When the words ‘Nigerian Army’ are mentioned, the first image that flashes across the minds of many is a mass of gun-totting, stern-faced, camouflage-wearing, MALE soldiers. LOL! Let’s face it, many of us do not really think of women when talking about or thinking of the NA. Well, there are women in all the arms of the gallant Nigerian Armed Forces and today, we are taking a look at the first Nigerian woman to ever become a Major-General (two-star general) in the Army and in any of the three wings of the Nigerian Armed Forces (including the Navy and Air Force). Her record remains unbroken till date in the Nigerian Army but has been equalled by Rear Admiral Itunu Hotonu of the Nigerian Navy .
Enter, MAJOR-GENERAL (Dr.) Mrs. ADERONKE KALE.
EDUCATION & MEDICAL CAREER
Major-General Ronke Kale (rtd) trained as medical practitioner before she decided to enlist in the Nigerian Army as an officer. It is quite interesting to know that she did so when even fewer women were donning the uniform of the military (it was not even until November 2011 that the first female hostel in the Nigeria Defence Academy, NDA, Kaduna was commissioned, for how many female students? 20). And as for the curious medical professionals, Major-General Kale’s area of specialty is psychiatry. She was inspired to join psychiatry by the late medical giant, Professor Thomas Adeoye Lambo. Africa’s first professor of psychiatry.
JOINING THE ARMY & AS A MAJOR-GENERAL
As a colonel and medical commandant (Commanding Officer) in the Nigerian Army, she attended the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, (NIPSS SEC12), Kuru, Plateau State in the year 1990 (she was of the same set with retired Lt. Gen. Victor Samuel Leonard Malu who was to later become the Chief of Army Staff). Upon graduation from Kuru (she received her graduation certificate in 1990 as a colonel from General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, who was the military president), she returned to the Military Hospital, Benin, Edo State and resumed duties as the Commanding Officer. While in the army, she was a close associate of IBB’s chief of intelligence, Colonel Halilu Akilu.
From there, she was later moved to Lagos State where she served as the Deputy Commandant of the Nigerian Army Medical Corps , Ojo where she was later promoted to the rank of a Brigadier General, thus becoming the first woman in Nigeria to become a one-star general (but please note that the first woman to be commissioned an officer in the Nigerian Army is Risquat Finni, who later retired as a Lieutenant Colonel).
This amiable physician was the first female military officer to reach the rank of a major-general (mind you, that’s solid two-star general and it was not until July 2015 that the British Army appointed its first female brigadier-general, see HERE) when she became the Commandant of the Nigerian Army Medical Corps and School (NAMCS) and later bowed out without any blemish in her medical or military career. The Nigerian Army Medical Corps has been described as one of the components of combat service support. Its main function is to provide adequate medical care for the entire Nigerian Army, and in addition to being the second of the four principal services, it is also the only one that is mainly administrative. As the Commandant of the Corps, he/she reports to the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) concerning the efficiency and quality of the medical, dental, pharmaceutical and nursing services received by personnel of the Nigerian Army. The NAMC has the following units:
-Field Ambulance (Fd Amb)
-Regimental Aid Post (RAP)
-Company Aid Post (CAP)
-Main Dressing Station (MDS)
-Advanced Dressing Station (ADS)
-Field Hospital (Fd Hosp)
(Credits: Armed Forces Command And Staff College, Jaji)
So as you can see, her role was far from being a minor one.
It was in the year 1994 that she broke the record not only in Nigeria but in West Africa with her appointment as the first ever female Major General in the Nigerian Army. Her job was to see to the psychological problems of the personnel of the Nigerian Army in addition to other duties related to administration and management. The military all across the globe, is one institution that is beset with a lot of psychological trauma and if not properly managed, can have devastating consequences. An appropriate example is the United States military which has one of the most shocking rates of suicide and sexual assault in the world.
Retirement came in 1996 under the Abacha regime. She retired honourably and till date, Major-General Kale (rtd) remains a mentor to many Nigerian women, especially those in the military. Some analysts have described her retirement as an ethnic purge by Abacha under the circumstances of an alleged coup reportedly masterminded by Lt. General Oladipo Diya of the Yoruba ethnic group as she was retired alongside a batch that included many others from her geopolitical zone (we cannot make any progress as a nation if all these annoying ethnic wars are not sorted out). What is clear is that she had issues with the Abacha regime (or Abacha had issues with her) with arguments over whether she acted or refused to act on orders.
THE GENERAL TODAY
On the 13th of February, 2012, she was honoured at the 17th THISDAY Annual Awards for Excellence (Lifetime Achievement Awards), see picture below. The only other female two-star generals today in the Nigerian Armed Forces are Rear Admiral Itunu Hotonu of the Nigerian Navy and Major-General TA Amusu of the Nigerian Army.