- By MAX GBANITE – Maxgbanite@yahoo.com
This article was first published on February 5th 2006, in various Nigerian newspapers, and online, by Gamji.com and kwenu.com. I decided to recast the piece with some moderations, while the original intendments remain intact. I feel very passionate about our men and women in uniform serving our great country at every level with honor. In recent times, our politicians have created all sorts of problems internally that our various arms of security are neck-deep into resolving this crisis; and in the process have lost more personnel in peace-time-Nigeria than at any other time in our history, except during the civil war. To show my unwavering solidarity, I decided to resurrect this piece.
Albert Schweitzsd once said, “Truth has no special time of its own, its hour is now.” He was correct then as he is today. Therefore, let me speak the truth with my lap-top, the hour is now.
As you celebrate the solemnity of Armed Forces Day or ‘Remembrance Day’ to honour the brave unsung heroes of the past and current, I and many other Nigerians’ join you (members of the armed forces) with passion and dedication because those being honoured died while in action at various theaters of war and at places far, near, and within, in defence; in honour; and service to our fatherland. Yours is a voluntary profession for the tough at heart, and not for the feebleminded. Your dedication to our fatherland Nigeria is unmatched; and must not go unnoticed, because you signed your death warrant the day you voluntarily joined to become a member of the Armed Forces.
You acquitted yourselves during the First World War when your contingent was called ‘Tiv Volunteer Force’ just because most of you then, were from Tiv-land, located in what is known today as Middle-Belt. Your dedication and willingness to serve in the most unconducive environment while taking rapid fire from the opposing forces; and your doggedness, compelled the British colonialists to create the West African Frontier Force in the 1930s to 1940s to enlist people from other parts of Nigeria and West Africa.
Your discipline and commitment to the art of war was proven once again during the Second World War, when your contingent, despite the inhumane conditions, limited logistical support, and a great loss of men, defended and held your position in a fierce battle in Burma before reinforcement came your way. You were adjudged the best fighting contingent in that theater of war by your British-lead-officers.
You are ranked second only to India when it comes to deployment of forces, in peacekeeping (now called peace-support) operations. You were there in the First World War, Second World War, the Congo Belgian War, and currently serving in over 13 nations where conflicts exist; but, most importantly, you are ranked “Primus Inter Pares” in actual duty and operational activities. You went to Liberia and Sierra Leone with a focus: to restore the dignity of man and to bring democracy to the people — a fete you accomplished (though in collaboration with other member nations within the Ecowas/Ecomog contingent), but your loss in personnel and materials compared to none. You lost valuable comrades; and the politicians of today don’t wish to know their names or even if their families exists anymore; they never saw the flowing bloods of the almost 2,000 lost in Liberia and Sierra Leone and Darfur; neither did they see or have even acknowledged those being killed today internally in Niger-Delta, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Nassarawa, and other parts of the country. Yet, at every turn of crisis, they (politicians) beckon upon you to save the situation which was caused by them in the first instance.
Oh, we remember that our own wonderful, indefatigable, amiable, and peoples Commander, the late Brigadier-General Maxwell Kobi, lost his life to restore democracy in Sierra Leone and in the service to his fatherland. Many of you are currently on tour of duty in Darfur, Kosovo, Bosnia, Middle-East, Somalia, and many other locations around the world. You are always there whenever or wherever the charter of United Nations, African Union, and ECOWAS beckons, without minding what befalls your immediate family that you left behind. You are indeed an amazing group, and we are very proud of your accomplishment.
During the avoidable and unfortunate civil war (1967-1970) you acquitted yourselves on both sides. The gallantry exploits displayed on both sides were legendary, and may God never allow this same type of carnage to repeat itself. Funny enough some of you have equally displayed other talents in the art of coup plotting and its execution. That part of your profession earned you the disrespect from the ruling class. Though, coup plotting was and is still part of your indoctrination, we, however, thank those seasoned officers amongst you for knowing now that coup-plotting and its’ execution is a thing of the past; and that democracy in Nigeria is here to stay; and must and should be allowed to flourish. You must never allow ethnic and religious sentiments to sip into your rank and file. You are indeed the last stronghold of what keeps us as a nation. Therefore, all manners of politicization and rancor within the armed forces must be resisted at all levels with passion.
