It is a tough time to be a Nigerian soldier. Until recently, most of the news about our soldiers in the on-going battle against the hideous sect known as Boko Haram was anything but ennobling. As Nigeria was repeatedly assaulted by Boko Haram, there was news about our soldiers not being well-equipped; not adequately motivated and not adequately insured and thus buckling against the onslaught.
This only added more pain to the trauma of some young Nigerians who chose a career in the military to probably simply make a living rather than a deliberate desire to put their lives on the line for their fatherland. This assertion is aptly captured by Lieutenant General Kenneth Minimah, Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff who is reported to have said: ”A real soldier is known when he is put in the war front. The one who is not a soldier will run away and abandon his job. Our soldiers are recruited from Nigerian society and, today, most people are not called to be soldiers, they joined because they are desperately in need of jobs.”
But while the media focused heavily (rightly so)on the scandalous abductions of our girls, women and young men who are forcefully conscripted into the warped Boko Haram agenda; while we focused on the senseless and barbaric killings of helpless and unarmed children, women and men; while we focused on the fleeing commanders and soldiers, not much have been said about the soldiers who have had to pay the supreme price to stave of this marauding blood-thirsty knaves who the respected Nobel laureate correctly described as sub-humans. The media has also been fed plenty of footage and news about how the Defence high command is dealing with mutinous and cowardly soldiers.
However while exposing the ‘chaff’; BRANDPOWER believes it is important to also celebrate the ‘grains’. In other words, who are the valiant soldiers that are fighting, repelling and taking back Nigerian territory?
But for the late Flight Lieutenant Akweke Junior Nwakile, the MI-35 attack helicopter pilot, who lost his life in an air crash while serving in the Operation Zamah Lafiya in North-Eastern Nigeria in Augustthis year , who was publicly buried with full military honours at the National Military Cemetery in Abuja not much has been heard of our other fallen heroes. There was understandably also, a media blitz when Adeboye Obasanjo, a Lieutenant Colonel and son of former President Olusegun Obasanjo when he was was shot (but survived) during an operation in Adamawa in early September this year. There seems to be an unannounced policy by the Nigerian military to be silent on the identities of Nigeria’s valiant, wounded or fallen heroes in the battle against the Boko Haram insurgents.
BRANDPOWER understands that the military may rightly wish to play down its casualty figures for propaganda purposes but this publication believes that both the military and the media have a special duty to give honour to our valiant and fallen soldiers. Whether we like it or not they are heroes of the Nigerian nation. Apart from giving a psychological boost to other officers and men on the field, it would assuage some of the pain felt by their respective families along with a decent insurance which should by now be taken for granted.
A visit to the Defence Headquarters’ and Army website shows that no section or page has been dedicated to these fallen heroes, No roll of honour. Obviously, the Nigerian government and military authorities cannot mean to send out the message that these soldiers are dying unsung.
Thankfully, after several challenges, we are now having more cause to cheer as the military campaigns in the North-East are now posting more salutary results than previously. As we continue to learn from our mistakes in this war against Boko Haram, we must realize that every war is fought at the psychogical and physical realm. While the authorities have done well to re-equip our soldiers, displayed zero tolerance for unprofessional conduct in and off battle and provided better welfare, all stake-holders must ensure that all soldiers, present and future as well as those we lose in the battle field are duly honoured.
The greatest honour we can however give them is to ensure that this battle is eventually won within the shortest possible time and that we quickly build up a nation brand where justice, equity, peace and true progress reign. To do anything less, means that their sacrifice has been in vain.