By Nkechi Odoma
The Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration is an annual event organized to honour members of the Nigerian Armed Forces who fought in the first and second World Wars, and those who served or are still serving in various peace support operations worldwide as well as those who fought in the Nigerian civil war. The Day is to celebrate both the dead and the living heroes including all those who suffered various deprivations as a result of wars.
As I watched the wreath-laying ceremony, I could not hold back tears remembering those that paid the supreme price in service to fatherland from yesteryears. I also thought of the ongoing war against Boko Haram insurgents and those that have been persecuting war as well as those that have paid that supreme price. It was emotional for me as I thought of their families and loved ones. It then dawns on me that indeed patriotism knows no tribe or religion. It knows no envy of others, the common good is and has remained the watchword.
And this brings me to the recent achievements of the Nigerian Military in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria. We must admit that they had indeed sacrificed a lot to keep Nigeria safe and secured since 2009 when Boko Haram transformed into a monstrous phenomenon. Even though we experienced quite substantial casualties, they nonetheless gave their best. And on this auspicious occasion, Nigerians indeed celebrate our Armed Forces, both the living and the dead. We must always remember the sacrifice the Nigerian soldiers have made; we must remind our ourselves that they left families behind who need to be cared and catered for and also to remind us that whatever might have led to the loss of lives of members of our armed forces will no longer recur.
This mind-set has resonated in recent times with the exploits of our Armed Forces, especially the Nigeria Army under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai. To say the Nigeria Army made substantial gains in the fight against Boko Haram insurgents and other militant groups that constituted threats to national security might be an understatement. We might not fully comprehend the efforts of the Chief of Army Staff, but when one juxtaposes his achievements in office to that of his predecessors, then we would be able to see that the difference is indeed crystal clear.
I stand to be corrected, the Chief of Army Staff is one of the few whose contributions to the overall well-being of Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. He has indeed demonstrated that service to fatherland is the ultimate. He has also shown that when there is a will, there would always be a way as evident in the way and manner the Nigeria Army has continued to push in the battlefield despite some setbacks. For Buratai, it has always been no retreat and no surrender.
The exploits of the Nigeria Army under Buratai is indeed exceptional even though in some instances, it was stretched thin. Imagine coordinating military operations around the country simultaneously, imagine making gains, suffering setbacks, imagine strategizing and implementing all at the same time. Indeed, it takes only a genius to be able to do all of that without blinking.
If we must be honest with ourselves, the Nigeria Army under Buratai has indeed redefined the concept of protecting the territorial integrity of the country through countless innovations in the last three years. For instance, there has been an improved civil-military relationship, there has been an improved accountability and transparency process, military expenditure no longer top secret. And much more too numerous to mention.
It is, therefore, sufficing to state that Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai is one of the few that have made a difference in the discharge of his duties. He has carried on like a real war general who displayed courage, character, presence, and intellect. His drive and tenacity are second to none, alongside his psychological openness that allows for cross-fertilization of ideas on war strategies. This much his lieutenants can attest to. Some would readily say that, but for his exploits, Nigeria would have been consumed by the Boko Haram menace, as well as that of other militant groups that threatened our existence.
And as we remember our fallen heroes on this occasion, it behoves on us to also recognize and encourage the ones still standing and keeping us safe from external aggressions. We must realize that the commitment to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria is unwavering under Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai. This much he has demonstrated through his actions and inactions in the cause of a brilliant career that saw him traverse the length and breadth of the country. Some call him, the soldier’s soldier. Some also call him the strategist. Some call him a legend. But I choose to call him the hero who made the difference.
I dedicate this piece to the officers and soldiers fighting Boko Haram insurgency in North East Nigeria, as well as other participating in military operations across the country. I encourage them to continue to give their best in service to fatherland. And for the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, you have indeed made a difference and posterity would be kind to you.
Odoma is President, Africa Arise for Change Network and wrote from Abuja.