Women’s Aspiration of Taking the Spotlight in the Military Crushed as Buhari Ends Admission into NDA

Rejoice Igoh, First-Airborne qualified Female Nigeria Army Officer

In what will be a major turn of hands on the wheels, admission of the feminine gender into Nigerian Defense Academy looks set to end as President Muhammadu Buhari ratified the National Defence Policy 2017 (Revised); Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service Officers 2017 last week.

During former President Jonathan’s administration, a set of 20 females, nicknamed Jonathan Queens, were for the very first time admitted into the course in Nigeria’s premier military officer training institution.

According to a report by Today.ng, recommendation 19 of the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of the Armed Forces of Nigeria which was sighted by newsmen on Sunday read, “Phase out the training of female regular combatant cadets.”

Reportedly, a serving general in the Nigerian military gave insight to what the policy if enforced will mean and the intricacies involved.

“It is only the Regular Combatant Commission that can give an officer the opportunity to aspire to head any of the services or rise to become the Chief of Defence Staff, while the others have limited career path. If the military is able to scrap this programme, women will never be able to head any of the arms of the Nigerian military.

The northern Muslim leaders want to prevent a situation where one day, a woman will lead the army and give orders to men.”

Incidentally, it was reported in 2013 that of the first 20 female cadets, only one Muslim, Fatimah Saleh, enlisted. She had also stated that her “Arabic school teacher” had advised her against joining the army.

When we started the training of female cadets in 2011, we never thought it would be successful. When the first set of women cadets graduated from the academy last year, women won three awards, including the best award in the navy category.

A female cadet, C. Lord-Mallam, won the Navy Gold award which is the highest in the navy category. The Army Silver award, which is the second highest in the army, went to a female cadet, K. O Dayo-Karim. The Air Force Silver award was also won by a female cadet, O. S Ijelu.

However, some northern conservatives were not happy about it because most of the female cadets are either Christians from the South and northern minority groups or Muslims from the South and Middle Belt.

“Dissatisfied with how things are turning out, the northern Muslim leaders lobbied the military authorities to stop the programme for women.”

He further mourned the  situation, stating that Nigeria was moving backwards instead of forward.

“It is unfortunate that while the western world and even other African nations are progressing, Nigeria is going backwards.”

In 2010, the then President, Goodluck Jonathan, had ordered the military to allow females interested in becoming combatant officers of the Nigerian armed forces to be admitted into the NDA for the first time ever.

The then Minister of Defence, Adetokunbo Kayode, had said other countries in Africa were “already doing it and they are not better than us.”

He had said, “Presently, we have female armoured tank drivers, female Para-troopers, jumpers, and so on. We want to have strong, virile armed forces devoid of discrimination.”

Expatiating on the new directive, the minister had said, “As you are all aware, the Nigerian Armed forces have always had an opening for female officers. However, these have always been limited to non- combat duties, thereby limiting their career path irrespective of their competence or skill.

“To redress this obvious anomaly and in line with the conviction of the President that every Nigerian, irrespective of gender or any affiliation, should be given equal opportunity to excel in his or her chosen field of life, Mr President has directed the immediate enlistment and training of female regular combatant commission officers into the Nigerian armed forces.”

However, the Defence Headquarters, Abuja, failed to comment on the revised harmonised terms and conditions on Sunday.

The Director of Information, Maj. Gen. John Enenche, did not pick his calls, and a text message sent to his line had yet to be replied to as of press time.

Also, the Director, Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Sani Usman, could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

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