President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday shifted the military ceremonies of the National Independence Day to Maiduguri, Borno State, with fresh warning to separatists and a clarion call on soldiers to defend Nigeria’s integrity.
Though his aim was to honour the courage and sacrifices of the Armed Forces and to empathize with the wounded soldiers, he declared that the centre(Abuja) is determined to hold.
Buhari who had said in the 57th anniversary broadcast that his government would not allow the dismemberment of the nation may have rephrased William Butler Yeats ‘things fall apart, the centre cannot hold’ in making the new declaration to troops.
”You must stand firm for your country,” he told the troops.
“The center is determined to hold. You must be loyal to the center. If Nigeria breaks, you are the first line of losers so you must stand firm for your selves and for the country. The security of the country is in your hands and in the hands of God,” he stressed.
The ceremony which was marked with a display of military hardware and a show of air power by the Air Force took place in the Maimalari Military Cantonment which houses the headquarters of the Theatre Command, “Operation Lafiya Dole.”
This was the first time such ceremonies will take place outside the nation’s capital.
In his impromptu speech after inspecting the military guard of honour, President Buhari praised the gallantry of the Armed Forces for the successes recorded in defeating terrorism in the North-East and lawlessness in the Niger Delta and gave assurances that the country’s Armed Forces will be equipped with the best the country can afford.
“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 jealousy,” the President said.
He asked members of the three arms of the military to return the gesture by being steadfast and loyal.
President Buhari reiterated an earlier warning in his National Day Broadcast that the country will not break up under his watch and dismissed those agitating for its division as dreamers who were not born when the country went through a debilitating civil war in which two million lives were lost.
“Those who are making noises 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 front lines of the defence of the citizens wherever they live. This administration is prepared to protect all citizens residing in all parts of the country.”
The President commended the fortitude of the wounded-in-action soldiers who are receiving treatment and wished them quick recovery when he met them in a special tent.
President Buhari also inspected several military equipment, newly-acquired and those refurbished put on display as well as some of the new acquisitions of the Air Force that included night-vision Mi 35 attack helicopters.
In his welcome speech at the ceremony, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin commended the President for showing a lot of care for the Armed Forces.
He assured the President that the country’s military will continue to be loyal to the administration and expressed their readiness to guarantee the sovereignty of the nation and the security of its people.
The CDS said the visit by the President will rejig and boost the spirit of the Armed Forces, assuring that with better morale, they will fight better.
The President was joined in cutting the Anniversary Cake by the host Governor, Kashim Shettima, the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Olonisakin, the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Abubakar Sadiq, the Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas, the Theater Commander, General Ibrahim Attahir and the Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Umar Garbai El-Kanemi.