Laolu Akande, Abuja: I am especially honoured to be here to join family and friends of our departed heroes to mark this day when we remember the incredible sacrifices they made on the field of battle.
Every one of the men and women of our armed forces killed in battle took a decision that they were prepared to lay down their lives for flag and country. Those promises were tested and found to have been faithfully made. Many died in circumstances so terrifying and horrifying.
But the greatest loss is of the families they left behind, wives, husbands, children, siblings and sometimes parents. So death is a test not for the dead but for the living. It is the living that must bear the pain of shattered hopes. The many children who will miss the special moments in their lives, one parent would not witness their days of joy and celebrations, graduations, marriages, naming ceremonies because their fathers chose to defend our nation and its commitments to other nations. It is to those brave and courageous fallen heroes that this day is dedicated and we honour their memories. But it is their families to whom we owe a debt that cannot be redeemed. No matter how hard we try or how eloquently we describe the services of the departed we cannot bring them back.
But our debt, our continuing obligation places a burden upon us as governments and people of Nigeria.
The first is to rigorously defend the unity and territorial integrity of Nigeria by words and action. Rebuking firmly and even by recourse to law, those who by their words and action threaten to break the bonds of nationhood paid for by the blood and sweat of our Military.
Second is to defend faithfully the freedoms and rights that form the fundament of our society and nationhood. These include, the right to life, which involves the duty of the State to provide adequate security for lives and livelihoods of the citizens, the right to liberty, freedom of worship amongst others. Yes, we have seen in the past few years how these rights have been challenged by the mindless extremism of the Boko Haram in the North-East, and how again our gallant military, police and civilian populations have risen jointly & gallantly to rout these criminal combatants and restore peace to most communities in that zone. We have also seen even recently the killings that have resulted from attacks of herdsmen on farmers and communities and also where farmers and communities have attacked herdsmen, the spate of violence and loss of lives in Rivers State, & the Badoo killings in Lagos and Ogun States.
The President has ordered the police and the armed forces to deal decisively with these killings and to ensure that the perpetrators are found and punished. The President has also in almost daily meetings, and strategy sessions with relevant security and law enforcement agencies worked to find lasting solutions.
But we must also not permit the politicization of these tragedies. One of the reasons why for years Boko Haram thrived was because of the politicization of the insurgency. There were those who planning to benefit politically from the tragedies painted opposition as the perpetrators. Again we see some today who want to benefit politically from the killing of women and children in Benue and Adamawa, and asuch stoking the embers of ethnicity and religion. By their hate speeches they want to fix the criminal acts of a few individuals on whole ethnic groups, they want to create a religious crises if they are allowed.
Our obligation is to stop them from playing dangerous politics that could threaten our unity and stability, just as we continue to enforce the peace in troubled areas. As Bishop Benjamin Kwashi said it is the poor and helpless who suffer the most from crisis, and it is they that we have sworn to protect.
Senate President’s representative, Service Chiefs, distinguished guests ladies and gentlemen: the Armed forces remain the bastion and exemplar of National Unity: Nigerian men and women of every tribe and religion, standing side by side in the gravest danger, being harmed and dying side by side under one flag and in defense of one nation. No attainment is worthwhile unless some are prepared to sacrifice for it nay the ultimate sacrifice.
Our Nation today stands as one to honor those who paid and continue to pay the price night and day for our safety and the safety of our land. We pledge that the labors of these heroes past shall not be in vain.
But we who gather here today are Christians, many born again. We are the light of our Nation and the Salt of this land. It is to us that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been given, the gospel which preaches contrary to our flesh, that we must love our persecutors and pray even for those who despises us. The gospel is a gospel based on the sacrifice of God of his only begotten son . Our country today needs the gospel that says that we must overcome evil with good. A gospel that conquers by weakness and meekness because the battle is not ours it is the Lords.
God Bless the Armed forces of Nigeria
God bless the 36 States of Nigeria and the FCT
God bless Nigeria.