He therefore asked the military men to stand firm because the country’s security was in their hands and the hands of God.
According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President spoke when he marked the National Independence Day in Maiduguri, Borno State, the epicentre of the Boko Haram terrorism and insurgency, to honour the courage and sacrifices of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
The ceremony, which was said to be marked with a display of military hardware and a show of air power by the Nigerian Air Force, took place at the Maimalari Military Cantonment which houses the headquarters of the Theatre Command, “Operation Lafiya Dole.”
“You must stand firm for your country. The centre is determined to hold. You must be loyal to the centre.
“If Nigeria breaks, you are the first line of losers; so you must stand firm for yourselves and for the country. The security of the country is in your hands and in the hands of God,” the President said.
Speaking after inspecting the military guard of honour, 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 would be equipped with the best the country could 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 are in service, your rights will be guarded jealously,” the President said.
He asked members of the three arms of the military to return the gesture by being steadfast and loyal.
The President reiterated an earlier warning in his Independence Day broadcast that the country would 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 noise 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 line of the defence of the citizens wherever they live. This administration is prepared to protect all citizens residing in all parts of the country,” he added.
Buhari also commended the fortitude of the wounded-in-action soldiers who were receiving treatment. He wished them quick recovery when he met them in a special tent.
He also inspected newly-acquired military equipment and those refurbished put on display as well as some of the new acquisitions of the Nigerian Air Force that included night-vision Mi 35 attack helicopters.
In his welcome speech at the ceremony, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, commended the President for showing a lot of care for the Armed Forces.
He assured Buhari that the country’s military would 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 would boost the spirit of the Armed Forces, assuring him that with better morale, they would fight better.
The President was joined in cutting the anniversary cake by the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari; Olonisakin; the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Abubakar Sadiq; Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas; Theatre Commander, Gen. Ibrahim Attahir; and the Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Umar Garbai el-Kanemi.
Sunday was the first time such ceremonies will take place outside the nation’s capital.
Meanwhile, the usual Presidential Change of Guard Parade that the Federal Government had been organising since 2011 to mark the nation’s Independence anniversary did not hold on Sunday.
The parade featuring soldiers attached to the Brigade of Guards normally holds at the forecourt of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The event usually features military parade, change of guard, 21-gun salute, signing of anniversary register, release of pigeons and cutting of anniversary cake.
Members of the diplomatic corps and captains of industry always join top government officials at such event.
Although there was no official reason for not holding the event this year, Buhari joined the nation’s service chiefs in Maiduguri, Borno State to celebrate the anniversary with troops fighting terrorists in the area.
The Sunday anniversary was the third Independence Day celebration in the life of the present administration.
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