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OPINION

Celebrating Gallant Nigerian Airmen

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Early this year, precisely on January 2, 2019, the media was awash with the news of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Helicopter which crashed in Borno State in the North East – the epicentre of Boko Haram insurgency. It was reported that five crew members on board the Mi-35 Helicopter that crashed during combat were dead.

The Air Force Spokesman, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola in a statement said, “It is with a heavy heart that I announce the death of the crew members who were on board the Nigerian Air Force (NAF)          Mi-35M Helicopter which crashed in Combat yesterday on January 2, 2019.”

He said that they died while providing close air support to troops of 145 Battalion, Damask in Borno State. He also said the deceased personnel’s remains had been recovered and taken to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. He further gave their names as “ Flight Lieutenant Perowei Jacob-Pilot in Command; Flight Lieutenant Kaltho Paul Kilyofas – Co-Pilot; Sergeant Auwal Ibrahim – Flight Technician; Lance Corporal Adamu Nura – Gunner and Aircraftman Meshack Ishmael – Gunner.”

The death of these gallant airmen, who died defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria against rampaging Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa fighters was another reminder of the sacrifices the military personnel are making in the North East so that we may sleep and wake up daily in peace and to keep our economy running. They keep awake that we may sleep at night. They are the reason our children could go to school because left for the Boko Haram, no child should go to school, especially the girl-child.

These airmen that died in combat are sons, husbands and fathers whose deaths have left children fatherless and wives turned to widows.

In fact there were reports that one of the dead officers wedded his lovely wife barely two weeks before his death. They were young and in African tradition, and indeed the world over, the usual expectation is that sons would bury their fathers. Whenever fathers bury their sons due to war, as in the case of the airmen, it is a double tragedy. Their untimely death is symptomatic of the sacrifices that our airmen and other military personnel make as they confront the evil men who are determined to kill our people and possibly turn this Great Country to another failed state in Africa like Somalia.

The heart of this author leaped with joy, few weeks ago, when he learned that the Nigerian Air Force elected to honour these fallen heroes and others. The NAF should be commended for this. The rest of the country should also join in celebrating these fallen men of valour and others. It is noteworthy that the NAF also honoured both serving and retired personnel who have distinguished themselves in the service.

The fallen heroes: Flight Lieutenant Perowei Jacob – Pilot in Command, Flight Lieutenant Kaltho Paul Kilyofas – Co-Pilot, Sergeant Auwal Ibrahim – Flight Technician, Lance Corporal Adamu Nura – Gunner and Aircraftman Meshack Ishmael – Gunner were given special posthumous award at the Chief of the Air Staff’s annual award ceremony.

The NAF also presented a posthumous award to Squadron Leader, Mohammed Baba-Ari, pilot of the ill-fated Independence rehearsal plane crash.

Speaking at the occasion the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar reportedly said that the event was aimed at recognising and honouring some NAF personnel who had distinguished themselves in the course of their duty towards the attainment of relative peace in the country. He said the NAF would not fail to recognise the sacrifices of its personnel who in the course of duty to this great country paid the supreme price. He also reassured the families of the deceased that NAF and the country would never forget them. This is very reassuring and should serve as motivation for serving airmen in the North East and elsewhere in the country.

“Let me assure you that their sacrifice is not in vain as it has further spurred us to remain focused and ever determined in realising a secured, peaceful and prosperous Nigeria. To the families of our deceased colleagues, be assured that you are not forgotten. The NAF will continue to provide the necessary assistance and support in appreciation of the sacrifice of your loved ones,” he said. He further noted that the ceremony was also meant to celebrate personnel who showed courage in the face of terror and exhibited strength where others saw fear; personnel who applied ingenuity where others perceived impossibility.

Earlier in his welcome address, the Chief of Administration, AVM Kingsley Lar said the award which was in seven categories was in line with NAF’s belief that the contributions of the smallest personnel to the highest in any office should not go unnoticed. In his address, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said the recognition and awards are effective management tools that motivate personnel who are doing well to keep up the work and also challenge others performing below expectations to redouble their efforts.

The NAF has been major and active arm of the military in the war against insurgency in the North East and other troubled spots in the country. Since the unfortunate insurgency in the North East started, some Nigerian Air Force personnel have paid the supreme price in order to rein in the terrorists. Along with other arms of the military, they are responsible for the successes that have been recorded against Boko Haram since the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari began the push back against the terrorists on assumption of office on May 29, 2015.

Only recently there was celebrations in Borno and around the country following the recovery of Bama and other parts of Borno that was alleged to be under the occupation of the Boko Haram. And the performance of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) was very salutary. It was reported that their massive bombardment of the terrorists in their camps cleared the ground for the ground troops to move in and wipe them out and restore sanity in the areas. The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has conducted various operations in its roles as the air component of OPERATION LAFIA DOLE.  These include OPERATION THUNDER STRIKE, GREEN SWEEP, etc through which the personnel had exhibited their prowess and carried out several successful strikes against Boko Haram.

The Nigerian Air Force personnel and indeed the military in general deserve some accolades for their love for this country and the sacrifices they are making to keep it one.

– Pembi is a public affairs analyst


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