In a move that is designated to set Nigeria back at least a couple of decades, the Nigerian militarywants to end the admission of female cadets into the combatant course of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA). In 2010, President, Goodluck Jonathan 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. In 2011, a set of 20 women, nicknamed ‘Jonathan Queens’, were first admitted into the course.
Ironically or unironically (depends on how you see it), the recommendation to end the programme was made by the Armed Forces Council inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari, just last week. The council also revised the National Defence Policy: Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service Officers last week, and the changes were ratified by president Buhari, to include one new clause: Phase out the training of female regular combatant cadets.
There are many types of commissions in the Nigerian Armed Forces: Regular Combatant Commission, Short Service Combatant Commission, Direct Regular Commission, Direct Short Service and Executive Commission. According to a correspondent for Punch Nigeria, a serving general in the Nigerian Army said that the military allegedly took the decision due to complaints from some unnamed northern Muslim leaders:
“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.”
In 2013, of the first 20 female cadets, only one Muslim woman, Fatimah Saleh, enlisted. She had also stated that her “Arabic school teacher” had advised her against joining the army. The general said those pushing for the scrapping of the programme had convinced the president that women were not doing well in the programme. Because, what else can men do if they’re not oppressing women?
“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.”
Basically, this move is being made because some fragile men are quaking in their shoes about the success of women. The female cadets are outperforming their male colleagues, but the military hierarchy would rather suppress their achievements. These men are so sexist that they’re willing to overlook the general quality, superiority and ability of the women in the military to make sure women don’t get a chance to lead.
Two of these same female cadets even beat their male counterparts to win placement at the United States Military Academy in West Point and they are doing well. Presently, we have female armoured tank drivers, female para-troopers, jumpers, and so on. According to the general said, the women were trained just like the men were trained. They were not given any preferential treatment.
But looks like it will be a while before the Nigerian armed forces is without discrimination. They will allow women join the army, but on men’s terms: limiting women to non-combat duties, thereby limiting their career path regardless of their competence or skill. Masculinity so fragile…