COUNTRY FIRST

True-Life Conversation between David Anaka and a Nigerian soldier.                      

(anonymous status adopted for this feature)

There are some special breed of humans who see challenges facing a nation and rather than shy away from such situations or just complain, they make themselves ready and available, and also say; ‘send me to calm the storm.’ These individuals fight for country, they fight for honor and more importantly they fight to win. A Nigerian soldier made me understand what it really means to live for a purpose. Our conversation circled around his love for his job and he also revealed his drive and unrelenting desire to push himself harder and farther than anyone can imagine possible. His deployment to the North-Eastern part of Nigeria has pushed him to hot dark corners where bad things live and fight, an unpleasant environment with constant baptism of fire. His best reward, will be just to see a transformed Nigeria.

      Conversation between David Anaka and a Nigerian Soldier.

DAVID:

A patriot is one who loves and defends his or her country. How do you feel being referred to as a patriot because of your active service and role in the fight against insurgency in Nigeria?

 SOLDIER:

 I really don’t feel worthy to be called a patriot, because I believe that what lies ahead seems bigger than what I have seen so far. However, I am honored to be treated as and also called one. I tell people that; I have missed my targets many  times, I have also read some battles wrong and made some wrong calls. But one thing  I have never done is; to turn my back against an enemy, till they are down. I do not see myself as a warlord. But I see myself as a soldier who is expected to be a victor.

DAVID:

How has your childhood and background shaped you into the man you are today?

SOLDIER:

I am from a small family. I grew up not really being  part of kids who experienced life by engagement but rather, mine was more of observations. These observations I gathered over time from everything around me, formed a cognitive part of who I am now and how I approach issues.

DAVID:

What influenced your choice of military career?

SOLDIER:

The environment I found myself in presented the military as an option. Although, I ventured into other spheres of life at some point, got a university degree, started a fashion outfit, I still found myself craving to serve my country through the military in my mid twenties. The major driving force was the will to serve, lead and be an example worthy of emulation. This will is bigger, much bigger than my might. This is also what keeps me going when the chips are down. My choice to join the Force was the most unlikely but it is a better representation of who I am.

DAVID:

After joining the force, you were deployed to the North-Eastern part of Nigeria at a period when insurgency was on the rise. How did you and your loved ones feel about your deployment?

SOLDIER:

 My first deployment was in North-Eastern Nigeria. I was not quite surprised about my first deployment, because if I wasn’t expecting it then, why am I here. If it was going to be a great surprise to me then I’m not ready. My great country is challenged and I believe my contributions will be history bound. At first, news about my deployment didn’t go down well with my loved ones  but my confidence became contagious and their confidence apparently became my stronghold.

DAVID:

How will you describe your first contact with insurgents

SOLDIER:

 My first encounter with insurgents was more like a reality check. However, I was briefed by my superiors who also took special interest in me, in making sure I acclimatize with the ground. My very first encounter with insurgents was a huge success, although I was in a trance for the first  few minutes before I got my act together and got into the fight. The success of that operation further stabilized my confidence.

My superiors when encouraging our team always say; “the time left is less than the time spent, so don’t give up now.”

DAVID:

Have you incurred losses through your active participation in the fight against insurgency?

SOLDIER:

I don’t count losses, rather I see them as challenges, it’s been total commitment joining the force. But if we understand the state of the nation today and what we hope to achieve tomorrow then we must realize that our efforts are geared towards a future gain. My friends have been awesomely supportive. Yes! my loved ones miss me as much as I miss them, but our faith is solid. There’s no comfort in war, everyday is a blessing.

DAVID:

What style have you approached in Leading the men under your lead to victory, considering you are responsible for some men who are older and even more battle experienced than yourself.

SOLDIER:

Having men under your lead is just part of the structural organization of the job. Being in such position is however challenging especially with men who have been in the theatre for years. It is pretty difficult to maintain decorum and discipline. Leadership is a style and I make it flexible for a common purpose of achieving the sole objective. I find it pretty easy leading my men because I make them realize that our every task is collective and we must achieve it as one body. Never use power to impose discipline, rather make everyman realize that he is entitled to the discipline he pays. I spend more time with my soldiers, I know their strengths and weaknesses, and I manage them accordingly, I create room for each to develop himself and I listen to them closely. We bond like brothers and we fight as one blood.  This alone keeps their morale high.

DAVID:

Have you had moments where you could not control your emotions?

SOLDIER:

 Losing a man is like losing a brother, because together we have built history, memories, and have been a part of a greater good. As a leader, you must be able to maintain the high spirits of your men at all times even when one falls.

One moment that brought tears to my eyes was when we successfully recovered some women and children from insurgents who had been held captive for years, their sight was really pitiful. I offered them bread and they said; they hadn’t eaten bread for over five years, I went emotional.

DAVID:

What are your major sources of joy and motivation?

SOLDIER:

No one can make you happy unless you make yourself happy. An average soldier in war is hostile, the everyday people you interact with are not happy, so, my joy lies in the peace from God knowing that all is well, the confidence and prayers of my loved ones. A puppy dog I  adopted in the North-East makes me laugh. Also, the general success my unit has achieved so far has been of great motivation. Every victory breeds a new height of morale.

DAVID:

What do you have to say about the Nigeria.

SOLDIER:

Our beloved nation is blessed and great, that’s why we have so much uprising. I believe our nation will be better, I believe in a brighter tomorrow. Our youths are using our challenges to foster measures of being self reliant. The transformation is slow but imminent, as soon as we get past this phase of security challenges, our nation will be rock solid. 

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2 Comments

  1. Overall a good dialogue but I got confused on his response to his “Leadership Style” because in military there are specific styles a soldier or officer can use to enhance management over the soldiers under them. He was passionate about how he feels about country and his responsibility. That was refreshing. Military in Nigeria does not glitter like those in other parts of the world. I would have liked to know how prepared is the Nigerian military to combat in other countries and how can the Nigerian government make military so appealing that other young men/ women would feel the same patriotism this soldier demonstrates.

    • Good Day Mrs. Deborah. Thank you for your comment and question.
      Here’s the response from the soldier to your comment and question:

      Soldier: ” We must understand that in developed armies, people join to contribute to the government, its like a voluntary organization. Here, people are not joining because they have what to offer but cos they need to be employed. This is a challenge our military faces and when you dig deep, its beyond the military, its a system lacuna. Within the military we give priorities to success in missions, other things are secondary. If you’re not self motivated in joining the system don’t expect the system to motivate you.. That’s where we find ourselves.”


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