Since the advent of our new democracy and the establishment of rule-of-law in 1999 and, even most recently, some pusillanimous, yellow-belly politicians have at every opportunity vilified your profession. With impudence, they blame you for all the ills of the nation without evidence to support their vituperations. Fortunately, the same politicians are holding sway today; what can they truly boast of accomplishing?
They (politicians) fail to admit that their inanities are anti people, and create unwarranted-challenges for the polity. This same politicians, who, when crisis started by them begins, call upon your services, and urge you to defend the Constitution and preserve the integrity of our nation. This was the case in 1965, and it resulted in the actions of January 15th, 2006, and was again repeated in July 1966. Even the Late Chief MKO Abiola admitted financing and instigating a coup and Professor Bolaji Ankinyemi confessed to writing the late General Sani Abacha, GCON, urging him to take over from Chief Ernest Shonekan, GCFR. I remember Chief Tony Anenih, Paul Unongo, and other dignitaries educating members of the Republican National Institute (RNI) and some selected members of the United States Congress in 1995 on why Nigeria was deserving of the late General Sani Abacha, as Head of State; and how he prevented the nation from disintegration.
Today, we have seen how in Niger-Delta, North-East, and Nassarawa, the same Political-actors, a mixture of old-breed, and new-breed ethnic-champions are working tirelessly to overheat the polity into ethnic, religious, and regional political conflagration of the past. They act and pretend as if they don’t know that the unnecessary crisis being created by them potentiates a calamitous danger to the federation. In fact if what they are sowing today germinates into catastrophe, the black hands amongst them will again call upon your gallant services to restore hope and steer the country back into democracy. Well, kindly reject them and allow them to stew in their own vomit.
Some of you although retired were appointed military administrators of states (MILADs); yes, you may have stolen, but you did it with the fear of God and in collaboration with the civilian politicians who taught you how the schemes work. Even in that madness, none of you had the guts to embezzle the billions we read about being attributed to some of the current ministers and governors or their “Excellencies” — as they wish to be addressed today. They travel in armor-plated vehicles built like military tanks to protect themselves against those that voted for them; their imaginary enemies; and their starving constituents who are deprived of democratic dividends. They shout about insecurity in the country on one hand and, on the other, they sponsor ethnic thugs called militias and all manner of kidnappers, andhired killers; yet, they fail to provide you with adequate funding and equipment to combat the scourge they created.
To the gallant men and women of our Armed Forces (Navy, Air Force, Army, Police, Department of State Services, National Intelligence Agency, Defence Intelligence Agency), and supporting security agencies, I commend you for your discipline, your courage under fire. I and a good number of Nigerians (some good and dedicated politicians inclusive) join hands in saluting you for your voluntary and dedicated service to our fatherland, Africa, and the world.
Your diligence is highly appreciated. Please join us in the sustenance of democracy. It is your duty to preserve the Constitution of our fatherland. It is your duty to stop at nothing to prevent any attempt to destroy this great country. You must take up the challenges to crush all operating ethnic militias and terrorists whenever and wherever they may exist in our country. As for the vilification by politicians, kindly ignore their diatribes by taking consolation from the words of P. J. O’Rourke, who said that, “When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.” Herein lays the truth: They (politicians) have already sold it.
I hope the right thinking government will give us January 15th as a national holiday, because that date is indeed memorable in the annals of our history and should be a day of solemnity for all to ponder, and hopefully-collectively agree that, ‘Never again’ shall our nation be plunged into such carnage as witnessed on that profound day of infamy.
I salute you, gentlemen and ladies.
Long live the Nigerian Armed Forces
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
January 26, 2006