Military Ranks

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Military Ranks: Rejoinder to Mr. Tajudeen Bakre

 

By

 

Nowa Omoigui

nowa_o@yahoo.com

The central point Mr. Bakre disputes is that "the post-colonial Nigerian Army (NA) traces its origins to 1863 when British Naval Lt. Glover established 'Glover's Hausas."  He seems to have a problem with the official Nigerian Armed Forces account of its history.

This point, I must say, is very well established in numerous historical accounts of the Nigerian Army written by non-Nigerians and Nigerians. Indeed the 4th Battalion of the Nigerian Army which is currently based at Abuja is the direct descendant of "Glover's Hausas."

Since the writer hints that he is "in uniform" (although he does not specify his service, which I strongly suspect is the Police) I suggest he pay a visit to the 4th battalion at Abuja to review its history onsite including its old flags and insignia, campaigns, awards and medals. Indeed, I am in the process of writing up the history of that historic battalion as its anniversary is just around the corner.

Nevertheless, since Mr. Bakre claims that "since ascending to political power, what I would otherwise call eatin the forbidden fruit, the Nigerian Armed Forces, as a matter of priority and as a political class, have tended to rewrite Nigeria's history in their own vision, to the extent that somethings were irreparably destroyed for eternity." let me point Mr. Tajudeen Bakre to an important source of information regarding the history of the Nigerian Army, written before the Nigerian Army ever seized power in 1966, by British authors, one of whom (Col. Haywood) was the Inspector General of the Royal West African Frontier Force from 1921-24. The book is titled:

"The History: The Royal West African Frontier Force" by Col. A Haywood & Brig. F A Clarke. Aldershot: Gale & Polden, 1964."

Note, however, that there are numerous other references prior to Independence including the various colonial reports of Lord Frederick Lugard.

Mr. Bakre writes that:

"The true history was that there was never any Nigerian Armed Forces prior 1951 and the West African Frontier Force created from the rung of returnees from the 2nd world war; that the Nigerians who fought in that war were police constabulary mostly from the Niger Protectorate which was why the East (sic) was predominant in the officer cadre of the Nigerian Army at Independence. I stand to be corrected that the colonial master never taught anybody that the army, read armed forces, was a precusor of Glover's Hausas."

I am very sorry to say that Mr. Bakre's account is utterly inaccurate.

The RWAFF (originally known as WAFF until 1928) dates back to 1900. It was finally disbanded in 1960. It was formed for the purpose of clarifying and coordinating the administration of various "regular" colonial forces in West Africa, namely The Nigeria Regiment, The Gold Coast Regiment, The Sierra Leone Regiment and The Gambia Regiment. These "regular" military forces - called "Regiments" - were formally separated from what later became the more traditional "Police" forces.

What became The Nigeria Regiment, West African Frontier Force in January 1914 was formed by merging the pre-existing Northern Nigeria Regiment (which was formed from West African Field Force and Royal Niger Constabulary companies in Northern Nigeria) with the Southern Nigeria Regiment (which was formed from the Niger Coast Constabulary, 3rd Battalion West Africa Field Force, and Royal Niger Company Constabulary companies in Southern Nigeria). The five battalions Nigerians came to be familiar with after independence were actually constituted in 1914.

What became the 4th Battalion (and is still called the 4th battalion), was previously known as the 2nd Battalion, Southern Nigeria Regiment, a new title the original "Lagos Battalion" acquired in 1906 as the administration of Lagos colony and "Southern Nigeria" went through consolidation. The former "Lagos Battalion" of 1901 was the same unit as the "Lagos Constabulary" of 1873, "Hausa Constabulary" of 1865 and "Lagos Constabulary" of 1863 - which was also known as "Glover's Hausas". (I shall go into more detail in a subsequent article commemorating the 4th Battalion at Abuja)

As has been stated elsewhere, in 1928 the "Nigeria Regiment, WAFF" which has well recorded exploits during the First World War, became "The Nigeria Regiment, Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF)" and remained so until 1956 when it became "The Queen's Own Nigeria Regiment, Royal West African Frontier Force" - the title it retained until 1960 when it became the Royal Nigerian Army. When Nigeria became a republic in 1963 it became "The Nigerian Army".

In 1939, at the outset of the Second World War, the RWAFF was transferred from the Colonial Office to the War Office. It was returned to the Colonial Office in 1947. During the Second World War Nigerian soldiers of the RWAFF distinguished themselves in many campaigns - which are also well recorded.

Mr. Bakre goes further to ask: "To debunk further the fallacy often written in the Nigerian Armed Forces manual, what was the rank in the airforce till the death of Col. Alao? When was the navy formed."

