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Date Published: 05/06/10

How ThisDay Newspapers Scandalized President Obama's Nigerian Nominee By Chukwudi Nwokoye Esq.


The 2 nd May edition of the Thisday Newspapers carried a headline: “Iraq: Obama Honors Nigerian-Born US Soldier For Gallantry”. It went on to report “For Sergeant Ledum Ndaanee, a Nigerian-born member of the United States Marine Corps, it was an honour well-deserved as President Barack Obama presented him with the Outstanding American by Choice Award at a ceremony at the White House in Washington DC”
That is where the contradiction lies. Is Sergeant Ledum Ndaanee a United States soldier or a United States Marine? From the picture presented with the news item, I could tell from his ‘Service Alpha’ uniform that he is not a soldier as the caption of the news item suggested, but a Marine. It is scandalous to refer to a marine as a soldier!
Responsible journalism demands that before rushing to publish a news item, the ThisDay journalist, Tokunbo Adedoja, should have done his research well and use terms or terminologies that do not diminishes or take away from the reputation of someone he tries to elevate. A simple inquiry by ThisDay Newspaper would have enabled them to find out that a soldier is different from a marine. A peep at the Marine Corps website or even a Google-search would have given the journalist all the required information he needs to properly address Sergeant Ndaanee.
A simple inquiry or a visit to the website, www.marines.com and doing a 2 minutes search would have made the journalist see an eye-catching message “MARINES ARE MADE, NOT BORN. 12 WEEKS OF THE TOUGHEST TRAINING IN THE WORLD TRANSFORMS CIVILIANS INTO MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES' MOST NOBLE BROTHERHOOD”. That alone would have summarized for him what that young man had been through in that rite of passage to earn that title, “Marine”.
There is a world of differences between being a soldier and being a marine. Marine Corps is special branch of the United States military as it is very well regarded and well trained to handle difficult and almost impossible tasks. For fear of sounding immodest, suffice it to say that a mere suggestion by the a United States President and Commander-In-Chief, that he would send marines to a conflict would almost immediately elicit a different response from adversaries in a negotiating table. Marines do not want to be referred to by any other name but “Marine”. I know that still being in the service, Sgt Ndaanee would not speak out for himself about that ‘ignominy’ of ThisDay, but I know that he was not happy about that mischaracterization.

In the United States Military, those in the United States Army are referred to as “soldiers”, those in the Air force are referred to as “Airmen”, and those in the Navy are referred to as “Seamen”. Every branch of the service has its specific jobs and specializations. Marine Corps is an elite force that frowns at such mistakes. So to refer to Sergeant Ndaanee as a soldier took a lot away from his reputation as a hard-charging devil-dog (a nick-name for a marine). The young man who has done Nigeria proud by not only winning the Outstanding American by Choice Award but also by winning the coveted Purple Heart for his unbelievable bravery in Iraq; deserves an unreserved apology from the This Day Newspapers. He may not be hurt by the bombs and bullets of Iraq, but to refer to him as a soldier instead of a marine hurts more than any adversity he must have faced in his military career. 
There are many Nigerians serving in the United States Marines and in fact, in the United States Armed Forces generally who had done and continue to do Nigeria proud by their hard work, gallantry and professionalism. I was glad that ThisDay Newspaper covered the event and that other people present also recognized that Nigerians are not all about 419, fraud, drug-peddling and all other vices the country is being associated with and they did well in projecting same. Despite that error of mischaracterization, I think other news agencies should emulate ThisDay by projecting the good image of hardworking and responsible Nigerians scattered all over the globe.

*Chukwudi Nwokoye is a former United States Marine and a member of the Disabled American Veterans.

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