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Armed Forces Remembrance Day and Salute to Gallantry

By Rotimi Opeyeoluwa
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“The preeminent military task and what separates (the military

profession) from other occupations, is that soldiers are routinely

prepared to kill...in addition to killing and preparing to kill, the

solider has two other principal duties...some soldiers die and when

they are not dying, they must be preparing to die”- James Toner

The 2017 Armed Forces Remembrance Day has come and gone only two days

ago and it affords us another opportunity for deep reflections. A

stocktaking which in every sense, is a necessary circle of an examined

life itself, makes for enhanced or improved condition both desirable

and attainable. In this instance, the time is ripe for us as a people

to find modalities of preserving the memory of our gallant troop who

display courage in battle fields. This is necessary because even

though our Armed Forces have fought in several battles both within and

beyond our national frontiers, it is doubtful if such exploits are

well documented. A day such as the remembrance becomes meaningless if

the contributions of troops are left in the realm of conjecture or

only known to very few people.
Some of us know of that our Armed Forces have a rich pedigree and

throughout its history of warfare, they have proven by their sweat,

sacrifices, bloodshed, limbs and even by giving up their lives, their

love, dedication, devotion and commitment to the ideals of a united

Nigeria. It is not unlikely that the day after the Armed Forces

Remembrance day will not witness our leaders pulling off the emblems

but issues that beset the lives of our troops are not reflected upon

until the next ceremony. This is hypocritical and a painful

realisation that we are not a people given to sincerity of purpose.

In other climes, it is not unlikely to see people give up their seats

for soldiers and even on board aeroplanes and ships, their presence

are announced with standing ovation to the applause of a grateful

citizenry. Nigeria must immortalise these officers for posterity,

especially because of their sterling qualities of indomitable spirits

and epitome of loyalty to our country. Their warrior-like contribution

to peace and stability both within and beyond our national shores must

be honoured.
The Armed Forces Remembrance Day is important for no other reason but

for us to celebrate our troops both dead and living who gave up their

personal comfort for the defence of our territorial integrity and

international deployment in search of peace and security for the

Western African sub-region, Africa and beyond Africa under the banners

of ECOWAS, the United Nations and the African Union. That we have a

battle ready and tested troops has never been in doubt as our troops

have fought gallantly in far flung areas of the world such as Burma,

Abyssinia, Lebanon, Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone and during our

country’s ill fated civil war (1967-1970) and many other places with

distinction but sadly many of our troops are either maimed or buried

unsung and their dependants wallowing in misery and poverty.

Our troops have displayed uncommon patriotism and valour in several

operations such as the capture of Lungi Airport, Operation Focus

Relief, Operation Sandstorm-Tiger-head, Operation Race to Makeni, and

ECOOMOG counter-offensive codenamed Death before Dishonour which

reversed victory which the rebel forces had enjoyed for a brief

moment, Operation Gama Aiki, Operation Zaman Lafiya, Operation Lafiya

Dole, Operation Awatse, Operation Safe Haven, Operation Delta Safe,

Operation Sharan Daji, Operation Maximum Safety, Operation Harbin

Kunama II, Operation Python Dance, Operation Zenda and Operation

Crocodile Smile, to mention a few. The Air Force has scored such

successes during interdiction operations against enemies’ forces and

support for our land troops in the offensive campaigns against the

Boko Haram. Post strike assessment revealed that the Air Support

Component of the operation helped in degrading the sect and

accelerating their routing from the dreaded Sambisa forest. The Naval

Special Forces are deployed with the objective of sweeping the

insurgents out of their stronghold and they are doing just that. These

are commendable actions. Our infantry and Armour troops of the Army

have equally given a good account of themselves.
I have read and heard of some unbelievable hardship which our troops

are confronted with in the discharge of their duties and their

continuing pursuit of the core mandate of their mission under

strenuous conditions, intense fire, associated dangers, and have

continued to prove to be brave and rugged. In some other climes,

stories of their gallantry would have become known beyond military

circles as it would earn them a well deserved appreciation of a

grateful nation. This is a tradition we must emulate so that even

succeeding generations of soldiers unborn can read and draw

inspiration from such stories. This dearth of information is both a

slight on these soldiers and blight to all living conscience that

ought to be quickly reversed. In one way or another, there has been a

great forgetting and the result of this unfair treatment is most

unfortunate. The gallant spirit of our Armed Forces as a strong and

undiminished institution committed to the territorial integrity and

indivisibility of the Nigerian state is born out of an uncommon sense

of devotion to duty.
It is sad that such men and women of exemplary gallantry are treated

with undeserving aloofness after they had given their youth, limbs and

lives in the projection of our national interest. This is simply

unacceptable and if in doubt, the recent Boko Haram insurgency in the

North-East and the humongous sacrifices of officers and (wo) men of

our Armed Forces ought to have awakened us to their sacrifices for us

to have peace and security. Alas, given the pervasive ignorance of

their contributions, it is pathetic to hear people denigrate them as

doing nothing.
They, under intense fire, thirst, hunger, and sleeping in the wild

arid and some times in the thick forests continue to rout the

insurgents out of their entrenched positions with grave risks and

threats to their lives and yet some people dare to question their

contribution to national peace and stability?. Many have paid the

supreme sacrifice and many others lie critically injured and forgotten

so soon even before the end of the war. These are men and women who

braved the odds to take up arms in the defence of our motherland. It

can be argued that by their calling, they have committed their lives

to doing what they are trained to do.
Such dismissive attitude and remarks does not bode well for us as a

nation. The cancer of ingratitude grows from the selective or

collective amnesia which in the final analysis hurts us as a people. I

cannot thank enough the amiable Director of Public Relations and

Information, (DOPRI), of the Nigerian Air Force, Group Captain Ayodele

Famuyiwa, who wrote a beautiful piece to salute the fallen Air Force

officers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

Such act by the force is commendable but more things can be done in

their honour.
To continue to disregard our troops who defend our way civilization

and carry the burden of our well being on their back without halt or

falter is the height of insensitivity. With sufferings, blood, limbs

and even lives, they conduct daring operations under the banner of one

Nigeria, with a willing heart and a profound sense of love and

unparallel patriotism- the least we owe them is a sense of gratitude

by looking after their dependants and welfare when injured or silenced

by death.
The Armed Forces must ensure that the fallen compatriots have their

names engraved in a well publicised cenotaph, their contributions well

documented in well researched television documentaries and books,

which will serve as a morale booster to their subordinates, peers and

even superiors. Beyond that, it will enable the civil populace accord

them the respect deserving of their contributions to the defence of

our country. This will no doubt help mitigate their loss and pain. It

is about time our Armed Forces have a functional archive where the

contributions of our officers and (wo)men are well documented.

Finally, the Armed Forces should evolve mechanism to alleviate the

suffering of our troops who have been demobilised on account of their

injuries or other reasons beyond them. Men and women who have given

their best in the defence of our territorial integrity and pursuit of

our national objectives should not be forgotten or left to rot under

any guise.
A nation can never really repay its combat veterans for risking their

lives in the line of duty; it can only recognise such sacrifices and

acts of valour and express gratitude to them for not abandoning a

worthy tradition of their calling.
Rotimi Opeyeoluwa
(Lagos)