“A Week In The Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.
Today’s subject is a soldier in this mid-thirties who walks us through fighting bandits in the North, corruption in the military, and his plans for civilian life once his military service is over.
I wake up as early as 5 am. I say my prayers and listen to some gospel messages [from my pastor] on my phone. As a soldier, I can’t really predict my day. I might get to work and be told that I’m going to Lagos or Kaduna. I might also be told to go home and report to Kafanchan or Jos the next day. I only ever know what my day is like when I get to work. As a result, it’s difficult to surprise me because I’m always prepared for any scenario. If you call me now that my mum is dead, I won’t be shocked. I’ll just be like “mummy die.” I’ll feel the impact but the pain won’t linger because I’m used to moving on quickly.
So, after I finish listening to my gospel messages, I dress up and go to work.
At work, we get a distress call that bandits are robbing people. In the North, where my barracks is located, there is a high prevalence of banditry and it’s our job to protect the civilian population. Today, hoodlums are robbing on the highway linking Abuja to Minna, so we are going to clear them.
The life of a soldier man is dedicated to maintaining peace and order. Many times it is at our own expense. This distress call reminds me of a day I’ll never forget; December 1st, 2015. That’s one of the fiercest battles I’ve fought in my entire life. We responded to a call as usual but those idiots [bandits] kept on exchanging fire with us. They’d fire at us and we’d fire back at them. Then we had to use our military tactics to flank them and put them in the middle. After which they had no choice but to surrender. Some even ran away with gunshot wounds but we were able to capture their weapons.
Another thing that made that day memorable was that a colleague got shot beside me. On the battlefield, when someone gets shot, you no fit just rush help am because they [bandits] will shoot you too. So, you go just dey look am dey give am words of encouragement: “Guy don’t fight it.” “Just breathe easy”, “Take it easy.” As you’re watching him, you’ll also keep fighting so that your enemies don’t close in on you. If you’re lucky to be on covered ground with barriers, your colleagues will cover each other while they come to you to apply first aid. However, if it’s an open ground and they can’t make it in time, they’ll throw you a first aid box – That’s if it’s an injury that you can apply first aid by yourself.
We’ve had so many cases, at different locations, in different areas where we watched our colleagues and friends bleed to death. It’s painful seeing soldiers dying on a regular basis because, at the end of the day, we’re all human. But what can we do? – we bear it and life goes on. Someone you saw this morning can be gone the next minute. It’s not a thing of joy.
Thankfully, we were able to rescue my colleague and he didn’t die.
It saddens me that corruption is also part of the reason soldiers die. Imagine risking your life and getting substandard weapons to use in battle. I’ll rather not talk on the matter because it’s just so painful. I keep saying that if we want to totally eliminate corruption as a whole in Nigeria, we should start from the military. The armed forces as a whole – paramilitary, everybody. They are the main groups of corruption in Nigeria. If they can tackle the corruption in the armed forces, then corruption will be reduced if not eradicated in other sectors.
Omo, it’s been a long day and I can’t stress myself thinking too much about these things. For now, I just want to go home.
I look forward to civilian life when I retire from the military – I’ll enjoy my gratuity, flex my wife, and watch so many American films with her. By that time my kids would all be grown up so my wife and I can enjoy ourselves.
Editors note: The image used was randomly taken off the internet as the interview was conducted anonymously.