Never be too quick to commend a Nigerian official who, Allah be praised, finally does something commendable. There will always be that little spoiler- as if they are allergic to doing anything that does not have comma somewhere and somehow.
I was just going to commend General Buratai for taking time away from the rigours of snake farming and Dubai property management to announce “the upgrading of the Nigerian Army Institute of Technology and Environmental Studies, Biu in Borno, to University of Technology and Environmental Studies” (Premium Times).
Africa is crawling towards the age of specialised innovation Universities. That is the discourse of the future and it is a pleasant surprise to see the Nigerian Army take the plunge at a time when Nigerian education authorities are largely absent from global discussions of the idea of innovation Universities.
I was going to say to Buratai: great idea. Wonderful that you appear to be up to date in global education discourse. Innovation Universities – that is what we are all talking about now. However, please look at the kinds of budgetary figures and resources that those who are talking about innovation Universities in North America, Europe, Asia, and the Arab Gulf States have in mind. An innovation University is not just what you open the Nigerian way.
That is how you opened Universities of Agriculture and turned them into a joke.
That is how you opened Federal Universities of Technology and turned them into a huge joke.
Now the world is talking innovation Universities and the Army wants to blaze the trail for Nigeria. Good. But go and find money and find global visionaries to run your vision according to global best practices. Don’t launch with fanfare and then run the University exactly the same way Nigeria has run her Universities of Agriculture and Universities of Technology.
I was going to say all these nice things to Buratai. Then I saw the spoiler: he warned against “the inappropriate use of the social media by personnel of the army” (Premium Times).
Now, I have no wahala with an Army General grumbling about inappropriate use of social media by his officers. After all, in Universities, in the workplace, in the corporate world, employers have various social media usage policies and are always grumbling.
However, what is the business of the public sphere with Buratai’s issues with social media use in the Nigerian Army? Matters of routine military discipline that should be in internal memos, Nigerian Army Generals will jump up and down, go on Channels and AIT, summon ThisDay and Punch and Vanguard and begin to issue public directives.
We can’t repeat this enough: the Army in the public sphere is an aberration. It is a hangover from our dark days. Our people think it is normal because they have mostly never seen and experienced anything different from the military being in their face and in their space all the time.
If you want to regulate social media use in the Army, go and do it internally. Besides, it is ironic that you are using the occasion of the launch of a University, a space of ideas, freedom, and innovation, to announce a clamp down on unauthorised social media use by your boys.
And, by the way, you may have addressed your message directly to your boys in the Army, I hear differently. Given the history of the Nigerian Army, you are not really talking to your boys, are you? You are warning Nigerians in general: use social media to talk about the Army in a way we don’t like and you shall see!
Are you blaming me for hearing something different from what you said? General, don’t blame me. Blame the Army’s history of brutality and violation of civilian spaces.
Next time, go and give your orders to your boys in the barracks. Stop disturbing our peace in civilian public spaces.