Sadly We Lost the War, By Eric Teniola

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The War Against Indiscipline campaign was welcomed by most Nigerians at that time, because for too long the country had drifted so aimlessly that it had reached the point where negative values were the norm. Before then it was normal to jump queues, disregard law and order, flout the traditional norms and principles of our culture, develop criminal tendencies…

On Tuesday March 20, 1984, the chief of staff Supreme Headquarters, Brigadier General Babatunde Abdulbaki Idiagbon (1943-1999) launched the National Consciousness and Mobilisation Crusade. That was over 34 years ago, during the tenure of Major General Muhammadu Buhari as head of state. Brigadier Idiagbon was the number two man during that time.

The campaign was later renamed by the media as War Against Indiscipline (WAI). The launch took place at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos. Present at the ceremony were the then chief of army staff, Major General Ibrahim Babangida; the minister of information, social development, youth, sports and culture, Group Captain Samson Emeka Omeruah (1943-2006); and the then inspector general of Police, Mr. Etim Okon Inyang (1931-2016). All the nineteen military governors were present at the launch.

They were Anambra State: Navy Captain Allison Madueke; Bendel State: Brigadier Jerry Useni; Benue State: Brigadier John Atom Kpera; Borno State: Major General Abubakar Waziri; Cross Rivers State: Navy Captain Ekpo Archibong; Gongola State: Major-General Muhammed Dan Maji Jega; Imo State: Brigadier General Ike Nwachukwu; Kaduna State: Air-Commodore Usman Muazu; Kano State: Air-Commodore Hamza Abdullahi; and Kwara State:Group Captain Salaudeen Adebola Latinwo. Also, Lagos State: Group Captain Gbolahan Mudashiru; Niger State: Lt-Colonel David Mark; Ogun State: Lt-Colonel Donaldson Oladipo Diya; Ondo State: Commodore Micheal Bamidele Otiko; Oyo State: Lt-Colonel Oladayo Popoola; Plateau State: Navy Captain Samuel Atukun; Rivers State: Police Commissioner Fidelis Oyakhilome; and Sokoto State: Brigadier Garba Duba.

The War Against Indiscipline campaign was welcomed by most Nigerians at that time, because for too long the country had drifted so aimlessly that it had reached the point where negative values were the norm. Before then it was normal to jump queues, disregard law and order, flout the traditional norms and principles of our culture, develop criminal tendencies, engage in ostentatious living, and sabotage the economy, till the whole country gradually became engulfed in terrorism and the insecurity of life and property.

Every concerned Nigerian then talked about the dreaded malaise that had descended on the body politic but no one had an idea how to set about eradicating it. The problem was too gigantic even to contemplate. It was left to the indomitable courage of the then military administration to crystalise a plan of action that would involve the entire nation…

Every concerned Nigerian then talked about the dreaded malaise that had descended on the body politic but no one had an idea how to set about eradicating it. The problem was too gigantic even to contemplate. It was left to the indomitable courage of the then military administration to crystalise a plan of action that would involve the entire nation down to the grassroots, in an effective crusade guaranteed to eradicate these chronic ills permanently. At that time, the Constitution was suspended and there was no National Assembly, which is presently draining the nation’s economy. So it was easy for such a campaign to be launched.

The ills of the society at that time centered around one word INDISCIPLINE – in its personal, moral and environmental ramifications.

In launching the campaign, Brigadier Idiagbon declared that: “Yet without discipline in the society at large, the country would degenerate into a jungle where respect for law and order is disregarded, traditional norms and principles are cast aside, criminal tendencies find fertile ground to flourish, and a sense of insecurity of life and property haunts the citizens. Our society must never be allowed to degenerate into such a hopeless situation, a jungle where only the fitest can survive. The battle to bring sanity to our society is, therefore, the battle to replace indiscipline with discipline. Military interventions in the political life of our country at different periods of our history were – to a large extent – motivated by a sense of mission to infuse discipline into all facets of our national life. I want you to bear in mind the need to emphasise self-discipline and leadership by good example. Begin by drawing public attention to little but important everyday manifestations of indiscipline, such as rushing into buses, driving on the wrong side of the road, littering the streets, parks and dwelling compounds, cheating, taking undue advantage of scarcity to inflate prices for quick monetary gains, constituting ourselves into public nuisances, working without commitment, devoting little or no time to the upbringing of our children”.

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WAI lasted for sixteen months, for on August 27, 1985, General Buhari’s government was overthrown by General Ibrahim Babangida and a greater part of the momentum on the War was lost.

Posters, radio and television jingles, and billboards were used as vehicles of the campaign, which was launched in the nineteen states capitals. WAI brigades were also formed in this regard.

It was as if the nation woke up from a slumber. Many Nigerians welcomed the campaign, including the media. Many thought we were on our way to achieving sanity in our society. Those who enjoyed the campaign and are still alive today remember with nostalgia what War Against Indiscipline really meant.

WAI lasted for sixteen months, for on August 27, 1985, General Buhari’s government was overthrown by General Ibrahim Babangida and a greater part of the momentum on the War was lost.

General Babangida replaced the War Against Indiscipline with the Mass Mobilisation for Self-Reliance, Social Justice, and Economic Recovery (MAMSER), following the recommendation of the political bureau headed by Dr. Samuel Joseph Cookey. MAMSER, which is still in existence, was not inaugurated until July 25, 1987. General Babangida then brought Senator Jerry Gana, who was in the Senate for less than three months in 1983, to head the body and Professor Tunde Adeniran, Ken Saro Wiwa, Molara Ogundipe-Leslie and Senator Jonathan Zwingina to be part of the organisation.

Had the War Against Indiscipline not been halted, the near anarchy we have in the country now could have been avoided.

Eric Teniola, a former director in the Presidency, writes from Lagos.

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