The history of the Nigerian Army could be traced to as far back as 1863 when Lieutenant Glover assembled mostly northern able-bodied men to protect the Royal Niger Company, which was referred to as the “Glover Hausas”. Since then, the Army has undergone transformation in nomenclature, size and weaponry. Today, it is embarking on Army Aviation and boasts of modern sophisticated weapons and training institutions that not only train its officers and soldiers, but civilians thus, contributing to knowledge and national development.
Although the exact date Lieutenant Glover formed his Glover’s Hausas is now faded, the 6th of July came to be adopted as the Nigerian Army Day. The day became significant because it marks a turning point in the history of Nigerian Army. It marked the day when the Nigerian civil war began in 1967 to keep the country united. It is on record that the first shot of the war was fired on 6th July 1967 Garkem, near Ogoja in present day Cross River State.
Many would question the celebration when the nation is still at a war with one of the most barbaric terrorist groups known in human history- the Boko Haram Terrorists (BHT) – for almost five years. Indeed the Army and of course all Nigerians have cause to rejoice and celebrate the Nigerian Army for its longevity and accomplishments more so given its recent spate of successes in the fight against terrorism and insurgency in Nigeria.
The Nigerian Army has gone through a lot within the last one year: the fight against insurgency; vilification by some sections of the public, media and most unfortunately, Amnesty International. It was able to weather the storm and remains ever strong, a bastion of national security and rallying point of national unity.
Since the last celebration in 2014, the army has accomplished so much in the areas of training, procurement and administration that helped in turning the tide against the terrorists. It now has a new aviation wing and established a command and control centre at the epicentre of the war against terror.
Sometime ago, some personnel of the Nigerian Army exhibited cowardly behaviour and took to their heels at the sight of approaching terrorists. Today however, the story has changed as soldiers are now pursuing insurgents relentlessly. The show of solidarity, support and understanding of Nigerians at the most trying moments of the Nigerian Army is worth celebrating.
So many detractors among whom were highly placed personalities and retired senior military officers have tried, albeit unsuccessfully to tarnish the name and reputation of the Nigerian Army but the encouraging resolve of majority of Nigerians to stand solidly behind their Army is heartwarming.
Nigerian soldiers have recaptured and dominated all the territories hitherto held by Boko Haram terrorists including Baga, Gwoza, Marte, Bama, Monguno, Dikwa, Michika and Mubi amongst others.
The Nigerian Army has made tremendous sacrifices in ensuring the safety of lives and properties of Nigerians. We have lost so many precious lives of officers and men in the cause of securing our great nation from the terrorists and other criminals such as illegal oil bunkerers, kidnappers and armed robbers.
Despite these laudable achievements recorded in the last year however, the 2015 Army Day celebrations will be low keyed. Conscious of the mood of the nation and its all-important constitutional duties especially as regards to the defense of the territorial integrity of our dear nation, the Nigerian Army cannot presently afford elaborate celebrations with displays, pomp and pageantry as was the case in the past. This year’s celebration is solemn based on commitment to the successful conclusion of the fight against Boko Haram terrorists and the recognition of the sacrifice of our officers and soldiers. It is also to honour our departed colleagues who have recently paid the supreme sacrifice in the defence of our country.
Part of the activities marking this year’s NADCEL is special prayer and wreath laying at the military cemetery in Maiduguri. This is particularly significant because apart from the prayers, it goes a long way to show the bond between those that paid the supreme sacrifice in Operation Zaman Lafiya and their surviving colleagues. Similarly, those most deserving would also be presented with medals for their bravery and perseverance.
It is important to again assure Nigerians that we, officers and men of the Nigerian Army are really conscious of our constitutional duties and the high expectations of Nigerians.
Therefore, more than ever before, the Nigerian Army is determined to destroy Boko Haram terrorists’ camps, enclaves and wherever their operational bases might be located. However, we appeal for the continued support, prayers and understanding of the public. Nigerians should see the fight against terrorism and insurgency as a collective responsibility. We owe it a duty to support and encourage the army to enable it succeed.
Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman
Acting Director Army Public Relations