Nigeria’s Armed Forces Remembrance Day, 2021

Nigeria’s Armed Forces Remembrance Day, 2021

(How the soldiers wish to be celebrated in their own words)

What’s this on your shirt? They all ask. With excitement at their curiosity, I would say, “It’s the Armed Forces Remembrance Emblem.” Then I seize the opportunity to tell them about it with pride. Inspired by my story of the exploits and toils of our soldiers, a few of them would request one or two of the emblem but most don’t share in my enthusiasm as they do not see a difference between the general performance of the government and that of our soldiers.

For some years now, I don’t miss the opportunity to adorn my dress with the emblem close to my heart in honor of our soldiers. I pondered, “What will make Nigerians to appreciate the services of these extra-ordinary men and women and accord them their due respect? So, I visited the barracks of the Army, Navy, and Air force asking soldiers how they wished to be celebrated at a time like this. I guess you want to know what they said. Before I share their anonymous responses, it would be appropriate we briefly remind ourselves the essence of this annual event.In President Buhari’s words, “The Armed Forces Remembrance Day or Veterans Day as it’s known in some parts of the world is an important event observed in commemoration of the end of the Second World War. In Commonwealth member countries, the Remembrance Day is observed on 11th November yearly. However, the date was changed to January 15th annually to accommodate the commemoration of the end of the Civil War.” He added, “The nation remains grateful for the effort and sacrifice of the Armed Forces especially in the fight against insurgency and other internal security challenges confronting Nigeria.”

Now back to the opinions of the soldiers. They are patriots who have defended and keep defending the sovereignty of our country on land, on water, and in the air. They are held in high regards beyond the shores of the country by keeping the peace in various missions. They snatch victory behind enemy lines every day. Death is a familiar foe. For the love of our fatherland, the sentinels keep watch, the infantries trod the Sambisa and the arid Sahel on foot and armored buffalo trucks not sure if they would see their loved ones again. With aerial reconnaissance and target bombardment, the insurgents and bandits are smoked out like rats to face their waterloo. Alas, these men and women are humans and these are their words in this season when I asked how they would want to be celebrated:

Nigeria army boss

Opinions of soldiers

Lance Corporal: “The families of soldiers killed and those missing in action should be given some substantial compensation at least once every Armed Forces Remembrance Day.”

Flight Lieutenant: “In my opinion, in appreciation for my service, there should be a national hall of fame where all personnel who served this country be inscribed like in advanced countries. In terms of welfare, there should be a post-housing scheme for members of the armed forces and made available even to the godfather-less. Lastly, there should be military discount in all shopping malls where for anything you buy you get 10% off when you present your ID. Happened when I was in the UK in appreciation of military personnel.”

Seaman: “Appreciation is enough because no amount of gifts or cash will cover for the sleepless nights, cold nights, scorching weather and selfless service that was devoted to this beloved country.”

Senior Non Commissioned Officer: “By recognizing us, sharing our story, and by showing us some love. By saying thanks from the bottom of your heart. By fixing up a soldier’s home.”

Flight Lieutenant: “’There is nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.’ –Gen. James H. A soldier is a volunteer. ‘We sleep safely at nights because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us.’- Life of a soldier. How can a soldier be celebrated or appreciated? First, a soldier will never be fulfilled if he doesn’t make the environment safe for the society to celebrate him. I feel I don’t need to be celebrated if the masses keep dying like animals on the street. That’s not the life I volunteer to come and live. Today, even soldiers cannot freely move around without disguising as civilians because their lives are not safe. You can only appreciate us when you wake up and see all the bandits being taken care of, when people can go around on their normal businesses and, places of worship are free from suicide bombers. At the moment soldiers need prayers for strength and grace to end the violence and make the environment safe for everyone including themselves.”

Sergeant: “Respecting a soldier in uniform an example of this is the United States Armed Forces. Citizens see personnels on uniform and stop to pay tribute, “Thank you for your service!”

Flight Sergeant: “The military should look into and put more focus in assisting the children of the deceased personnels who died in active service.”

