By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday in Abuja reminded Nigerians of the need to guard jealously the unity of the nation which was won at great cost.
Buhari made the call when he presided over the wreath-laying at the National Memorial Arcade to mark the end of the 2021 Armed Forces Remembrance Day Celebration (AFRDC).
The event marked the climax of the 2021 AFRDC, which started with the inauguration of the 2021 Armed Forces Remembrance Emblem and Appeal Fund where the president appealed to Nigerians to desist from actions and comments that could jeopardise the unity and progress of the nation.
Buhari, who arrived at the venue of the event at about 10.02 a.m, led Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the leadership of the National Assembly, and the Judiciary as well as Ministers and Service Chiefs to lay a wreath at the Arcade.
On arrival, Buhari, in the company of the Parade Commander inspected the parade by the Army, Navy, Airport and the Nigerian Legion.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that special prayers were offered by both Christian and Muslim military clerics for the repose of the souls of the fallen heroes.
The Director, Army Chaplaincy Services (Roman Catholic), Rev. Father B.B. Passau and Director, Chaplain Services (Protesters), Nigerian Navy, Navy Cpt. B. M. Ajayi offered the Christian prayers while Director, Army Islamic Affairs, Brig.-Gen. S.G. Mustapha offered the Muslim prayers.
The clerics also prayed for an end to the Coronavirus pandemic, insurgency, banditry, other violent crimes, and also prayed for the general progress of the country.
The event also witnessed the bagel of the last, a unique but symbolic aspect of the ceremony that reminds veterans of their departed colleagues and the families of the fallen heroes who had paid the supreme price.
It was observed that after the one-minute silence for the fallen heroes, Buhari and Vice-President, Senate President, Ahmad Lawal and the Speaker, House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamiala laid wreaths at the tomb of the unknown soldiers.
This was followed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Muhammed Adamu; the Minister of Defence, retired Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi, and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Muhammed Bello laid the wreath at the same time.
Others, who joined in laying the wreath, included some cabinet ministers while the service chiefs performed the laying ceremony at the same time followed by the National Chairman of the Nigerian Legion, retired Brig.-Gen. Jones Akpa as well as the representative of Widows of the fallen heroes, Mrs Gloria Umar.
Mrs Umar is the widow of late Major S. K. Umar, who lost his life on Dec. 17, 2015 while defending his fatherland against Boko Haram insurgents in the North East zone.
NAN reports that the Commander, Guard Brigades, invited the president to sign the anniversary register after which he was supported by the other dignitaries to release some white pigeons to signify peace in the land.
NAN further reports that COVID-19 protocols, as laid down by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Coronavirus, were strictly observed at the event which lasted for about an hour. (NAN)