“I have no regrets fighting to defend my beloved country, but my regret is that I came to this world a Nigerian.”
He is a gallant looking old man, six feet tall, good body build. I looked into his eyes, it was a fearful scene, I need not be told that he is a soldier. He shed tears as he spoke with me about his experience as a soldier. He told me that he joined the army after his school days as a Middle School graduate with S.75 and that being a soldier was his childhood dream. A mere mention of fighting in defense of motherland drives him crazy and boost his morale.
“The Nigeria when I joined the army was the best country in the whole world, our money was stronger than that of the whites and you will see them come here seeking asylum and residency. If you ever been to Jos, they love that environment so much. Then we were thought to know that military has no business being in government, so thinking of a coup is an aberration. It was midnight of 14th December, I was with my wife on bed enjoying each other, when colleagues knocked on my door, calling”, ‘Orders from GOC, report immediately.’ “I quickly put on my trouser, dressed up and jumped into the waiting Military Range Rover. Seated in the vehicle was my very good friend, Danladi. He was full of life though I frowned. He asked why I frowned and I whispered into his ears that I it was when I was about enjoying my wife that the rude knock landed on my door and I jumped out. He shouted me at me asking, ‘so you are already banging your wife over a six-month-old baby? Dan iskar’ and told him that I can’t go after prostitutes. We both laughed it over and continued the journey. We were taken to Lagos and on board a flight straight to Congo on a peacekeeping mission.”
“Every night that we arrive at the war front, I remembered my six month old baby girl, Chiamaka. I loved her so much and call her my mother. My platoon always posted me in same place with Danladi. He is such a courageous fighter. He never runs from attacks. We had an easy sail during the period for about three months until one night; we were going to Mali and ran into ambush on our way. A mine scattered our vehicle and I was trapped by a rope that wound round my body. I couldn’t even do anything because the more I try, the painful it becomes. I thought I would die, not of gunshot but of that naughty trap. Many of our soldiers died, I even thought that Danladi too had died, but I was sure that he will look for me if he was alive. Thirty minutes later, Danladi came looking for me. I heard his whisper and replied faintly; he traced me down. He used his jackknife to cut off the rope that trapped me and while he bent down to lift me up the trench, I heard a gunshot and a splash of blood. Danladi was hit on the head and he fell to the ground with his head scattered beyond recognition. In a jiffy, my weariness vanished, anger came in, I became wild. I held his hands as if he can just manage to reach the base for emergency. I kept calling Danladi, Danladi by my dearest Danladi is gone. I lost value for life because without him, I thought I can’t find another friend to relate with. His elder brother, a Colonel helped me at recruitment. He assisted in writing my tests for evaluation. I remembered that If he had not come to rescue me, he would not have become a victim, he was already safe. I shot sporadically in all direction like a mad soldier. When my bullets finished, I carried his gun and shot with the intent to kill, whoever was near that killed my friend. I searched everywhere but till daybreak, 7.00am, I didn’t see anybody. When I was able to see clearly, I saw several of our men dead on the ground, killed by the mine into which our vehicle ran. I discovered that was the lone survivor. I couldn’t get through to our base until after six hours of trecking across a distance of about one hundred kilometers. There I saw a Ghanian contingent and used their communications equipment to call the base and a rescue Helicopter came. Though the new commander that I served asked to go back and rest, but I begged the commander to let me keep fighting till death comes since I lost my dear friend, colleague and brother. I was bent on taking my pound of flesh on Malians for killing my friend and I did just that. When we heard of a possible ambush along our route, I begged the commander to let me go on suicide mission to dislodge them. I was reluctantly allowed to go but I was lucky. While they were busy spying on our vehicle where we stayed, they never knew that I had sneaked from behind, fearlessly and shot the rebel officer, manning their armoured carrier and killed sixty five Malian rebels in a swoop. My CO was marveled when I drove their armoured carrier to him and my action made the mission a delight for others.
After the exercise, we returned to Nigeria. Danladi’s children were the first that I saw at the barracks and then my wife. They asked me about Danladi and all I could respond was my uncontrollable tears. My wife knew what we were and asked ‘where were you when death took him?’ and again tears roll down my cheeks saying death was cowardly, Danladi is dead, I couldn’t even see who killed him. His wife died few weeks before we traveled. He was still mourning his wife but love for country made him accept the mission. I assured his two children that the military authorities would take care of their welfare. Two years later, I retired as an RSM, after serving my country for about thirty years.
Years had passed, invested my useful life and energy serving my nation; I cannot even feed myself because of injuries sustained at the war front and Chiamaka is now a full grown woman, and all that sustains me is her marriage. Danladi’s children are more of destitute their education was distorted and welfare also poor. We did our best, doing what we know best for the fatherland, but what did the political class pays us with? We were ignored, molested and made to live beggarly. I love my country and will still fight if called upon, but I will never forgive the political class. They cannot fight a war, they never been to war and so did not recognize our roles keeping the territorial integrity of Nigeria intact. Did you say Armed forces remembrance day? I call it a celebration of hypocrisy. Morale of soldiers is low, they see us languish and fear what their children and wife will suffer, should they die on the battlefield. Oh’ I love the battlefield; it is the testing ground for real soldiers, but I never again pray for war in my country. War is devastating, peace is better. War separates families, makes children become orphaned and wives widowed. War is not palatable, not ideal for any society. God Bless Nigeria
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