Flight Lieutenant: “First look at the barracks, over time we have had Air Chiefs that have implemented their visions as evident in the barracks compared to the Nigerian Army. Though the Navy is trying to do the same. After a hard day at work one should retire to a comfortable home. Everything isn’t about money. There should be good social amenities like education for soldiers children. For example, Port Harcourt military education is terrible. Children are taught in Pidgin English, these are welfare issues that isn’t money to affect a soldier’s life. Amenities like gyms, officers mess, life bands, social clubs, training and upgrade in training the better the soldier and officer will become. A well trained soldier goes beyond the Depot. You will be marvelled at what soldiers can do with good training at all cadres. This will affect decision making in the battlefield to reduce needless deaths. This should be balanced with good equipments. If allowances or pay isn’t increased, amenities in the barracks should be created. E.g., Rwanda, Ghana, Bangladesh, and South Africa improved their armed forces. How did they get the money? From the United Nations Peace Keeping Missions. Nigeria shared its own money. The UN pays each soldier allowance and stipend of 250 dollars and 130 dollars daily. The UN pays for each piece of equipment contributed by participating countries. It pays 4000 dollars for a buffalo truck per week. We have contributed thousands of soldiers and policemen. The Nigerian government makes a lot from peace keeping. These monies shouldn’t be given back to the government. It should be used to develop the military. If the government wants to help and appreciate us, let them start doing the right thing. Use the money for the right thing. Solving the misappropriation of funds is enough motivation.”

Flight Sergeant: “In terms of security operations, personnels should not be spending more than three months at the war front before they are changed especially the married ones because spending six months, one year, it really affects the union of the family even cause some families to break apart and this really affects the children generally.”

Nigerian president and vice president

Lance Corporal: “What I feel is right on the Armed Forces Remembrance Days that every soldier across the country should be given a special welfare and the families of the late soldiers of war should always be compensated on that day, it shouldn’t just be a ceremony; this is our only complaint. It’s not an easy job. I am a Red Badge and my operations is strictly for battle. I have survived many flying bullets and I have seen my fellow soldiers die in battle. The secret to raising the morale of soldiers on this job is the special payment they should receive but this payment is not available. It’s not all about having an annual remembrance Day for the military and close for the day. I pray that the insecurities decline in the nation. God bless every soldier in the battlefield.”

Master Warrant Officer: “Serving and retired soldiers should be celebrated equally no matter whether commissioned or not. Make their welfare a priority to enhance their performance. And the civil community should not see soldiers as their enemies but as friends and protectors.”
Flying Officer: As a military man serving the nation, we appreciate every Nigerian for their prayers and steadfastness. We want the civil populace to keep praying for success against the insurgents and other security challenges in the country. We also urge the government to continue to provide us with the required support needed to bring this insurgency to an end and to continue to look into our welfare. I also want to use this opportunity to appreciate the civilian population and this present administration for their support. We will continue to fight until we conquer. Grateful!”

Flying Officer: As a military man serving the nation, we appreciate every Nigerian for their prayers and steadfastness. We want the civil populace to keep praying for success against the insurgents and other security challenges in the country. We also urge the government to continue to provide us with the required support needed to bring this insurgency to an end and to continue to look into our welfare. I also want to use this opportunity to appreciate the civilian population and this present administration for their support. We will continue to fight until we conquer. Grateful!”

Master Warrant Officer: “The Nigerian soldier can be likened to buying a book for one kobo and having a greater value than the price. I have been to Liberia, Dafur, Mogadishu, and the Niger Delta where I was captured. The president as a retired general knows all the problems of the military and the police and he has good intentions but there are many saboteurs around him. If not for the military and the police, the country would have been taken over by unknown people. I want the president to remember the families of the fallen heroes and put smiles on their faces. They should encourage the serving ones with good kits and welfare, let us look like human beings compared to our Western counterparts. Another thing is, those fighting the insurgents should be provided with modern and enough equipments not abandoned ones that you shoot three times and it stops and you get captured. Retirement benefits should be paid promptly so that we don’t look haggard and start thinking evil because idle minds are the devil’s workshop. If the retired are paid promptly those still serving will be happy. Our gratuity should be improved because 35 years of service isn’t easy.Even this morning an Air force personnel was kidnapped with a ransom of 4 million. The Germans that came to train us as ambassadors of their country so should Nigerian soldiers be sent in and outside the country. Finally, the president should restructure the security architecture for all to feel secured.

