Makurdi — All work, no play, as the saying goes, makes Jack a dull boy. To make life more exciting, officers and soldiers of the Nigeria Army School of Military Engineering (NASME) in Makurdi penultimate weekend dumped their guns to celebrate life.
The occasion was the age-long West Africa Social Activities (WASA) handed over to the military by the British colonial masters who instituted the annual event to enable interaction among the families of the Armed Forces regardless of their ranks.
And so, the officers, soldiers and their dependants maximize the opportunity to create fun in a unique relaxed atmosphere to the admiration of the cheering crowd who had come to wine and dine on their invitation.
Dressed in their amiable different cultural attires, the soldiers entertained the crowd as they wriggled their waist, stampped their feet and nod their heads in a corresponding rhythm to the local drummers who also displayed their proficiency in the art of traditional music.
The major ethnic groups comprising of the Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba showcase the best of their performances with mastery in cultural dances alongside some masquerades who entertained the audience in typical magic act and acrobatics.
One of such masquerades demonstrated its ability to spit fire from his mouth without getting hurt in the process to the amusement of the audience which intermittently applauded its bravery that was severally punctuated with some kind of incantation by its custodian to appease it from exceeding its bound.
The climax of the dance was when the cadets in training took to the floor and stole the show. The student soldiers added colour to the occasion as they danced standing on their heads with some of them crawling on their belly to prove that afterall, life in the regimented barrack is not all about 'khaki' and carrying of guns.
There were lots of jokes, drama, tug of war even as jesters had a filled day making the audience to reel in laughter while they ate their food and savor their drinks.
The Benue State Arts Council was equally on hand to treat the crowd to the award winning cat dance popularly known as Nyam Tsawm in Tiv parlance with so much thrill that generated exhilaration among the mammoth gathering.
At the end of the WASA, the special guest of honour, Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State commended the soldiers for finding out time to relax with their friends and family to relieve themselves of stress.
The governor in his address said the Army and civilians should harmoniously work together to propel greater development in Nigeria in the face of threatening insecurity.
Suswam stressed the need for the military-civil relationship, saying it cannot be overemphasized in a nation that is in dire need to overcome its current security challenges.
"Soldiers and civil authorities should work together to develop Nigeria. We must work together to make Nigeria work," he stated.
The governor who spoke through David Salifu, Secretary to the State Government (SSG), called for a stronger tie that would foster unity among the citizenry.
"If we would come together as one, it would be difficult for our enemies to defeat us. We must work together so that the Nigerian Army can become a unified force."
Suswam further sought the cooperation of different ethnic groups in the Army to enable it disarm disunity in the country.
Earlier, Commander of NASME, Major-General, Halilu Aminu intimated that the essence of WASA, which according to him, was inherited from the colonial masters is to create an atmosphere for free interaction between officers and soldiers.
General Aminu also disclosed that this year's celebration was quite special as it marked the commissioning of two state-of-the-art vocational centre for the officers and soldiers' wives respectively to improve their capacity on self-reliant trade.
Commissioning the vocational centers in company of Ter Makurdi, Sule Agbenga, the NASME boss emphasized that the various units of the centre which includes Information Communication Technology (ICT), Soap Making Department, Pedicure and Manicure, among others, would help build the women's entrepreneurial skill for optimal performances.
Similarly, he expressed gratitude to the Chief of Army Staff and the Benue State Government for supporting the transforming of NASME between 2011 and 2012, thanking them for the opportunity to train cadets and resuscitation of its power house, among others.
Also, Ter Agbenga who graced the occasion along with many other dignitaries from sister organizations, commended the Army for this year's WASA, which according to them, provided the opportunity for social interaction between the military and their invited civilian guests.
Responding, the acting coordinator of Nigerian Army Officers Wives Association (NAOWA), NASME chapter, Mrs. Blessing Sam thanked the commandant for his foresight in creating a viable opportunity for all women in the barracks to exhibit their talents and become more productive for the benefits of their families.