By Josephine Oguntoyinbo
It was a day of mourning as soldiers of the Nigerian army filed out in front of the monument to remember their fallen colleagues. It was sad to behold as wives of the fallen heroes with their children stared at the sky looking for miracle to bring back their breadwinners.
One of the fallen heroes’ children fiddled with his mother’s hair, but the mother out of control replied with torrential tears. Other mothers saw that and they could not control themselves, as all bursted into weeping.
This was the scene at the 2019 Armed Forces Remembrance Day in Akure, Ondo State.
It is an annual event organised to honour members of the Nigerian Armed Forces, who fought in the first and second world wars, and those who served and still serving in various peace support operations worldwide, as well as those who fought in the Nigeria Civil War and those who lost their lives because of insurgents in the country.
The Day is to celebrate both the dead and the living heroes including all those who suffered various deprivations as a result of wars.
In Ondo State, the 2019 Armed Forces Remembrance Day was celebrated in a grand style at the Cenotaph, Alagbaka Akure as cheques of 100,000 naira each were presented to thirty widows of deceased soldiers as financial assistance to cushion the effects of the untimely death of their husbands by the state government.
Apart from this, the state government equally made the occasion memorable as a brand new vehicle was donated to the state chapter of the Nigerian Legions at the event to ease their transportation problem.
The Cenotaph had also been given facelift compared to how it used to be even as the ex-service men confirmed that since 1999,this is the only government that has given such an attention to Cenotaph.
The occasion afforded Governor Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, top government functionaries, Commandants, Chairman Nigeria Legion, Col. Olubodun Apata(Rtd), Deji of Akure land, Oba Aladetoyinbo Aladelusi, representative of widow among others to pay glowing tribute to the fallen heroes while laying wreaths.
The officers and ex-servicemen added glamour to the occasion with their parade. The state cultural troupes were also on hand to render melodies while prayers were offered for the repose of the fallen heroes.
Speaking at the event, Akeredolu expressed gratitude to the serving and retired officers particularly those who paid the supreme price in defense of the nation and its unity.
He opined that no amount of money could be enough to replace lost lives, but that the token given to the widows was to cushion the impact of the immediate challenges they might be facing.
He explained that the event was another opportunity to remember the fallen heroes and pay special attention to the welfare of their immediate families and dependants.
The governor further thanked security agencies for their efforts at providing security for the citizens of the state.
“Recently, operation ‘Egwu Eke III’ was launched in the state to address our security challenges. This was not unconnected with the incessant cases of kidnapping, armed robbery and ritual killings in some parts of the state.
“We have started to see the effect of this exercise as all these crime prone areas have been quiet.
“As part of our efforts to completely stem the tide of insecurity, very soon, we shall be providing additional new operation vehicles for our security agencies for adequate, effective and efficient patrol of the state.
“We encourage individual and corporate organisations to assist in bringing smiles to the faces of this category of persons who have become vulnerable because of the loss of their breadwinners,” he said.
Also, Chairman of the Nigerian Legion, Ondo State chapter, Col. Olubodun Apata (rtd), described the event as colorful considering the fact that they are alive to witness it.
He particularly commended Governor Akeredolu for making their welfare one of his top priorities by fulfilling all promises he made to them.
“Two weeks ago, the Governor also promised to provide the Legion with a vehicle to ease our movement and to our amazement, the brand new Hilux Van has just been presented to us. I thank him for standing by his words and we are indeed very proud of him”, he said.
The Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Women Affairs, Mrs Titi Adeyemi said the day was significant as the Armed Forces have been trying their best in various peace support operations worldwide.
Mrs Adeyemi, who noted that government would continue to appreciate the contributions of the brave soldiers, prayed to God to reward their efforts and take care of the familiies left behind.
According to her, the cheques given to the beneficiaries was based on the recommendation without any discrimination.
“Those women have given supportive roles to their husbands while serving this country, hence the need to support them “.
The Imam of 32 Artillery Brigade, Abdulfatah Mohammed posited that taking care of families and widows of the fallen heroes was the best way to appreciate the gallant soldiers, saying anyone who helped this set of people will receive their reward from Allah.
While urging the widows to take care of the children of the deceased, so that, they can be successful, stressed the need for the beneficiaries to use the money judiciously to raise their status.
The Chaplain of Owena Cantonment, Reverend Fr Ohumajuri Chukwudi also commended the Armed Forces for their selfless service, calling on government at all levels to take care of them as a way of rewarding their efforts .
In an interview with The Hope shortly after the event, the Coordinator of Widows Association in the barracks, Mrs Roseline Alarape affirmed that the present administration in the state has really done a lot for them through various relief packages for the association.
To her, the cheques given to the 30 widows who their husbands died in 2018 would go a long way to alleviate their suffering.
Mrs Ramatu Momoh, one of the beneficiaries informed that since her husband died last year during an operation, she has not received any help. “I have been suffering alone with my children. But today, to my greatest surprise, I was given the cheque. I will use the money to start trading. I am elated”.
Also speaking was Mrs Binta Dipo who appreciated God for the lives of the fallen heroes and for sustaining those they left behind.
However, some of the ex-service men who spoke in separate interviews with pressmen called on the government to pay more attention to their welfare.
One of them, Lasun Joseph Olugbade said he wants the federal government to take action on their benefits. “We served for thirty five years with all our strength, therefore we deserve a better treatment “.
Another ex-service men who introduced himself as Lawrence Adelusi maintained that many of them had laid down their lives for peace to reign worldwide while many of them are suffering from sicknesses that require drugs and medical attention, hence the need for government to take more action and make their welfare top priority.
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