President Muhammadu Buhari has led other prominent Nigerians including the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo to lay wreaths at the National Arcade Abuja, in commemoration of the 2023 Armed Forces and Remembrance Day.
President Buhari had on arrival at the event inspected a guard of honour mounted by the Nigerian Armed Forces before he proceeded to lay the wreath.
He laid the wreath in honour of the country’s fallen heroes on Sunday, climaxing activities planned for this year’s Armed Forces and Remembrance Day celebration, held annually on January 15.
President Buhari, who was also the Special Guest of Honour at the event, was the first to lay his wreath, followed by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
Others who laid wreath at the Cenotaph were the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Chief Justice of Nigeria, Olukayode Arinwola; Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi; and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Bello.
The Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor; Service Chiefs and the Inspector General of Police, a representative of members of the Diplomatic Corps also laid wreaths.
Also, the Chairman of the Nigerian Legion, Major-General Abdulmalik Jibrin and a representative of the widows of the fallen heroes, Mrs. Cynthia Ubah, laid wreath to honour the fallen heroes.
Mrs. Ubah lost her husband, Sq. Leader Victor Ubah, a commanding officer of the Nigerian Airforce Special Operation Force, on the 7th of July, 2021 when his troops were ambushed.
Brings back memories
Mrs. Ubah, who spoke with the media after the ceremony, said the Remembrance Day brought back a lot of memories to her and showed that those who died serving their nation did not die in vain.
“It doesn’t make it look like they fought in vain; they are being remembered; their families are being remembered. It brings back a lot of memories, but it’s fine. God be with us. God bless us all. And we pray for peace; let it not be that they died in vain too.”
She said her family has been getting support from the military and the Nigerian Airforce Officers Wives Association, NAFOWA, since she lost her husband.
Ubah, however, pleaded that the authorities should not take a long time in giving compensation to the families of fallen heroes.
“It has started taking a longer time to compensate the families; before it would take a shorter while but now it takes a longer while.
“So, families have to wait, or keep waiting, keep calling. Mine didn’t take time, thankfully, but I’ve seen others in this situation and they would be complaining that it is taking a long time.
“Mine was between a month or two months, but for some, it is stretching to nine months, going to a year now which is really not telling well on them.
“I feel everybody is trying their best to do what they can do, but hopefully, they get to settle people.”
Irabor assures on democracy
Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Irabor also spoke to the media, assuring Nigerians that the military would not interfere in the country’s democratic process.
He also said that the armed forces would support the police in ensuring the peaceful conduct of the forthcoming general election in Nigeria.
“Democracy has come to stay. Government of the people, by the people and for the people in Nigeria has come to stay.
“That is an assurance and then of course for the election, I’m sure you know that the police are in the lead. I have been discoursing with the IG.
“And of course, we have made contingencies should we be required to give support to the police as the election is conducted.”
Not a day of mourning
According to Gen. Irabor, the Armed Forces and Remembrance Day ceremony “is actually not a day of mourning, but a day we need to give thanks to God that men and women of this great nation once served and are serving and will continue to serve this country; and that we have that level of love for country that men and women committed to that if need be sacrifice their lives so that the rest of us can live.
“I think it’s a worthy thing. So, today is quite a unique day that the nation has set it aside to value, to place premium in honouring the services of men and women of our country.”
Irabor said “the fact that one is being appreciated motivates and I think that’s the message that has gone across the length and breadth of members of the armed forces. So, we are more motivated to continue to play our part.”
The Defence Chief said the Remembrance Day would also be motivating to veterans and make them know that the services they rendered and sacrifices they made were not in vain.
The event also featured prayers for the repose of the souls of the fallen heroes and lasting peace in Nigeria.
The Director, Army Chaplaincy Services, Commodore R. E. Oparaji offered the Christian prayers while Group Capt. L. A. Lawal, Director, Army Islamic Affairs offered the Muslim prayers.
There was also a special 21-gun salute in honour of those who lost their lives in defence of the nation.
At the end, President Buhari signed the anniversary register and also released white pigeons, signifying Hope, Peace and freedom of Nigeria.
The ceremony which is held on January 15 every year symbolises the end of the Nigerian civil war, which ended on January 15, 1970.
The event is also held each year, to honour and appreciate surviving military men and women who have retired from service, as well as to honour the wives and children of war veterans.
Activities for the 2023 Armed Forces and Remembrance Day kick started on November 16, 2022 with the launch of emblem and appeal fund in support of war veterans and fallen heroes.