My response is that it is an established fact that the Nigerian Air Force used Army ranks until 1976. See http://www.naf.gov.ng 

Col. Shittu Alao died in 1969. He actually joined the Army originally but was later transferred to the NAF.

The history of the Nigerian Navy and its origin from the Nigerian Marine is outlined at http://www.nigerianavy.org/page8.html  

There are numerous other sources regarding the heritage of the Nigerian Marine department.

Mr. Bakre also claims:

"in fact, what you wrote about the history of the armed forces first saw the light of day sometime in 1984 or 1985 through the publication meant to pass as a lie, of a diary accompanying the Nigerian Army calendar."

Again, Mr. Bakre is utterly wrong and seriously misinformed. The sources of the history of the Nigerian Army date back many decades. Indeed I have had cause to post Lugard's 1919 report in various egroups the past. (See FD Lugard: Report on the Amalgamation of Northern and Souther Nigeria, and administration, 1912 1919. H.M. Stationery Office, 1920.)

Lastly, Mr. Bakre wrote:

"Have you ever asked, Sir, why the nomenclature is "Nigeria Police Force" and not "Nigerian Police Force"? Even rtd. David Jemibewon could not go beyond removing the word "Force". Why is it that the rank of Sgt. Maj. is almost extinct in the Nigeria Police Force? Why is the colour of the Ghanaian Army belt (ceinture) the colour of the Nigeria Police Force flag and coma belt? And why is the Nigeria Police Force headquarters mobile squadron's shoulder tap blue, yellow and green coloured?"

My response is that the Nigeria Police was NOT the focus of my essay on Military Ranks, Military Ranks of the Nigerian Army. I made no comment about it, although I can certainly do a separate write-up focusing on Police ranks. Nevertheless, for the sake of information, now that Mr. Bakre has raised the issue, note that the fact that the Police is called "Force" has nothing to do with Major General Jemibewon (rtd). Even the Nigerian Constitution still calls it a "Force."

Unknown to most people the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and the Nigerian Army (NA) actually share the same origins. The NPF started out as a small Consular Guard in 1861, and merged with the Lagos Constabulary (a.k.a.) "Glover's Hausas" in 1863. As I stated elsewhere, An Overview of the Evolution of The Nigerian Army  , the Lagos Constabulary was formed "to police the colony, protect British traders, and handle some raids into the hinterland....It evolved into the Hausa Constabulary in 1865, the Lagos Constabulary in 1873, the Oil Rivers Irregulars in 1886 and the Niger Coast Constabulary (NCC) in 1891." During the nearly forty (40) years of early West African paramilitary Police (Constabulary) activity (1861 - 1900) colours, insignia, belts etc were seen across what later became British west african colonies. The pre-WAFF Hausa "constabulary" was used in colonial wars of conquest across the region, including Gold Coast (later Ghana).

But the Army and Police went separate ways during the differentiation, reorganization and formal creation of the WAFF in 1900.

When, in 1900, the regular regiments were formally distinguished from "Police" or "Constabulary" forces, phrases such as "Nigeria Regiment", "Gambia Company", Gold Coast Regiment" etc. were in vogue. Likewise their Police counterparts were called "Northern Nigeria Constabulary (Police)", Gambia Constabulary (Police)" etc. rather than "Nigerian" or "Gambian" Constabulary (Police). That is why the Nigeria Police Force is still called "Nigeria", not "Nigerian" Police Force.

The common heritage from the pre-WAFF colonial forces should also assist Mr. Bakre in understanding why the "colour of the Ghanaian Army belt (ceinture)" is similar to "the colour of the Nigeria Police Force flag and coma belt." Indeed what was then known as the "Gold Coast Corps" in modern Ghana even predates the Lagos or Hausa Constabulary by a few years and derives from the earlier British conflicts with the Ashanti.

Note that the Nigeria Police Flag has three colours, Blue, Yellow and Green, which is what is reflected on the "mobile squadron's shoulder tap." The blue stands for Love, Loyalty and Unity, yellow stands for Discipline and Resourcefulness, while green stands for Energy and Life.

A full discussion is beyond the scope of this response but readers may visit the official website of the NPF at http://www.nigeriapolice.org/history.html  for a summary of Police history.

The Nigeria Police Force is still called a "Force" irrespective of recent legislative efforts to change the title to a "Service". The term "Force" derives from its pre-1900 colonial "paramilitary" constabulary history as a "para-military 'Force' of occupation" set up to protect the British trader class, so to speak. It is still the term used in the Constitution to this day - rightly or wrongly.

I hope this brief rejoinder will serve to shed light on the issues raised by Mr. Bakre.

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