Crisis Management Lessons from the Nigerian Army (Part 1)
By Ishola, N. Ayodele
Overview of Event:
In the early hours of January 2nd, 2024, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State took a decisive step in enforcing traffic regulations along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway. He ordered the arrest of motorcyclists violating traffic rules which led to the arrest of several motorcyclists, including a lance corporal, for riding in the wrong direction garnered mixed reactions from the public.
Some citizens commended the governor for upholding the law and encouraged him to continue such actions while some other people vehemently expressed discontent particularly concerning the arrest of a lance corporal who allegedly drove against traffic, leading to a series of online viral verbal assault on the governor.
The purported group of people lambasting and ridiculing the Lagos State Governor were alleged portraying themselves as personnel of the Nigerian Army.
In one of the viral videos, one of these purported soldiers actually said the no governor has any control over any soldier and that they (soldiers) only take order from their commandants which infer that the soldiers are free to do whatever they wish as not even the governor can put them in check. And he also faulted the governor for calling his colleagues “useless boy” in front bastard civilians. He said, “You are calling a soldier useless in front of those idiots, those bastard civilians.
In another viral video, another young soldier was seen swearing at the governor, calling him a drug addict and alleging the governor uses the army for his dirty job.
Many people on the social media took exception to this afront from this young soldiers’ behaviour, suggesting that if a lower-ranked soldier openly challenging a state governor, coupled with the boldness to insult Gov. Sanwo-Olu as mad and stupid, is not only a reflection of the level of indiscipline but may also a sign of hidden troubles within the Nigerian security system.
Nigerian Army’s Response:
In response to the controversy, COAS Lt. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja condemned the verbal assault on Governor Sanwo-Olu and clarified the Nigerian Army’s stance on the incident. The COAS emphasized that the arrested soldier did not represent the values of the Nigerian Army, and his actions contradicted the principles of discipline upheld by the military.
The COAS stated, “The soldier that was apprehended while plying on a one-way does not represent the Nigerian Army. In every respect, it contravenes what we stand for which is discipline as an army, and it contravenes the constitution and the laws of Lagos, and so we frown at that as the army.”
He went on to assure the public that the soldier in question had been apprehended, and a thorough investigation was underway. Additionally, Lt. Gen. Lagbaja clarified that videos circulating on social media showing soldiers insulting the governor were not authentic representations of the Nigerian Army. He pointed out discrepancies in the mode of dressing and the statements made by those in the videos, affirming that they were not genuine army personnel.
A BREAKDOWN OF THE NA’S CRISIS MANAGEMENT STRATEGY
1. Swift and Reasonable Response:
The immediacy of the response is crucial because it allows for the rapid containment of the situation, preventing its escalation, minimizing potential damage but most importantly it demonstrates how well an organization or institution values its stakeholder. Swift action is particularly vital in situations where time is of the essence, such as natural disasters, security threats, or public health emergencies.
Equally important is the need for a reasonable and well-thought-out response. While speed is crucial, a hasty or impulsive reaction can lead to unintended consequences. A reasonable response involves a careful consideration of available information, potential outcomes, and the long-term implications of decisions. It ensures that communication and actions employ are proportionate to the crisis at hand and align with ethical and legal standards.
When applied together, a swift and reasonable response contributes to crisis resolution for several reasons.
To start with, it serves as a proactive approach to mitigating and managing the impact of unexpected events.
In addendum, a rapid and reasonable response allows the organization to own the narrative around the crisis and prevent potential damages that could result from false narratives or misinterpretation.
Moreover, a swift and reasonable communication or action instills confidence among stakeholders, demonstrating an organization’s preparedness and commitment to addressing challenges promptly.
Finally, in the context of Crisi leadership, the ability to respond quickly and reasonably enhances the perception of credibility of stakeholders and also engaged trust among stakeholders.
The Nigerian Army displayed a swift and reasonable response to the crisis in putting the crisis in proper context. The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, took a bold stance by publicly condemning the soldier’s behavior. In doing so, the COAS explicitly underscored that the actions in question stood in direct contradiction to the established principles of discipline within the army. This enabled the Nigerian Army to own the narrative and shape the media coverage around the crisis.
This public condemnation of both the erring soldier in the governor’s viral video and the ones insulting the governor in other viral videos by Lt. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja not only highlighted the severity of the misconduct but also served as a clear message to both the military personnel and the public regarding the non-negotiable standards expected within the Nigerian Army.
This demonstration of leadership reinforced the institution’s commitment to upholding discipline and maintaining the integrity of its ranks which immediately put to rest some of the insinuations that there is a level of indiscipline among the NA or that there may be some hidden troubles within the Nigerian security system.
In summary, by addressing the issue openly and promptly, the Nigerian Army, under Lt. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja’s leadership, exhibited a proactive approach to crisis management which conveys a determination to tackle the crisis head-on without finger pointing or biases. And this portrayed the NA in good light and boost their image as an institution which is transparent, and honest enough to address internal issues openly with integrity.
To be continue next week
Ishola, N. Ayodele is a distinguished and multiple award-winning strategic communication expert who specializes in ‘Message Engineering’. He helps Organizations, Brands and Leaders Communicate in a way that yields the desired outcome. He is the author of the seminal work, ‘PR Case Studies; Mastering the Trade,’ and Dean, the School of Impactful Communication (TSIC). He can be reached via email@example.com or 08077932282.