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I have always found Greek History and philosophy very rich. One of my favourite of Greek philosophy features the exchanges between Alexander the Great (warrior king of Greece), and Deogenes the Greek Thinker and philosopher, in their many beautiful philosophical encounters. In one, Alexander reportedly stood in front of the philosopher and thinker, in full war regalia and stated, “Look at me Deogenes, are you not afraid of me?” At which response, the thinker looked at the conqueror of Persia and asked, “Are you a good thing or a bad thing?” The great warrior king replied, “I am a good thing”. The thinker then stated rhetorically, “And who is going to be ever afraid of a good thing?”. We need to examine this conversation under the general attitude of Nigeria’s men and women, armed by taxpayers, in their relationship with the taxpaying Nigerian people.
Nigerian armed men in uniforms, take great pleasure in intimidating their civil society members. This is one of the root causes of the excesses of SARS and their brutality. One is tempted to believe that, some youths are only attracted to serve in the armed forces, to bear arms for intimidating the generally unharmed members of Nigerian society.
Frederick Forsyth’s book titled, “The Dogs of War”, examines the average fictionalized Nigerian soldier in this light, when he described their view of guns, as mainly the tool to terrorize their civilian people.
In going back to another encounter in Greece, Alexander found Deogenes staring at a pile of bones. Upon Alexander inquiring from the thinker about what he was thinking, Deogenes replied that, he was looking for the bones of Alexander’s father, but that he could not distinguish it from the bones of slaves.
Even though Alexander was the ultimate man of arms of his time and place, he never took offence at the acidic wit of his philosophical sparring partner, who regularly bested him at every sparing session between them. Rather, the great warrior was to say that, had he not been Alexander, he would have preferred and loved to be Deogenes. Taught by Aristotle, Alexander’s military expeditions included for company, teachers, thinkers, and scientists. Alexander is famed to be wise and learned. Hence, sane men, whether armed or not, are not meant to be feared but appreciated for their service to society. Neither should they position themselves to be feared.
Back home and to our present situation. SARS is a bad manifestation of the malignant tradition in Nigeria’s military and paramilitary organizations against the Nigerian people. Their nasty and ignorant phrase of, ‘bloody civilians’, still resonates out clearly, when men in uniform want to ride their high horse roughshod, over Nigerian civilians, who they swore to defend. They do this, as if they were never civilians themselves before being armed, or that their parents or relatives are not civilians.
Each time one sees an armed Nigerian man in uniform, the Deogenes questions always come to mind; “Is this one a good thing or a bad thing?” More importantly, one only wishes that our armed men in uniform, would genuinely and repeatedly ask themselves these Deogenes questions, to remind themselves of their duty to protect their paymasters, instead of killing and maiming them. After all, in the final analysis, our bones: civilians and non-civilians alike, are indeed no different from each other. Painful and regretful thanks, for the ultimate sacrifice of our peacefully protesting youths, that were killed by Nigeria’s military, that SARS is presumably now disbanded. We, therefore, look forward to all our military and paramilitary institutions, becoming appropriately civil, friendly and responsible in their interactions and orientation with us, ” bloody civilians”.
By Prince Yemisi Shyllon
A lawyer, an engineer and renowned Art Collector, wrote from Lagos

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