Editorial: The governor and the colonelGovernors, Headlines Saturday, July 21st, 2012
•The bad conduct of army officer is a fair reflection of uniformed men’s contempt for the law
THE devil-may-care, law-be-damned irony was clear: an army staff car, with the fluttering staff flag, cruising on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) dedicated lane, with a full colonel at the wheels! The message to other lawful road users, stuck in the Lagos outer Marina early evening traffic was clear: the law be damned!
But not exactly: for the culprit, the lawless Col. Ki Yusuf, a Nigerian Army officer, met his nemesis in Lagos State Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, who himself was stuck in the traffic and promptly apprehended the officer. As if to prove right the dictum that there are no bad men in the Nigerian Army, only bad officers, another Army other rank, Staff Sergeant AJ Adeomi, was also arrested indulging in the same shameful infraction.
It was a bad day for the Army as a uniformed and disciplined force, as the apprehension of Col. Yusuf and Staff Sergeant Adeomi tended to suggest that indiscipline and impunity continue to eat at the core and soul of an institution to which discipline and obedience to law ought to be a fundament. But it was a glorious day for law and order, as Governor Fashola made it clear that the law was no respecter of any person, not the least a pair of misguided soldiers.
It would be too sweeping and a tad unfair to posit that because of the lawless conduct of this pair, the bulk of the men and women of the Nigerian Army and other uniformed forces were lawless and undisciplined. But it is certainly fair comment that the penchant to resort to impunity and lack of respect for laws is rife with uniformed people. That should be decried in the strongest terms possible.
It was not the first time Governor Fashola would apprehend military officers in needless traffic infractions. The other time, it was a Nigerian Air Force officer the governor caught and verbally warned, after driving against the traffic, at the Lekki corridor end of Lagos. On July 17, it was a pair of soldiers.
At the Cappa Junction of Fatai Atere Way, on which this newspaper’s head office in Lagos is situated, and near which there is a military facility, uniformed military men and women are a constant eye sore, driving against the traffic to connect their facility, just because their Undisciplined Majesties are too important to, from the Mushin end, drive to Bolade in Oshodi and make the proper U-turn to connect their office.
The empty conceit that has seized these lawless lawmen, who are a blight to the tax payers’ money spent to clothe and equip them, is inexplicable. The law, in the tradition of the Social Contract, has given them certain privileges, but only for the good of the society. But they cannot in common sense and in good conscience convert these privileges, granted strictly for the public good, into brainless impunity to purport to be superior to the very law that created the disciplined institutions in which they serve and so recklessly abuse. The military authorities must ensure such outrageous behaviours cease, forthwith.
Governor Fashola did well to call that shameful two-some to order. The colonel, faced with the stark reality of the law, kept on mumbling his apologies. But if he was not face-to-face with the Lagos governor, would he have been so sober? Yet, the law that created him as a soldier created Fashola as the governor. The only difference is that whereas the governor obeyed the law that created him, the colonel scorned the law that gave him life. That he earned his due disgrace was appropriate comeuppance.
The military authorities must not only discipline the two erring soldiers, they should reorient their men and women to know that laws must be obeyed and not be treated with disdain. If the democratic polity must deliver peace and development, the military must subordinate themselves to civil authority and, in return, earn respect and affection for their onerous calling of defending the nation. Fashola’s action showed the subordination of the military to civil authority.
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