Today, January 15, 2019, is Nigerian Armed Forces Remembrance Day. It is a special day set aside for sober reflections on the significance of the Armed Forces to Nigeria.
It is a day to celebrate the dead and the living among them and to drum up support for our ex-service men and women or their families for laying down their lives to preserve the nation's unity.
The Armed Forces Remembrance Day used to be celebrated on 11th November every year, which, throughout the world, is known as the Armistice Day, commemorating the end of the First World War. But, with the formal end of the Nigerian Civil War as a result of the surrender of the Biafran secessionists on 15th January 1970, the date was changed to mark the restoration of the unity of the country.
We salute our living and fallen heroes, particularly at this moment when the security and territorial integrity of Nigeria are being undermined on three major fronts: the Boko Haram/Islamic State in West Africa, ISWA, insurgents in the North East; the bandits in parts of the North West, especially Zamfara State; and the armed killer herdsmen in the Middle Belt, particularly Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Nasarawa and Southern Kaduna.
Almost on a daily basis, we bury fallen heroes. The body-count is higher than at any other period in our peace-time history, taking Police casualties into account. The threats that face the nation have ballooned in number and complexity, and the military forces are being spread thin, sometimes wastefully, due to unprofessional considerations by political authority.
How else would one see the nationwide "Operation Python Dance" deployed for what critics see as selfish political motives?
Again, we have seen an increasing portrayal of the armed forces and security personnel in manners that suggest loyalty to some vested interests in the country, rather than the pursuit of the collective interests of the generality of the citizenry. The danger is that a gulf is gradually developing between the Armed Forces and the civilian population.
Moreover, the Army in particular, has become too visible for comfort as exemplified by its threats to expel UNICEF and Amnesty International, as well as the recent siege to the premises of the Trust Newspapers for performing their lawful duties.
While we continue to advocate unflinching support for our armed and security forces, we call on the Federal Government to rededicate them to strategies that will win the love and respect of all Nigerians. Their welfare should no longer be toyed with.
Allegations of poor fighting equipment should be addressed to raise their morale. The military must be strengthened and supported to enable them defend us competently.
We wish The Nigerian Armed Forces happy celebration.