Mutiny is one of the cardinal sins that members of the military, or any regimented institution, for that matter; needs not commit. This, methinks, is to ensure the preservation of an enduring command and control structure in the military, being an institution that thrives on the giving of orders, and the obedience of same. In its most liberal sense of usage, mutiny involves a conspiracy among a group of soldiers to oppose, change, or overthrow an authority to which they are ordinarily subject.
The caveat in the foregoing paragraph that needs be stated, is that such an authority or law, must be lawful. Thus, would it be mutinous to disobey an unlawful order? Your guess is as good as mine.
In the case of the recent sentencing of twelve soldiers to die by firing squad, by a court-marshal of the Nigerian Army, there has been a groundswell of public opinion calling for leniency for the convicted soldiers. This is surely not unconnected with the circumstances that led to the so-called mutinous acts. It was reported that prior to the said mutiny which allegedly involved the firing of shots at the motorcade of their GOC, the soldiers had protested their deployment on a mission along a route that was succeptible to Boko Haram ambush without adequate preparation to counter the terrorists. They were reportedly compelled to obey their others, which they did, resulting in the killing of several of their colleagues. They were reported to have gone berserk when the lifeless bodies of their comrades were brought in to their barracks.
Without going into the knotty details of the incidents and circumstances surrounding the mutiny, several questions beg for answers.
Is it acceptable for superiors to allow their incompetence or outright complicity in corruption-induced sabotage of operations, to lead to the deaths of soldiers? Are soldiers disposable pawns in a chessboard of possible sellout by those who should ensure the soundness of operations? Is it lawful to send soldiers into battle without the requisite arms, ammunition, equipment, and other supplies, needed to boost their morale and give them operational advantage over the terrorists? Since when did justice begin to receive such an accelerated dispensation in Nigeria? What has become of the sundry allegations bordering on insider-collaboration with terrorists? Are there no punishments for manifest failure of commanding officers to competently lead their soldiers to operational victories?
Whereas we must advocate strict discipline, reflected in obedience of lawful orders in the military, we must not condone the needless and avoidable butcher of Nigerian soldiers because their superiors failed, through commission or omission, to provide the enabling environment for soldiers to effectively discharge their duties. This is supposedly a democratic dispensation, and as such, military authorities must be subject to civil rule. The President should order a holistic review of the circumstances that led to “that” mutiny. The generality of the soldiers need their morale to be boosted as much as can be. They need to know that all is being done to give them advantage over the enemies of Nigeria. They need to understand that justice in Nigeria is equally served on the high and on the low, on the governing authorities as well as on the people being governed.
Further, while deciding the fate of the convicted soldiers, we must ask ourselves whether the soldiers actually wanted to kill their commanding officers. Is it possible for that number of soldiers to conspire to kill their superiors and ended up killing no one, or even causing the injury of the target? Or, is it that the military is now turning out soldiers that cannot kill who they set out to kill?
While insisting that justice ought to be served on errant public servants, it is important to factor-in the nature of justice, and the implications of that justice for the overall good of the land. The military high command should temper justice with mercy. This is not a time for the Army to turn the guns on its own fighters, whose major offence is wanting a better deal, albeit going about it wrongly. If a review proves that the soldiers had no provocation to act mutinous, then, all well and good. But should it be found that they had a bad deal, that they were programmed to be killed by default by the Boko Haram savages; then justice must be served on those whose action and inaction led to that mutiny.
Remember, that rebellion to tyranny (read, mutiny against incompetence and criminally complicit authority), is obedience to God.