Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
As the nation marks 50 years of end of the civil war, the Presidency has vowed that the tragedy of the 30-month civil strife shall be neither forgotten nor repeated.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement said: “We remember the victims of the conflict and honour those on both sides that lost their lives. Their tragedy shall be neither forgotten nor repeated.”
The Presidency said the war serves as a potent warning on the dangers of aggressive regionalism, ethnic baiting and political corruption.
“In it, we must forge common memory that can serve as a bridge to a future free from the ravages of sectarianism.
“We remember the past to draw its lessons; on how we move forward together and live in peace. Unfortunately, there are some who fail to recognise them and instead repeat its mistakes, preaching inflammatory rhetoric meant only to divide. We call on all leaders and parties to moderate their language.
“There were no victors in this war. Yet in rejecting division and embracing unity, we ensure those lives lost were not in vain.
As part of the Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebrated across the country yesterday, President Buhari led other top government functionaries, including service chiefs and members of the diplomatic corps to honour the nation’s fallen and living heroes.
It is an annual event by the Ministry of Defence to honour fallen heroes who laid down their lives during the First and Second World Wars, Nigerian civil war, peace support and various internal security operations in the country.
Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State appealed to the National Assembly to hasten the enactment of a law to improve the welfare of families of dead and retired soldiers.
His call came on the heels of a pledge by Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State to provide N1 million to each member of the armed forces who died in active service in the state.
Tambuwal said in Sokoto that it was important to address the welfare of armed forces personnel whether dead or alive to serve as incentive to those in service to give their all.
He said war veterans had made enormous sacrifices to ensure peace, stability and progress in the nation.
In Kaduna, El-Rufai hailed the armed forces contributions to peace in the country, and commended their patriotism and commitment to the nation.
“We are still not where we ought to be as there are still remnants disturbing our people, but the armed forces have played very important roles.
“Here in Kaduna, without the Army, Airforce and Navy supporting the Police, I think the rate of criminality, kidnapping and other forms of banditry would have been out of control,” he said.
In Ibadan, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State said the contributions of the fallen heroes required appreciation and urged Nigerians to care for those injured in the course of carrying out their service to the nation.
Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun also urged Nigerians to regularly remember and touch the lives of families left behind by fallen heroes rather than wait till every Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration.
Speaking shortly after the laying of wreath during the 2020 Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration held at the Arcade Ground, Oke Mosan, Abeokuta, he said it was important to celebrate the people who had laboured for the unity of the country and to ensure that their efforts were not in vain.
“Most times, many of us hardly appreciate our heroes because we see them as soldiers who have committed themselves to be in the military and many times, these men have become casualties in the line of duty. These are men and women that have spouses, children. There were lamentations from the widows of these fallen heroes.
“I want to enjoin all of us to take our time every day and think about these people who have laboured for the unity of this country,” he said.
Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq of Kwara also called for better care and attention to the welfare of families left behind by fallen heroes, saying that was the way to show gratitude for their selfless service to the country. For the living and families of the fallen heroes, we have to continue to pray for them, support them, engage them and thank them for their service to Nigeria,” he said shortly after laying the wreath in Ilorin.
In Akure, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State lauded the efforts of the armed forces in ensuring security in the state and the country.
Akeredolu recalled that the armed forces ensured that crime in Ondo State was checked, especially before, during and after the Yuletide.
In Osogbo, Gov. Gboyega Oyetola of Osun said the only way Nigerians could appreciate the sacrifices of the fallen heroes and veterans was for all to remain united in love and peace.
Oyetola said all citizens must face the future with faith and hope by working for the peace of the nation to achieve the desired progress and development.
The governor who spoke in Osogbo urged Nigerians, irrespective of their tribe, to engage in acts that would deliver a strong, unified and prosperous Nigeria.
“Their commitment to the security and safety of the nation gives the confidence that one and indivisible Nigeria is possible and non-negotiable,” Oyetola said.
The governor explained that his administration had been supportive of veterans and families of the fallen heroes through implementation of improved welfare policies and programmes.
