by Tayyaba Riaz
Funmi Oladeinde Ogbue is the managing director of Ankorapoint. She’s also the founder of ‘Support Our Troops‘ Foundation. A not for profit military charity that supports and promotes the interests of the men and women of the Nigerian Armed Forces who serve home and abroad.
We caught up with Funmi during a recent trip to London to find out what inspired her to launch the foundation and the role of the Nigerian Army in tackling the current security situation in Nigeria.
Share with us a little bit about your background. What inspired you to start ‘Support Our Troops’?
Essentially the current situation in the country meant that there is a lot of focus on the military. The locals are essentially quite negative. And in my mind its very bad for moral and being someone who is a behavioral scientist myself, you go to war with low morale, there is no way you’re going to win that war. So we all need to realize the best chance you have, with the only military we have, the best chance we have to come out in a positive manner is to put our energies behind the armed forces and give them the best chance to do what they do, considering that these guys are going into war and getting killed, they’re laying out their life. We sit at home and complain and finger point, but I decided to look into it and realized that this wasn’t something unique to Nigeria or Africa. We have similar organisations all over the world. Look at the US, they have 78 military charities.
So we’re not saying that the government or the people are not doing enough, we are just saying that it all depends on how we say thank you.
Considering you mentioned the locals are negative towards the military, have you received help overall from Nigerians so far? Has it been a successful project so far?
I won’t say it’s been hugely successful. When you’re changing behavior, it takes time. We have a huge project, a PR campaign, and a huge social media campaign to try to draw attention to the sacrifices the people are making and the losses they have and the heroic actions that they take, so that we can change and support them. With each day it gets better. We still get negative comments but we’re getting a lot more positive comments. I am not going to say it’s hugely positive because it’s not happened before.
This is new, we have not had this before. You don’t have positions where people come out and willingly salute a military person, like you do in the UK. Apart from that, we have come out of a long military rule in Nigeria, where people were frightened of them, so it’s going to take some time.
What are your views about Boko Haram?
Boko Haram is going to be very difficult for military to win against because of the nature of the problem. They are not like other enemy source where you can just go against and blast them; you are fighting against ideologies and criminality. You can’t go heavy-handed, because then you human rights issues to take into consideration.
So, what strategy would you propose?
In an ideal world, we should allow the military to do what they do. Bare in mind they are fighting in unknown territory and difficult to win circumstances, hence they’ll need the most support we can offer. I’m not a military strategic person, but I believe they are capable of tackling the situation if we allow them.
So How do you think the military have performed in tackling the Security situation in Nigeria overall?
It’s good, overall. They have managed to contain it. I go in and out of Nigeria myself, and I have never really felt afraid for life or myself. I have even been to the North East area and it was really calm. I don’t think it’s like the minute you step in there you are unsafe. You think about and you think of the Irish struggle, and issues are contained within particular areas
Any comments about the forthcoming Nigerian elections?
I think a lot of people are getting really emotional that the president hasn’t been able to tackle the security situation and therefore feel that he isn’t succeeding as a President. They need to realize the elections are what is causing the security situation. Few people feel they must set up the government by their own means, so they cause unrest and make it look like its ungovernable and take power themselves. Why should we succumb to that and get carried away? If people feel they qualify, they should be elected in an educated manner, not by force. I would never vote for violence or anyone who supports violence.
How do you relate with it all?
I was brought up in Nigeria. My father was in the army and I grew up in barracks. I feel connected to that community, even though now I am a civilian, my husband is a civilian and we live in a civilian community. I feel that this is a way as a civilian to support the military. I’ve lived in a war-torn country- Liberia for three years, and I know that war is not an option. It’s not a good thing at all. There’s so much destruction and it’s very difficult to build a nation back up again after that.
Obviously. It made me feel connected and appreciative. Few people go in a situation where they go and never return. My brother worked in the US army and went to Afghanistan, even now we are involved in security, and we have a security company. My family is very happy to go to war or to fight in security situations and even dangerous environment.
For more information or to show your support, please visit supportourtroops.org