Chiemelie Ezeobi and Sunday Ehigiator report that the annual Armed Forces Remembrance Day is a day set aside to celebrate fallen heroes who died in the line of duty. Always marked on January 15, this year was not different as it reinforced the need to support the military in its quest to protect the territorial integrity of the nation
The Armed Forces Remembrance Day (AFRD) is celebrated annually every January 15. It’s a day set aside to honour our fallen heroes in the military who paid the ultimate price while defending the unity, and sovereignty of the country.
How fitting too that the 10th line of Nigeria’s National Anthem reads thus; ‘the labours of our heroes past, shall never be in vain’.
In honour of this line, the AFRD celebrates these heroes, who died in the line of duty while fighting to ensure the territorial integrity of the nation, whether on land, air or water is not breached or tampered with.
This year was no different as the different states marked the day across the nation.
Background of AFRD
According to Wikipedia, in Nigeria, the Armed Forces Day, also known as Remembrance Day, is celebrated every January 15. It was formerly celebrated on November 11 of every year to coincide with the Remembrance Day (Poppy Day) for the World War 11 veterans in the British Commonwealth of Nations, but it was changed to January 15 in Nigeria in commemoration of the surrender of Biafran troops to the federal troops on January 15, 1970, thus concluding the Nigerian Civil War that sought to tear apart the unity of Nigeria.
The Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration is an annual event organised to honour members of the Nigerian Armed Forces who fought for the nation, 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, is quite significant.
This is because the day is mapped out to celebrate both the dead and the living heroes, including all those who suffered various deprivations as a result of wars.
Annually, this national day celebrates military personnel including the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Air Force and the Nigerian Legion.
They all converge on different centres across the nation to celebrate the day and give honour to the fallen and living heroes who risked and continue to risk their lives for the territorial integrity of the nation.
The event is held at the federal, state and local levels where either serving military officers reside or where living ex-service men occupy.
In commemorating the day, several military traditions are strictly adhered to. Whether marked at the federal, state or local level, some symbolisms are sacrosanct and they include the release of pigeons to symbolise peace, placing of wreaths, playing of the last post, Remembrance Day parade, shooting of guns. Besides the above listed, the event also witnesses religious services in both mosques and churches nationwide.
At the parades, the military personnel are usually kitted in diverse colours typical of their services be it navy, air force, army or ex-service men.
As part of activities outlined for the 2022 commemoration, the next line of action is usually the Nigerian Legion Humanitarian Day. This event involves community service by the veterans as well as empowerment of widows and orphans of fallen heroes.
The next move was the emblem launch by the president at the Council Chambers, State House, Abuja last year. The launch set things off in motion as the sale of the emblems begins nationwide and the proceeds of the sale of the remembrance emblem are deposited to the Nigerian Legion, a body of veterans.
From then to January, underground preparations remained in full swing, which culminated into the Jumma’at Service at the National Mosque, followed by an inter-denominational service at the National Christian Centre, Abuja. All these events took place simultaneously in all the states.
On the AFRD proper, the wreath laying ceremony, which is the peak of the celebration, the president and other dignitaries lay wreath at the National Cenotaph in Abuja amongst other symbolisms. This was also done simultaneously by governors in their respective states.
The Nigerian Legion
One of the highpoints of each AFRD is the prominence given to the Nigerian Legion, an association of ex-servicemen, i.e former members of the army, navy and air force.
The legion was established for the veterans because after retirement, they often discover that there are no jobs for them. Thus, the legion helps them to integrate into society.
The law also backs them to operate certain businesses in order to raise money for its members, or serve as security guards at government establishments or raise money through the sale of AFRD emblems.
Tribute to Fallen Heroes
Meanwhile, several felicitations have been paid to the Nigerian Army, in commemoration of the 2022 Armed Forces Remembrance Day (AFRD), by notable Nigerians.
In his goodwill message, Vice President of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo, hailed the Armed Forces of Nigeria over their role in sustaining national unity despite the sacrifices made by gallant men and women in arms.
He called on Nigerians to be agents of peace and justice in support of the efforts of the Nigerian Armed Forces to keep the nation united.
He said the patriotic commitment of the gallant men and women of the Armed Forces was woven into the fabric of the common destiny of a nation populated by people of diverse faiths and ethnicity.
According to him, the diversity was reflected within the military, where people from various ethnic and religious backgrounds were united by their nationality with the desire to serve their country hence the reason the armed forces remained a symbol of the national spirit of resilience, unity, and strength in diversity.
He noted that the sustainability of Nigeria’s unity from the civil war to the present struggle against terrorists and insurgents was made possible in large part by the dedication to duty of the men and women of the armed forces, often at great cost to themselves.
