Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that beyond protecting the territorial integrity of the nation, the Nigerian Air Force has also harnessed the musical talents of its personnel. Recently, it inaugurated a pipe band and unveiled plans to upgrade its music systems to a full-fledged directorate, which will go a long way in enhancing civil-military relations, given that the pipers will go beyond playing music for parades and military ceremonies
Tradition, some say, never dies and this particularly holds true for the military. The military is an institution known for adhering to tradition no matter how long ago it was established. The Nigerian Air Force (NAF), one of the three arms of the Nigerian Armed Forces, is not an exception.
For the Air Force, instead of tradition being deemed as archaic and out-dated, they are seen as an anchor to their past, constantly reminding them of where they are coming from, where they are now, and where they hope to be. Thus, it would therefore be safe to say that the very tapestry or fabric that holds the military together is its customs and traditions.
Even though those traditions might not be understood by civilians, because of what they deem excessive regimentation, for the military, the traditions are their heritage, even as they seek to align themselves with contemporary modern day structures and practices.
One of the areas they recently delved into tradition was the introduction of a pipe band into the force. Basically, a pipe band is a musical ensemble consisting of pipers and drummers. The term used by military pipe bands, pipes and drums, is also common. The band follows the direction of the pipe major; when on parade the band may be led by a drum major, who directs the band with a mace.
Traditionally, according to Wikipedia, pipe bands are a long-standing tradition in other areas with Celtic roots, such as the regions of Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria in Northern Spain and Brittany in Western France, as well as other regions with Celtic influence in other parts of Europe.
But it’s not just Celtic countries that have imbibed the tradition, countries like Thailand, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina have also adopted it. Also, the tradition is also long-standing in the British Commonwealth of Nations countries and former British colonies such as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Brunei, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
The pipe band began life in the military, as they served in regiments from the earliest times; and their original purpose on the battlefield was to signal tactical movements and keep cadence on the march. By the end of the Crimean War, pipe bands were established in most of the Scottish Regiments.
However, unlike civilian pipers, those in military bands have additional military responsibilities, in other words, qualified fighting soldiers.
NAF Pipe Band
It was in line with the long-standing tradition that on April 9, 2019, that the Nigerian Air Force graduated its first set of pipers at a colourful ceremony held at NAF Base, Bill Clinton Drive in Abuja, which signaled the formal induction of the Pipe Band into the NAF.
Twenty-five NAF personnel, comprising 22 airmen and three airwomen, successfully completed the course.
Kitted in their navy blue blazers and blue chequered uniforms and armed with their bag pipes and drums, these airmen scintillated guests at the inauguration, thus giving a prelude to their capabilities.
According to NAF Director of Public Relations and Information (DOPRI), Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, the establishment of the Pipe Band, is in line with one of the key drivers of the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar’s vision which is; “human capacity development through robust and result oriented training for enhanced professional performance”.
He noted that the Pipe Band is a key part of the full complement of military music systems, hence its induction will add glamour, aesthetics and pride to NAF ceremonies and events.
Speaking during the graduation ceremony, the CAS expressed delight with the level of proficiency of the new NAF Pipe Band, which he said, attested to the quality of the training they had received. He commended the Administration Branch for the initiative, noting that, with the establishment of the Pipe Band, amongst other innovations, the Music Specialty, was ripe for upgrade to a full-fledged directorate.
The CAS charged the NAF Music personnel not to limit themselves to parades and military ceremonies but to take a step further to provide creative performances that will project the good image of the NAF and enhance civil-military relations.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Chief of Administration, Headquarters NAF, Air Vice Marshal Kingsley Lar, acknowledged and appreciated the noble gesture of the CAS in approving the establishment of the NAF Pipe Band ensemble to complement the already existing NAF Band.
The gesture, according to him, would remain an indelible achievement of the current NAF leadership. He stated that the NAF Pipe Band Course had almost seemed like a mission impossible ab-initio, bearing in mind that the pipe band endeavour is not common. He thanked the CAS for approving the course and providing the equipment, uniforms and accessories for the Pipe Band.
Highlights of the Graduation Ceremony included a demonstration by the graduating students and presentation of certificates and awards to them. Dignitaries at the event included representatives of the Chiefs of Army and Naval Staff, Directors from the Ministry of Defence as well as Branch Chiefs from Headquarters NAF along with several other senior military officers.