Our Lost Soldiers: Why Nigerian Soldiers Are Not Recognized
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The pilot of the flight announced their presence over the PA system telling the passengers about the military soldiers on board, the announcement was met with a standing/sitting ovation. I had never seen or heard anything like that before. I mean I had seen it in Hollywood movies, but to witness it was another thing.
Fast forward several thousand miles to Nigerian and it is the reverse. When a soldier walks into a room his looked at with disdain, with contempt and with apprehension.
The fact is that Nigerians for whatever reason do not like their military soldiers and do not respect them. But who can blame them, the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word Nigerian Soldier is not a man fighting for freedom in foreign lands while selflessly sacrificing themselves for their fellow brother as is depicted in Black Hawk Down or Saving Private Ryan Hollywood movies.
Nope, instead it is the image of a poor man on the street of Nigeria, harassing and flogging civilians for daring to question their authority, the image of an NYSC soldier or soldiers barking exercise commands but with an ironically heavy pot belly, the image of several decades of military dictators Abacha, IBB and others that have pilfered and raped Nigeria dry.
That’s what comes into the mind of Nigerians, not ECOMOG where they helped fight for freedom in Liberia and Sierra Leone in the 90s, not the soldiers deployed to the global UN peace seeking mission in Sudan and definitely not the ones that have sacrificed their lives on numerous occasion for their country. Nope. Despite being under-paid and under-equipped they are also under-appreciated and under-recognized by us all. You, me and the leaders of our country.
That’s why when Lt. Odushina Oluwafemi died a few days ago, his death caught a few seconds on the world wide web and quickly disappeared to oblivion. Lt. Odushina Oluwafemi a soldier who served as part of the UN peace keeping forces in Darfur, who got sent to Pakistan for additional training course only to be deployed to Maiduguri in March 2014 were he met his untimely death a few days ago while battling the better equipped boko haram terror group.
But will the country honor him, will the media recognize him, will you or I blink an eye. The fact is nobody knows, but if anything of the past 10 or so years is to go by, then it will be business as usual. Just another dead useless Nigerian soldier.
But we have the power to change that, we have the power to highlight the good soldiers over the bad ones. The government has never done a good job in doing that, we don’t give out purple heart type awards like the US does to honor soldiers and if we do it gets drowned over the noise of the honors we give former military dictators and soccer players.
We don’t even have a proper veterans day. Why? I mean for all the holidays we celebrate in Nigeria we don’t have a day that every Nigerian not just a few officials recognize soldiers that are putting their lives on the line! And no the January 15th armed forces remembrance day that largely goes unnoticed every year does not count! We need a USA Veterans type day, where the entire nations stops to recognize our soldiers…entire nation!
And the media, you and me, we have to start putting faces to Nigerian soldiers dead or alive that are making sacrifices, because while we wait on the government to wake up, that might be the only way they will ever get recognized.
You see at the end of the day, the mere fact that a man or woman is willing to give their life to protect a country is worth applauding. And even though there might be bad ones amongst the bunch, we should keep applauding so that the good ones can hear the applause and be recognized.
Let’s start recognizing and respecting our local soldiers. And we can start with Lt. Odushina Oluwafemi.
Written By Okechukwu Ofili of ofilispeaks.com
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