January 15 every year is known as Armed Forces Remembrance Day. It is an event meant 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. On this day, both the dead and living veterans including all those who suffered various deprivations as a result of the wars are celebrated.
But the questions are: the parades and other ceremonies carried out on this special day adequate or are there better ways to celebrate these fallen heroes? Our correspondent, Calista Ezeaku sought answers to these questions from some Port Harcourt residents. Our photographer, Dele Obinna captured their images.
Dagogo Jama, retired military officer
All they have been doing is just lip service. They don’t take care of us. Each year during the Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebrations, they will make all kinds of promises, at the end of the day nothing will be done. They will say they are remembering us because of the sacrifices we made for the nation but at the end of the day, nothing is done. They don’t take care of us. Only those of us who are up to pensionable years receive our pensions. They pay us regularly though the money is not enough. But other things which government is supposed to provide for us like accommodation and so on and so forth are still lacking. Only recently, they started giving us free medical care. For the celebration this year, we are supposed to have started parade rehearsal before this time (Friday Jan 13), but it’s being delayed because of one thing or the other. In every local government area, we have the legion area council. This year, even in the area councils, we are unable to launch our emblem. We even heard that in most places, they will not have parade. That is not commendable at all. We are not happy about it. Next year, l will expect that the rehearsals shall start early enough. All the local governments should participate because this is a national programme not only for the states and the Federal Government. Government should also take good care of us. Some of us did not serve up to pensionable years, they should not be forgotten. The families of the soldiers who died during the war should be taken care of. Nobody even cares whether they are existing or not. It’s not fair enough. Generally, they should take adequate care of the fallen heroes.
Mwo Ibinabo Boyle, retired officer
Armed Forces Remembrance Day came to be many years ago, right from the Second World War down to this time of Boko Haram and military interventions. You know, these soldiers went to defend their nation, leaving their fathers and mothers, leaving their total families to go and shed their blood to save this nation. So, I think it is important that government should take adequate care of these people because they have made a huge sacrifice for the unity and protection of the country. Yes, they have been remembering us but not the way we want it because there are a lot of promises and and the promises are never kept. If you make promises to soldiers who have retired, fulfill them. So, my advice on how best to celebrate the fallen heroes is that whatever is due them should be given to them at the right time. Their remunerations, pensions and other welfare packages should be released as at when due. Something like shelter is very paramount because the soldiers you see do not have time to build their own houses and by the time they retire, they go into their family houses to start mingling with people. Let there be a welfare package through which one or two rooms will be provided for the soldiers by the time they retire. Here in Rivers State, the retired soldiers are engaged in security services by the state government. That is a laudable idea which should be emulated by other states. They should make good use of their retired soldiers who are well trained on security issues. You see, though we are retired, many of us are not tired.
Igor Orus, professional photographer/ retired civil servant.
It has been a yearly event for those who fought for the nation and have lost their lives or are still alive. The best way to celebrate this day is to help their widows and their children so that they will have a sense of belonging. Send the children to school, employ the ones who have finished school so that they will know that all their suffering was not in vain. For those heroes that are still alive, government has to do something for them. They should be given their benefits so that they would not just suffer for nothing. For senior citizens like us, we know how much we suffered for 35 years. But government has not done enough for us, otherwise, I’m supposed to be relaxing in the house, enjoying my money. But this is almost a year since I retired, I have not seen anything because government has not been able to do all that she is supposed to do. So, it’s good to help the retired soldiers, lift them up. The usual parade both at the federal and state levels is not enough , that is just ceremonial. Government should do something that will benefit their widows and their children.
Sunny Mark, civil servant.
I think government should go back to the drawing board of how the day was being celebrated initially. Many of these retired soldiers are just wasting. Government should wake up and help them in any way possible because they fought for us. Most of them lost their lives in the process. The ones that are alive should be remembered. All necessary assistance should be given to them to make life more meaningful for them.
Nwogu Eminence, undergraduate
I think the Armed Forces Remembrance Day should be celebrated by empowering these fallen heroes.. They should be appreciated for the good work they did and are still doing for the country. They should be empowered financially and otherwise. Government should take care of their health and everything concerning them.
Victoria Brown, civil servant
These retired soldiers need help in so many ways. The Armed Forces Remembrance Day should be an opportunity to show them love and solidarity by providing the needed help. Government and other private individuals should employ them as security men and women. For the dead ones, government should take care of their widows and children.