President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday joined the military troops fighting the Boko Haram insurgency to commemorate the 57th Independence Day celebrations. A statement by the Senior special Assistant to the President on Media, Malam Garba Shehu revealed that the Presisdent choice to celebrate the anniversary with the troops in honour and appreciation of the courage and sacrifices of members of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
The president was joined at the event by the Governor Kashim Shettima, the president’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, Chief of Defence Staff, General Olonisakin, Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Abubakar Sadiq, Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas, Theater Commander, Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahir and the Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Umar Garbai El-Kanemi among other dignitaries.
According to Malam Garba Shehu, Prsident Buhari, warned the military to discharge their responsibilities with dedication or end up being the losers.
“You must stand firm for your country. The centre is determined to hold. You must be loyal to the centre. If Nigeria breaks, you are the first line of losers, so you must stand firm for yourselves and for the country. The security of the country is in your hands and in the hands of God.
“If you don’t stand firm, you will be the biggest casualties. I assure you that if Nigeria doesn’t exist, the first to be insecure are the law enforcement agencies, because no matter how many parts Nigeria will be divided into, nobody will take an old colonel or general to preside over his locality, not to talk of him getting pension or gratuity.
“Even for selfish reasons, your loyalty has to be for the centre first, and the centre will hold.
“I assure you that as long as I live and as long as I legitimately participate in this system, I will make sure that your rights as Nigerians, and loyal Nigerians, will be guarded jealously.
“I expect in return from you loyalty, and loyalty is from the bottom up; from the private to the corporal, to the sergeant and so on up to the generals commanding formations and to service chiefs, otherwise the centre will not hold and this centre is determined to hold.
“Those who are making noise were not born, so they don’t know what we went through. They don’t know. I like to remind you that whatever happens, you are the first line of defence of the citizens wherever they live.
“This administration is prepared to protect all citizens residing in all parts of the country,” he was quoted to have said.
The statement added that the president commended the fortitude of the wounded soldiers who were receiving treatment and wished them quick recovery after meeting them in a special tent.
It also said Buhari inspected military equipment, both those that were recently acquired and those that had been refurbished, as well as some of the new acquisitions of the Nigerian Air Force, including night-vision Mi 35 attack helicopters.
Shehu said the president opted to celebrate the anniversary with the troops in honour and appreciation of the courage and sacrifices of members of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
According to him, the ceremony was marked with a display of military hardware and a show of air power by the Air Force at the Maimalari Military Cantonment, which houses the headquarters of the Theatre Command, Operation Lafiya Dole.
Observing that it was the first time the ceremony had taken place outside the nation’s capital, Shehu said Buhari in his impromptu speech after inspecting the military guard of honour, hailed the gallantry of the Armed Forces for the successes so far recorded in the fight against terrorism in the North-east.
He also said the president commended the military for putting the unrest in the Niger Delta under control, assuring it that the country’s Armed Forces would be equipped with the best the country could afford.
“I assure you that in spite of my health failures in the last six months, I have never forgotten how much you mean to this country. I assure you that under this leadership, there will be available resources as much as the country can afford to support your operations.
“As long as you live and in service, your rights will be guarded jealously,” the president was further quoted as saying.
The statement added that the president encouraged members of the three arms of the military to return the gesture by being steadfast and loyal.
It noted that the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin, in his welcome speech at the ceremony, commended the president for caring about the Armed Forces.
“He assured the president that the country’s military would continue to be loyal to the administration and expressed its readiness to guarantee the sovereignty of the nation and the security of its people.
“The CDS said the visit by the president would reinvigorate the morale of the Armed Forces, adding that with better morale, they will fight better.
“The president was joined in cutting the Independence Day anniversary cake by Governor Kashim Shettima, the president’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, Chief of Defence Staff, General Olonisakin, Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Abubakar Sadiq, Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas, Theater Commander, Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahir and the Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Umar Garbai El-Kanemi,” the statement added.