A news analysis by Chijioke Okoronkwo, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
The 2023 Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration, which was held on Jan. 15, featured the usual and traditional activities—parades and laying of wreaths across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
In Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari led Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, to lay wreaths at the National Arcade, Eagle Square, Abuja, to commemorate the day.
The festival is to honour Nigeria’s fallen heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the First and Second World Wars, the Nigerian Civil War, internal security operations as well as Peace Support Operations around the world.
A unique and noble initiative debuted among activities that heralded the 2023 Armed Forces Remembrance Day; it added colour and verve to the celebration.
That novel and grand event is Paintballing Festival held on Jan. 14 at The Cardboard, Three Bridges Park, Idu Industrial Layout, Abuja.
The Paintballing Festival was organised by Forest Hunters, a non-governmental organisation, in collaboration with the Nigerian Armed Forces—the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Air Force; and Defence Headquarters.
Paintballing is a simulation of a live-combat scenario using dummy ammunition with paint bullets, among other things.
The objectives of Paintballing include capture the flag, attack and defend, total annihilation and protect the president among others.
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Lucky Irabor, who presided over the ceremony, handed over awards to the navy team who emerged champions after defeating the army team in the final.
Prior to the final, there was also an exhibition game by the Professional Association of Paintballers in Nigeria.
Irabor congratulated members of the armed forces especially the veterans.
“Those we consider to be our forebears in the services of the armed forces for a very good work that have done; which has made the nation to set out Jan. 15 of every year to honour them as the Armed Forces and Remembrance Day celebration.
“This is because they have committed to the service of this nation in the manner that the sovereignty of Nigeria has been sustained.
“Many of our forebears have paid the supreme sacrifice; and they are long gone; a few others are alive and kicking.
“And in order to let them know that their services are valued, the nation has set aside the Jan. 15 of every year to remember them and indeed, honour them,” he said.
The defence chief said that as a prelude to the Armed Forces and Remembrance Day celebration, there were series of events that would lead to the climax.
According to him, Paintballing Festival is one of such innovations introduced into Remembrance Day.
“Two days ago, we had the gulf tournament which was packaged to honour our veterans.
“I am glad to announce that they were there in their numbers playing gulf; what a delight it was.
“So, tonight, the event we have witnessed is to also honour them; to let them know that their services will never be forgotten.
“So, I am proud that we have been able to put this together in partnership with the Forest Hunters who of course, came up with the idea and suggested that we partner with them,’’ Irabor said.
He commended Bayo Omoboriowo, Project Lead, Forest Hunters, for packaging the event.
He said that Omoboriowo, alongside his team in Forest Hunters, had given the armed forces a 30 per cent rebate for any use of the arena.
The CDS said that Paintballing would henceforth feature in the annual Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration with requisite modifications.
He said: “ I will like to also say that going forward, we will do everything possible to partner with the Forest Hunters; making it an annual event as we remember our fallen heroes and of course, the armed forces every Jan. 15.
“Now, Paintballing, wherein in 1960 or thereabout, Mr Charles Nelson was forward looking enough; being a worker in a paint industry to design a programme of this nature which, over the years, has evolved to what we saw earlier this evening.
“I am delighted that here in Nigeria, we will do further modifications to suit our environment and I think that this location, where we are having the premier edition, is a very unique position that affords us the privilege.
Providing an insight into the maiden edition of the festival, Omoboriowo said it was conceived on a short notice when he met with the CDS and discussed the idea of honouring the fallen heroes.
He said he had been very passionate about the military and security of Nigeria and passionate about Nigeria as a nation.
“Forest Hunters recognises the dedication and sacrifices of the men and women of the Armed Forces of Nigeria in preserving the security the country, promoting national integration and diversity.
“This festival is to appreciate the valiant efforts of the living and fallen heroes of Nigeria, using paintball as a sport to encourage team building, strategic thinking and physical and mental fitness.
“I believe so much in the future of Nigeria; and I believe the future of Nigeria can only be possible by the efforts we make as individuals; the government cannot do it alone; the people cannot do it alone; it is synergy.
“And for me, I have come to partner and collaborate with the service chiefs and anybody that is willing and interested in building a better Nigeria,” he said.
The project leader said that future of Nigeria belonged to every Nigerian; hence the need for synergy to move the country forward.
He said that the CDS, who believed in young people and believed in Nigeria, bought into the idea and gave all the support needed to bring it to fruition.
“I want to appreciate everyone that played on that field today; that field was built in seven days; everything you are seeing here was done just in two weeks.
“We are building the future of Nigeria…we believe we can convert the history of Nigeria and turn to a story we can all celebrate,’’ he said.
A paintballer, who pleaded anonymity, said that Paintballing Festival, if incorporated into the annual Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration, would promote team work and interpersonal relations among personnel of the armed forces.
He said it would enhance the fitness and combat readiness of Nigerian armed forces.
Observers say the introduction of Paintballing Festival as part of the annual Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration is a quintessential mark of honour to the fallen heroes.