While growing up in the early 60s, before sighting a military officer is like passing through the eye of a needle. My uncle Okwudiri Maduako was a Naval officer. Each time he returns to the village with a pass to see his family, his sparkling white uniform and white shoes were delight-able attraction to us the young boys. Those among us, who aspire to become a military man, could not summon the raw courage to ask him questions. Even while in Lagos, l recall as a first year student of Lagos City College, Yaba, instead of boarding a bus from Lewis Street to Iddo, five of us, on sighting two military men, marched behind them in admiration forgetting that we have morning classes.
We trekked the long distance not minding the distance. The excitement of seeing soldiers in their crisp brightly starched uniform along the street, in their sparkling black shoes that were dazzling like shinning stars, further added to our joy of seeing soldiers. Even as we followed them, we became the attraction to onlookers. Surprisingly, the soldier behaved as if they never took notice of us. As we parted ways from them, the memory stuck till date. Even my village brother who is today, a top military officer has only commanded the respect l have always had for military officers. He impressed me with his depth and display of discipline.
Today, the exigency of life has made it possible to meet soldiers of every kind on the streets. It becomes even more unfortunate when some of them dabble into the muddy waters of Nigeria politics. Today, we have the good, the bad and the very ugly among the Armed forces of Nigeria. When the finest ascends the lofty heights of their profession, the country benefits but when the reverse becomes the case the country pays dearly for it. The yearly military ritual of remembering and celebrating our retired military men often time helps to send a message to every Nigerian about the important role of the military in the country. One would have added that their role in the development of the country, but come to think of it, has the military really contributed to the development of the country? Many would wink their eyes by reminding us of their incursion that tragically truncated the country growing democracy in the early 60s. Many others would argue that without adequate security, there could be no development. All the arguments are neither here nor there, considering their recent fight against the Boko Haram terrorists activities in the North-Eastern part of the country. Apart from that, they have helped to restore peace in the Niger- Delta region, plus their constant intervention in fishing out dangerous kidnappers in the country. It is gladdening that, where the police is presently failing, the military has helped to intervene. This is why the country is unanimously using those still in service as a point of contact to remember the patriotic service of their colleagues whose strength had failed them. Their colleagues who gave there all in service to defend the country and the world when their service was needed most.
While applauding those still in service, those out of service should also share in this moment of celebrating and appreciating our Armed forces. Many have their personal experiences especially how they perceive the Armed forces. On January 15, being the official day set aside as the “ Remembrance Day” former President Goodluck Jonathan wrote on his face book page, “Our armed forces are the thin line that have separated us from death and destruction at the hands of terrorists and other threats to our national security” he further urged every Nigerian to pause and celebrate our military. Late last year, this writer was at the theater of war in Bama, and Sambisa forest. The doggedness and patriotic determination of the officers and men of the Armed forces encourages one to solicit for better welfare, support and encouragement for the men at the war front. In the same vein, the government should not abdicate it responsibility to always cater for retired veterans by ensuring that their benefits are made available to them as at when due, so that the fire can continue burning. Even the Holy Book frowns at deprivation of wages and entitlements for servants (workers) who have arduously served their master. The fire must continue to burn.
When the story of the insurgency in Nigeria would be compiled, one name that would not be missing is that of the present Chief of Army staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Bruatai. His style of leadership has helped in raising the banner of the military to a commendable height. Apart from that, he has restored discipline to the institution. Unfortunately, the leader of the Boko Haram naturally sees him as an enemy and has silently study every of his strategies to end the war.
Coincidentally, the enemy knows exactly when to put a spanner in the wheel of his progress just to dislocate every of his strategies in executing the war against terrorists in the country. Early this week, while Bruatai was ensuring that his vow to end the war against the terrorists was accomplished, Boko Haram, allegedly released to the international media a video showing two out of the remaining hundred abducted Chibok girls who said they are comfortable where they are and were not returning back. This strategic move by the Boko Haram is to pre-empt any move of the federal government in ensuring their release.
It also means that as usual, the Boko Haram leader wants to use the girls for exchange bait of their captured men. Nigerians should rally round our military to ensure this ugly phase of insurgency come to an end. Let it be written about our generation that we saw and conquered terrorists in our country and the man Bruatai, brutally dealt with them with his gallant men.