Posted by News Express | 6 November 2021 | 1,279 times
Revolutionary war colonel and aide-de-camp to Gen. George Washington, Col. David Humphreys, in 1787, wrote: “Few inventions could be more happily calculated to diffuse the knowledge and preserve the memory of illustrious characters and splendid events, than medals.”
Military awards and decorations – distinctions given as a mark of honour for military heroism, meritorious or outstanding service or achievement, remains a time-honoured, cherished and sacred tradition in the culture and history of Armed Forces around the world.
The Grass Crown (corona graminea), was the highest military decoration any military man could aspire to in the Roman republic and early Roman empire.
This rarest of military laurels, which could only be presented to a general, commander or officer whose actions saved a legion or the entire army, alongside such military decorations like the Civic Crown (corona civica), hasta pura e.t.c, symbolized a culture of societal gratitude for the sacrifice of those who placed their lives as forfeit in preservation of all others.
This time-honoured culture, observed from ancient times – saw the old Egyptian Kingdom award the Order of the Golden Collar for military distinction, while the New Egyptian Kingdom awarded the Order of the Golden Fly.
Closer home, as depicted in Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”, where the main character, Okonkwo, was feted for his prowess as a warrior – our indigenous nationalities where historically known to put great store on military sacrifice and achievements and rewarded same through, i.e. – conferment of chieftaincy titles, lands, etc.
Military officers have been known, and some indeed distinguished for the depth of their knowledge of military history, and it can be posited that Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Iraboh, in keeping with those fine traditions, has reached back into time, recognizing the significant impact “good” military culture can have on the morale of fighting forces.
At a special dinner, organized by Defence Headquarters in Abuja on Saturday, October 2, 2021, to mark Nigeria's 61st Independence Anniversary, 24 officers and soldiers, comprising 12 officers and 12 soldiers (men and women of the Armed Forces), were honoured for their for gallantry, valour and heroism in service to the nation.
For a country, singularly steeped in the culture of placing “zero” dignity on human life and sacrifice which has been perpetuated by kleptocratic misleaders who could never be bothered – it is heartening to witness an event, the first of its kind, conducted at the Defense House in Abuja and choreographed by Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff – that connotes a paradigm shift.
A country that is not invested in raising heroes – is not invested in its future sustenance. A country, that does not remember its fallen heroes, and, absentmindedly, if it can be bothered at all, allocates the epitaph of “nameless citizens” to victims of its infernos, is setting itself to erase its own future memory!
General Iraboh has set his hand on the plough and he can do more and I enjoin him for posterity sake to do more. The President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, must be bothered to more often than not, meet military families and decorate warriors who have distinguished themselves in service.
The yearly commemoration of the January 15th Armed Forces Remembrance day, cannot and must not be seen as, the be-all and end-all. Indeed, that statutory day set aside to honour our Armed Forces, must come to have more meaning. Service men and women must look forward to that day as well as others, as days they will be celebrated and honoured for their service.
Especially now – as our men and women in uniform fight many of our “bush fires” – we must through overt and concerted show of care and celebration, send a message to our warriors in tangible terms that an ever grateful nation cares and finds them worthy. Thus will we earn their loyalty.
Gen Iraboh’s words at the Anniversary Dinner, buttresses. He said: “Indeed, at no other time in our nation’s history have members of the Armed Forces been so engaged as it relates to addressing the current myriad of security challenges in our dear country that threatened the very foundation of our unity, security and wellbeing.”
Historically, and to this day – men will fight, ready and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, if they “feel” that society places high value on their service and considers their sacrifice of great “worth”.
Concerted effort must be made by Gen. Iraboh and the powers that be, towards making sure the welfare and remuneration of officers and men of the Armed Forces, both serving and retired is enhanced and consistently fair.
The families of fallen heroes must be given special attention and must never be allowed to become disillusioned and dogged by ill feelings towards an ungrateful nation. Such underserved feelings, harboured by military families are highly contagious and affects the morale of serving and prospective troops.
The enduring legacy of any great nation can easily be seen from how it honours it's fallen warriors. Friend and foe alike – must come to recognize the consistency of our faithfulness to our fallen heroes and fear our faithfulness to avenge them.
Even now, in the face of the worst insecurity that have ever bedeviled the country, our men and women in uniform are all that stands between us and the depraved hordes of unknown gunmen and terrorists of all hues, who will, in deranged doped up zeal, see our streets run red with the blood of innocents and our women and girls despoiled in our homes.
It is of the caliber of men and women of our Armed Forces that Winston Churchill is often quoted as having said: “We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”
I have absolutely no doubt that adequately equipped and left singularly to make war on dubious terror practitioners without the encumbrances of devious “political elites” and sabotaging “cloaked fifth columnist’s” – our noble warriors, descendants of African warrior nations, would have since dealt decisive blows to enemies of the state.
To become a “real” nation, we must form the habit of remembrance. We must build monuments to our heroes, chisel their names and deeds in stone and in our hearts – only then will we perpetuate their memories and ours as well, so that those that will come after us will know we “lived”. Honouring military service is honouring ourselves as well.
And so, let us pay homage to our military heroes:
Brig. Gen. MF Babayo, Brig. Gen. M Ibrahim, Lt. Col. VK Tagwoi, Lt. Col. Ponfa Andrew Wuyep, Lt. Col. Abu Ali (late), Maj. MA Narogo, Sergeant Sadiq Pada, Sergeant Bawa Samaria, Lance Corporal Samuel Andrew.
To these ones, among the 24 so honoured by the Chief of Defence Staff, their compatriots not listed and all who have served and who are serving – you are all heroes.
To all of the chosen few, those “band of brothers” of the Nigerian Armed Forces – Hoorah, Hoorah, Hoorah!
N:B: The author’s generalization of “Nigerian Armed Forces” – implying deserved honour – excludes military kleptocrats (past and present) and uniformed killers steeped in the blood of innocent Nigerians.
•Victor Ikhatalor is a human rights defender and good governance advocate; Twitter: @MyTribeNigeria; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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