BY ADETOKUNBO COKER
Bad news spreads like wildfire. A growing body of evidence illustrates the human tendency to prioritize negative over positive news content. But why is this?
“Humans may neurologically or physiologically predispose towards focusing on negative information because the potential costs of negative information far outweigh the potential benefits of positive information.” Professor Stuart Soroka
The above aptly describes the news of the Nigerian Army abandoning wounded soldiers fighting the insurgency in the North East. Some days back I saw the picture of a Nigerian soldier in need of urgent medical help avoid losing his sight after a significant accident with his weapon somewhere in the northeast. It was such a gory sight. The report stated that he needed a Cornea Implant to save his sight. The report indicated that this incident happened in Buni Yadi, Yobe State, from where he was transferred to 7 Div Military Hospital Maiduguri, from there to 44 Army Reference Hospital Kaduna and finally to the Indian Thelish Hospital Kaduna.
I found that report somewhat curious because I was in the know of the case. The individual that posted the picture apparently did out of ignorance, because the wounded soldier in question has been given the needed medical attention at private eye facility in Kaduna.
For the records, To say that the soldier was abandoned is quite uncharitable and the height of mischief. I dare to say that nothing of such happened. Even the mere sequence of events would suggest that the soldier was never abandoned. This incident occurred in Yobe state; he was moved to the 7 Div Reference Hospital in Maiduguri Borno State. After examination, the soldier was again transferred to the 44 Army Reference Hospital in Kaduna for further care.
It was on the strength of the medical advice of the medical director of the hospital that the soldier was moved to a private facility for specialist care. Now tell me, if the Nigerian Army were not interested in his case or abandoned as the writer posited, would he end up in a private medical facility? Your guess is as good as mine. I think we must be careful not to wipe up unnecessary sentiments especially on the social media space. I am quite convinced that the writer didn’t do enough research on this case. If not, he won’t mislead the public.
As someone who is conversant with military operations, I think I can tell a significant difference between the Army of then and now under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Turkur Buratai. You could question everything about the chief of Army staff, but you cannot doubt his commitment to the welfare of his soldiers been an infantry general himself. Are we not witness to situations where he regularly organizes get-together events for wounded soldiers during festive periods like Sallah, Easter, and Christmas to motivate the soldiers who were fighting the insurgency, and also an expression of love to the wounded soldiers and their families? Are we even aware that only in January 2018, the Nigerian Army proposed the establishment of a Military tertiary hospital in Sokoto state to handle complex military medical cases? These are many more are the hallmark of the Nigerian Army under Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai.
I dare say that the welfare records in the present administration are quite enviable. I will give some examples of care for wounded soldiers. Seven injured soldiers referred to the 68 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital (NARH), Yaba, from the Northeast, were flown abroad for advance treatment this year. Also injured soldiers from the 44 Army reference Hospital Kaduna were also slated for advanced medical treatment. In my opinion, this has just been the norm under Lt. Gen T.Y Buratai. For him, it comes naturally. One could say government procedures are always slow, but again in the words of the Acting Medical Director of 68 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Yaba Lagos, it doesn’t take up to a week for the chief of army staff to approve medical cases that reach his table.
“If there is an issue with personnel, he can equally be evacuated to Kaduna, where they(doctors) do the needful, and the paper works starts immediately. Sometimes, the process of setting up a board that will examine the soldier and determines his condition takes five days or one week. Once that is done, the recommendation is sent to the office of the Chief of Army Staff who approves the patient to be flown abroad for treatment. I don’t remember anyone that was sent to him (COAS) by the headquarters of the Nigerian Army Medical Corps that he declined.”
The above statement captures the commitment of the COAS to the welfare of his officers and men. For cases that can be handled in Nigeria, attention is given, for cases that are complicated, the wounded are evacuated. Like I mentioned earlier, the COAS regularly pays an unscheduled visit to Nigerian Army personnel wounded in action from the northeast on hospital admission, and he has always made it a point of duty to visit troops recuperating in the hospital whenever he visits any military location. This is a fact that can be verified.
And just another demonstration of the commitment of the COAS to the welfare of his troops in the northeast, only some days ago, he graciously approved special promotion for 3,729 military personnel fighting insurgency in the northeast. In 2017, the COAS approved the exclusive promotion of 6,199 soldiers fighting the insurgency in the northeast. Even though I know that sometimes some mischief makers are always out to defamed, castigated, persecuted and even insult his person, I still admire him because, yet his spirit remains unbroken and resolute, waxing stronger against enemies of his fatherland.
If you call the COAS a rare breed, you won’t be entirely wrong because, since his appointment as the COAS in July 2015, the tide was turned against the Boko Haram insurgents. Lost territories were recaptured. Roads that were hitherto closed were opened; the once dreaded Camp Zero in Sambisa Forest was captured and turned to a military facility that successfully hosted the 2017 Nigerian Army Small Arms Championship (NASAC).
The passion of the COAS for not only the professional development of the troops but also providing for their welfare within the available resources is motivating to say the least. The Army has been reinvigorated since he assumed leadership. Little wonder why he is dubbed the soldiers general. As a general, the COAS sure knows how to keep the morale of his soldiers high. And one of them is never to abandon them in times of need. And not when it is a medical case. For the COAS, it is a case of a General and his Soldiers. Let no man put asunder.
Coker is a medical practitioner based in the United States of America.