HISTORY AND SIGNIFICANCE OF THE NIGERIAN ARMED FORCES DAY
The Armed Forces Day celebration, also known as Remembrance Day celebration is an event organized every year in order to honour the members of the Nigerian Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air force) who fought in World War I and World War II, as well as those who served or are still serving in various peace keeping operations all over the world. It also includes the remembrance of those who fought in the Nigerian civil war, also known as the Biafran war.
The Armed Forces Day is organised to celebrate both the dead and the living heroes including all those who suffered various deprivations as a result of wars. It recognises their gallantry and seeks to reward their bravery.
The Nigerian Armed Forces Day was initially celebrated on the eleventh of November every year so as to coincide with the Remembrance Day popularly known as “Poppy Day” or “11 – 11” for the First and Second World War veterans in all commonwealth countries.
In Nigeria these days, due to some significant historical developments, the Armed Forces remembrance day is now celebrated on January 15 every year. This change in its celebration to January 15 of every year was done in commemoration of the surrender of Biafran troops to the Federal troops on 15 January 1970, thus signaling the end of the Nigerian Civil War that sought to tear apart the unity of Nigeria.
Over the years, it has become a national ritual when on every January 15 nationwide, military personnel including the Army, the Navy, the Air force and the Nigerian Legion converge in different centres across the nation to celebrate the day and give honour to the fallen and living heroes who hazarded and continue to hazard their lives for the territorial integrity of the nation and for peace to reign worldwide. The event is held at the federal, state and local levels where either serving military officers reside or where living ex-service men occupy.
Several events including release of pigeons to symbolize peace, placing of wreaths, playing of the last post, Remembrance Day parade, shooting of guns and others characterize this memorable day. The officers are usually attired in diverse colours typical of their fields be it Navy, Air force, Army and the ex-service men. Beside parades, placing of wreaths and releasing of pigeons, the event also witnesses religious services in both churches and mosques all over the country.