By Femi Fani-Kayode
Until you hear the Scotsman play the bagpipes in the early morning mist of the Scottish highlands, you have heard nothing. Until you hear the Irish maiden sing ”O Danny Boy” on the lush green fields of the Emerald Isle, you know nothing.
Until you hear the Welshman sing ”Men of Harlech” in the beautiful valleys of Pontypool and Pontyprid, you have heard nothing. Until you see the English rose blossom and bloom in early spring and you hear the British Grenadiers sing ”God Save The Queen”, you have seen nothing. Until you see the ”Charge of the Light Brigade” and witness the courage of ”the famous 600”, you know nothing.
Until you see the Zulu warrior dance his battle dance on the hills of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, you know nothing. Until you hear the Ashanti and the Yoruba sing songs of praise to the Living God, you have heard nothing. Until you see the Frenchman sing ”La Marseillaise” and ”Je Ne Regrette Rien”, you know nothing.
Until you see brave men fight, suffer and die for a noble and just cause, you know nothing. Until you hear the cries, see the tears, read the words and feel the pain of a wounded, tormented and broken soul, you have seen nothing. Until you feel the passion of the wounded Messiah on the cross at Calvary, you know nothing.
All these unseen things inspire. They stir the spirit and move the soul. They breath and bleed passion. They ARE passion itself. And passion is the essence of life. It is the food of the compassionate and the sensitive spirit. It is the fuel of noble and courageous souls. It is the stuff of which gods and immortals are made. It is our passport to posterity- our key to future glory. Yet nothing and no-one epitomises the power of passion more than the spirit of the warrior.
The warrior is noble and strong. His resolve is firm and his commitment is total. His is to kill, to shed blood and to be killed. His is to die for his king and for a worthy cause. His is to protect and lay down his life for his faith, his nation, his people and his loved ones.
What manner of men are these whose spirit speak of such valour and nobility? Consider the ancient Spartans and the Roman warriors of old. Consider the fearsome Vikings who believed that it was a curse to die a peaceful death and that the only way to heaven was to die violently and heroically in fearsome battle. Consider the greatest of all warriors that ever lived, the noble and gallant Achilles.
Consider Alexander the Great who conquered the world with his sword. Consider King David, the greatest of all the kings of Israel, who was a man of blood and war and yet whom God so loved and who loved God more than any other.
Consider David’s “strongmen” who stood with him through thick and thin and who fought for and protected him to the very end.. Consider their gallant captain, the mighty Joab and the others, Abishai, Asahel, Eleazer, the Tachomonite, Shammah, Benaiah, Eliam, Igal and Uriah the Hittite.
These were David’s ”strongmen”: all great and valiant men of war whose courage was legendary and whose loyalty to their God and their King was unflinching and unquestionable.
Consider Shaka the Zulu, Beowulf the Nordic king and William Wallace the liberator of Scotland. Consider King Henry V of England who routed the French at the battle of Agincourt even though he was outnumbered by three men to one.
Consider Julius Caesar who came, who saw and who conquered. Consider the great Heracles who was a descendant of the mighty Hercules himself. Consider Spartacus, who turned slaves into men. Consider Samson, who slew a troop with the jaw bone of an ass and yet who fell at the touch of a woman.
Consider Gideon who slew the Midianites, Jeptha who sacrificed his own daughter, Joshua who brought down the walls of Jericho and Jehu, who drove his chariot like a madman, who slew the witch-Queen Jezebel and who fulfilled prophesy by ensuring that the dogs ate her flesh and licked her blood in the fields of Jezreel.
Consider those that laid down their lives for our great and noble faith: Paul of Tarsus, the greatest of all the apostles, who brought the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to the gentiles and to the wider world.
Peter the disciple, who became the rock on whom the Church of God was built. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, Stephen, Isaiah, Elijah, Daniel, John and all the other disciples and prophets of old.
For martyrs and heroes that lived and died for God are also gallant warriors who feared not death and who stood firm to the end in defence of their faith.
Consider George Washington who led his troops into battle and whose battle cry was “victory or death”. Consider the charge of the Light Brigade, the sheer courage and discipline of the famous 600, at the battle of Balaclava in the fields of the Crimea.
Consider General Lee at the battle of Gettysberg, Oliver Cromwell at the battle of Nasby, Horatio Nelson at the battle of Trafalgar and King Leonides, with his gallant ”300”, at the battle of Thermopalye. Consider Generals Marshal, Patton, Eisenhower, Rommel and MacArthur in the great battles of the Second World war. Consider the ”Black Scorpion”, General Benjamin Adekunle, with his 3rd Marine Commando at the Battle of Ore. Consider Olusegun Obasanjo in the battle for Owerri. Consider Murtala Mohammed in the liberation of Benin City.
