On the 15th of January every year, we remember the members of the Nigerian armed forces, who have for the last 100 plus years, given their very lives for the continued progress of our great country. This year, the presidency and top military leaders held a service to honour the lives given in service of the country. Wreaths were laid and eulogies delivered. In Eastern Nigeria, January 15th has double significance for every person who lost a loved during Nigeria’s post independence civil war. Symposia, social media trends and offline conversations all rehash the circumstances that led to the war in the first place and eulogize the men, women and children who perished during the war as Nigeria fractured and repaired itself.
Ever willing to serve nation before self, the Nigerian military has been both saviour and villain in many of our country’s stories as it implemented the plans of its civilian and military leaders. Decades of military dictatorships eroded much of our collective trust as citizens in the military while our gallant soldiers travelled across West Africa, fighting violent warlords and restoring peace to our sister countries. Such is the complicated history of our military.
But on this Armed Forces Remembrance Day, it is hard to not turn our thoughts to the military officers and soldiers who have spent the last few years at the forefront of a war we have claimed to win many times, while soldiers at the forefront lose their lives. The war on Boko Haram has gone on for nearly a decade and through 2 consecutive presidencies and shows no real signs of abating. Though successive governments have declared Boko Haram technically defeated, the religious extremist sect continues to rise from the ashes, reclaiming towns, displacing citizens and threatening the lives of our military soldiers and officers.
Perhaps it is time Nigeria took decisive, honest action on Boko Haram, so in 2021, we don’t have to eulogize any soldiers lost to another needless conflict.