Air Commodore: “Imagine for a minute that you are a trained soldier. In fact, a Lieutenant. You have a wife and two kids. Now, imagine that during the quarterly rotation, you were sent to Bornu to fight insurgence (Boko Haram). On this fateful day, as you were moving with your platoon. There was an ambush. Gun fire ensued. You shot with all you’ve got. You know that you have a slim chance of surviving the attack. As you were running out of ammo, you called John, your buddy, for fresh supply. No response. You glanced and saw John’s head split into two halves. By your left is Barry, his torso turn and one of his arm lying 10 feet away. With nothing to fight with, you made a run for it and took a deep dive into the abondoned crater while bullets were getting fired at you. You passed out. When you woke up, you saw yourself in the hospital. The doctor came in. “Officer, you are awake, we did an emergency surgery, we had to amputate you. We are sorry.” You then asked, “What of my team mates?” “Well, you lost 18 men and 2 survivors”, the doctor replied. “You and Barry. Barry is still in intensive care. Now, 3 months later, at the defence headquarters. Your commanding officer, General Gida told you. “You are back, lieutenant. Good news! We rounded up all the terrorist that attacked your platoon after in another battle confrontation. They are now in rehabilitation center. “Can I see them?” You asked. “Sure!” You got wheeled to the center. They opened the door. And yes. There they are! Across the hall, young men in white flowing gowns were eating fried and Jellof rice with multiple chicken parts. Some were drinking wine. Laughter filled the air, having a ball. You were told they will soon be taken abroad on scholarship, government sponsored. As you were getting back to the generals office, just outisde the defence headquarters gate, you saw the wives of your team, now widowed, as they agitate with high voices and placards. “We have been abandoned! Pay us our husbands benefits! We are hungry!” Just imagine all that. It is the reality of a Nigerian soldier in the corridor of terrorism.

Recommendation and Conclusion

Recommendation on Improving the Standard of the Nigerian Armed Forces
Using the model of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund, LSSTF to create a National Security Trust Fund, NSTF. Lagos before the establishment of this fund in 2007 was one of the unsecured cities in the world, however, today it’s regarded as one of the safest by the instrumentality of the LSSTF. Likewise, as the entire country is very insecure with insurgency and banditry, with the military grossly underfunded due to lean national income, I urge the federal government to consider adopting the LSSTF Model in order to make the country safe again.

Proposed Objectives of the National Security Trust Fund, NSTF
The objectives of the Fund, to be contained by the Law establishing it, are to raise money through voluntary donations from government Ministries/Department/Agencies, private organizations and individuals. In other words, the Fund should be strictly donor-funded and monies raised are to be used for the acquisition and deployment of security equipment and such human, material, and financial resources as shall be found necessary for the effective functioning of the armed forces and police operating in the country.

The NSTF law should provide that some of the funds should be reserved for the training and retraining of security personnel. One of the primary responsibilities of the Fund is the provision of operational and logistic support for the theaters of war. Also, provisions should be made for the upgrade the military barracks and welfare of soldiers.

There should be a Board of Trustees of the Fund to be appointed by the president with 80% of its members from the private sector, while 20% from the Armed Forces in advisory capacity, it should reflect federal character and should be independently run.

They should be notable members of the business community in the country and diaspora. They should use their goodwill to attract donations to the Fund. As such the Board will accepts their appointment as an opportunity to give back to the country.

Conclusion
I hope the government and well meaning Nigerians who desire the survival of this country glean from the voices of these soldiers as a representation of the entire Armed Forces and let this be a turning point in the security architecture of the country. This is my contribution for the Armed Forces Remembrance Day of 2021.

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

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