Driving past Bonny Cantonment in Victoria Island, Lagos on a weekday afternoon and peering closely at the sentries could strike fear in any average pedestrian. The sight of well-built men clad in military fatigues and toting General Purpose Machine Guns protruding through the sandbags are certain to evoke two feelings about the Nigerian army; its combat-readiness and its iridescent machismo.
To think that the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) only commissioned its first female hostel in 2011 for just 20 cadets is proof that the Army still maintains some reservations about women in uniforms. And unlike its contemporary Armed Forces branches, the Nigerian Army seemed least likely to promote a woman to the rank of Major General until 1994 when it elevated Aderonke Kale to become the most senior military woman across West Africa.
Inspired by Professor Thomas Adeoye Lambo, General Kale began her career in the army as a psychiatrist. She rose quickly to the rank of Colonel in 1990 holding the position of Deputy Commanding Officer, Medical Corp, Nigerian Army. Mrs. Kale was later promoted in that command to the rank of Brigadier General, thus becoming the first woman ever to attain the rank of a General in a national army with the sub-region.
Her excellent performance again spoke when she was promoted to the rank of Major General in 1994 and assigned with the oversight of managing the psychological problems of soldiers among other medical related issues. She was elevated to full command at the Nigerian Army Medical corps and School (NAMS) and maintained her role as Chief Medical Officer for the Nigerian Army until 1996 when she retired honourably from military service.
Till date, General Kale’s feat remains unrivalled in the Army branch of the Nigerian Armed forces except for Rear Admiral Itunu Hotonu who was elevated by the Nigerian Navy to a two-star General in December 2012.
General Kale continues to serve as a mentor to many women in the uniform and stands out as one in many, who dared to be different.