In the spirit of reflections ?on preserving the territorial integrity of the nation through selfless sacrifices in the battlefield, certain days in the month of January are set aside to remember fallen soldiers and those living with permanent injuries, and this year is not an exception. AHMED 'LATEEF writes on the 2018 Emblem Appeal Week in Kwara State.?
Apparently, it has become an annual ritual for Federal and State Governments to remember those dark periods in the history of the nation with a pervasive atmosphere of insecurity.? Those days were laced with mutual suspicions and the usual consequences were internal strifes and sometimes full-blown wars.
Besides world wars and peacekeeping operations at continental level, there were challenges internally that gave rise to the need to re-evaluate, re-examine and re-strategise the security architecture in view of the recurring threat to the security of the nation.
Just like other countries of the world that grappled ?with both intra and inter security challenges, so also Nigeria that was dogged by communal crises and sectarian violence. Understandably, crises are parts of social life of the humanity and there is no way a society can exist without one form of crisis or another rearing their ugly heads.
Thus, crises are part and parcel of man existence but what distinguishes the man is the ability to tackle such problems using multi-dimensional strategies. Part of the measures to arrest those crises is to counsel, give warning signal, dialogue and the peak of it all is deployment of guns and other military hardware.
The dynamism of the society itself is not in doubt, and the structure and nature of man, as enunciated, cannot be existential without crisis. It, therefore, goes without saying that crisis is human tendency, and people cannot live without exercising it.
Many countries of the world faced war situations in the past and still contending with them. Same goes for Nigeria that battled intra and inter-communal clashes with attendant ruins. Not only that, ?there were also uprisings and sectarian violence, which called to question the corporate existence of the country.
Significant among the wars prosecuted by Nigeria in the past were world and civil wars. There were also sectarian acts of violence including Maitasini, which left with destructions of inestimable values. Even years later, the country is still reeling and yet to recover from the magnitude of the adverse effects of the scenarios.
This further affirms that Nigeria cannot be in isolation when other nations of the world including advanced ones contend with rising insecurity in their domains.
Because of the degrees of the ruins usually left behind ?by war situations, governments would not but dispatch armed men to check the unwholesome developments. During the world and civil wars, many men of the Nigerian troops deployed fell for bullets in the efforts to contain the activities of enemies.
In the wake of gunfights and explosives? left, right and centre, many of the soldiers sustained lifetime injuries. While some, was as a result, left with permanent scalds in their bodies, others still nurse the wounds. The departed left behind families, who depended on them for their daily living. Such is life!
However, to ensure that the fallen ones are remembered and the living among them catered for, the government dedicated some days in the January every year as Armed Forces Remembrance Day Celebration. Included in the remembrance period is an endowment fund tagged "Emblem Appeal".
Since the event has been held, it has been year in, year out agitation for the welfare of the living warlords among them and the dependants of the departed. Despite this, it is be-numbing that much is yet to be done to in addressing the plight of the retired soldiers, who have continued to decry the situation they found themselves. While some complained of being left in poverty, others believed that a number of the warlords still live in squalor.
As being done in other parts of the country where calls have been made to look into the welfare of soldiers, so also in Kwara State.
Last Friday was the appointed day at the state Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development in Ilorin, the state capital. The premises of the State Secretariat Phase One looked solemn. There was little room for exchange of banters as senior government officials, top brass in the military and ex-servicemen gathered for the annual launching of amred forces remembrance day and emblem appeal week.
On the sidelines of the event, some? ex-soldiers, who spoke on behalf of their colleagues, lamented that their situation has not been better coupled with the structure of their monthly stipend.
They said the salary given to them at the end of the month was too meagre compared what some others receive in some governmental parastatal and agencies.
Alhaji Ibrahim Idowu, a two term Chairman of Ex-Servicemen in Kwara State, deplored the circumstances they were left with because of their salary was nothing to write home about.
He urged the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to use his office as ex war lord to raise the take home of both serving and retired soldiers in order to motivate them to do more in safeguarding the nation's territory.
"I want the Federal Government to increase the salary of both serving and retired soldiers; the salary is too small. You can imagine when a private soldier is paid N54,000 and those are the people you carry to Sambisa (in Borno State) to fight the Boko Haram. The salary is too small. If people heard about it, many people would not even like to join Nigeria Army again.
