“Primus inter pares, first among equals”
Discipline, maintaining standards, ethical conduct, professionalism, patriotism, regimentation, respecting the chain of command, dedication to duty, honour and country, remain some of the most cherished and enduring values of military institutions.
Ensuring adherence to these timeless military tradition in units, companies, battalions,brigades, divisions and formations lies with one of the most important figures among the non-commissioned officers – a soldier, who has risen to the highest rank of Warrant Officer 1; and who by his conduct is chosen as the Regimental Sergeant Major- as ‘primus inter pares, first among equals’, to provide leadership to soldiers, guide his commanders, “through the artful application of leadership (skills) discharged with wisdom, confidence and understanding to inform appropriate levels of authority.”
Hence, whether in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Singapore, India, Indonesia, Kenya or Nigeria, the role of Regimental Sergeant Majors, RSM remain the same – they remain the live wire of their various Area of Responsibilities and key influencers within the space of their assigned tasks and roles.
The RSM serves as a “translator of information from senior officer”, “a thermometer that gauges the tempo and morale of a unit ebbs and flows with the army’s tides”, “a senior enlisted advisor to the commander,” a mentor to senior non-commissioned officers (SNCOs) and Warrant Officers (WOs) in their units through individual counseling, leading by example, and education…,” a developer through continuous learning and progress,” a leader by showing example and above all, playing ‘fullback’ by ensuring that the commander is shielded.”
Whether in war or in peace, in good times or bad times, RSMs play vital roles in the Nigerian Armed Forces as force multipliers and a major factor within ‘the context of influence’ in units, company, battalion, division and formation on ‘training, ceremonial, discipline and personnel management.’
Over the years, the contributions of some RSMs have been so profound that their performance and selfless service outlive them. Some of these RSMs include RSM Kumasi and RSM Bulama Biu who have statues erected in their honour in Nigerian Military School, Zaria and Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna. The popular drama series called Samanja, (a Hausa corruption of Sargent Major) was used in elevating and glamourizing the role of RSM, (Samanja).
In the Nigerian Army, like other services, every Chief of Army Staff has made effort towards improving the prestige, role and value addition of RSMs at all levels. In his first RSM Convention in 2015 in Maiduguri, tagged: “Enhancing the capacity of the RSMs to be professionally responsive in the discharge of their roles”, then Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai said: “RSM …occupy an important position in the drive towards repositioning the Nigerian Army. As an important link between the officers and the soldiers, as well as custodians and repository of unit regimentation, it is pertinent to re-emphasise that my vision cannot be attained without a well-disciplined, knowledgeable and highly motivated crop of RSMs who are ready to willingly and effectively discharge their responsibilities at all times.”
It is in furtherance of this timeless tradition, that the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Farouq Yahaya has focused and dedicated himself to improving on the prestige and welfare of the RSMs in the Nigerian Army. General Yahaya has made improving on the prestige and welfare of RSMs a cornerstone of his tenure as the 22nd Chief of Army Staff.
In his welcome address at the Nigerian Army Day Celebration, NADCEL in Abuja, the Chief of Army Staff spoke about the significance of the event to Nigerian Army and Nigeria. He spoke about his vision and the theme of the 2021 celebration which was “A Professional and Ready Army: A Prerequisite for Successful Operations in a Joint Environment.” He also told the gathering that the event was low key due to the unfortunate incident of the death of his predecessor and 10 other officers in a plane crash in Kaduna.
However, his most profound pronouncement which reverberated in units,
battalion, divisions and formations was the gift of staff cars to RSMs. He said: “permit me to state that, the Nigerian Army has also made tremendous progress in the areas of professionalism, administration and cooperation among the sister Services and other security agencies. In order to sustain this drive, I will ensure that we continue to embrace military regimentation so as to strengthen our cohesion and service discipline. It is therefore my resolve to focus among others, on the custodians of unit regimentation, customs and traditions which laid in the roles played by the Regimental Sergeant Majors in the Nigerian Army.
“In recognition of this fact, I intend to provide for them all necessary requirements that will enhance their confidence and competence in order to return them fully to the once prestigious roles and positions they occupy in military hierarchy. As a first step today therefore, I will be providing staff cars for the AHQ and AHQ Garrison RSMs as a mark of more to come towards recognizing and exalting their offices.
“I will follow up with a similar gesture to the Divisions and Corps RSMs. It is my intent to cascade down in similar manner to Brigades and Units RSMs. My aim is to return glory and fame to the erstwhile revered and exalted position of the RSMs and SNCOs in the Nigerian Army as essential, invaluable bridge between officers and soldiers. The overall objective is to further develop and recognize the individual Nigerian Army soldier.”
True to his promise and keeping by his words, immediately after the opening ceremony and group photograph, the Chief of Army Staff led by President and Commander-in-Chief, represented by the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Salihi Magashi, fulfilled his promise by presenting two Hilux vehicles as staff cars to Army Headquarters and Army Headquarters Garrison RSMs, AWO Ibrahin Zakaria and MWO Garba Mohammed respectively, during the Nigerian Army Day Celebration (NADCEL) 2021.
The Army Chief has since continued to fulfill his promise as he visits divisions and formations of Nigerian Army buy assigning brand new vehicles to RSMs. Recently, during an operational visit, General Yahaya in fulfillment of his promise to empower Regimental Sergeant Majors to perform their roles, handed over keys and official documents of a Toyota Hilux to the RSM of Headquarters 7 Division, Maiduguri, Master Warrant Officer (MWO) Mohammed Babayo. He also reechoed his view on the important role RSMs play in the Nigerian Army.
He said: “the move is aimed at restoring the prestige associated with the office of an RSM”, whom he described as the “custodian of Nigerian Army customs, ethics and traditions. RSMs in the Nigerian Army and the military globally, play pivotal role in refining, grooming, and putting the regimental lives of young officers and soldiers in check, when freshly deployed to the unit, on passing-out from their respective training institutions.
“It is paramount to provide them with requisite logistics to enhance their confidence and competence in order to reinvigorate and empower them for their essential role as a bridge between the commanders and the soldiers in the hierarchy of the NA.”
The Chief of Army Staff also extended the gesture, when he handed over an official vehicle to 6 Division’s RSM, AWO Baba Bello to enable him carry out his duties effectively, during his visit to the Division in Port Harcourt. There is no doubt that Lieutenant General Farouq Yahaya’s resolve to invest in Regimental Sergeant Majors will boost morale of soldiers and enhance the prestige and contribution to the Nigerian Army.