According to George Orwell, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men/women stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” Soldiers do violence on your behalf. Being a soldier is not doing a job or having an employment, soldiering is not a career, but a way of life. A soldier can retire, have an honourable discharge, be physically challenged, imprisoned and more, but he/she is never off-duty, always standing on the line on the nation’s behalf. Behind them is an entire nation, in front of them, is an entire world.
The responsibility to stand on that line requires courage. They are nation-builders and democracy, according to Olisa Uzoewulu, is defended by them, we need to accord them due recognition and honour. To respect them, is not glorifying them; it is not constantly thanking them, but seeing and treating them as indispensable members of the society. In Nigeria, though, we see them differently, sometimes as members of the society doing the lowest jobs, and most times as those interfering in our nation’s democracy.
The Nigerian Army is a representation of the entity called Nigeria. It is a conglomerate, an association or an organization of men and officers who have given their lives and who have gone through rigorous military trainings to safeguard the territorial integrity of the nation and not just a minority or officers from a section of the country as it is believed in some quarters. It is a standing force that has sworn an oath of allegiance to protect the constitution, safeguard lives and property.
Whatever it does today has national and protectionist agenda and therefore, its activities across the country should not be misconstrued by mischief makers to serve their self-serving inordinate ambition.
In its task to safeguard and protect the lives of Nigerians, the Army has on several occasions sacrificed young career men and officers with aged parents and families left behind and in developed countries, these people are seen as celebrities, patriots and heroes; in Nigeria the reverse is the case. So, we need to engage Nigerians to begin to look at our military men and officers as heroes who are ready to pay the ultimate price for our peace and unity and therefore, deserve our accolades, commendations and honour for their oath of allegiance to our nation.
Since the present Chief of Army Staff (COAS) took over the mantle of leadership he has broken the fence between the army and the civil populace by the constant training of its personnel across board in building relationships with the civilian population where it operates. The Nigerian Army has never been so civil in its entire history like what we have today, all due to the proactive and human face leadership of the COAS, who is keen and interested in meeting with international best standards wherever the army finds itself.
It is high time, we celebrated the armed forces, and it is high time we accorded them their rights in their fatherland.
There are so many ways Nigerians can add value to our military today in terms of partnerships, collaborations, long term strategic initiatives and in their corporate social responsibilities (CSR) by providing social amenities, building infrastructure and making donations that will enhance the professional competence of the soldiers. It also involves sponsorship of deceased children in schools across the country, providing social infrastructure in the barracks, supplying hospital equipment/drugs to the medical corps and instituting initiatives that will cater for wounded soldiers and providing timely and accurate information to the Army when the need arises for intelligence gathering so as to get rid of criminal elements in the society
The Army deserves respect more than any other profession, for they watch every other profession by keeping vigil to protect the borders. The job comes with no weekends or break for public holidays as others break to rest, but they live and die for the nation and citizens. They sacrifice their lives in a brief second for us to keep living, and what do we do in return, dishonor them? Not at all! A country can survive without so many things, but not a day without the Army.
This truth is very necessary so that Africans and indeed Nigerians will come to realize the importance of the Army in nation-building. A lot of young and versatile Nigerians have paid the supreme price to keep us alive as fallen heroes. Nigerians indeed need to appreciate the nationalistic role played by the Army in keeping peace and effecting the total eradication of criminal elements and insurgents in the society.
Security and national development have been described as paramount component in the quest for the nation’s peace, stability and sustainable growth. The Army has become a major stakeholder in the security and development of the nation and as such deserves our commendations in course of safeguarding the nation and in its determined efforts to ensure the dislodgment and decimation of insurgents, and protection of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) relocated to their abandoned communities.
It therefore, brings to the fore, the thousands of lives lost in safeguarding the nation and also reminds us of the recent one year memorial anniversary of Col. Abu Ali, a gallant and fearless soldier, who paid the ultimate price with his life in order to defend the territorial integrity of his country. This is one example of so many lives cut short at their prime.
We need to do a re-think, and re-orientate our minds about our attitude to the Nigerian Army personnel, who go to work every day, not knowing what will befall them at their duty-posts due to the dangers of their profession. The country needs to change its perception of the military and find ways and means to enhance the morale and professional competence of the Army. Just as the COAS, Lt. Gen. Buratai reiterated recently, that efforts to ensure that troops adhere to the rules of engagement, according to the constitution, have been entrenched, pointing out that the Nigerian Army has established its own human rights desk, department of civil-military affairs, to ensure that fundamental human rights of citizens are protected by personnel, just as the rights of its own personnel are also guaranteed. He further stated that the welfare of troops and their families remains a priority in managing the affairs of the Army, adding that a total of about 4,000 children of deceased personnel were sponsored by the Army in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. The Army cannot do this alone, it therefore, needs the assistance of Nigerians and corporate organizations as part of their CSR to alleviate the challenges faced by the deceased soldiers’ families, build social amenities in the barracks that Nigerians can be proud of in this 21st century.
Though the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has done so much for the military in terms of funding, welfare, purchase of equipment and human capital development, the Federal Government alone cannot do it and therefore, requires the concerted efforts of good spirited Nigerians and corporate organizations. Just as the Army, is strengthening its civil-military relations across the country by carrying out medical outreach where free medical tests and treatments for different ailments are dispensed, drugs, eye-glasses as well as mosquito nets for pregnant women are distributed, while the Army engineering corps also construct major roads and do repairs in regions where the needs arise.
