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06.09.2021 Reporter's Diary REPORTER’S DIARY (II): With a Waistcoat and a Bible, I Entered and Exited Two Barracks Without Questioning

Published 6th Sep, 2021

By Emmanuel Uti

When I set out on my journey to two barracks in Lagos, I expected either of two things: return to tell a story or end up as a story. I dared. I could have returned with a scar or a broken rib. But that was not my case.

I was going to find out if the gates of military formations across the country were open to worshippers on Sundays. I also wanted to know if, following FIJ’s report on Friday, any measures had been put in place to secure the barracks.

Recall that on August 24, 2021, a military Major was abducted and two other military officers killed at the Nigeria Defence Academy, Kaduna, prompting Kunle Olawunmi, a former Nigerian Navy Commodore, to say on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily the following that that he spent a week at the NDA and was shocked to see the gate open to everyone for Friday’s Jummah prayers.

READ ALSO: REPORTER’s DIARY: Wearing a Hijab, I Entered and Exited an Army Cantonment Without Questioning

STRAIGHT ENTRY INTO MILITARY BARRACKS, YABA

By 6 am, I had left my house wearing a tight-fitting waistcoat. With a Bible in hand, concluding I was not heading to a church was impossible.

The time was 7:15 am and I was at the Myhoung Military Barracks, Yaba, Lagos, which houses the Nigerian Army Reference Hospital behind Akata Hall, the biggest female hostel at Yaba College of Technology. I had learnt that a football field was in the hospital’s compound and students from Yabatech and FSTC, Yaba, sometimes played there.

Of the four soldiers chatting and letting cars in at the gate, none stopped me as I walked past. In the compound, a soldier asked why I didn’t wear a face mask. I smiled and he let me be. The hospital compound has too many buildings with limited spaces. When I could not locate the football field, I asked the soldier who spoke to me earlier if people still played football in the compound.

“Now, people play ball here mostly on Saturdays,” he said.

AT IKEJA CANTONMENT, NO SINGLE SOLDIER AT THE GATE!

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From the military hospital, I left for the Nigerian Army Cantonment in Ikeja. By 8am, I was there. I asked a motorcyclist close to the gate if I could go in. He did not only respond in the affirmative but told me how to go in. While conversing with him, I noticed people trooping out of the cantonment, heading to their respective churches. Many of them were women with kids.

READ ALSO: REPORTER’S DIARY: ‘Journalism is a Crime’ — The Gospel According to Ikoyi Prison

Besides a female soldier in uniform, I did not see any army officer as I walked past the gate. Not one! The entrance for cars was not open. The smaller one for pedestrians was not only open but also so free that just anyone could get in.

When I got in, I saw many tricycles waiting for passengers. I sighted a woman selling alcohol. To observe the activities in the compound, I asked one of the motorcyclists to direct me to the Mountain of Fire (MFM) church. I only asked because I saw a lady walk past me with an MFM flyer. When I noticed he looked at me with suspicion, I said I could also attend the Catholic church in the compound.

LIFE HAPPENS’ — INSIDE THE CHRISTOPHER’S MILITARY CHURCH PROTESTANT

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The time was 8:27 am. Up till now, I had not seen anyone in uniform. It was while I was en route to the Catholic church that I saw Saint Christopher’s Military Church Protestant. I walked in. Bible study was ongoing and I contributed to the discussion. The teacher asked why polygamy was thriving and I told him “Life happens to people”.

READ ALSO: How 13-Year-Old Pupil Trying to Save Teacher from Bandits Was Shot in Zamfara

Looking around the cantonment after the service, I felt it wasn’t safe. If I was a suicide bomber, I would have killed innocent worshippers. If 10 suicide bombers had entered the church when I did that morning, the outcome would have been gory.

The abductors of the military Major in Kaduna probably did not succeed in their mission because they were more powerful than the Army, but because an idiot with a plan will always beat a genius without a plan.

The time was 12:27 pm and I was on my way out. Only one female soldier was on sight. And outside the gate stood another.

Published 6th Sep, 2021

By Emmanuel Uti

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