I know that in less than 72 hours, you will spare a few moments of your time to watch President Muhammadu Buhari, among other top military brass, place the commemorative wreaths in recognition of the supreme price I paid to save Nigeria from disintegration. Though you have consistently reminded me of your appreciation of my sacrifice as a fallen hero, I have tried in several ways to review why I participated in a war that brought untold suffering to many of my countrymen and women all in the name of preserving a country. Beyond the mortal ken, my colleagues and I have been left in anguish over prevalent happenings that have put our country in dire straits.
Over 50 years ago, we were those brave hearts who answered the clarion call to defend the future of our citizens, including that of our children. Fired by the zeal of ensuring a just and united country where criminals would not usurp the intentions of citizens, we set sail to re-enact the heroism of those who had served in foreign lands and won medals of hope that we all can aspire to live peacefully and justly under a united country devoid of the flame of ethnic conflagration.
When the civil war broke out and shook our nation’s foundations, we never took a moment to reassess our conditions. We were then moved more by the need to save a country that was dancing on the precipice, following the reported killings of our fellow countrymen and women in the North that later culminated with the declaration of an Independent State of Biafra by Col Odumegwu Ojukwu in 1966. Moved by the vision to create a nation where our country would be accorded her deserved prime place in the comity of nations, we resisted the rebellious streaks of our brethren who saw disintegration as the only option left to serve their interest for enduring peace and development.
We were all filled with the unquenchable thirst to run over those who had referred to our nation as the ‘Mistake of 1914’. Leading the onslaught to preserve the colonial heritage of British occupation, we did a good job of keeping the nation united at a great, even monumental, destruction of lives and property. Our determination to fight for the oneness of the country was more hinged on preserving the footprints of British legacies than questioning those dynamics that had troubled our collective existence.
It is over half a century since the war broke out, and the issues that ailed our nation then is far from being resolved. Nigeria may have achieved feats in some sectors of national endeavours, but the country has not fully grasped the delicate and intricate mechanism that should have wielded the various ethnic nationalities into a single national vision. Since the attainment of political freedom and the departure of the colonial masters on October 1, 1960, some of the key actors in the Nigerian project still see the country enmeshed in forced marriage, with various groups engaged in ceaseless controversies and discourse that are still aimed at unravelling the complex web of myriad problems haranguing the country. In our wishful thought then, we saw a Promised Land that should never be truncated by some ambitious military hotheads. In my tomb I now see and feel the painful efforts of pursuing an illusion. Despite nearly six decades of independence, the citizens are hopelessly divided along ethnic and religious lines. The House that Sardauna built called Arewa, which served as melting pot for other regions, has been reduced to a ghost region where life is short and brutish, streaming in endless bloodbaths that have horrified the world.
Fratricidal wars involving farmers and herders have turned life into a scary nightmare, with northerners turning themselves into hunting squads to kill fellow northerners. Despite displaying our military prowess in the Burma and Congo wars, including our unmatched profile in courage and dedication to global peace campaigns, it is a monumental tragedy that our country is finding it increasingly difficult to rein in yesterday’s small fires of insurgency by Boko Haram that have become raging infernos and threatening the country’s very foundations.
The Fulani/farmers’ crises now unleash a trepidation as thousands of innocent and defenceless citizens are butchered under the watchful eyes of the military, as claimed in a report by Amnesty International. No fewer than 1,800 lives have been lost in this war of attrition that some analysts now describe as a resource struggle between the herdsmen and farmers. Within 11 months of 2018, the total number of persons killed through crises, banditry and kidnapping, among other criminal activities, was put at 5,113. The prime legacy Nigeria is reputed for is a country at war with itself.
Without doubt, the present happenings in the country is a desecration of our tombs and what we stood for. Beyond the mortal ken my colleagues and I now live, it is clear that our supreme sacrifice to save our nation from the forces of balkanization is becoming vain. Money has taken over common brotherhood as politicians seek to make merchandise of the future. While Nigerians are being impoverished, those who control power have ensured the deployment of solid munition in defence of their continued pillaging of the common patrimony. Impending doom seems to be the lot of Nigerians, as power wielders are only engaged in creating their oases of influence and are surrounded by cronies whose pastime is praise singing. We who gave the full measures of our lives for Nigeria cannot be proud. In this immortal stage I find myself weary and regretful of why I killed so many to entrench a legacy that has become crushing injustice for majority of our citizens. Our children can no longer find jobs without being requested to produce eggs of crocodiles as proof of their right to equality.
More painfully, other arms bearers who are now engaged in fighting Boko Haram have become soft targets for the terrorists whose morale is boosted by distraught citizens that are still in confusion over whose side to support in the insurgency war. The enemy that stalks us is now among us, just as the hope of reclaiming the country from murderers becoming forlorn and unrealisable. Military men and women who survived the battlefield are now left to die by instalment. Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps are now booming businesses that have attracted global attention. How long will the international organisations get to know these battlefronts are self-inflicted, deceitful, and carried on for selfish ends?
Considering the level of violence and injustice ravaging the country, it seems too obvious now that I was deceived to die. Can someone please tell me why I killed in order to allow few have unfettered access to run Nigeria aground? I wish I never shot a single bullet against any soldier. I feel betrayed by those who persuaded me to kill. I now know that January 15 is not a celebration of my valour, but the portrayal of my supreme sacrifice as an exercise in vanity. Can Nigerians rise up in unison and make me not regret my decision to kill and be killed to keep Nigeria one?
The Unknown Soldier
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