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NADCEL 2012: When The Army Showcased Security And Social Responsibilities
For the first time in the history of the 149 years of existence of the Nigerian Army Day Celebration, a new innovation has been introduced to showcase the Army’s capability of being self-reliant.
It was also an opportunity to show Nigerians that apart from its involvement in checkmating the current security challenges bedeviling the country, the Army can also boast that tax payers’ money is not wasted.
President Goodluck Jonathan, at the occasion held in Kaduna, unveiled an indigenous Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) produced by engineers from the Army with 100 per cent local content.
It was an avenue for the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, to roll out a catalogue of achievements in the area of rebuilding the Nigerian Army in tandem with the Federal Government’s Transformation Agenda.
The welfare of the personnel was not left out, as the Army embarked on series of construction of barracks all over the Army formations throughout the federation, to alleviate the accommodation problem confronting the officers and men of the Nigerian Army which were embarked upon and completed within one year.
The Chief of Army Staff, also rewarded 21 Regimental Sergeant Majors (RSM), who have put in over 32 years of service, with brand new Hilux pickup vans for their loyalty and dedication to service.
President Jonathan, who presented the vehicles to the deserving RSMs, noted with delight the gesture for rewarding hard work, as the Chief of Army Staff informed him that on retirement they would go with the Hilux vans.
Briefing journalists on June 29 on the activities lined up to mark the 149 years of the Army presence in the country, the army hierarchies had said, “We have decided to take this year’s celebration to Kaduna in spite of Boko Haram’s attacks or whatever you call it. We are going to Kaduna because as you all know, Kaduna is home for the Nigerian Army.
“So, we will not sit on the fence and watch the state torn apart by terrorists. We are going there as a counter-insurgency move and what we are going to do there will sound a note of warning to all trouble makers in that state and its environs.”
Army authorities also said they were going to Kaduna not just to celebrate and scare terrorists away, but also to give succour to the people who are in difficulty and in the fear of terror attacks in the state.
Addressing a press conference before the celebrations, Chief of Civil-Military Affairs, Major-General BVT Kwaji, who represented the army boss, said, “The Army Day celebration is an occasion in the calendar of the Nigerian Army that affords the service the opportunity to take stock, assess its performances, interface with its various publics and then set goals for the coming year.
“Themed ‘Partnering the Civil Society towards Improved Security’ we are going to take a serious look at the current mood of the nation at this critical point in our history and then reconstruct the compelling need for the people, regardless of beliefs or ethnic background, to support the service in its fight against terror which has been identified as our common enemy.
The question to address here is how far did the army meet General Kwaji’s address to the press? Or is it only a cheap publicity stunt designed to manipulate the psyche and intellects of the Nigerian masses?
To this end, it might not be out of place to cite what President Jonathan said at the celebration. Commissioning the NA-built armoured vehicle on July 2, Jonathan said that at 149 years of Army’s operations in the country, the service had come of age, adding that the construction of the first indigenous Armoured Personnel Carried (APR) by the service was a no-mean feat that has really put a lot of futuristic appeal on the fighting force. He enjoined the NA corps of engineers, the arrow head of the armoured tank, to use their engineering marvel to find a lasting solution to terrorism and armed insurrections plaguing the land.
At the grand finale on Friday, July 6, Jonathan, represented by his Minister of State for Defence, Erelu (Dr) Olusola Obada, while commending the force for its new level of professionalism, assured the Army command that government would stop at nothing to radically improve the welfare and well-being of personnel, adding that a well-motivated Army is the pride of any nation.
On his own part, the Army boss, Lt-General Ihejirika, said that going by his vision, the NA will, before long, become an army well able to meet all security challenges facing the nation. He also said that while still being amenable to civil control, the army will not hesitate to rise up against any armed insurgency that might want to destabilise the federation.
Fielding questions at the Murtala Mohammed Square, venue of the grand finale, Nigeria’s Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, expressed satisfaction at the height the army has attained in its 149-year presence.
“With what I saw today, the Nigerian Army, under General Ihejirika, has really repositioned itself to meet the kind of security challenges staring us in the face today. Of course, you must know that the present terrorist phenomenon is a new form of insurgency that requires some technical re-adjustments for the security operatives to tackle. And the army is showing visible signs of taking the lead in this fight against the present insecurity in the country,” he noted.
At the week-long celebration, even NAOWA lived up to expectations because over 2,000 decease-stricken people of the state capital and about 1,000 in Jaji, a small military town, were diagnosed and treated freely of diverse ailments.
Made up of people of different age groups, majority of them received free eye tests and ophthalmic treatments, while many more were treated of other afflictions such as malaria, diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid fever, toothaches, stiff necks, meningitis, bacterial and viral infections.
While mosquito-treated nets were distributed mostly to pregnant women, others received dental and oral treatments while retroviral drugs were given to HIV-positive patients.
In her opening remarks, NAOWA president and wife of the Nigerian Army boss, Mrs Nnenna Ihejirika, said that her association decided to undertake the provision of free medical treatment in this year’s edition of NADCEL as a way of showing motherly care and attention to people with ill-health, adding that as mothers within the army community, they would be failing in their roles if they did not care for the afflicted members of the society in the course of the celebrations.
At Adonai Ophanage and NA 44 Reference Hospital, Mrs Ihejirika showed displeasures at the level of deprivation and suffering of the people. Speaking about children at the orphanage, Mrs Ihejirika said the conditions of the orphans and the vulnerable could be mitigated when wealthy people in Kaduna State commit their enormous resources to the well-being of the under-privileged instead of sponsoring terrorists and militia groups to cause trouble in the state.
Mrs Ihejirika’s NAOWA donated items of clothing, food supplies and health products to Adonai Orphanage and NA 44 Reference Hospital to the tune of N3 million.
In his own remarks about the army and the annual celebration, Governor Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State reminded the army hierarchies that since Kaduna is home for the force, the army must do all it could to protect the state from terrorist incursions, adding that anything short of this security ideal would be inimical and counter-productive to army presence in the state.
At a state banquet to close the week-long ceremony, Governor Yakowa, who had served in the Ministry of Defence in the 90s, said, “I have no doubt that our armed forces have embarked on programmes designed to bring them closer to the people. Of course, army transformation started many years before the ongoing national Transformation Agenda began. I know that the army will always use the gains of its transformation and its limitless capabilities to bring succour to Kaduna State, even as I look forward to hosting NADCEL again in no distant time.”