In order to enhance the welfare and living conditions of the Army as in developed nations, new incentives and allowances including the provision of social amenities in and around working environments and the barracks across the country, have been enhanced and revamped, so as to be a morale booster for the men and officers. It is also agreed that the periodic self-assessment and continuous training of the Nigerian Army is vital in the accomplishment of the arduous responsibilities and challenges facing the nation.
As part of the COAS’ strategy to have a well motivated military force, he has built social amenities and rehabilitated formations, army ranges across the country. Just recently, it commissioned and gave a new look to the army headquarters, and during the unveiling the CDS, General Gabriel Olonisakin commended the COAS, for embarking on the project within his short stay in office. And he urged the troops to be agents of change anywhere they find themselves, and enjoined them to make best use of the facility as well as imbibe maintenance culture at all times.
In another development, the COAS has also enjoined soldiers to make good use of the recently commissioned multimedia and conference hall. The COAS stated that it was built as part of the efforts to add value to the infrastructure development which the Nigerian Army is embarking on across various army units and formations.
Consequently, in the determined effort to curb youth’s restiveness and continuous efforts to transform the youths in the barracks for better days through skills acquisition, the Nigerian Army Barracks Youths Foundation (NABYF) partnered the Nigerian Armed Forces Resettlement Centre (NAFRC) Oshodi, for the training and counseling of its teeming youths across the nation. This partnership has greatly imbibed in the youths the “can do mentality,” which is also another morale booster for the families in the barracks.
Also worthy of note, is the recently commissioned “ST Foods Outlet” at the army headquarters which, according to the COAS, is a noble venture for “having a professionally responsible Nigerian Army in the discharge of its constitutional roles.” He said the outlet is another milestone of the present leadership to give officers at the Army headquarters the opportunity of having lunch without going outside the premises as well as spurring them to strive harder in the discharge of their responsibilities in more professional manners.
Howbeit, a lot of Nigerians have also paid glowing tributes to the Nigerian Army and our fallen heroes for paying the ultimate price for us all to live in peace and harmony. Some of these eminent Nigerians commented on this. His Royal Highness, Gbong Gwon Jos, Da Jacob Gyang, applauded the army for the achievements and successes recorded so far in the restoration of peace in the country. He assured the Army of continuous support and cooperation by his people to stamp out the insurgents and criminals within his domain. His Excellency, Governor Kasshim Shettima of Borno State, extolled the COAS for liberating the North-East, especially Borno State from the grip of Boko Haram. He painted a grim and hopeless situation in the North-East before the COAS assumed office, stating that the COAS has changed the situation, but has not only liberated the North-East region, but also restored the lost glory of the region in general and Borno State in particular.
Senator Mohammed Jubrilla, Governor of Adamawa State, also commended the Nigerian Army for their sacrifices and charged government at all levels, individuals, as well as corporate organizations to cooperate with the military by providing useful information to enable them function optimally. The governor stated that apart from the insurgency that there were other several security challenges that must be tackled and pledged the support of his government at all times, stressing that period in which insurgents were taking over territories was over. He called for a minute silence for the repose of the souls of officers and soldiers who lost their lives.
The governor of Benue State, Dr. Samuel Ortom, said that the government and people of Benue State were completely convinced that the Nigerian Army in particular and other military services in general were equal to the task of carrying out their constitutional responsibility to keep Nigeria. That he was impressed with the total commitment, patriotism and professional competence of the current leadership of the Army, in the fight against Boko Haram. He emphasized that the hard work and sacrifices of the military made all that possible, pointing out that Nigerians are proud of the efforts of the Nigerian Army to rid the South-South and South-East of militants and other criminal elements whose activities constitute serious security threats.
He also commended the Nigerian Army for doing a great job without which the story about this country would have been different. Owelle Rochas Okorocha of Imo State applauded the Army for its steadfastness in keeping the nation as an indivisible entity. He stated that the Nigerian troops have faced many challenges and proved their professionalism in the face of odd situations. He reiterated that the army has paid a supreme price in the course of defending the territorial integrity of the country during which many personnel lost their lives, adding that they should be remembered for their sacrifices.
In his words: “Let me at this point commend our gallant soldiers for the professional manner they have continued to carry out their constitutional roles in the defence of our democracy.”
The Pakistani Military also commended the Nigerian Army successes in the fight against insurgents and criminals across the country during a recent visit. The Director General, Joint Staff Headquarters, Pakistan Armed forces (PAF), Lt Gen. Najib – Ullah, lauded the Army and stressed that Nigeria and Pakistan have a long standing relationship in terms of military training, adding that the aim of the visit was to further enhance bilateral cooperation between both militaries.
In responding to all the commendations, too numerous to mention, from far and wide, the COAS, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, assured everyone that the Nigerian Army would continue to ensure that peace and stability reign in all parts of the country, emphasizing that the Army has diversified in various spheres of endeavours such as training, discipline, infrastructure development, procurement and the induction on military hardware and software, among others.
In order to sustain high ethical professionalism, that the Nigerian Army through its activities had demonstrated high capability in its constitutional role in securing Nigeria and Nigerian citizens, in addition to combating pipeline vandalism, crude oil theft, illegal bunkering, piracy, cattle rustling, kidnappings, among other threats to our nation, while having the rules of engagement and best international practices on its front burner and cardinal focus.
Written by Omoba Kenneth Aigbegbele, a brand strategist, civil rights activist, social crusader.