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Oyetola: Preparing Big To Remember Our Heroes

Oyetola: Preparing Big To Remember Our Heroes
  • PublishedJanuary 9, 2019

By Olowogboyega Oyebade

Do you know what 15th January represents in our history?  Do you know Governor Gboyega Oyetola is preparing big for it?  Are you aware that he is to launch the Emblem on Tuesday 8th January, 2019 in the Government House lawn?

Do you know that there will be a Jumat Service at the Osogbo Central Mosque on 11th January, 2019 at 1 pm?  Do you Know that there will be a church service for the programme at the African Church Beside Aregbe Secretariat, Osogbo on 13th January, 2019 as the grand finale takes place on Tuesday 15th January, 2019 at the Park of the Osun House of Assembly Complex?

Do you know that we must join the Governor to attend the occasions, donate generously to honour our fallen heroes and to keep the hopes of their dependants alive?  Do you know that the current near full-scale war going on in the North East of Nigeria requires all of us to read a brief History of the Nigerian Army and to alert them to cash on the situation to improve our own science and technology?   A voice interrupts: “Good work and truth require no trumpet; they always find their way to the public.”

Are you aware that our soldiers participated  in the  campaigns of the First World War (1914-1918), 2nd World War (1939-1945) and the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970)?  Do you know that they participated in Peace keeping/Enforcement operations in Congo, Tanzania, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Lebanon, Darfur, the former Yugoslavia, and Mali?  Do you know that our Armed Forces had participated in defensive duties that include: theBamileke Rebellion, Chadian Rebels (1982/83), BakassiPeninsula crises?

Do you know that they had proved their mettle in internal security duties including the Tiv Rebellion, Western Region Crisis, Niger-Delta Crisis (1966), Agbekoya Rebellion, Niger Delta Crisis (1992-2009), Boko Haram Insurgency, and Herdsmen Massacre?  Do you know that they participate in Anti-Robbery operations, including: Operation Sweep, Rapid Response Squad, Operation Yaki, Operation Messa to mention but a few?  Do you know that when they go for these campaigns, some of them paid with their lives or end up disabled?   Do you know that we must join Mr Oyetola to  remember them?

We remember Lieutenant Oluwafemi Odushina.  He  was an old student of the Air Force Secondary School, Ikeja, Lagos State. He served with the UN Peace Keeping Forces in Darfur and later went to Pakistan for an additional training. In March 2014, he was deployed to Maiduguri.  The date was   Tuesday, 13th of May, 2014.

He was with his troops around the Chibok area where they had gone to search for and rescue the abducted Chibok girls. Boko Haram ambushed them.  He was slaughtered.  The news of his death got to the military camp and reportedly led to a mutiny by some soldiers of the 7th Division of the Nigerian Army against the General Officer Commanding (GOC), Major-General Abubakar Mohammed who was then redeployed. Oluwafemi might be the husband of a lady and possibly the father of at least a boy or a girl. What is their fate?  We must take a moment with Governor Oyetola  to remember them.

We remember Captain Kenneth Onubah. He hailed from Ifite-Oraifite in Anambra State. While he was on national duty in the North East, he was ambushed by Boko Haram in May 2014. And his throat was slit. Yet, he might have been the husband of a lady.  Yes! He might have been the father of at least a boy or a girl.  We must take at least a moment to remember them.  Are you familiar with this type of news?

Now, have a read: “Yesterday at about 22:00 Hours (10.00pm)  suspected Boko Haram terrorists attacked a 119 Battalion Nigerian army location at Mallam Fatori, northern Borno state. The troops fought gallantly and repelled the attack, killing 14 Boko Haram terrorists. Unfortunately, we lost an officer and four soldiers, while four other soldiers sustained various degrees of injuries during the encounter. One of those killed in action, was Lieutenant Colonel Muhammad Abu Ali, the Commanding Officer of 272 Task Force Tank Battalion.” Who was this Lieutenant Colonel Abu Ali?  You want to know him? Come along, please.

Lieutenant Colonel Muhammed Abu Ali was the son of Colonel Abu Ali, who was governor of Bauchi State from August 1990 to January 1992 during the  regime of Ibrahim Babangida. Bagais a big town in Borno State.  The town was captured by Boko Haram in 2015.  Ali led one of the army’s fiercest-ever battles with Boko Haram, in February 2015, culminating in the recapture of Baga town .   Abu Ali was a Major at the time.  He told the soldiers that they should not worry, gave them only  fivepercent of the job and gave to himself  95% of the job with the tanks.

The voice of a reporter cuts in: “And that was exactly what happened. He did most of the work with the tanks…. One smallish guy like that o.” The voice of another commentator cuts in: “After they recaptured Baga, the soldiers were so happy that they raised him up, telling the president to elevate him to the status of colonel, not even lieutenant-colonel, because he really performed; he tried. Even recent operations in Sambisa Forest, he led some of them.”

