SEVERAL nations of the world hold an annual Armed Forces Day celebrations in honour of their Military Forces. Nigeria is not left out. Consequently, the Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebrations in Nigeria is an annual event organised to honour members of the Nigeria Armed Forces who fought in the first and second World Wars. It is also an event to honour 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. The day was formerly marked on the 11th of November of every year to coincide with the Remembrance Day popularly known as “Poppy Day” or “11 – 11” for the first and second world wars veterans in all Commonwealth countries. However, in Nigeria, in view of some significant historical developments, it is celebrated on the 15th of January every year in commemoration of the surrender of Biafran troops to the Federal troops on 15th January, 1970. Thus, signalling the end of the Nigerian Civil War that sought to tear apart the unity of Nigeria.
It has become a national ritual when on every January 15th nationwide, military personnel including the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Nigerian Legion converge in different centers across the nation to celebrate the day and give honour to the fallen and living heroes who hazarded and continue to hazard their lives for the territorial integrity of the nation and for peace to reign worldwide. The event is held at the federal, state and local levels where either serving military officers reside or where living Ex-Service men occupy. Several events including release of pigeons to symbolise peace, placing of wreaths, playing of the last post, Remembrance Day Parade, firing of 21 gun salute and others characterise this memorable day. The military officers are usually attired in diverse colours typical of their fields, be it Navy, Air Force, Army and the Ex-Service men. The event also witnesses religious services in both mosques and churches nationwide.
Looking at the historical background of the Armed Forces Remembrance Day. It is obvious that it is purely a military affair, since they are primarily saddled with safeguarding the territorial integrity of the nation. However, the present internal security challenges on different theaters for almost a decade now has without mincing words, stretched the military beyond its limits and expectations; as is evident that the military alone could not handle the situation especially in the North East where the Boko Haram held sway for some time. This had led to a lot of alignment of forces, contributions, supports and collaboration from various security agencies to fight the series of insurgencies that have been confronting the nation till date. It is worthy of note that some other security agencies like the military have always been involved in international and regional peace keeping missions till date; and during which some of these personnel paid the supreme price.
In the same vein, the NPF has been known to participate in both peacekeeping and peace support operations all over the world while to a lesser extent the NIS, DSS and NPF have all contributed personnel on peace support operations in UNMIL in Liberia, UNAMID in Darfur and the UNMIS (United Nations Mission in South Sudan), where their personnel were even lost.
I also wish to add that a lot of officers and men of the various security agencies that formed the Joint Task Force (JTF) to combat the Boko Haram insurgency and many have lost their lives in the process of performing full military operations outside their statutory duties for which they were primarily recruited; just like the military is now fully involved in the internal security operations to secure the lives and properties of citizens in this country which is primarily that of the police. This is the needed synergy and collaboration. The Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) which has also contributed significantly to the fight against terrorism and lost many of their men should also be remembered.
It is observed that Nigeria as a sovereign nation, considering its historical developments and challenges, changed its own Remembrance Day Celebration date from November, 11th to January 15th of every year and also the form or scope of the celebrations to suit its own purpose and the dictate of the situation till date. Inasmuch as the essence of the Remembrance Day celebrations is to honour officers and men either dead or living who served in various peace support operations worldwide, fought in the world and Nigeria civil wars; and the present Boko Haram war among other forms of insurgency in the country, it is highly recommended that the scope of the celebrations be expanded to take care of the new security developments in the country. It is good and morally right that the leadership of the various security agencies other than the military and the police that have contributed to the achievement of international, regional and national peace especially in Nigeria where its corporate existence has and is still being threatened, be made to lay wreaths during the Remembrance Day celebrations in honour of their own service heroes too.
The organising committee of the event can schedule and incorporate the sequence of laying of wreaths by the concerned Service Chiefs in their programme for the day. “What is good for the goose is good for the gander.”
- Arogundade writes in from Abeokuta, Ogun State
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