As we celebrate the fallen heroes …

By Dr. Olugbenga Faseluka

The Armed Forces Remembrance Day is an annual global event to honour
the men of the Armed Forces who fought in various wars to maintain the peaceful co-existence of human race. Many countries, particularly
members of the Commonwealth of Nations, mark the day on 11th November
of each year being the watershed of the First and Second World Wars.
Nigeria however later opted for the 15th January date to commemorate
the end of the Nigerian Civil War because of its significance to our
national history. On that date in 1970, the Biafran troops formally
surrendered to the Nigerian Forces thus ending the bitter 30 months
civil war which started in 1967.
Celebrating the gallantry of the men and officers of the Nigerian
Armed Forces at various battle fields and military operations across
the world is a worthy national event. Even under the colonial rule,
and in spite of the indignation of white soldiers towards their black
counterparts, Nigerian soldiers played prominent roles, displaying
uncommon bravery during the World War I from 1914 to 1918 and World
War II from 1939 to 1945. But this was a child’s play compared with
the Armed Forces’ spirited defence of the nation’s territorial
integrity when, seven years after Independence, Nigeria was embroiled
in the avoidable Civil War that gravely threatened her very foundation as a nation. These heroes displayed no less gallantry in many
peacekeeping operations across the continents of the world. The
singular objective of these military engagements is to maintain
peaceful co-existence of human race without which the ordinary people
including you and I would be at risk.

While on these military campaigns, many soldiers sacrificed their
lives, many more, though still alive, lost all the features of a
normal human character. The gory experience on the battle fields left
a good number of them in psychological traumas in which they are condemned to live throughout their lives. Yet, many hitherto
congenial family lives were disrupted without remedy. The dependants
of the heroes are the worst hit as deprivation of love and care
continue to give them rough edges of life. All these personal losses
were ironically their rewards for a patriotic response to a national
call to defend our national identity and corporate existence.
The theme of the 2016 Armed Forces Remembrance Day, Motivating the
Nigerian Armed Forces for effective service delivery is therefore apt
considering the need to assure these patriots of our acknowledgement
of their sacrifices. The current efforts at stemming the security
challenges in the country truly call for innovative ways to motivate
the soldiers to do more at these unusual times. Until recently, the
possibility of suicide bombing in Nigeria was a tale in tragicomic
books. The acts of terrorism as witnessed today are a strange
phenomenon that few people dreamt of less than a decade ago.
Unfortunately, terrorism – an undesirable guest – will appear to have
taken position on our shores.
It is saddening to note that the officers and men of the Nigerian
Armed Forces who regularly receive accolades for outstanding
performances at peacekeeping operations around the world, in Burma
(India), Lebanon, Congo, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast etc, are writhing
under the pressures of a ragtag band of Boko Haram insurgents at the
home front. It is not only ironic, it is painfully pathetic.
In this circumstance therefore, the nation needs to walk the talk of
this year’s theme. Everything must be done to encourage the Armed
forces to step up efforts at defending the territorial integrity of
the country at all times. This must begin with the provision of
adequate equipment and minimum necessary resources to mobilise against
the enemies of the State. It is therefore condemnable that Fund meant
for the procurement of ammunition could be tampered with at a time
when our country is facing an internal insurrection.
As noted by His Excellency, the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Peter
Ayodele Fayose at the 2016 Emblem Launch, remembering the heroes goes
beyond sympathy, we all have to support them in all ramifications.
This captures it all and does not exclude anyone.
Unfortunately, this is the aspect of the Remembrance Day that has
often been largely ignored. For instance, what are we doing as a
people for the families of the heroes who were cut down on the
battlefields in their prime? What are the effective and sustainable
welfare packages for their widows and children? There had been cases
of the families of dead officers being ejected unceremoniously from
official quarters shortly after their burial. What about many of their
children who had to drop out of schools? What is the society
consciously doing for those who came back home with terminal wounds?
Those who survived these all still had to contend with irregular
pensions.
It is time for the Government to transcend from the annual ritual of
remembering the fallen and surviving heroes by beautiful speeches,
well painted cenotaphs and other ceremonial glamours. A comprehensive
and sustainable welfare package tailored towards addressing the many
woes of the disengaged soldiers and families of the dead should be
established without further delay. Corporate organizations,
non-governmental organizations and public spirited individuals should
be encouraged to contribute towards ensuring stable lives for the
soldiers and their family members. In so doing, serving men and
officers of Armed Forces would be further motivated to serve their
nation with more dedication and selfless devotion. We need this so
that the common man can be protected from the activities of criminally
minded individuals and groups plotting the territorial disintegration of our commonwealth.

Dr. Olugbenga Faseluka is the Head of Service, Ekiti State

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