Our Lost Soldiers: Why Nigerian Soldiers Are Not Recognized

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IMG_20140514_00203310I remember the time, I was on a United Airline flight and several USA military soldiers returning from service were also the flight.

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.

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twitterWritten By Okechukwu Ofili of ofilispeaks.com
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Ofili

Author: Ofili

Words by Okechukwu Ofili of ofilispeaks.com
Follow him on Twitter
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23 comments on “Our Lost Soldiers: Why Nigerian Soldiers Are Not Recognized

  1. Amaka on said:

    Nigerian uniformed personnel have a very bad rep in the country. However we must applaud our soldiers fighting BH cos they are doing what you and I will not do for all the tea in China. We love you boys, go get em!!!

  2. adeshina deborah on said:

    Nigeria’s military is what I see as “beautiful abroad but ugly @ home”. They are alway at the international war front wining battles for the UNO, ECOMOG but here in their country, they are seen as beast with little or no respect. Not their effort thou, dis is what our colonial master created b4 leaving the country.

    • Ofili
      Ofili on said:

      Adeshina I think it is simply perception. The ones roaming the streets end up giving the ones battling a good name. I really do commend their efforts especially based on what they are facing in terms of a dearth of supplies and proper funding. They try. They try.

  3. Elizabeth on said:

    You just brought tears to my eyes this morning Ofili. Thank you so much for recognising our good military officers who sadly go unnoticed and uncelebrated. I am from a military family, that is, dad is military and also my elder brother, so I guess that’s why I find this piece truly thought provoking. Lastly, this young officer killed was my classmate in secondary school and it really hit home cos for the first time I personally know someone killed by this terror group BH. We indeed must stand up as a nation, united to exterminate this evil . God help us.

  4. Paul on said:

    Thank you, Ofili for bringing up this crucial issue. It’s sad that we do not humanize fallen soldiers (and even the heroic ones that are still alive). We never get to hear stories of bravery, sacrifice, and selflessness about them. I think a collective effort from the government, the media, citizens, and the soldiers themselves is needed to address this problem. The government needs to appreciate them more and show us that they appreciate them. The media needs to do more in telling their stories. The soldiers need to stop with the unnecessary civilian harassment. And we as citizens need to appreciate them more because it is no mean feat to be in the service of your country.

  5. Edefe on said:

    May the departed souls of our soldiers lost in battle rest in peace, and may we find the grace, courage and soul to honour those who live amongst us… Thanks for this piece, Okey!!

  6. Ours is a country where soldiers are not a tad recognised but celebrities and gossips deified. Even though a few of them are arbiters of gross misconduct hence the reason why some civilians/victims won’t respect them, they’re one important group we need to revere. In a country where billions are budgeted for security but the soldiers are still under-paid and under-equiped (no thanks to corrupt ogas at the top, terrorists now outwit soldiers of a federation in combat), their everyday toils and sacrifices should be recognised. Thanks for this @Ofilispeaks, I second your motion for an holiday in their honour.
    Adewoyin Joseph latest post is Quick Scribble: A Luta Continua . . .My Profile

  7. Jerry on said:

    May he RIP. Where I’m from, the request for prayers from our friends & fam serving in the N/E JTF far supersedes those from the ECOMOG, OAU, UNO contingents of the past – there was a time getting an armed forces job was celebrated now nobody seems to want a part of it. We have an armed forces remembrance day every Jan 15 but what we see is just religious worships & marching parades with civilians usually apprehensive of attending. Even the serving military brass don’t seem enthusiastic to recognize with the Nigerian Legion after the ceremonies.
    Its like a jungle sometimes but I keep on wondering how we keep from going under.. thanks Sir, God bless Naija

    • Ofili
      Ofili on said:

      I think also that it has to do with the date. January 15th commemorates the day that the biafran soldiers surrendered so there is a bit of bad memories there. At least that’s what me thinks.

      • I believe your thoughts are right. The memory of Biafra is also part of our history. The 2 are separate. I wish more could be done. The conspiracy to hide our history still baffles me. It can never leave us. It is in us. God help this country.

  8. Well said Ofili, and thought provoking as well. May his soul rest in peace, and strength & peace to his loved ones.
    Talking about the soldiers-harrassing-civilians issue, I believe that has seriously been in decline for about a dozen years now. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, there was hardly a day you’d go out and not see a soldier slapping a bus driver or conductor, displaying road rage with motorists, beating up students for wearing fashio combat clothes (camouflage), throwing Fela’s Mom out of a window etc I hardly see or hear of any incidents now……though I admit the Police are still bad.

  9. sky lover on said:

    My dear ofili tnx so much for your wonderful piece. Iam a sldr who has served for 6 months in the Boko haram enclave. I lost several collegues in several attacks. I know the risks I have taken severally to save collegues and they too same. We did not join the Army to be praised, but sureIy a little show of appreciation by those we serve will go a long way in assuring us that what we are doing is not in vain. GOD BLESS!!!

  10. BLESSING OGBU on said:

    I wrote a piece in respect of my friend, Lt. Uchenna Sheridan Onuoha, who was killed in an ambush at Damboa, near Maiduguri on the 8th of July, 2014 by the Borno Haram bastards. I espoused the same view you expressed here and complained bitterly over the lack of recognition of those I regard as the true heroes. I even wrote a poem in his honour titled the Anonymity of Sacrifice. Such us the lot of the Nigerian soldier.

  11. Chidinma on said:

    Okay, so I know 2 teenagers who were interested in signing up for the army. One I’m sure it was just cause it seemed like a good escape after so many ‘JAMBS’, the other seemed interested. One got in, and before I know it starts chanting undying allegiance to the army which I never saw before. I was furious when after few months of I wonder what training they got, they were sent off to face an armed to the teeth fundamentalists. I can’t help but visualise again the innocent child soldiers of the Liberian wars who pranced about the streets of Monrovia, fighting for ‘their father Taylor’ who most probably didn’t give a whiff about them in his bloody quest for power. I pray for my friend, but when he puts up post of an operation where he lost fellow comrades and thanks God for surviving, I can’t help but think…..

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