“Each year since we came into power, we have rallied round our fallen heroes and provided for their needs. Our policies and programmes have been directed at them and the people through adequate, equitable and qualitative service delivery.”
In Plateau, Simon Lalong promised to empower families of deceased military personnel in the state, who died in active service, through agriculture. He said widows and children of the fallen military officers would be properly catered for through agricultural policy of the State Government.
“We shall empower and cater for the families of deceased military personnel who died while serving this great nation; they shall not be neglected.
“We shall incorporate them into our agricultural policy to enable them to benefit from it in order to earn a living for themselves.
“Recently, we donated a vehicle to the Plateau chapter of the Nigerian Legion and we are committed to doing more to support those who left service and are still alive,” he said
In Nasarawa, Abdullahi Sule pledged his administration’s commitment to the education of children of the deceased members of the armed forces.
He also said the welfare of the legionnaires would be given the needed attention by his administration.
According to the governor, ultimate sacrifice by the fallen heroes and the commitment of the armed forces in ensuring peace and security of the nation called for the attention and support of all.
“It is worthy of note that over the years, our soldiers have not only lost their lives, many others that were fortunate to survive, sustained various degrees of injury, including loss of vital parts of their bodies, like hands, limbs, eyes and host of other conditions.
“Such that they have now become incapacitated and are unable to provide adequately for themselves and their families.”
Governor Sule and the Emir of Lafia, Justice Sidi Bage, among others, laid wreaths at the cenotaph of the unknown soldiers.
While laying the wreath, Niger Governor Abubakar Bello said government would continue to support the military to flush out bandits and other threats of insecurity in the state. He urged the military to utilise whatever support provided by government to achieve the desired result.
“We will not give up, we will continue to do our best to keep the state safe,” he said.
On his part, Taraba, Governor Darius Ishaku, promised to support security services with more funds to boost logistics for maintenance of peace in the state.
Ishaku, who was represented by his deputy, Haruna Manu, said the safety of citizens was a top priority of the administration and urged residents of both southern and central parts of the state to cooperate with troops of the ‘Ayem Akpatuma 11 in their efforts to restore peace in the state.
He launched the armed forces emblem with N5 million.
The Day was also celebrated in Benue with the Deputy Governor, Benson Abounu, commending the armed forces for ensuring that peace reigned in the country.
“Nigerians are very proud of the contributions made by the armed forces in upholding the peace being enjoyed in the country.
“The people are very proud of Nigerian military, not only because of their contributions that resulted to our living together as a nation, but also because of their professionalism. We are very proud of the military, proud in the sense that they are fine soldiers, well trained soldiers that could compete with other soldiers anywhere in the world.
In their separate speeches, governors of the North East region also called on the people to ensure that the sacrifice of the departed heroes were not in vain.
In Maiduguri, Babagana Zulum of Borno called on Nigerians to display high sense of tolerance and patriotism to foster unity, peace and stability for sustainable development
Zulum, who was represented by his deputy, Alhaji Umar Kadafur, said the event demonstrated sincere commitments of Nigerians to ensure that the labour of fallen heroes was not in vain.
He said the event was aimed to re-awakening the spirit of patriotism and selfless service to the people, for the promotion of unity.
In Bauchi, Gov.. Bala Mohammad also called on Nigerians to ensure that the country’s fallen heroes did pay the supreme price in vain. Represented by his deputy, Malam Baba Tela, the governor said the heroes made sacrifice for the present generation to live in peace.
Governor Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe state called on Nigerians to support the military in the fight against insurgents.
He said the Nigerian Military personnel were doing their best, hence the need to encourage them to re-double their effort in the counter- insurgency operation.
“I am impressed by members of the public, Nigeria legion and the Nigeria Army that come to show solidarity with the family of the fallen heroes.
“This shows the spirit is still with us and I believe we will continue,” he said.
In Yola, the event featured only the laying of wreath by dignitaries and parade by military personnel, just as the Yobe governor, Mai Mala Buni also joined the rest of Nigerians in commemorating the day in Damaturu by inspecting parade by personnel of 233 and 241 Battalion, followed by 21 gun salute.