By Tola Sarumi
The army is much like Nigeria – the top brass does what it likes, the little guys may grumble but more often than not, nothing much gets done about it. Except the little guy here is at the forefront of this war we must win.
I don’t need to go into details about the atrocities Boko Haram has committed, even if a cursory glance is all you’ve afforded a newspaper or website recently, you’d know.
Unfortunately, it has not been in the interest of the powers that be to unify the country against this monster or to encourage us to support our troops in tangible ways. We musn’t gloss this thing over; hard questions need to be asked. We need to know why our troops are fighting with sub par protection, weaponry etc, what are the aftercare provisions for troops wounded or killed in battle and their families?
We need to ask.
But, there’s a war going on outside in which no man is safe. Boko Haram wants to kill us all, let’s not get that confused. Our Southern cities are “safe” because it appears they do not have the motivation to travel down there and who will put his life on the line to halt their progress? How many of us are cut like that? I’m not trying to say those of us not signed up to the military are weak, no. But I’m ready to shout out to the soldier, the man who doesn’t know that he’ll see tomorrow, the man who knows he doesn’t have the best of what he deserves because someone else decides to take it all for himself. I want to shout out to that Nigerian soldier who may think ordinary Nigerians don’t care.
I’m aware of the uneasy relationship the military has had with Nigerians, of the deep chasm that exists between the army and the people but we have to at some point take care of our own, the country cannot afford a divided stance on the ordinary soldier.
Like the great Chinua Achebe said, the story is greater than the war itself; the warrior is only known when the story teller writes his name in print, this is why the world wars won’t be forgotten, the historians that won’t let us not remember that men barely out of their teens gave their lives for liberation.
I spent almost two-thirds of my life in the UK, I am still awed on Remembrance Day at how veterans, retired and active soldiers are honoured and money is raised for the troops. This is not because the government cannot fund the military nor because corruption has faded the allocated amounts. They seem to understand that to honour their memory, to give time and money towards causes for wounded and active service men (and women) is an act above politics, that you can ask the powers that be what you must but keep on the side of fighting soldier.
So, let the writers write, let those who will question the government continue to do so because all that is necessary. Those of us who don’t write or aren’t built to join the military, what do we do?
We cannot afford to wait for the Generals and their political paymasters to suffer a collective attack of conscience before we act, before we reach out and let the boys in the 7th Division know that their victory is of utmost importance to us. These men need us now.
So, what are you doing? What can you do? Me, I got my little pennies together, convinced my boy to do the same. We hope to sell some t-shirts, host some events and to split the profit evenly with the fundraising efforts. We’d like to encourage Nigerians to write letters, send in unwanted DVDs, books, games and what ever else they’d like to contribute, things that the soldiers can use in their down times.
I’m working on how we can get any money and items raised to the intended recipients, it’s proving difficult to find the right person to speak with. I’ve been passed from pillar to post but I’m not discouraged, I’m on this for real.
We may not raise more than a million Nairas, maybe less but that is beside the point, we’ll raise awareness for the boys. This is what I’m doing, I am tired of kvetching on change, tired of waiting for better things to happen.
Chances are that cynics will descend on this fundraising idea, but if you’re thinking of kicking in some funds, time or effort, don’t let that bother you. You won’t get paid off this, the only thank you due to you will be for a young soldier in Borno to know that he’s not in this alone.
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