The Nigerian Army’s Chief of Administration, Major General Okpe Ali, has said that the understanding of the major indigenous languages by the troops of the Armed Forces will enhance their operations. Chief Ali made this revelation during the inauguration of the Indigenous Language Course 12/2023, which was organized by the Nigerian Army Resource Centre (NARC) in Abuja on March 23, 2023. He said the conduct of the previous 11 courses recorded tremendous success and informed the need to continue with the program.
Army Chief Okpe Ali stated that the 12th batch was being conducted for officers and soldiers of 2nd Division, 81st Division and Army Headquarters’ departments and units within Abuja. As he said, the aim of conducting the ILC is to ensure that army personnel are proficient in the three major indigenous languages of Nigeria — Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa. “Nigeria is a multi-ethnic and multilingual society with the largest number of indigenous languages in the West African Sub-Region as well as the most populous nation on the African continent,” he said. Nigeria boasts of at least 500 indigenous languages, second to only Papua New Guinea with the most languages. Nigeria also has about 250 ethnic groups.
Ethnic heterogeneity necessitates troop deployment to almost all states.
Maj. Gen. Ali said that Nigeria with its large population and ethnic heterogeneity as well as its large population are factors contributing to conflicts which pose serious challenges in the management of internal security. He said this can be seen in the high and volatile level of ethno-religious conflicts and increase in the number of violent non-state actors and groups across the country. The threats that these groups pose in fueling conflicts have necessitated the deployment of troops in almost all the 36 states of the federation for internal security operations in aid of civil authorities.
For this cause, he said it is important for and needed that army personnel to understand the local languages, especially in the areas where they operate. It will build trust and confidence in troops by the locals. The major general added that the 2016 Order of Battle and its subsequent implementation had led to the establishment of new formations and units across the country where most of the residents spoke only their indigenous languages. He said that the situation requires that all Nigerian army officers and soldiers have the basic knowledge of the three major languages that are widely spoken within the Nigerian operational environment.
Language is part of the 21st century operational environment.
The Army Chief said that among other things, this will promote esprit-de-corps among personnel; gives troops the ability to effectively communicate with the locals and most importantly assist in gathering intelligence which is necessary for the execution of assigned tasks. He said that the 21st century operational environment had changed with the emergence of the human domain of operation, which, according to him, comprises humans as physical beings, thoughts of the mind, action and what they create.
He said the military’s objective in the human domain was the ability to influence targeted individuals and groups better than the adversary. According to him, languages are seen as the best mirrors of the human mind, which in turn determine action and events. Hence, a key requirement for success in the human domain operation is the ability to communicate with the local population. This is hinged on mastery of indigenous languages within the operating environment.
Deployment of troops makes it imperative to know local languages.
The Director General of NARC, Retired Major General Garba Wahab, also said understanding of local languages by troops was essential to achieving success in the ongoing internal security operations across the country. He said that the deployment of the military in nearly all the states of the federation had made it imperative for the army personnel to be able to communicate in local languages rather than English. According to him, there are some words that army personnel find very difficult to translate. But when the people and the troops understand each other, it is easier to deal with locals and people from particular areas and speak their language. Mr. Wahab said the centre was planning to expand the course to other local languages other than the three major Nigerian languages.
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