President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday led leaders of the legislative and judiciary arms of government, the military and para-military, to perform the 2013 Armed Forces Remembrance Day wreath-laying ceremony in Abuja. The occasion was almost marred following the near collapse of the Minister of State for Defence, Olusola Obada, as a result of exhaustion. The minister, who was standing in between the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Ibrahim and Speaker, House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, before the laying of wreaths, almost slumped after standing for a long time, but for the agility of the security details who held her and led the minister to her seat. At this point, her hat fell off.
The incident happened shortly after the gunshots from the artillery frightened some people at the venue. The gunshot came without the usual alert. The stir, however, did not have any effect on the ceremony as it went on smoothly. Nevertheless, Obada went on to perform the wreath-laying after about five minutes of attention. She also saw the President off and granted interview to newsmen at the end of the ceremony which ended a month of activities marking the day which included fund-raising for the veterans. Last month, President Jonathan, had launched the emblem appeal fund for the Remembrance Day celebration. The event, held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, paraded top government functionaries, senior military officers and members of Diplomatic Corps.
Business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, donated N30 million to the veterans’ purse and another N30 million on behalf of Alhaji Dahiru Mangal, another businessman. The wreath-laying kick-started with the arrival of the President, who is also the Grand Patron of the Nigerian Legion, at about 10 a.m at the National Arcade, Three Arms Zone, Abuja There was a general salute on the President’s arrival which was followed by the inspection of parade in four colours; the national and the three regimental colours of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. Prayers were offered for the repose of the souls of the departed heroes and for peace, security and unity of the nation in both the Christian and Islamic ways. Shortly after the prayers, the President began with the laying of wreath, followed by Vice President Namadi Sambo, Senate President David Mark and Tambuwal. Others who also layed wreaths were the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukhtar and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Sen. Bala Mohammed. Admiral Ibrahim, the Chief of Army Staff, Gen Azubuike Ihejirika, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Alex Badeh also took turns in the wreath-laying.
The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Abubakar, Acting Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Ambassador of the Democratic Republic of Congo , Mrs. Olumba Kombe, as well as the Chairman of the Nigerian Legion, Col. Micah Gayya (rtd), also laid wreaths. After the ceremony, there were general gun salutes and the President thereafter released pigeons which signified unfettered freedom, unity, peace and harmony for the country. This was followed by the signing of register by the President, the national salute and the National Anthem which concluded the solemn ceremony.
The yearly event is in honour and remembrance of the fallen heroes who sacrificed their lives for the liberation of the nation and to appreciate those who survived various wars. The Armed Forces Remembrance Day is globally celebrated every December 11. It however, holds on January 15 in Nigeria because of the significance of the date to the nation. January 15 is seen as a significant day in Nigeria’s annals because it was the date of the first coup that eventually led to the 30-month-old civil war in 1967. It is also the day the Biafra war ended in 1970 with the concept of “no victor, no vanquished” and the beginning of national re-integration.
Also at the ceremony were the Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim, presidential aides and members of the Diplomatic Corps. Others include members of the Armed Forces and their wives, members of the Nigerian Legion and some of the widows of the heroes.