His elevation was first announced shortly  in February 2015.  , culminating in the recapture of Baga from insurgents. The official decoration was delayed until September when, after another monumental success — the capture of Gamboru-Ngala— Tukur Buratai, chief of army staff, visited the war front. During that decoration, Buratai praised Ali for his “courage, bravery and exceptional performance in the fight against the Boko Haram terrorists”. Alas! While basking in the euphoria of victory of our country, Sani Usman, Army spokesman came to the scene like a short drama, announcing to us that Lieutenant-Colonel Ali had been killed in an encounter with the insurgents with four soldiers.  He was no doubt a husband of a wife and the father of some children.  We must take time to remember them.

​We remember Major S.K Umaru.  When he was posted to the war front recently he remarked that he was ready for whatever his mission brought him. Alas! His mission brought death on 17th December 2015.  We must remember him.  Do you know that the escalation of the war made our soldiers lose their lives in scores?  Do you know that it is for these heroes that we have Armed Forces and Remembrance Day celebrated on 15th January every year?  Do you know that such celebrations are done at different dates around the world?  ​

Armed Forces Day is the broad term used to describe holidays observed by nations around the world to honor their military forces. The concept also includes elements of Remembrance Day in many other nations.  The Day is marked at different dates in different parts of the world.

In Armenia, it is called  Army Day and it is celebrated on 28 January to commemorate the 1992 formation of the armed forces of the newly independent Republic of Armenia.  In Australia and New Zealand, it is called ANZAC Day.  It is a public holiday commemorated on 25 April. It is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served.”InBangladesh, it is  observed as Armed Forces Day on 21 November to mark the occasion of the Tri- Services joint operation against occupying Pakistani forces in the 1971 Liberation War.

In Canada, Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in June and is a celebration of Canada’s armed services, their heritage, and their personnel but it is not a public holiday in Canada. The Army Day  is celebrated in the People’s Republic of China on 1 August in commemoration of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army in 1927.

The Day of the Cuban Armed Forces is celebrated on 2 December to commemorate the landing of the Granma in 1956. Whereas, in Egypt, Armed Forces Day is celebrated on 6 October, the date on which the October War of 1973 began with the Egyptian Army’s successful crossing of the Suez Canal that culminated in the capture of the Bar Lev Line.In Finland, it is celebrated on 4 June, which is the birthday of Marshal of Finland. In France, it is held on 14th July. In Israel, it is celebrated on 4th May as a Memorial Day.  To precede the Independence Day which was 5th May, 1948.

In Nigeria, Armed Forces Day, also known as Remembrance Day, is celebrated on 15 January. It was formerly celebrated on 11 November of every year to coincide with the Remembrance Day (Poppy Day) for the World War II veterans in the British Commonwealth of Nations. Do you know that it was changed to 15 January in Nigeria in commemoration of the surrender of Biafran troops to the Federal troops on 15 January 1970, thus concluding the Nigerian Civil War that sought to tear apart the unity of Nigeria? Do you know what we call the Poppy Day?  Come along please.

​Remembrance Day or Poppy Day is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth member states since the end of the First World War to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. Are you aware that this tradition was inaugurated by King George V of England in 1919 to mark war remembrances in Commonwealth Nations? Do you know that the tradition of Remembrance Day evolved out of Armistice Day?  Are you aware that the initial Armistice Day was observed at Buckingham Palace, commencing with King George V hosting a “Banquet in Honour of the President of the French Republic” during the evening hours of 10 November 1919 to celebrate peace and to remember the dead and the wounded? Do you know that it was during World War II that many countries changed the name of the holiday Remembrance Day in member states of the Commonwealth of Nations while the US chose Veterans Day? Are you aware that in many non-Commonwealth countries, Remembrance Day is observed “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” to commemorate the end of hostilities of World War I on that date in 1918 in accordance with the armistice signed by representatives of Germany and the Entente between 5:12 and 5:20 that morning with the First World War officially ending with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919?

​Do you ever wonder how the Nigerian Army was contemplated and formed? The history of the Nigerian Army Day may be traced back to 1863 when the “Glover Hausas” was formed by the late British War veteran, John Hawley Glover who organized and assemble the freed Hausa slaves to protect the Royal Niger Company from marauding incursions of the Ashantis.

The assemblage of these youths to repel the invasion of intruders marked the formation of the Nigerian Army.  On 6 July was adopted to marked the Nigerian Army day because it was believed that the Glover Hausas, that metamorphosed to the Nigerian Army, today was formed on 6 July.

The Nigerian Army grew out of the Royal Niger Company Constabulary and the forces of the old Lagos Colony and Niger Coast Protectorate. Do you know that the Royal Niger Company received its charter in 1886? Are you aware that  it organised its constabulary (soldiers) which at first consisted of five British and two African officers and about 400 rank and file, of whom more than half were Fantis (from the Ghana?

