BEING AN ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PASTOR UMO ENO, GOVERNOR, AKWA IBOM STATE ON THE OCCASION OF ARMED FORCES REMEMBRANCE DAY/LAYING OF WREATH- JANUARY 15, 2024, THE CENOTAPH
1. We are gathered today for this solemn national event that is celebrated yearly to honor the sacrifice, patriotic zeal, gallantry and bravery of the men and officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces, whose blood watered the seeds of our freedom and liberty so we may live in peace.
2. The Holy Bible in John 15:13, (KJV) so eloquently illustrates the spirit of altruism and sacrifice “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”. The brave men and officers we have come here today to celebrate and honour laid down their lives to safeguard the territorial integrity of this great nation. They did so, not because they were conscripted, they voluntarily signed up for service knowing full well that the outcome of their sacrifice may be a knock on the door and the heart wrenching breaking of the sad news to their family members that they had paid the ultimate price.
3. Today, because they elected to wear a higher fabric of patriotism, and hearkened to the sentiments once expressed by the late American General and World War II hero, General George that “it is better to fight for something in life than to live for nothing” we have come here to thank them, to assure them that the sacrifices they made remain eternally appreciated. These heroes and heroines paid the ultimate sacrifice for causes greater than themselves.
4. While we salute their bravery and gallantry, let us remind ourselves that the issues that led them to the various theaters of conflict which ultimately led them to pay the ultimate prize would be neutered or better managed in our time.
5. As we honour these brave men and women, let us collectively shun tendencies that inflame passions in our polity. Let us celebrate our diversity and see the differences as reflected in our rainbow of our colors as sources for strength rather than those of weakness to be exploited for narrow individual or group political, social or economic advantage.
6. Let us narrow down the politics of zero-sum game, the drive to advance at the detriment of others. Let us hold aloft the ennobling flag of inclusivity, of fairness, of equity, of level playing field, of tolerance and of unity. Great nations are built when everyone has a stake and is treated as an equal partner in the greater national schemes.
7. When Brigadier General Dzarma Zirkusu, a young and brilliant officer was cut down in a hail of bullets alongside three other soldiers in Borno State in November, 2021, the sacrifice he made on that day was not for his region, religion, or community, it was for our sake. We owe them our eternal debt of gratitude, not just words, not just the usual bromides, but concrete actions.
8. Let us lower the temperature of incendiary and divisive rhetoric, let us address the root causes of social tension in our polity, which today, have given rise to separatist agitations all over the nation.
9. Today, as we gather all over the nation, let us not forget the families of those who paid the ultimate price, let us give them a reason to be feel proud that their husbands, sons and daughters truly died for causes greater than their individual desires,
10. Here in Akwa Ibom State, we will continue to work closely and robustly with the Nigerian Armed Forces and other Sister agencies to show our gratitude for their deep collaborations with us, over the years which, today has singled us out as one of the safest states in the nation to live, work and invest.
11. It was this spirit of collaboration that led us to create a full-fledged Ministry of Internal Security and Waterways, headed by a retired General of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Koko Essien (rtd), He understands the dynamics of the security architecture and we have given him the free hands and latitude to do all that is necessary and proper to deepen our relationships with the Nigerian Armed Forces and other Sister agencies. We will continue to support our Armed Forces and celebrate their patriotism and deep sacrifices they have made to safeguard our sovereignty. As one who lost his father, a Police Officer, in the line of duty to to the Nation, and left a young widow with the task of raising five boys and a girl, I understand what the widows of these fallen heroes are going through. Accordingly, on behalf of the Government and the people of Akwa Ibom State, we are donating the sum of 100 million Naira to the widows and 25 million Naira to the Nigerian Legion.
12. May the souls of the departed rest in perfect peace.
13. God bless Akwa Ibom State, God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and God bless the Nigerian Armed Forces.