The Great Wall of China is among the greatest wonders of the world. It is acclaimed to be the longest man-made structure ever built and there are claims (albeit an obvious exaggeration) that this structure could be viewed right from the moon!
However, I am not writing this to extol the prominence and historic cum cultural significance of this collosal structure. Rather, my interest is in a particular incident that took place during the building of the Great Wall.
The idea of building the Great Wall of China had come as a defensive strategy from a popular Chinese general of the Ming dynasty known as General Qi Jiguang (1528 – 1587). The wall was to protect China from the severe and invasive Mongol attacks and it worked. But it was not the wall that made the defence strategy work, it was the men who guarded the wall that made it work.
The workers who built the walls were a regiment of the Chinese army converted from mere farmers and trained by General Qi Jiguang himself to become paid soldiers. These soldiers abandoned their homes and families for many years to erect the structure the whole world glorifies today. And sadly enough, many of them died and never returned, they were interred right beneath the wall.
At a certain period during the construction of the wall, annoyance over unpaid wages, exhaustion (caused by the enormity of the work without adequate rest), and disease left some of the soldiers disgruntled and they began fighting among themselves. Now for every military formation, team discipline is of utmost importance and must not be flouted. When soldiers go against the rules of disciplines, examples must immediately be set by using offenders as scape goats.
So the head of the military team got the offending men tied up and brought for execution; they were to be beheaded for fighting. Fortunately, General Qi was passing by at the time and he requested to know what offence the men had committed to deserve capital punishment. One of the offending soldiers complained in a defiant manner that there was no food, they were being forced to work to death and treated like slaves. And when General Qi assured him that none of them was a slave but that they were his soldiers and paid workers. The defiant soldier went on to assert that what they get was half of what they are owed and that they have been deprived of their home and loved ones, condemned to die and be buried with the wall as nothing but a great grave stone.
General Qi Jiguang’s patience had been tested enough, and he was not that much of a patient man. This was a man who would kill a soldier for turning his back in the heat of battle and running away from defeat. Qi knew discipline had to be extolled. The other soldiers were watching him, waiting for his command to chop off the heads of the mutinous soldiers. Surely, a great general like Qi would not permit such a public show of disrespect without repercussions.
But in the end, General Qi went against his own principles of strictness and let the voice of wisdom prevail. He ordered that the men be released and allowed to return to their work. He also ordered that food be found and brought to them at all cost. This singular act will further endear the general to the hearts of his men and increase his popularity. Later, he would also order that the family members of the soldiers be allowed to come live with them on the wall.
You see, General Qi Jiguang realised that the wall will not build itself and neither will it defend itself, that had to be done by men (soldiers) who are dedicated to the job. He realised that cutting them down for simple acts of justifiable disobedience will not help to booster morale among the formation. Winning a war is only as certain as the calibre of men you have fighting for you. Be prepared for failure when your men feel ill treated and are horribly punished for spurting out the truth.
I went down history lane because of a recent event in Nigeria today. A certain General Olusegun Adeniyi has just been relieved of his duties as a theatre commander in the war against Boko Haram because he made a video complaining about the inadequacy of military fire power in his camp as the war between them and the Boko Haram insurgents rages on. From what I saw in that leaked video, it was not meant for public eye and that it found its way into public circulation is highly regrettable and bad for the image of the Nigerian military. But did General Olusegun Adeniyi say the truth or was he lying? Of course he reported the situation as it is and was only refuting the claim that the other generals and himself were absent from the battle ground. Hence, he does not deserve to be redeployed. We need men like General Olusegun Adeniyi on the battle field, commanders who would stand and fall with their troops, who would speak the truth and damn the consequences. Provide the commander with the needed artillery and discipline him for failing; if he fails.
Certainly, we cannot have a dedicated team of fighters if we go about punishing people for refusing to fight due to inadequate weaponry or for speaking the truth while we go on rewarding captured insurgents with freedom and scholarships abroad. We as a country must be cautious enough not to give off the view that we in one form or the other give a nod of approval to terrorism as this would be most detrimental to our international image. Above rules, let reason prevail.
Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy 2020