Are you aware that it was because of the critical situation that followed French encroachments on the territory of the Niger Company in 1894-1897 that forced the British Government to raise a local force to engage France militarily in Niger Areas of influence of the Royal Niger Company?  Do you know it was for that reason that  Colonel Lugard was sent out to raise the standing mobile force and command it?

Do you know that by 1900, this Force was named the West African Frontier Force and Colonel William Wilcocks became its leader and made several war campaigns against the forces of Ashanti local warriors? Do you know that it was in 1901 that each colonial territory in West Africa had colonial military forces modelled on the same basis and constituted into the West African Frontier Force, each dependency being responsible for the maintenance of its own regiment?

Do you know that the Northern Nigeria Regiment consisted of two batteries and two battalions?  Do you know that a third Mounted Infantry Battalion which was added later?  Are you aware that the Lagos Constabulary became the Lagos Battalion?  Are you aware that the Niger Coast Protectorate Force, with a portion of the Royal Niger Company Constabulary, became the Southern Niger Regiment?

Do you know that it was the amalgamation of Lagos and Southern Nigeria that created the Lagos Battalion as the second battalion of the Southern Nigeria Regiment?  Are you aware that when the Northern and Southern Nigeria were amalgamated on January 1st, 1914 the two Regiments became one, which was designated the Nigeria Regiment? Can you now see why Governor Oyetola advised us to reintroduce History as a subject in our schools?

​Do you know that the loyalty of our soldiers were put to test at different epochs?  The first occasion presented itself in August, 1914.  There was an out-break of war with Germany. Any enemy territory was vicariously under the line of fire Cameroon at that time was colonized by Germany.

The new Nigeria Regiment prepared to take offensive action against the neighbouring German colony of  Cameroons. The Nigeria Regiment and Police were mobilised and volunteers from the European community were enrolled as members of the Nigeria Marine Contingent and the Nigeria Land Contingent. Do you know that the soldiers on the opposing lines of battle were Nigerians and Cameroonians calling themselves British and German soldiers, brothers fighting themselves brutally?

​Are you aware that an early advance into German territory of Cemeroon along the Benue and Cross Rivers axis by Nigerian soldiers being called British soldiers was greeted with failure as Camerroonian soldiers calling themselves German soldiers drove them and strongly defended their position from Garua?  Do you know that the battle of Nsanakang, near Calabar led to heavy losses on the German side in Cameroon? Listen to this.

Do you know that a fierce war campaign was launched as Brigadier-General Sir Charles Dobell took up the leadership of the ‘Nigeria’ side against ‘Cameroon’ and Duala, one of the major cities of Cameroon  surrendered unconditionally on September 27th 1914 after hundreds of military and civilian casualties?  Do you know that by 1915 Colonel Cunliffe took over the command of the Nigeria Regiment and used Nigerian soldiers with some other soldiers from the French colonies of West Africa to invade Garua and forced German commander in Cameroon to surrender on June 10th, 1915?

Are you aware that this ruthless Commander on expansionist philosophy took our troops to fight in Cameroon, Guinea, the entire countries of East Africa in the guise of fighting Germany…a country in Europe?  Are you aware that the Nigerian troops took part in some of the severest fightings in East Africa and they suffered heavy casualties? Do you know that many of them died in wars that they did not know the causes?  Do you know that many of them were buried in unknown mass graves?  Do you know that they had children and wives?

This brutal war ended in 1918 and the soldiers that survived came back home. As soon as the armistice was signed, this brigade was demobilised and the regiment reduced to its normal size. The wounded were made to carry their scars.  The widows and the orphans were made to carry their pains.

In recognition of its services during the Great War, on March 14th, 1928, His Late Majesty King George V approved that the title of the forces be changed to the Royal West African Frontier Force.  As usual, during the Second World War, the Regiment served in many parts of the world to protect British interest. It played a leading role in the defeat of the Italians in East Africa and the Japanese in Burma.

At the outbreak of the 2nd World War, the Nigeria Regiment consisted of five regular battalions were moved to Ethiopia (Abbysynia) to fight German War again.  They assisted to capture Mogadishu. On February 13th, 1941, in company with the 22nd East African Brigade, the Nigerian Brigade advanced on Brava.

The Brigade returned to Nigeria on September 5th, 1941 gallantly but with some serious casualties in men.  Some of them were picked to join the great Expeditionary Force which was later to take part in the final defeat of the Japanese in Myanma (Burma).They participated actively in the war campaigns in India. The Nigerian Army rose from a force of 18,000 in infantry battalions and supporting units to around 126,000 in three divisions by the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970.It currently has over 6,000 officers and 200,000 soldiers.