Osinbajo said, “The question of whether and it is still being answered eloquently by the sacrificial courage of the men and women that serve in our armed forces but the real question is, whether we as a people are worthy of their sacrifices.
“The only way to truly repay those that pay the supreme sacrifice or price in service of the rest of us is to commit ourselves to live for the ends for which they have given their lives.
“It is for the rest of us to live by our highest values as a people and ensure that we all become agents of peace and justice. Long before wars break out, violence manifests itself as hatred, prejudice, injustice, and bigotry.
“All of us must take a stand and challenge these evils wherever they rear their heads to prevent them from taking root and breeding conflict. This is how we will ensure that the labours of our heroes will never be in vain,” he said.
In a goodwill message, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya felicitated with officers, soldiers, and their families, in recognition of the fallen heroes; gallant men and women, who paid the supreme price in the defense of peace, unity, and prosperity of our dear nation, Nigeria and the world at large.
In his message, he reiterated that many of the fallen heroes laid down their lives during the First and Second World Wars, Nigerian Civil War, Peace Support Operations across the globe, and various Internal Security Operations, including the ongoing fight against insurgency, terrorism, banditry, and secessionism, amongst other threats to national security.
The COAS maintained that their sacrifices will never be forgotten even as he prayed for the repose of their souls.
He said the AFRD celebration also presents an opportunity to honour veterans who are still alive.
He stressed that many of the veterans regrettably sustained varying degrees of injuries in the course of their service to the nation and humanity, adding that care for the injured and maimed personnel will remain a cardinal focus under his command.
Similarly, the Governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, in his goodwill message in commemoration of the day, said the unity of the country was non-negotiable, urging all Nigerians to continue to work for the peaceful coexistence of the people.
Abiodun, who made the call while speaking at the Special Church Service to mark this year’s Armed Forces Remembrance Day Celebration, held at the Cathedral Church of St. Peter, Ake, Abeokuta, reiterated that his administration would continue to encourage peaceful co-existence among all Nigerians.
The governor, who took a swipe at those who continue to sow the seed of discord in the country, said the best way to support members of the Armed Forces apart from paying their entitlements and taking care of the widows and orphans of the fallen heroes, was to ensure that peace prevails in the country.
In his goodwill message, the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, urged Nigerians to shun acts capable of igniting war as well as stop criticising the country and rather contribute their quota to nation-building.
He said Nigerians had formed the habit of criticising the nation and even the Armed Forces, but also contributes to wrongdoings.
“All we do is criticise, we even criticise the Nigerian Army that they are not fighting well. We always elevate the bad things about our country. It is important we shun all acts that could lead to an outbreak of war,” he said.
“God has given everyone his uniqueness; hence, such uniqueness should be used to build this country. How do we justify the death of those people that fought for this country to remain?
“In memory of the people that even died, let us even be nice to our country. Whether we like it or not, if we don’t build it, all of us will suffer. It’s as simple as that.”
Also, the Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, in his message, said Nigeria cannot be divided because people have paid the price to keep the country together.
He said dividing Nigeria will be unfair to those who have made a sacrifice for the country’s unity, including those in the army.
“We should not encourage the kind of rhetoric that we have been parading in this country today about the unity of our great country. Nigeria has come to stay, and Nigeria cannot and will not be divided.
“It has to be so, because people have paid a supreme sacrifice to keep this country together, and it will not be right or fair to do anything to make it look as if those people who fought for this country did not know what they were doing.
“As a state and a country, we remain very optimistic that despite the threats of insecurity and banditry which we face as a country and a state, that we will overcome.
“We are hopeful that we will continue to secure our state and our country because we have courageous people like you, who are ready to serve and sacrifice for the country.” He noted.
In his message, Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, described the sacrifices of military personnel and other security agencies in the country as the zenith of patriotism.
Akeredolu said the security personnel signed away their lives, comfort, and family bond to defend the territorial integrity of the country, and they sometimes pay the supreme price.
He, therefore, solicited the generous support for the widows and dependents of the fallen heroes, as well as those who are still alive but physically challenged.
Also in his felicitation message, the Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello preached the role of leadership and sacrifice in every sphere of life.
He opined that a soldier is not just a patriot of the purest order but also the very epitome of citizenship because of their sacrifices, and therefore prayed for the repose of the souls of the soldiers who paid the ultimate price.
“All of us must take a stand and challenge these evils wherever they rear their heads to prevent them from taking root and breeding conflict. This is how we will ensure that the labours of our heroes will never be in vain”
“He called on Nigerians to be agents of peace and justice in support of the efforts of the Nigerian Armed Forces to keep the nation united”