AN ADDRESS DELIVERED BY HIS EXCELLENCY, MR. UDOM EMMANUEL, GOVERNOR - AKWA IBOM STATE, ON THE OCCASION OF ARMED FORCES REMEMBRANCE DAY LAYING OF WREATH ON JANUARY 15, 2017.
We stand at this moment, this hour, and this day to pay tribute to the memory of our officers and men who put their lives on the line, and eventually paid the supreme price so we can all live in peace and safety. We have come to dedicate this moment to those heroes and salute their service to our nation.
We do not know this hero’s name. We do not know where he was born. We do not know where he lived and when he chose to leave the comfort of his home to go in defense of our territorial integrity. His, was an assignment motivated by the love for the nation, and ethnic biases and other little fears were not issues he concerned himself with.
We are gathered today to honour his memory as one of the thousands of Nigerian soldiers who fought and died for global peace and freedom from tyranny that men of little minds and narrow vision had preached- a strand of parochialism and extreme nationalism that led to the First World War, the Second World or the disagreement among brothers and sisters that led to the Nigerian Civil War.
At other peace keeping missions we have been involved in, the gallant soldiers whom we are remembering today held our flags aloft and in the true spirit of our former National Anthem ”though tribes and tongue may differ; in brotherhood we stand” displayed such gallantry that made us all proud.
We honour the memory of these brave officers and men who died in combat, so that we can live in peace. They gave up their dreams, so that we can live our dreams. They watered the tree of freedom with their blood so that we can breathe the air of liberty. So we come here today to honour his life, pay tribute to his sacrifice, gallantry and bravery, and celebrate his legacy.
It was love that moved the Unknown Soldier to fight for the freedom of the human race in the First and Second World Wars respectively. They fought in honour of the dignity of the Black race; they fought to disprove Hitler’s race theory of the inferiority of the Black Race. The fought and died for equality and racial justice in the world.
One of his legacies, which we should not lose sight of so that today’s noble event will not be just another routine affair, is that as they there was no tribe in the foxhole. When bullets were flying, bombs blasting and grenades exploding, the men in the trenches did not define themselves as Hausa Fulanis, Yorubas, Igbos, Ibibios, Annangs or Tivs, they saw themselves as brothers in the foxholes who were united in pursuit of a cause that was stronger than their primordial, personal or group interest. Let that sense of brotherhood remain with our soldiers, even when they are out of the foxhole.
As we honour them today, our commitment must be to protect our nascent democracy and the sovereignty of our nation. We must obey the patriotic call as scripted in our National Anthem and arise to her rescue so that the labour of our heroes past would never be in vain. Let us pray for our soldiers, let pray for our military men and women mounting sentry in the North East against Boko Haram.
We must commend them for defending our national interest and the unity of our nation. Let us never forget that those that they are fighting against are murderous bunch with no respect for the sanctity of the human lives or their God’s given rights. Let us not forget that they are defending our democracy. Let this be a day of national consecration when all Nigerians would pray that this evil of Boko Haram we see today we shall see no more in our shores.
We must let the courage and bravery of the Unknown Soldier challenge us and leave us with a deeper faith in this country. We must let his sacrifice spur us to respond to the call of our country and build a nation bound in freedom, peace and unity. Like that old World War song goes, “Old soldiers never die, they just march on…” The Unknown Soldier is not dead; he marches on in our legends and folklore. He lives on in our hearts.
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