The civil war had a very high toll on the soldiers.  It was estimated that over 2 million Nigerians lost their lives.  It is the Armed Forces and Remembrance Day that is dedicated to honour all these heroes.  It is to generate awareness on how to implement comprehensive defence sector reform, including clear identification of security challenges; a new defence and security policy and structure to address them; and drastic improvement in leadership, oversight, administration and accountability across the sector.

The day is to honour these heroes and contribute financially to support the wounded, widows and orphans they left behind.

Hurray!  A driverless car,  is here with us.  Do you know that its potential benefits include reduced costs, increased safety, increased mobility, increased customer satisfaction and reduced crime?  Are you aware that its safety benefits include a reduction in traffic collisions, resulting injuries and related costs, including for insurance?

Do you know that it is  predicted to increase traffic flow; provide enhanced mobility for children, the elderly, disabled, and the poor; relieve travelers from driving and navigation chores; increase fuel efficiency of vehicle, reduce needs for parking space; reduce crime; and facilitate business models for transportation as a service, especially via the sharing economy?

Do you know that experiments  conducted on automated driving systems (ADS) was started by Japan during the First World War and trials began since 1920s?  Are you aware that the first truly automated car was developed in 1977, by Japan’s Tsukuba Mechanical Engineering Laboratory?  Are you aware of the exploits of the United States of America as it ‘harvested’  scientists from other countries during the First World War and the Second World War?  Do you know that in 1960s, the United States of America through its Army and Navy in collaboration with the Carnegie Mellon University began a programme on Driverless Car with an allocation of $650 million support for the  this research.  The   programme concluded with a successful demonstration in 1997 but without clear direction or funding to implement the system on a larger scale.

Do you know that in 2015, the US States of Nevada, Florida, California, Virginia, and Michigan, together with Washington, D.C., allowed the testing of automated cars on public roads?  Are you aware that in November 2017, Waymo announced that it had begun testing driver-less cars without a safety driver in the driver position, though  there was still an employee in the car?

Do you know that in October 2018, Waymo announced that its test vehicles had travelled in automated mode for over 16,000,000 km as the first fully autonomous taxi service in the United States? This is technology, a product of Amrican war machienes.   Do you know that the Japanese and US military was able to pioneer this technology through their war researches?  Do you know that we must convert our misfortunes in the North-East to technological success?  Do you know that we wasted the golden opportunity to develop our science through the Nigerian Civil War?  We refused to develop our own ‘Ogbunigbe’. We refused to learn from the ‘local’ refinery constructed by ‘Biafrans’ to refine petroleum products.

We refused to patronise the local tanks manufactured by the Biafrantroops.  We rejected the technology offered by ‘Radio Biafra’ broadcasting to the world in a ‘bunker’ without being discovered.  Today, we import everything for our soldiers and civilians, including toilet papers, sand, tooth-pick, condom pencil,  ruler and common erazer.  Our military should assist us to think on the ‘critical’ science to manufacture a manual bicycle as our own proto-type of driver-less cars for our farmers, pencils for our children and needles to sew our ragged clothes.  Unless they do these in this time of adversity, all of us may be the real casualties of most of the wars we knew nothing about.

We seize this medium to appreciate Mr Gboyega Oyetola for preparing an elaborate Armed Forces and Remembrance Day for our State.   We salute the heroes long dead, the wounded, their widows and orphans.  Heroes never die.  They live in brothers again.  They live with un-slaughtered vitality.  We close with John Pepper Clarke as he chants: “The Casualties”

The casualties are not only those who are dead.

They are well out of  it.

The casualties are not only those who are dead.

Though they await burial by installment.

The casualties are not only those who are lost

Persons or property, hard as it is

To grope  for a touch that some

May not know is not there.

The casualties are not only those led away by night.

The cell is a cruel place, sometimes a haven.

No where as absolute as the grave.

The casualties are not only those who started

A fire and now cannot put out. Thousands

Are are burning that have no say in the matter.

The casualties are not only those who are escaping.

The shattered shall become prisoners in

A fortress of falling walls

The casualties are many, and a good member as well

Outside the scenes of ravage and wreck;

They are the emissaries of rift,

So smug in smoke-rooms they haunt abroad,

They do not see the funeral piles

At home eating up the forests.

They are wandering minstrels who, beating on

The drums of the human heart, draw the world

Into a dance with rites it does not know.

The drums overwhelm the guns…

Caught in the clash of counter claims and charges

When not in the niche others left,

We fall.

All casualties of the war.

Because we cannot hear each other speak.

Because eyes have ceased the face from the crowd.

Because whether we know or

Do not the extent of wrongs on all sides,

We are characters now other than before

The war began, the stay-at-home unsettled

By taxes and rumours, the looters for office

And wares, fearful everyday the owners may return.

We are all casualties,

All sagging as are

The cases celebrated for kwashiorkor.

The unforseen camp-follower of not just our war.





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