Rear Admiral Suleiman Apochi (middle), Brig. Gen. Kevin Aligbe (3rd left front roll), with some of the newly decorated officers at the JTF headquarters in Igbogene

Nigeria’s military recently elevated some officers attached to the Joint Task Force and soldiers from the 16 Brigade in Yenagoa to various ranks. Emmanuel Addeh who was at the event, reports

“That drink you are holding in your hand is our own, the ground on which you are standing is our own. If you misbehave, be sure that we have enough cells here,” he would say rather jocularly intermittently, to direct attention to the next item on the programme.

Like a General directing his troops in the battlefield, Rear Admiral Suleiman Apochi, the Commander Joint Task Force, Operation Delta Safe (OPDS), ensured that every ‘shot’ was right on target.

“We are not routine,” he would add, “Mind you, this occasion might take a new dimension at any given time,” the Rear Admiral would bellow at other times.

Interestingly, this was not a war situation. It was a meeting of many senior military officers serving in Bayelsa to celebrate the elevation of some of their most hardworking officers who had just been bestowed with various new military ranks by the authorities.

Among those present to mark the day with the newly promoted officers were: Flag Officer Commanding, Central Naval Command; Rear Admiral Bello Al-Hassan, the Commander, 16 Brigade, Brig. Gen Kevin Aligbe; Commander, Nigerian Naval Ship, NNS Soroh, Commodore Habib Usman, and several other senior officers.

Those who had just been elevated included: Brig. Gen. M. U. Muktar, Commander sector four, OPDS; Commander Thomas Otuji, Senior member of the Joint Media Campaign Centre, JTF headquarters, Yenagoa; Commander Obiora Anyikwa, Head of Legal Department, JTF headquarters and Commander Roy Nweke. Also promoted was Major Danjuma Jonah Danjuma, Spokesman, 16 Brigade, Yenagoa.

Rear Admiral Apochi, who had earlier decorated the officers at the JTF headquarters in Igbogene, just outside Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, urged all those who were present to take some moments to celebrate the deserving officers.

“We are here to felicitate with officers that have just been promoted and in that case, don’t hold your dance steps to yourself. It is good you join them in their happy mood.

“This is just to show appreciation and let them know that we are happy with what just happened to them. The rule is very explicit. If you are not happy when good things happen to your neighbours, I do not think even yourself deserves to celebrate.

“So, whether you were happy before you came here or not, feel very glad while you are here,” Apochi advised before the event kicked off.

Earlier, during their decoration, he had told the officers that their elevation was a call to more hard work, dedication to fatherland and commitment to the core values the military holds dear.

Brig. Gen. Muktar who responded on behalf of his colleagues, expressed the newly promoted officers’ appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari, the military authorities and his men, who, working closely with him and have made the job worthwhile.

“All glory belongs to Almighty God whose grace made all these possible. I want to commence this vote of thanks by sincerely thanking the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari.

“The Service Chiefs, especially the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff, the Army Council and the Navy Board for approving these our promotions to the ranks with which we have been decorated.

“I want to assure everyone that we are conscious of the added responsibility and the expectations of greater efforts signalled by these promotions and we assure you, we will spare no effort in meeting and indeed exceeding the expectations that come with these ranks.

“We must specifically single out the Joint Task Force Commander, Rear Admiral A. O. Suleiman, the land component Commander, General A. Aligbe, and the MCC A. Olulowo, without whose guidance and support these promotions would never have seen the light of the day,” Brig. Gen. Muktar noted.

The newly elevated General also took time to appreciate their families who continually stood by them.

“Let me specially recognise my darling wife, who has always been with me through thick and thin. Your support, prayers, and advice have indeed contributed a large proportion to make this promotion possible,” Muktar said.

He added: “Let me also extend this appreciation to the spouses of fellow officers that were decorated, especially Mrs. Chinyere Anyikwa, and the other ladies of the decorated officers who for one reason or the other could not be here this afternoon/evening. That is, Mrs. Nweke and Mrs. Otuji.”

The newly decorated General also narrated how he had lost hope when after several applications, he was not admitted to serve in the military.

“Our brothers, friends, relatives, uncles, well wishers and colleagues, our appreciations to you know no bounds. I want to especially mention the presence here of my uncle, Alhaji Suleiman who particularly encouraged me to still try again for the third time.

“I had failed to get admission into the Nigeria Defence Academy for the second time. I had made up my mind that I was not going to try again.

“I visited him (my uncle) in Sokoto and that time he mentioned it and said ‘why don’t you want to apply again, it doesn’t matter, go’. I heeded his advice and glory to the Almighty God, today here we are witnessing my decoration to the rank of Brigadier General.

“I want to thank my brother and Alhaji Shehu who have all come from far and wide from Sokoto and Kebbi to witness this promotion. The same thing is recognised of the brethren and friends of my colleagues who have been decorated, that is, Commander Anyikwa, Commander Nweke and Commander Otuji.

“Families and friends that are here, we really appreciate your presence and the effort you have made coming from far and near to witness this occasion. Our prayer is for all those who missed the promotion this time, to get it next time because truly God knows the best.

“Our prayers are that you will get it at the time it is most pleasing to the Almighty God. On behalf of the decorated officers, I wish everyone that God Almighty grants your heart desires,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Aligbe had also taken time out to decorate his officers who were also promoted, particularly the amiable Maj. Danjuma, who heads the media team of 16 Brigade.

For the soldiers who counted themselves fortunate to have been rewarded for their hard work and perseverance and their colleagues who would have to wait for another day for their promotion, it was time to shuffle to the music as the Disc Jockey turned up the volume of the music.

For the lucky officers, it was the right time to take a moment to relax from pursuing sea pirates, kidnappers, pipeline vandals and even militants in the creeks of the Niger Delta.

But again, the jollity was going to be short-lived. The job of keeping the waterways calm for business had to be done and who else would do that if not the military, many of whose officers have paid the supreme price to ensure peace in the Delta, which for now remains Nigeria’s cash cow.