Kaduna — At the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), female cadet officers excel in academics more than their male counterparts.
The Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) was established on 5th February 1964 in response to the defence needs of independent Nigeria to train only male officers for the country's Armed Forces. The role of the Academy was to provide each officer cadet with knowledge, skills and values necessary to meet the requirements of a military officer through military, academic and character development.
But history was made when the President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on the 14th of February, 2010 ordered that the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) commences enlistment and training of female regular combatant officers.
At the beginning, only 20 female cadets were admitted into the academy for regular combatant training, but today the number has increased to 56.
Checks by Weekly Trust revealed that while the male cadets are taking the lead in the military training, the female are taking the lead in the academic aspect. Weekly Trust learned that out of the 10 positions in the class, the first eight are female cadets while their male counterparts take the remaining positions.
Speaking, Cadet Rejoice Igom, a 20 year old lady from Taraba State, who is also one of the 20 pioneer cadets that started in the Academy with 63 Regular Course, said it has been challenging.
According to her, "It has been very challenging so far because when we came, we where the first set of female cadets in the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) so most of the male cadets were thinking we can't make it. On our resumption day they were calling us names including prostitutes, asking us why we could not just go to a civil university.
"One of the most challenging aspects of the training for me was "endurance trekking." Our endurance trekking covers about 12 kilometers on a daily basis, but as time went on, I kept on pushing and whenever am with my course mates, I never come back with them because I used to drop on the way but a third or fourth timer will encourage me and bring me back.
She said happily that now when she go for endurance she goes with the male squared and comes back with the male squared.
"During our obstacle training, it was not easy in the beginning because I used to be very weak also especially during horizontal and vertical rope pull, we could not pull through especially the female cadets, so we used to encourage ourselves because at the beginning we were 20 and we were divided into four battalions that is five of us per battalion, so we used to come together and ask ourselves what happened in your battalion and we would share experiences which really helped us pull through till the end of the first four months in the Academy.
"That is when we challenged ourselves that if we cannot do well in the military training then we must do well in the academic training, so we were able to read well and we came out tops in our various departments including our military training," she stressed.
On how she was able to cope, she said "it is a thing of the mind and I tasked myself that since my male colleagues can do it, then I too can do it and even though I knew I was weak in some aspects, I also knew I was strong in some other aspects even stronger than my male counterparts."
She affirmed that none of her course mates in the pioneer set have dropped out and they have intensified efforts to encourage the second set of female cadets so that they can also excel in their chosen career.
"The Academy has been the best place I have been to and it is fun being here and I have no regrets what so ever for choosing a military career.
"My motivation has been that I grew up in Kaduna and I have heard so much about the academy, so it has always been my wish that female cadets be admitted into the academy. Therefore when I heard about it through my mother, I was excited. She did not even know that I was interested in joining, so I bought the form wrote the examination in Maiduguri, Borno state and I was lucky to be one of the short listed candidates for the 63 regular combatant course. I went for the interview and when the final list came out, I was one of the candidates.
"I admire the Army officers and am proud to be an Army cadet; in the history of Nigeria there has never been a female Chief of Army Staff (COAS) so as a pioneer female cadet I hope I can push through because I would like to be the first female COAS Nigeria has ever produced," she said.
Cadet G. Fedemou is a foreign student from the Central African Republic. Though she could not speak very clear English she told Weekly Trust that she has learnt a lot that she would take back to her country when she passes out from the academy.
On her part, officer cadet Fatima Saleh, an 18 year old indigene of Adamawa State who happened to be the only Muslim in the pioneer set, said she was discouraged by her Arabic school teacher from enrolling.
"When I gained admission into the academy, my Arabic school teacher was against it, but my mother continued to encourage me and I was also determined to join the academy and that was how I found myself here," she stated.
She maintained that there is no bias between Christians and Muslims as she has taken all the cadets as her sisters. "We do everything together in pursuit of our dream", she said.
Officer Cadet Nneamaka Adrika is a 21 year old indigene of Anambra State. She said she found it very difficult when she came to the academy at first because there where so many things that she was not used to during her life as a civilian.
"One of the difficulties I faced was the endurance thing; running 13 kilometers everyday is something I did not do when I was a civilian, so I had to get used to that. Another aspect was sleep, sometimes for close to two days we do not see our beds as we are somewhere training or doing one thing or another and before you know what is happening it is morning and you have not slept and the only time you have is to dress up and go for classes.
"So you see yourself struggling between receiving your lectures, sleep and then you see yourself matching and sleeping. Before now, I would never have believed that someone can sleep while walking, but I saw that in the academy because at the beginning I was matching and sleeping at the same time due to tiredness and my body being overworked," she said.
She is optimistic that she will reach the highest position in the Navy which is the Chief of Naval Staff and probably the Chief of Defence Staff since the present CDA is a naval officer.
Captain Roseline Agwai is an Army officer and also a 2IC female training instructor with the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), she said the training in the academy entails physical, academic and character training.
"The training of cadets in the academy entails physical, academic and that of character for them to become commission officers in the Nigerian Army. They are meeting up to the standard required of them in both academic and military training and even some of them are above the standard set because they are performing better than their male counterparts.
Lt. Commander Abimbola Akinkwade, the 2IC Mogadishu Battalion said the cadets will undergo five year programme. She said in the first four years they will get their degrees and the last year is 80% military and 20% academic training.
Speaking, the Commandant of NDA Major General Emeka Onwuamaegbu said the first set of the regular combatant female cadets who commenced training in September 2010 has continued to excel in all aspects of the training in the academy.
"The female cadets in the academy have continued to excel in both their academic and military training, in fact in the area of academics, they have outperformed their male counterparts because in the first 10 positions in the academics training, eight are females cadets, the best cadet for military training is a female cadet.
"In the areas of discipline, they have not been found wanting, in the areas of physical training, they have also done exceptionally well, so I commend Mr. President who ordered for the training of female cadets for regular combatant programme in the academy and I think he has been vindicated by his decision to open the doors of the academy to the female folks.
"I would want to encourage all qualified female candidates who are Nigerians to take advantage of this opportunity that has been opened up for them because in the next 10-20 years, if they do not, they will find out that females from other parts of the world have left them behind", he noted.