One, and according to director of Army Public Relations Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, a soldier must have served for three years before they qualify for marriage. Per Nigerian laws, people already “qualify for marriage” from 18 years old. Nwachukwu must have raised this point only because he could not properly distinguish between accepting a marriage proposal and actually getting married. Although connected, these two things are quite different. A proposal and subsequent acceptance are just promises of a future marriage. Merely saying yes to a man does not make you his wife. In that respect, Akinlabi did not flout the rules barring a soldier from being married unless they had already served for three years.
The second point that she flouted social media use guidelines for soldiers does not obtain if she did not post the videos online herself. We live in a world where anyone can share images with the world without permission. Thus, it is unfair to punish her for what she could not control. We can argue that she knew she was being recorded, but what could she have done otherwise? Once her suitor proposed in public, everything that followed was almost out of her hands. Even if she had rejected his hand in marriage and walked away, she would still have gone viral. Their third item on the Army’s list of sins was that she “indulged in romance” while in uniform. This point has been serially debunked by social media users who shared images of male soldiers who also proposed to their girlfriends while wearing their uniforms. Come on, nothing is entirely wrong with indulging in romance while wearing a professional uniform. It was not like she was caught making out with a corper in Mammy market.
Besides, showing off one’s romantic side is quite a human thing to do. For the Army to denounce it shows they do not quite think of their officers as humans. Proposing to one’s partner while wearing uniforms also shows pride in one’s profession. Asking them to remove the official outfit before asking someone’s hand in marriage is demanding they dubiously separate who they are from the future they want to build with those partners. Of course, a male soldier vs. civilian female is quite different from this case where a male civilian proposes to a female soldier, particularly while he was under her professional care. Still, saying Akinlabi should not have indulged in romance while wearing her uniform is needlessly harsh. Officers should not be restrained from publicly displaying affection, whether to their lovers, or parents, or children. In fact, pretending that military officers are too disciplined to have a human side is ultimately counterproductive. You are better off showing them off as nuanced people with nuanced lives like anybody else.
As for the last point about her conduct being, “prejudicial to good order and military discipline,” the scope of that offense is so wide and so ambiguous that almost any action can be maliciously categorized that way.
All of which brings me to the last—and the strongest—point standing: fraternisation while on official duty at the NYSC camp… indulging in an amorous relationship with a trainee. On that score, Akinlabi’s superiors are quite right. Anything to the contrary is mere politically correct twaddle. She should have known better. Her fiancé too should have been more sensible and not made the dick move of showing fellow corpers he dates his superior. Rather than undermine themselves with a public proposal, they could have kept their relationship private until the three-week orientation period was over. Getting engaged to a subordinate in the NYSC camp potentially jeopardizes Akinlabi’s professional relationship with other corpers. People should always steer clear of situations where relationships can descend into abuse of power. In instances where the intentions are noble—for instance where two consenting adults have marriage plans—the couple should at least be discreet and not give room to interpretations of ethical violations. That utter lack of discretion is clearly the problem in this case.