Nigerian Army: Cherished Symbol of National Unity
By Chidi Omeje
“The Nigerian Army has, throughout its history, proven to be a cherished symbol of our national unity, a stout defender of our sovereignty and a credible institution for national development.” – Lt Gen Faruk Yahaya.
Come 6th of July, activities marking this year’s Nigerian Army Day Celebration (NADCEL) will climax in Owerri, capital of Imo State, South East Nigeria. A very important event in Nigerian Army’s calendar, NADCEL is significant in many ways and this year’s edition is quite historic as it marks the 159th year of its existence, and even more momentous considering the multi-faceted internal security challenges the Army is currently battling.
At a press conference held Wednesday at the Army Headquarters, Abuja to herald the week-long annual celebration, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Faruk Yahaya, represented by the Chief of Policy and Plans, Army, Maj Gen Anthony Omozoje, said NADCEL “offers the opportunity to take stock, assess its performance, interface with the public, and set goals for the succeeding year with a view to maintaining a highly professional Army, well trained, combat ready and effectively positioned to perform its constitutional roles”.
According to him, the event is equally intended to celebrate the Nigerian Army’s achievements and to also showcase the Army’s operational activities, as well as its transformational strides in innovation, development, civil-military cooperation, research and technological advancement.
The theme of this year’s celebration is, ‘’Repositioning the Nigerian Army in the Joint Operations Environment: A Panacea for Success in Addressing Contemporary Security Challenges”. This is obviously crafted to reflect the Nigerian Army’s commitment to the important task of safeguarding Nigeria’s territorial integrity from external aggression or internal security challenges.
The Nigerian Army as an indispensable instrument of national power has evolved for over 159 years. The history of Nigerian Army dates to 1863 when Lt Glover of the Royal Navy selected 18 indigenes from the Northern part of the country and organised them into a local force, known as the ‘Glover Constabulary’. In 1865, the constabulary became a regular force and performed both police and military duties for the colonial government. On incorporation into the West Africa Frontier Force (WAFF) in 1901, it became known as the ‘Lagos Battalion’. In addition to this force, the British Government included the Royal Niger Company (RNC), the Constabulary Force in Northern Nigeria in 1886 and the Oil Rivers irregular in 1891.
The new force grew in strength and capability till the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914, during which the unification of the Northern and Southern Regiments came into being and this witnessed the birth of the Nigerian Regiments. The modification continued through different phases of growth and development till the Nigerian Army witnessed an astronomical increase in its strength from 10,500 to 250,000 all ranks during the unfortunate Nigerian Civil war. The Army later downsized in preference to a compact and manageable army which led to the emergence of a 4 Division structure of 1, 2 and 3 Divisions as well as 82 Division, a composite division established in 1975. Interestingly, 82 Division is hosting this year’s Nigerian Army Day Celebration.
Like other armies around the world, the Nigerian Army has continued to review its force posture and structure in line with national security challenges since the end of the civil war to a more efficient structure, better equipped to confront contemporary security challenges within Nigeria and outside the shores of the country.
As the linchpin in the battle against multi-faceted internal security challenges assailing the country, the Nigerian Army has continued to prove its worth as an indispensable symbol of national unity and strength. As a professional, hard-fighting and globally respected force, the NA have restored democracies, brought peace to troubled lands, stabilized the West African sub-region and promoted world peace region through its excellent participation in peace keeping and peace support operations across the world. It has continued to occupy its glorious position in the comity of global defence forces on account of its steadfastness, unwavering commitment, ruggedness and sacrifice.
Nigerian Army’s commitment in stamping out terrorism, banditry and other violent crimes assailing the country and the sub-region is indubitable. Working in synergy with sister services and other security agencies, the NA has been able to stop the very formidable international terrorist organization like ISWAP in its track, in spite of all obstacles and arm sale blackouts on its way. Without doubt, Nigerian Army remains a formidable, unifying, neutral and patriotic national institution which will never pander to ethnic, religious or regional sentiment.
Worthy of commendation is the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Faruk Yahaya for the renewed vigor, pragmatism and commitment he brought into the leadership of the Nigerian Army. His commitment and determination to rid the country of the scourge of terrorism, banditry and other forms of violent crimes are not lost on Nigerians.
Under his able Command, troops have remained dauntless, resilient and selfless in the discharge of their duties as they are provided with quantum of combat and logistics equipment that have been injected into theatres of operations, a circumstance that has evidently turned the tides against the complex array of security threats facing the nation. This is in addition to welfare packages he introduced. This sustained motivation has clearly up-scaled troops’ operational disposition in battle with tremendous exploits resulting in the neutralization of scores of high profile terrorist and bandit commanders with their foot soldiers.
The kinetic and non-kinetic lines of operations in the theatre have also led to mass surrender of fighters and recovery of combat equipment, thereby substantially degrading the terrorists’ fighting capability and freedom of action. Although, we have witnessed a good number of Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists surrender at various times in the past, the current surrendering in droves depicts enormous achievement of the Nigerian Army in conjunction with sister services and other security agencies. The same zeal and commitment are shown by our gallant troops in the battle against terrorists, bandits and other violent criminals in North West, North Central and South East regions of the country.
It must also be noted that like any other human organization, there are bound to be noticeable missteps and out-of-line behavior of some personnel of the Nigerian Army. However, as a disciplined regimental force, the Nigerian Army makes it a point of duty to punish bad behaviors or weed out and bad eggs from the service. It is the reason why it sets up court marshals and other disciplinary measures to beat officers and soldiers into line.
By and large, Nigerians will always be appreciative of the sacrifice of gallant troops of the Nigerian Army who are daily on the harm’s way, taking the bullets on our behalf and defending the country. Nigerians will never forget those gallant officers and men of the Nigerian Army who have laid down their lives in order to defend us. We are proud of them and we will continue to pray for the repose of their gentle souls.
As NADCEL 2022 gets underway, one can only say, Kudos to the brave men and women of the Nigerian Army for all their loyalty and sacrifice to the Nigerian project.
*Chidi Omeje is the publisher of Security Digest (www.securitydigestng.com)