Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel says the love and support Nigeria has shown ex service men who risk their lives in defence of country is not proportionate to the many selfless sacrifice the men and women of the Armed Forces have offered in service to the country.
Speaking at the 2022 Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration in Uyo, Governor Emmanuel noted that it is one thing for the nation to gather every year to eulogize these patriotic and brave men and women, but quoting Ronald Reagan he advocated that “if words cannot repay the debt we owe these men, surely with our actions we must strive to keep faith with them and with the vision that led them to battle and to final sacrifice”.
According to the Governor, these gallant men and women, went into battle fields spread across the world knowing full well that, they may pay the ultimate price which most did, but because they believed in something – our unity, our freedom, the capacity for us to live in peace and harmony, they willingly offered to pay the ultimate sacrifice.
Hear him, “Perhaps it is pertinent to ask: Have we rewarded these brave and gallant men and women who even as we speak are being shot at, attacked and killed by such non-state actors as Boko Haram, bandits, agents of separatist movements or those who are at different theatres of war outside our shores? Have we correspondingly appreciated and rewarded them for their labour and sacrifices? What have we done to show in practical terms that the labour, the toil, the psychological scars, the emotional trauma which invariably led to such post-war stress syndrome as depression, suicide etc., were not in vain?
He urged that as the nation to celebrate and honour the sacrifices, patriotic fervour, gallantry and spirit of volunteerism of the Men and Officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces, the words of World War 2, hero, General George Patton who said “It is better to fight for something in life than to die for nothing”, should always guide our leaders, policy makers and citizens.
In his words, “The brave warriors we are honouring today, believed in something, an ideal or causes higher than their collective or personal interest, and that’s why they elected through volunteerism, not by conscription to sign up to fight for the preservation of our territorial integrity against foreign or domestic enemies”.
He explained that the Akwa Ibom State Government has shown in practical terms her deep appreciation for the sacrifices our gallant patriots made. “We are grateful for the deep collaboration we have enjoyed from the Nigerian Armed Forces especially those with command locations in our State, such as the 2 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, and other arms of the Services. That we are nationally celebrated as one of the most peaceful States in the nation is a testament to the cooperation we have received form the Armed Forces and other allied security agencies”, he stated.
The Governor declared that his administration has built 168 blocks of flats for the Officers and Men of the Nigerian Army Battalion located in Ibagwa, embarked on water reticulation aimed at ensuring the residents of the barracks have clean water, reiterating the determination of his administration to intervene in other quality of life projects.
“This is, just a little effort on our part to show that we appreciate the sacrifices the Men and Officers of the Nigeria Armed Forces are making to keep us safe and secure”, he stated.
He called on citizens to eschew tendencies that helped provide the ferment for conflicts, noting that as a nation rich in diversity, our diversity should represent our strength and not platforms to enlarge our fault lines or differences as God has given us all that we need to succeed and excel.
“We must weld and meld these layers of our diversity and knit together a tapestry of oneness, brotherhood and unity based on justice, equity and fairness”
“Most of the issues that led to conflicts where these gallant patriots paid with their lives could have been resolved if we had listened to one another and appreciated the concerns and grievances our aggrieved compatriots had brought to the table of discussion. Unfortunately, we were stuck in our set of demands and were unwilling to make compromises. We must learn to jaw-jaw instead of war-war”, he admonished.
According to Governor Emmanuel, Nigeria today is faced with some of those similar sentiments that had led to the civil war and the drum beat and rhetoric of division are being beaten and enlarged by various echo-chambers.
“We must neuter these divisive and incendiary rhetoric and agree to build a nation that our founding fathers had envisioned, based on our diversity and inherent greatness. As we get ready to elect our next set of leaders, let us be reminded that national interest should and must trump or override our personal or group interest and those things that may heat upon the polity and strain the cords of our unity must be avoided. We cannot afford another national conflict; we cannot afford to send our youths to fight over issues that could have been addressed peacefully in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust”, he urged.