Consider Zhukov at the siege of Leningrad and his courageous exploits at the battle of Moscow. Consider Bernard Montgomery, with his fearless ”Desert Rats”, at the battle of Alamein, Charles De Gaulle at the siege of Paris and Chiang Kai-Shek in the war against Japan. Consider Attila the Hun, Ghengis Khan, Peter the Great, Richard the Lionheart, Salahudeen the Compassionate, Katsumoto the Samurai, Hannibal of Carthage and Hector of Troy.
Consider our gallant amazons and female warriors of old- Boudica of East Anglia, Joan D’Arc of France, Elizabeth 1 of England, Amina of Zaria, Moremi of Ife, Golda Meir of the State Of Israel, Margret Thatcher of Great Britain, Indira Ghandi of India, Queen Idia of Benin, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, Queen Esther of the Medes and Persians, Cleopatra of the Blue Nile and Egypt and Yaa Asantewaa of the Ashanti Kingdom.
Consider Generals Foche and Hague at the battle of the Somme. Consider George Armstrong Custer at the battle of the Little Big Horn, the Duke of Wellington at the battle of Waterloo and Napolean Bonaparte, in his full glory and power, at the battle of Marengo.
Consider Aragorn of Gondor, who won the battle for Middle Earth and who broke the power of the ring. Consider Cyrus of Persia, whose
compassion knew no bounds and who allowed Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Consider Lancelot of the Round Table, the most handsome and courageous of all King Arthur’s knights, who was unbeatable in battle and who captured the heart of the queen.
Consider Aslan, the great Lion of Narnia, whose roar filled the land, whose power drove away the winter and who crushed the white witch in battle. Consider Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the Armies of the North and General of the Felix Legions, who fought with strength and honour, who slew the wicked Emperor and who delivered the City of Rome.
Consider Uthman Dan Fodio who spread his faith with zeal and valour and who built a formidable empire. Consider Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the exploits of his ”all black” 54th Massachusetts regiment at the battle for Fort Wagner. Consider General Mohammadu Buhari at the war in Chad when he drove the enemy from our borders and almost took the City of Ndjamena. Consider Brigadier Halilu Akilu who crushed the Maitatsine and who saved the ancient City of Kano. Consider General Fajuyi who laid down his life for his brother. Consider Colonel Isa Mohammed who secured our eastern borders and who threw the Camerounians out of the Bakassi Peninsular.
Had these great men and women all not stood their ground and had they all not played their role in our collective history, where would the world be today? They sacrificed their today so that we may have our tomorrow.
They lived and died for the sake of others and asked for only one thing in return: that their names should live forever and that we should never forget their noble deeds and their worthy sacrifices.
And we must not forget, nay we dare not forget, for as Martin Luther King once said “if a man is not ready to die for something, then he is not worthy of living for anything”. The warrior is prepared to die for his cause. That is what makes him so noble and that is why he will always have a special place in our hearts.
May the spirit of the warrior and selfless courage fill us all and, like the true warriors that we are meant to be, when the angel of death comes may the Lord give us the strength and boldness to look at him fearlessly in the face and treat him with the contempt and disdain that he deserves- knowing that he has lost his sting and that, by the power of Christ Jesus, he has been conquered and crushed.
When the dark angel comes, as come he must for us all, let us be men and let us die a good death, not cringing and crying like puppies, but like true warriors, fighting to the bitter end. For it is never for the warrior to ask the why: it is only for the warrior to do or die. The warrior does not vanish into the night. The warrior will not go down without a fight.
Permit me to end this contribution with the following counsel. Courage is the greatest of all the virtues and it is the best defence. Regardless of whatever challenges we may face today, like the warrior, we must show courage. We must stay the course, steel our hearts, fortify our faith, shed our fears and march on in the strength and power of the Lord. We must stand firm, refuse to bow, refuse to flinch and we must defy the enemy. We must stand and we must fight.
We must ensure that the good in our land prevails over the evil and that the light overcomes the darkness. That is our hope and that is the challenge before every self-respecting Nigerian today- to scale the obstacles in our land and to bring hope to the hopeless, the vulnerable, the weak, the poor, the deprived and the less privilaged. That is what warriors are meant to do and my prayer is that the Lord grants each and every one of us the prescence of mind and the fortitude to do it. May God bless and defend our nation.