IT was heartwarming somehow to learn that the Nigeria Air Force had acquired some new warplanes as part of its armory. Ostensibly, this is to prosecute the Boko Haram war and as I watched the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Adesola Amosu, on television talking about the latest acquisitions, I thought about the sacrifice and commitment of our soldiers in keeping our country safe. There must be something inherently wrong with our psyche as Nigerians in wishing our country bad. It breaks my heart to see some citizens gleefully share stories about casualties in the ongoing Boko Haram offensive on social media and pointedly ignore our soldiers’ success. As a matter of fact, many, sadly, do not think of them as Nigerian soldiers defending our country but rather see them as just earning their daily bread. An example was what happened in Gombe on Sunday, February 15, when some residents reportedly hailed Boko Haram terrorists as ‘tough men’ before our soldiers flushed them out later in the day. Of course, our soldiers have not been totally innocent of some disgraceful actions as we live with the consequences of such till date. Their intervention in governance clearly set us back as a nation just as allowing themselves to be used as pawns by politicians in ruining Nigeria. Similarly, Nigerian soldiers did not cover themselves in glory by fleeing the war front as we have seen in the current offensive in the north east, a fact that a Nigerien official rubbed in last week. Probably we might not blame the current soldiers more for this, after all, a General whose civil war memoirs and subsequent books usually have the possessive ‘My’ was shot in the buttocks as well when fleeing the war front. Largely, however, our soldiers deserve better than the stick some citizens give them consistently. One of the nicest things President Goodluck Jonathan did was the Valentine’s Day dinner he hosted last Saturday for widows and children of soldiers who died on duty fighting Boko Haram. Seeing pictures of the president carrying these kids with some sitting on his laps is a reminder that the good deeds of the men and women dedicated to keeping Nigeria stronger will never be forgotten. The president, however, should do more. Reading reports about the miserable meals our soldiers are served as published by the International Centre for Investigative Reports (ICIR) as published last year and the ignoble accommodation provided for them are enough discouragement for anyone interested in joining the military. Similarly, no further incentives are needed for those currently serving not to fight with their entire being since we don’t seem to care enough for their welfare. Stories of misappropriated and embezzled funds meant for soldiers’ welfare and purchase of arms are too common now to be ignored. My earliest memory of soldiers was the usual remembrance parade in the early 1980s that I actually contemplated a career in the military. While I pursued other things, it never stopped me from watching the military with keen interest. Seeing close hand also the way Americans treated their soldiers who died during the Iraq war in 2004 when an entire community usually celebrate them not minding whether they support the war or not showed how we can better appreciate our soldiers. In 2010, as a guest of the Directorate of Army Public Relations Annual Conference in Kaduna, the young soldier who was assigned to pick me from the airport demonstrated exemplary professionalism. He drove smoothly observing traffic rules and refused to do anything illegal even when we were caught in a traffic jam. He told me the story of his service in Somalia as part of the United Nations peacekeepers and his pride in putting on the uniform. It is quite possible that he put up a show that day but his willingness to submit himself to civil authority when he should do so was a pointer to an Army willing to operate within the confines of democracy. My invitation as a guest speaker that year came via then Brigadier General Chris Olukolade, then the Director of Army Public Relations. Now, a Major General, Olukolade, currently Director, Defence Information, is one of the finest breed of our soldiers who truly exemplify that saying ‘an officer and a gentleman.’ To others who we might never see their pictures or read their profiles but who will pay the supreme price to keep us safe, our hearts and prayers are with you. Keep up the good work.