I welcome you to the formal launch of the 2013 Armed Forces Remembrance Day Emblem and Appeal Fund, which is coming barely four days after the tragic helicopter crash in which the country lost a serving Governor, Sir Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa of Kaduna state, now of blessed memory, and a former Army Chief, General Owoye Azazi who last served the nation as the National Security Adviser.
Our sincere condolences go to their families as well as the families of their aides, Dauda Tsoho and Warrant Officer Mohammed Kamal and the pilots, Commander Murtala Mohammed Daba and Lt. Adeyemi Olukayode Sowole who died in the unfortunate accident. I want all the affected families to know that we share in their grief. May the Lord be with you and grant you strength and His unfailing Grace.
In continuation of a proud tradition, we are here gathered today to acknowledge the gallantry and excellent participation of our military men and women in every effort to keep this country safe and secure and protect its sovereignty. Indeed, the challenges and the calls to duty have been many: the first and second world wars, the Nigerian civil war as well as peace-keeping operations in several parts of the world, particularly the West African sub-region.
It is therefore, with humility and gratitude that I address such a gathering as this in honour of our distinguished men and women of the armed forces who have served and are serving our great country and indeed humanity as a whole.
Let me say that we remember today, the heroes that have fallen, but also our serving military men and women. We remember today as always, the sacrifice that our armed forces have made and are still making so our country can continue to live in peace and remain secure.
To those who have served, and those who are still serving, we say thank you for the sacrifice that you have made: sacrifice that is borne out of patriotism, sacrifice that is a strong message of inspiration to the rest of us. And a lesson as well, particularly at this crucial moment, in our lives, when we all need to stand firm, as one.
For me the strongest message in this, is that of unity. The men and women that we remember today were drawn into national service from all parts of Nigeria. They served gallantly regardless of differences in religion, or ethnicity. They were united by the same purpose: to keep Nigeria secure. Their oneness of purpose and spirit reminds us of the significance of national cohesion. Together, we can achieve a lot.
Whatever may be our differences: religious, ethnic or personal, Nigeria is more important. We must be united in rising above our differences, and in promoting values that bind us together. We must refuse to be divided by those who impose ethnic and religious meanings on every national issue. Soon, it will be 100 years since Nigeria emerged as one country. It is a heritage that we all must be proud of; the legacy of our past heroes is something we must cherish as we strive together to leave an even worthier legacy for future generations.
Let me add that the Nigerian Legion, the umbrella body of military men and women who have served this nation gallantly, and some of whom are present here today, is a respectable organization that we cherish and adore. It is an association of men and women who have contributed meaningfully in various ways, to the evolution of the Nigerian military and the pursuit of national stability and progress as well as world peace.
They served this nation in times of war and peace, determined to make the ultimate sacrifice. And many, no longer here, did. And many who are still here, bear many scars: physical and psychological. I salute all of you who are still here today; I salute the courage and commitment of every other member of your special group and the sacrifice that all your families have made.
The Nigerian Legion has every cause to be proud of its heritage and especially its members who have historically provided and are still providing excellent service to the nation even in retirement.
The Armed Forces Remembrance Day is not about the colourful appeal of poppies. It is about the memory that we hold dear, and the gratitude of a nation for lives lost and services rendered.
In this regard, I commend the professional expertise of our military men and women and all veterans especially in providing a secure environment for the socio-economic development of our nation. To those gallant soldiers who lost their lives in the process, we pay tribute to their memories and pray for the repose of their souls.
January 15th every year, remains a special date in the annals of modern Nigeria as that is the date we have set aside to remember our fallen and living heroes.
This annual event serves not only as a forum to remember the dead and celebrate the living, but also an opportunity to show gratitude to their beloved families. For those still serving, it is our way of assuring them that their services to the Fatherland will always be cherished. Today, we begin that process of remembrance. We cannot forget because we are a country of cherished ethics and values. Lest we forget, we have chosen to remember.
I call on our countrymen, wherever they may be, never to forget our heroes. I urge all citizens to reciprocate the sacrifices made by our veterans and heroes to donate generously to the Nigerian Legion. We remember the sacrifices that they have made and are still making, and to all families that have had to make a sacrifice so that this country can be where it is today, we say thank you.
The emblem launch today is meant to appeal to all Nigerians to donate generously in support of the Nigerian Legion. One of the ways we can show appreciation and reciprocate the gestures of our veterans is through generous donations. Your donations in whatever means will surely complement government’s efforts in improving their welfare.
The Federal Government, on its part, remains committed to addressing the challenges of our senior citizens. Particularly we are currently resolving contending issues associated with pension and gratuity of veterans. It is gratifying to note that the Armed Forces pension scheme is working efficiently.
Whilst the Federal Government will not shirk its responsibilities, I call on all State Governors, being the Patrons of the Legion in their respective States, to continue to provide adequate support, concessions and facilities for the benefit of the veterans.
Let me reiterate my call to Nigerians to not only get the emblems and wear them with pride; but to also donate generously towards supporting our veterans.
Distinguished veterans, Ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct pleasure and honour, at this point, to launch the 2013 Armed Forces Remembrance Day Emblem and Appeal Fund.
God bless our country.