Prayers are offered every year in Mosques and Churches in remembrance of the country’s fallen heroes, and wreath laying ceremonies are done in Abuja and all the states of the federation in their honour. But the families of the deceased heroes have little to show for this annual ritual writes PEMBI STEPHEN-DAVID.
Khaki is not a glamorous colour and glamour is not a word that comes to mind when one thinks of the Armed Forces. Of all the jobs in the world, the military, which include the Army, Navy and the Air Force, is probably the least showy and spectacular but it is certainly not the least deserving of people’s admiration.
The unknown Nigerian Armed Forces, not only fought in the first and second World Wars but served or are still serving in various peace support operations around the world. They also fought in the Nigerian Civil War. Some suffered various deprivations; others were killed while the rest are still alive but can do little or nothing to help themselves. These men and women acquitted themselves well, with qualities of courage and determination. These qualities are traditional in the Nigerian Armed Forces and they are the first things that every new recruit learns to appreciate.
These young boys and girls, now forgotten by the system they risked or gave their lives to save, came from a simple and peaceful life of the society, be it for ten, twenty or thirty five years, from every walk of life, school boys, hunters, farmers, factory workers, fishermen, doctors, engineers and miners. They came from North and South, right from the time of Lagos Constabulary, Royal West African Frontiers Force, Southern and Northern Regiments, the Royal Nigerian Army and now the Nigerian Armed Forces. Today, many years after, their families have nothing to show for the hard work of these fallen heroes.
Even in the democratic age, warfare is still fundamentally territorial and the control and security of land, air and water lies in the hands of the military. Nigerians have reasons to be proud of their force men though they exist, as it were, in spite of the nation’s natural inclination. ‘‘No one needs to beat a drum in praise of the Nigerian Armed Forces. The Nigerian military has a great history and it will surely have a great future when the government goes beyond setting a week or so, to remember the fallen heroes and help their widows, children and other dependants to struggle to survive’’, revealed Mr. Okonta , a retired serviceman.
According to a fellow who gave his name as Ezekiel Moses, a native of Taraba State, and former Barracks Boy, resident in Duste Alhaji-FCT, the families of the fallen heroes have not been treated well. ‘‘Their families are at the mercy of poverty. They cannot afford three square meals; their children are apologies to good behaviour because they are like outcasts in the society. They could not go to school because no one was ready to pay their fees. Their entailments have been stopped because they have received their own share and their children are now old enough to take care of themselves.
They are not employed because they have no body up there to stand for them. They are not politicians because their fathers did not train them to be”.
These men and women trekked, starved without food and water, and spent sleepless nights in the bush, on water and in the air to ensure that Nigeria is not a pipe dream.
They were zealous patriots and unique nationalists transformed by regimentation.
According to Brigadier General Hassan Mamman Lai in his book “A Silent Voice In The Land”, they inspire courage but despise disorderliness and cowardice. Today, most of them are no more and their families have all but regrets because nothing has been done to salvage there situation. ‘‘Nigerian government should look beyond the so called Remembrance Day and do something worthwhile for the fallen heroes,’’ concludes Moses.
‘‘My pikin, make una no make me vex oh. Which one be Remembrance Day. De kind wahala wei we dey suffer no do una? Since my husband die for 1967, we no no anything call government help. Dem talk say dem dei remember fallen hero, wetin dem do for us. My husband leaf three pikin, no one go school. One na mechanic, one de go farm and the other one na carpenter. Tell me how dey government remember us’’.
These are the words of Mummy Emma, a 75 year-old widow of a fallen hero who was killed during the thirty- month- old Nigerian Civil War.
Ibrahim, 46-year-old Maize trader, wore a frown as he was asked to comment on the Army Remembrance Day. Speaking in Hausa, he said ‘’ look at me my brother, I was born in 1967, two months later, my father was killed in the civil war. We are four in number and none of us went beyond secondary school. My mother tried all her best but she also died when I was in form one. I was not able to complete my school.
Today, all I do is move from one village market to the other. My father died serving this country but we have nothing to show for it.’’
The fallen heroes, according to rtd. Sergeant Emmanuel Sini (not real name), a native of Michika town of Adamawa State, are what every Nigerian should think of as great men who are, of course, our proudest and saddest possession. The fallen heroes include men and women whom the country would have loved to have today. These are men who would have gone out of their ways to change many things in this country today.
The federal government should immortalise these fallen heroes by coming to the aid of their old widows and children.
Nigerians should contribute by buying the emblem and donate to the appeal fund. It is a golden opportunity of giving financial and material support to the families of the fallen heroes and the Nigerian Legion. As good soldiers, these fallen heroes were warriors all the time and anywhere. Collectively and individually, they watched over the country round the clock.
To remember them, Nigeria is set to raise about N400 million as proceeds from the nationwide sales of poppy emblems to mark the 2012 Armed Forces Remembrance Day Celebration (AFRDC). This is no doubt the biggest in history. ‘’ Yes we want to raise a lot of money for our fallen heroes but the nation wide strike has affected our plan.
Some states have curfew. See this state now, we have twenty four hours curfew, how do you go and canvas for support from the public?’’ lamented a man who gave his name as Mr. Livinus, a retired army officer in Suleja, Niger State.