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Atiku Abubakar Writes In Honour Of Nigeria’s Fallen Heroes.

Atiku Abubakar.
Once again, it is that time of year set aside for us Nigerians to honour members of our country's Armed Forces who fought in the first and second World Wars, the Nigerian Civil War and those who served or are still serving in different theatres of war, notably the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria. 

While many of us took time off from work and other preoccupations to be with our families over the Christmas and New Year holidays, many Nigerian soldiers and members of other security agencies were in the front lines, ensuring that we were safe, protecting our lives and property, especially in the light of the security alerts over the threat of terrorist bombing during the celebrations. While we ate and drank, they were lying in the trenches, watching out for and poised to quench any sign of trouble. Some have been away from their families, not just during the holidays but for months on end. Some have yet to set eyes on their newborn children. 

In addition to these are those security personnel missing from the dining tables and warm embraces of families and loved ones, not because they were in the frontline but because they have fallen in battle. They made the ultimate sacrifice: giving their lives that the rest of us may live in peace and safety. They died that we might live. 

Unfortunately, the frequent headlines about Boko Haram and other violent attacks in the northeast and other parts of Nigeria can submerge the gallantry of our security personnel. As we all know, good news is hardly regarded as news. Little is heard or read about the exact numbers of soldiers who die in the defence of our country. Hardly anything is told of their acts of bravery and their moments of exceptional valour.

I recently was informed that on Wednesday, January 10, our gallant Troops of Operation Lafiya Dole deployed around Gamboru Ngala successfully averted what would have been a major devastating suicide attack to be carried out by three female Boko Haram terrorists against innocent citizens in Gamboru town in Gamboru Ngala Local Government Area of Borno State in the early hours of Tuesday.

I admire the bravery of members of our armed forces, and celebrate their hard efforts to keep us safe. My prayer on this day is to see a time soon when the guns and the armoured tanks lie idle because we have no more battles left to fight.

My hope for our country is to see a time when neighbours of different tribes and tongues saw one another as brother and sister, when Christians and Muslims regarded each other as one under God who created all, when citizens could express opinions and grievances freely, then there would be no need for insurgency or uprising. We would all live together in peace and harmony. And, yes, our armed forces would have little to do!

We must never take for granted the great sacrifice that these brave men and women have made or are making. We must never forget them or their loved ones. On this Armed Forces Remembrance Day, I call on Nigerians all over the world to show respect and love to our security personnel by showing respect and love to one another. When we all live in peace and unity and love, we not only enable steady development and progress in our great country, Nigeria, but we minimise the unnecessary pain, grief and loss of life among our beloved armed forces, who have bravely signed up to keep us all safe and secure. Our fallen heroes and their families are not the only ones who suffer. We all are victims of those who do not want our progress and development and perpetually pit one ethnic or religious group against the other. It is time for Nigerians to remember to say no to divisions and acrimony caused by people with only their selfish interests at heart.

Atiku Abubakar was Vice President of Nigeria, 1999-2007

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