Apart from economic security which is also a national security, the military is an essential part of a nation. The strength and power of a nation is gauged by the might of the country’s Armed Forces, its national defense policy, budget and equipment and the gallantry of the men and women who serve. The Nigerian Army is one of the strongest in Africa and has recorded feats on the continent.
Armed Forces Day is celebrated worldwide in which many countries set aside a day to celebrate their Armed Forces each year. Each country has a different name for this day. In Nigeria, it is named, The Armed Forces Remembrance Day.
Celebrating this day goes along with different events which include prayers, parades, laying of wreaths and many other humanitarian activities. It is a solemn day for the families and friends of the fallen servicemen and women and equally for the country.
Every January 15 is a significant day for Nigeria, the day the Armed Forces are remembered in Nigeria. It is a special day for the serving military personnel, ex-servicemen and women, their families, and friends; a day to remember the prices they pay and the sacrifices they make.
Previously, Nigeria, as many countries in the Commonwealth, celebrated the Remembrance Day on November 11 which is also the Armistice Day. It is a day commemorated for the signing of the Armistice which brought an end to World War 1 and all those who gave their lives in service to their country since 1914 are remembered.
After the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War ended on January 15, 1970, the Nigerian government changed the day of the celebration to January 15.
Why should these men and women in the uniform be remembered and celebrated?
Many people have misgivings about the conduct of the Nigerian Army especially in the handling of sectional issues. To many, they don’t understand or consider celebrating them, after all, of what use are these officers who at any slightest chance they get, pull their trigger to take out people and that would be justified and backed with the constitution.
As I have argued elsewhere, the job of these men and women is about life and death as many of the officers have no hand in the politics of “command and obey.” It is appropriate to have people to share a smile, salute, handshake and even a drink in any opportunity they get to appreciate them for their service and sacrifices.
To serve in the military is a national honour even though the underlying politics of the country infiltrated the military institution.
That institution should have been the place where national cohesion takes its root, where the servicemen and women are guided by absolute patriotism and not sectarian and ethnoreligious interest which affected public trust on them.
People cannot be forced to honour the servicemen and women as their opinions about them are enforced and often reinforced by the conduct of the officers but the foundation of Nigeria’s ethnoreligious politics would be blamed and for a country that do not place high premium on the life and even death of these men and women to honour them by providing them with the state of the art equipment or bury them in obscurity and having information about their exploits shrouded in secrecy, how can the people place importance on their duty to the nation?
To an average Nigerian, the duty of the military men and women is to carry guns and to kill as commanded.
But, these men and women are much more than carrying guns. Amongst them are many with talents and skills as they pursue the realisation of their potentials and protection of national interests.
Among these men and women are great scientists, Doctors, Engineers, Writers, and Lawyers, etc. That they have chosen to be in uniform and to pay the ultimate price when called upon should be a basis for national honour not just wearing badges and conducting speeches on Remembrance Day. Their lives and deaths should also be honoured and celebrated.
It is also remarkable to note that behind every stern looking, gun-bearing khaki adorned man and woman is a human being with emotions and fears, with challenges and successes and with life burdens and even deformities resulting from their service.
Not only do we have a country not particular about the well-being and welfare of the officers, we also have the citizens that see no reason to honour their sacrifices.
On this Remembrance Day, it is important to honour these men and women who served and laid down their lives, those still serving, the aspiring ones and the retired men and women of the Armed Forces. To further appreciate and honour them and to place more importance on these sacrifices, I call on the Federal Government to declare this day a National Day.
May the souls of the fallen servicemen and women rest in peace.