President Muhammadu Buhari was in Maiduguri yesterday – to comfort injured soldiers and urge the Armed Forces to defend Nigeria’s unity.
He also promised to support troops on the frontline. It was all during a visit to troops in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, the epicentre of the battle against the insurgent group Boko Haram.
The President, who marked the country’s 57th anniversary with military ceremonies in Maiduguri, said: “This administration is prepared to protect all citizens residing in all parts of the country.”
There was a display of military hardware and a show of air power by the Air Force at the Maimalari Military Cantonment, which is the headquarters of the Theatre Command, Operation Lafiya Dole, the code name for the battle against Boko Haram.
This is the first time ceremonies marking the nation’s independence anniversary have been taken outside the nation’s capital, Abuja.
After inspecting the military guard of honour, President Buhari praised the gallantry of the armed forces for the success recorded in defeating terrorism in the Northeast and lawlessness in the Niger Delta.
He said: “Under this leadership, there will be 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.
“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.”
President Buhari reiterated his National Day Broadcast, warning that the country would not break up under his watch and dismissed those agitating for its division as dreamers.
“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 at the frontlines of the defence of the citizens wherever they live. This administration is prepared to protect all citizens residing in all parts of the country.
“We are here today in Borno State to interact with you (troops) and to celebrate the 57th Independence Day Anniversary. I want to commend you for your sacrifice in the fight against insurgents. I am here as a morale booster and I assure you that we will continue to do our best to support you in the frontline and end all forms of terrorism in our dear country.
“We as government will continue to improve on the economy to create jobs for the teeming youths. We are also determined to kick corruption out of this country. I was a state governor some time ago and Borno was my base. At that time, nobody thought Borno would witness any crisis, but I want to reiterate that we will do our best to restore peace in any part of this great country.
“I personally commend Governor Kashim Shettima for his courage, that he stood firm throughout the criss. I assure you despite my health challenge in the last few months; I never forgot you and how much you mean for this country,” the President said.
During his visit to injured soldiers, the President praised the fortitude of the “wounded-in-action soldiers” who were receiving treatment and wished them quick recovery.
He interacted with them, including Sergeant Owen Eze who was shot in the neck during an operation in Gwoza.
President Buhari inspected military equipment, newly-acquired and those refurbished put on display as well as some of the new acquisitions of the Air Force, including night-vision Mi 35 attack helicopters.
Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Gabriel Abayomi Olonisakin commended the President for showing a lot of care for the Armed Forces.
He assured the President that the military would continue to be loyal to the administration. He expressed their readiness to guarantee the sovereignty of the nation and the security of its people.
The CDS said the visit would boost the spirit of the Armed Forces. He assured them that with better morale, they would fight better.
Gen. Olonisakin added: “Over two years ago when the current leadership of the Arm Forces were appointed by Mr President, we were facing the worst time in our effort to contain one of the greatest setback to our national security.
“The menace of terrorism and insurgency represented by Boko Haram terrorists has brought about wanton destruction of lives and properties as well as destabilisation and displacement of large population in the Northeast.
“It is on record that from the inception of the current leadership of the armed forces, the Boko Haram had controlled several local government areas in the Northeast thereby undermining the sovereignty of the nation.
“But with the current leadership and the support from Mr President, our professional capacity across the two services has been enhanced.presently, all territories under Boko Haram have been reclaimed and librated and government institutions has been reestablished in some of the liberated areas.
“We are now witnessing gradual return of IDPs to their respective ancestral home of their abode.
“This noble achievement under President Muhammadu Buhari has been widely acknowledged and celebrated by Nigerians and the international communities.”
President Buhari cut the anniversary cake. He was joined by Shettima, Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, Gen. Olonisakin, Chief of Army Staff Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Abubakar Sadiq, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas, Theater Commander Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, Department of State Services (DSS) Director-General Mamman Daura and Shehu of Borno Abubakar Umar Garbai El-Kanemi.