"I support President Muhammadu Buhari to the core, but I want him to change his style against the ex-servicemen and the serving soldiers; the salary is too small. You can imagine a DPR driver, who is also a School Certificate Holder, is receiving about N380,000 and you are paying a private soldier N54,000. It is too small", Idowu said.
In his own comment, Colonel Yusuf Adetoro, the immediate-past Chairman, Nigerian Legion, Kwara State chapter, Colonel Yusuf Adetoro (rtd), pleaded with the state government to fulfil the previous pledges made to the legion.
He said the association was still expecting the state government to redeem the promises of N1million it gave in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, maintaining that non-fulfilment of the pledges has become worrisome for member?s of the group.
"Since 2014, the Kwara State government pledged to be giving us N1million annually; nothing was given.? They don't care about the welfare of ex-servicemen in Kwara State. They would be claiming that there is no money. For me, I don't worry about it. When they said there is no money, it is left to them and God. And we are having 37 years old car, they don't care about it", he said.
Also speaking, The Sole Administrator,? Kwara State Council of Nigerian Legion of Ex-Servicemen, Colonel Ganiyu Yusuf, called on the government and well meaning Nigerians to come to the aid of the retired soldiers and dependants of their colleagues, who fell in the theatre of war.
Yusuf said Nigerians should know that once you are a soldier and retired, "we have a unique role of maintaining order and peaceful co-existence in any community we may find ourselves".
He said, "The essence of this annual event is to remember and raise funds for the families and dependants of the fallen heroes, who lost their lives in the first world war, second world war, Nigerian Civil war, West African peace keeping and North Eastern Nigeria insurgency including the living ones, who suffered various deprivations as a result of wars.
"We are to realise that most of the fallen heroes left behind families and dependants and the living ones too need the attention of the government and meaningful Nigerians having exhausted their youthful and productive years in the service of Nigeria, our fatherland.
?The state Commissioner for Women Affairs, Mrs Asiat Ayinke Saka, also attested that the ex-servicemen fought gallantly in war situations and peace keeping operations not minding the costly nature.
Delivering her speech through the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Mr Ayobola Samuel, the Commissioner said it was in recognition of their pivotal role in ensuring security of the nation that the government decided to set aside the day to remember them.
While appealing to Nigerians to contribute to the endowment fund to cater for the ex-servicemen and their dependants, Mrs Saka assured that the government would continue to prioritise their welfare?.
"You will agree with me that today's occasion is derived from our collective love, concern and care for the gallantry and exceptional attribute of statesmanship displayed by these patriotic and illustrious Nigerians.
"They fought with the last drop of their blood in world wars, the civil war, partook in peace keeping operations around the globe and in communal disturbances in various parts of the country, especially to maintain the territorial integrity of our dear fatherland. Without their effort, the unity, peace and steady development that are a feature of our polity today would have been a tall dream.
"It is in recognition of their meritorious and laudable service that they are remembered and extolled. Some of them died while in active service on the war fronts while very many others have been physically incapacitated.
"It is as a result of this that the Legion of Ex-Servicemen is soliciting our widow's mite to assist in rehabilitating those officers and men of the Nigerian Army, who were disabled as a result of the wars; and to cater for the families of the dead ones among them. It is my sincere hope that the labour of heroes past shall not be in vain.
"However, at this juncture, I wish to enjoin all agencies, parastatals, public spirited individuals here present to compliment government efforts and donate generously towards this project", She pleaded.
The state Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, in an emotional laden tone, recalled that ex-servicemen deserved empathy of all Nigerians? and tasked everyone to reflect what they had done in the past to preserve the entity called Nigeria.
Ahmed, whose address was read by the state Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Welfare, said there was no better way to remember the fallen heroes and the living among them than to cater for them in whatever way we can.
He assured that his government would strive to meet the needs of the retired soldiers in spite of the lean resources and urged them not to relent in the support accorded the government, which had ensured security of lives and property in the state.
In spite of assurances year in and year out, however, Nigerians ?are appalled that the plight of the retired soldiers are nothing to write home about and the question they consistently ask is "Would blood of the nation's war lords be in vain?"