10 people about the first experience they remember having with armed authority in Nigeria. 8 of them talked about bullying and intimidation in some form. The remaining 2 have good experiences. 

The first person has diplomat parents who have had armed security detail for as long as can be remembered. The other person has a police uncle.

The Nigerian Armed Forces are obsessed with subduing the people they see as beneath them. It’s almost instinct. This power-drunkenness might have been released when they first donned the uniform, but it began at the place all learning begins, the family.

One of the most important books I read this year is “The Culture Code” by Rapaille Clotaire. He believes that our first experience with certain things strongly influences our perception of it for most of our lives.

It’s probably why the “men are scum” argument is common because most girls who are having teenage consensual sex for the first time are doing it for love while the boys are mostly doing it for curiosity and bragging rights with the other boys. Also probably explains the “he started drifting away after we made love”. The thirst of curiosity has been quenched.



Back to the Armed Forces.

The first form of authority a child experiences is his parents. In some countries, it is more common for parenting to be seen as a form of service. It involves explaining to your children why you’re doing certain things they don’t like. This is also reflected in their leadership where they feel like servant-leaders, instead of rulers. 

In Nigeria, a child’s first experience with authority is more commonly with the exertion of power, most likely by use of force.

My dad for example only knew how to treat fuck-ups with serious beating. So we grew up knowing we could do the things that angered him, as long as we didn’t get caught. 

My Sociologist mother, on the other hand, tried a different approach. When she made us understand the consequences of our actions, we tried not to do it even in her absence. We tried. 

This trait of showing authority through the exertion of power follows us through to school. So the Class Captain in school exerts power by threatening to put you on the list of noisemakers. The teacher only understands to treat mediocrity with flogging. 

We grow up understanding that only with the exertion of power do we assert authority.

Two cars hit themselves on the road, and instead of talking about solving the immediate problem, one driver is already trying to call his soldier friend to “deal with you”.

Our leaders believe they do us a favour by leading and find it disrespectful that we question their mediocrity. It’s just how our parents understood it as defiance when we pointed out their obvious mistakes. 

This is how most Nigerians understand authority. This is why most Nigerians are only moved by force, and lack of force is interpreted as a sign of weakness.

Short term solutions like legislation might reduce this. But guess who is currently passing laws in this country. Ha.

And yes, charity begins at home. So long term, if we must unlearn this, then we must teach our children differently. 
We must teach that authority is for service, not the exertion of power.

While this is the common perception of Nigerian soldiers, there are exception men and women who genuinely want to serve. We just hope to see more of them.

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