There is a general saying that as humans we are less appreciative of the science involved in having a peaceful sleep and waking up peacefully every day. Most religious people hold that the chemistry behind it is more of divine intervention. Atheists on the other hand are of the view that this exercise is the exclusive work of the human brain. Both may be right but who or what then is responsible for the passion of a man willing to die trying to preserve and protect the safety and lives of others?
Among us all, lie individuals who have taken up the responsibility to ensure we all can go to bed and have both eyes closed; among us are men and women who may also be in debt of the natural responsibility of providing for their family but choose to jettison this responsibility on the altar of patriotism and love for country.
Few years ago after my university education, I joined the ‘labour market’ in search of employment. After a long period of fruitless efforts my uncle advised me to enrol in the military recruitment exercise that was ongoing at the time. I bluntly disagreed with him on this suggestion. Firstly, I do not admire such a death wish. How will I willingly, without being under duress, die for a cause that isn’t directly of my doing? Secondly, the military men I knew then painted the picture of bullies who found joy in taking advantage of helpless citizens for personal entertainment or aggrandizement. This, to me, wasn’t my calling.
But today, I know better. I have learnt to appreciate and respect the uncommon zeal of those who choose to defend the integrity of the territory of our dear country. I have come to realize that we all have a responsibility to ourselves and our country and while some may feel too weak to take up the barrel and fight for its sovereignty, the ones who do so deserve our support and encouragement.
Recently I came in contact with Ahmed somewhere around Ikeja, in Lagos State. Ahmed is one of the few soldiers who survived the menace of the terror group Boko Haram in the ongoing war against the insurgents. Mid-last year, he and other members of his group were ambushed during an operation that turned out to be a bad Intel. His team members were immediately executed while he was beaten blue-black then kidnapped. While one would have expected the Nigerian Army to send a rescue squad to help, the commander of his battalion issued an arrest order against his family. What happened was that when the reinforcement team got to the scene of the ambush, they met the lifeless bodies of his colleagues and couldn’t locate him; thus the immediate thought was that he betrayed his colleagues and was a party to the attack, hence he was declared a mole.
Ahmed’s wife was arrested and locked up under intense interrogation. She was treated as an accomplice and an enemy of the state but even in the midst of severe interrogations, she continued to preach the innocence of her husband and herself. Meanwhile, Ahmed as a guest of Boko Haram was put under chains and tortured several times to give details about the military operations.
Ahmed was in detention for over six months and so was his wife. His children suddenly began life as ‘orphans’ and had to strive to feed themselves. Payments, including allowances had stopped coming and even if the hadn’t, their mother who had the right to receive such was under lock and key. After three months of intense struggle, Ahmed’s family came for the children.
It was after a successful raid on one of the insurgents’ hideouts, and the arrest of one of the sect’s key men, that he confessed during interrogation that they have a kidnapped military personnel. Ahmed was rescued and the his wife was let go.
As Ahmed recounts his personal ordeal, I asked him a question on what he will do should he be called up once again to fight for Nigeria. He looked at me and smiled, removed his shirt and showed me a long mark that crossed from his chest round to the back of his neck and said ‘Oga, I swear Boko Haram na small thing, I don pledge to die for this country and if I still dey alive then I never fulfill my pledge” (Sir, Boko Haram is not rocket science, I made a pledge to die for this country and as long as I’m alive then I haven’t fulfilled that pledge).
Ahmed’s response moved me to tears and I had to ask why he would return to the warfront even after the treatment his wife got. Ahmed responded by clearing the command of any wrongdoing; he said if he was in their shoes he would have done worse because most of the failed military operations are handiwork of moles and saboteurs in their midst.
Like Ahmed, their are tens of thousands more who have pledged to liberate this country from the grip of terrorism or die trying. There are many more unsung heroes who have laid down their lives to ensure the continuous existence of our country. While we watch matches, dance at clubs, talk and share jokes, they stand at the forefront, confronting the beast that seeks to consume us all.
As some Nigerians plan to march in support of our troops who continue to keep sleepless nights mapping strategy and setting traps for the blood hungry Boko Haram, the least we can do is show our affection and solidarity for the sacrifice these ones make. We should also endeavour to move a step further and show love to their families and loved ones who they have been forced to leave behind while obeying the clarion call.
Fellow Nigerians, let no one speak ill of these ones; let no one cast aspersions on their shortcomings. They should be treated as gods as we all are forever in their debt.
About the Writer: Adekoya Boladale is a political scientist and scholar on good governance, a social commentator and consultant on political and intra governmental affairs. He is the Convener, Advocacy for Better Leadership (ABEL), Nigeria. You can engage with him at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @adekoyabee and on Facebook