“On the plus side, death is one of the few things that can be done just as easily lying down.”
– Woody Allen
Many would be frightened whenever the word “death” is mentioned to them. Bu some others would be less frightened due to their beliefs and disposition about life.
The story becomes more frightening when a man is openly advised to chose to die not for his beliefs but for his country just for enlisting in an organisation. In today’s world, the percentage of those who would bluntly reject the advice to die for their country would be higher than those ready to die for their country. Many would ask questions about why they should die for their country. Should they die for a country that is not supportive? A country that isolates itself from its citizens? Such advice ought to be directed to the military.
When, therefore, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, advised the 187 newly commissioned officers of the Nigerian Air Force, that they “don’t just wear the uniform, but should defend Nigeria with your lives,” surely the happy mood of families and friends present at the occasion would have been dampened, their countenance would have suddenly changed.
The advice, though not directed at the family members, meant that the commissioned officers ought to know the type of shoes they have decided to wear.
Many young Nigerians would shiver if they were among the commissioned officers. That such advice was coming from the Vice President meant it was the President and Commander-in-Chief whose mind was being unveiled to the young officers. Osinbajo reinterating the obvious indicated that some of their senior colleagues may have allowed the pleasures of the world to becloud their sense of duty. He was stating the obvious by reminding the new intakes that they should remember that death was part of the assignment, not the glamour of wearing the uniform. Indeed, the uniform is a door-opener. It elicits respect and honour. It helps to separate the trained from the untrained. Only a military man who understands the nitty-gritty of warfare can stand before junior officers and advice them to choose to die for their country. Such terse advice pointing to death could scare any young Nigerian. Truly, you don’t advice any young man to die for a country like Nigeria. Yes, they would be ready to play their role as military officers, they would be ready to save the country but they would not even contemplate thinking of giving up their lives.
To them, death is not in the arrangement. They did not see themselves as death candidates because of serving their country. They would have read about other heroes who were neglected and rejected in the throes of death. They have read how gallant Nigerians were not rewarded despite their outstanding contributions and service to the country. They have seen many war veterans abandoned like waste paper after use. How on earth would they listen to such presidential advice? They have seen their counterparts in the police who gallantly fought dangerous armed robbers and were unfortunately gunned down only to be rushed to the hospital and abandoned, while those who died are left to be buried by their families.
Years back, the President of France Nicolas Sarkozy shut down his office when he heard about the death of some police officers who were on the trail of armed robbers but four of them were shot dead while others sustained injuries. The President, in company with his cabinet, went to pay last respects to the gallant police officers. That action alone said much. As a crime journalist with over three decades of active practice, I am yet to see an Inspector-General of Police attend the burial of any slain junior police officer. Same with other services. The President and his VP have never been reported to grace the funeral of any slain junior military officer gallantly fighting the Boko Haram terrorists.
Thankfully, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai is helping to change the narrative. Record shows that he has visited virtually all the 36 states in the country to be with bereaved families of slain soldiers. Families of the deceased would be extremely comforted seeing and hosting the boss of their son or father as the case may be. Dying for one’s country is a big deal if there is no corresponding appreciation from either the country or institution. You just don’t die for nothing. You die for a particular purpose in life. Death indeed has meaning.
Conversely, dying for ones country shouldn’t be a big deal if you know that, by dying, your family would not be abandoned by either the institution or the country. Dying wouldn’t be a big deal if you know that your name would be immortalised as one of the gallant soldiers who paid the price to save the country. After all, Jesus chose to die for sinful humanity knowing that there was bountiful reward awaiting him in Heaven. It is on the same note that Christians are urged not to be afraid of death because there is a crown of glory plus a glorious home awaiting them in Heaven.
The display of fatherly concern extended towards fallen heroes by the military boss should be commended. I am informed that, since his ascension as the COAS, families of slain soldiers have not regretted that their sons joined the army. Impressively, the welfare package after death, although it cannot be compared to life, would appease the departed in theiir graves.
Also, of recent, we have seen IGP Adamu Muhammed changing the narratives like his counterpart in the army. The milk of human kindness that ought to flow from the seemingly hard faces goes a long way to change the narratives and give hope to relations of the dead. In the United States of America, presidents abandon other state matters whenever the blood of a military or police officer is sacrificed while serving the country. It is such concern that reassures the uniformed men and women that one’s country is worth the supreme sacrifice.
RIGHT OF RESPONSE
Dear Ben, I read with nostalgia your column published June 21, 2019, titled “Edo State security turnaround,” where you displayed your mastery of security history by recalling how the daredevil robber Anini was captured under the operational strategy of DIG Parry Osayande, a proud son of Edo State. Indeed, watching the operational activities of the new police commissioner, Mr. Mohammed Danmallam, I said to myself, there are still very good and courageous police officers in the police. The commissioner has in a few months frustrated and rooted out the activities of various types of criminals that had been having a field day as if there were no security agencies in the state. We pray for him and his men.
– Deacon John Owusu, [email protected]
Dear Ben, thank you for your incisive article. It is shocking to see our compatriots deface our country. This chap clearly paints a picture his country might as well be exporting terrorists to other countries. There is the need for a tighter evaluation and screening before issuance of passports – Deacon Godwin lkenga, Kubwa, Abuja