There was a mild drama and slight panic yesterday during the ’21-Gun Salute’ at the Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration and wreath-laying ceremony in Abuja, as the Presidential Guards were forced to form a protective shield around President Goodluck Jonathan.
The event, which took place at the National Arcade, involved the rifle of a soldier in the ‘firing party of the gun salute,’ which is one of the key rituals of the annual event.
The 2015 Armed Forces Remembrance Day with the theme, “Appreciating the Nigerian Armed Forces,” started at 10 a.m. with the arrival of the president, who is also the grand patron of the Nigerian Legion.
Upon the president’s arrival, there was a general salute, rendition of the National Anthem and inspection of parade.
Prayers were also offered for the repose of the souls of departed heroes and for peace, security and unity of the nation by Christian and Muslim clerics.
Shortly after the prayers, the president laid a wreath, followed by Vice-President Namadi Sambo, Senate President David Mark, and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Tambuwal, was absent.
Jonathan and other top government dignitaries took turn to lay wreaths at the foot of the monument of the ‘Unknown Soldier’- a symbolic gesture in honour of the nation’s fallen heroes from active military service.
However, the drama started when one of the soldiers in the ‘firing party,’ who unfortunately was on the president’s right side, mistakenly got the butt of his rifle entangled in his military uniform, preventing him from lifting the rifle to his shoulder.
As the scenario was playing out, unknown to the president, who as custom demands, stood in the middle of the ‘firing party,’ made up of soldiers from all the three services of the armed forces, and was looking straight at the monument of the ‘Unknown Soldier’ opposite Eagle Square.
Fortunately, the eagle-eyed security agents were quick to observe that the rifle had tilted the posture of the soldier, causing the barrel and muzzle of the gun to turn towards the president who was standing at the middle of the ‘firing party.’
Alarmed, a plain-clothed security agent standing behind the firing party immediately intervened from behind the soldier.
He, at first, tried to correct the soldier’s skewed posture and eventually helped to untangle what might have been the lower sling swivel (rope attached to the butt of the gun) from the soldier’s uniform.
Instantly, two presidential guards who were standing behind the president’s aide-de-camp (ADC) also moved in quickly to the right flank of the president, placing their body between the president and the soldier, while the 21-gun salute continued as if there was nothing amiss.
Calm and unruffled, President Jonathan completed the ceremony by freeing the symbolic white doves and signing the 2015 AFRDC register.
However, a senior military officer, who agreed to speak to some journalists on the incident, revealed that “the rifles used by the firing party during the ceremonial 21-gun salute usually have blank bullets”.
Others who also laid wreaths at the event were the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmoud Mohammed, who is a new comer to the system following his recent appointment, Minister of Defence, Lt-Gen. Aliyu Gusau (rtd), and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Bala Mohammed.
Written For http://www.globalruns.com