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Bauchi legion farm: A different battlefield for retired soldiers

The silence of soldiers’ guns usually signals the end of wars. But for veterans in Bauchi, it marks the beginning of another battle. The Bauchi…

The silence of soldiers’ guns usually signals the end of wars. But for veterans in Bauchi, it marks the beginning of another battle.
The Bauchi Legion Farm has become a new battlefield of sorts. Here, the enemy is poverty, and retired soldiers must fight for survival through agriculture. And they have proved that though retired, they are not tired.
Without the support of modern farming equipment, the retired soldiers labour on the expansive farmland, which belongs to the Nigerian Legion. The land is located about eight kilometers away from Bauchi town, along the Bauchi-Kano road. It shares boundary with the Bauchi Polo Field.
Most of these veterans, who are in their late 60s or early 70s, said they fought in the Nigerian civil war and other battles.
Sergeant Adamu Kachalla (retired), 65, is one of the over 100 veterans working on the farm. As a typical soldier, he gave instructions to his sons as they harvested groundnuts. It was gathered that the groundnuts would be sold at a village market located few kilometers away from the farm.
Kachalla, a native of Balanga in Gombe State, said he joined the Nigerian Army on July 27, 1968 and retired in a988 after serving for 20 years.
The retired sergeant, who fought in the Nigerian civil war, said they were happy to have contributed in keeping Nigeria one, adding that they were still patriotic and prepared to die for the country.
“We are patriotic, we love Nigeria. That is why you hardly see a criminal in our families. We teach our children to be disciplined and have the love of their country at heart,” he said.
Sergeant Kachalla said he had 19 children who always assisted him on the farm. He feeds his family with the sorghum, maize, groundnut and other crops he grows, and sells the surplus to take care of other needs.
The veteran, who recently recovered from a partial paralysis which confined him to his house for about two years, said many of his colleagues were very sick and could not come to the farm. He said his farm shared boundaries with three others belonging to retired Corporal Mathew Haruna, Sergeant Major Dominic, Sergeant Ahmed and Sergeant Adamu.
According to him, Sergeant Mathew is one of the retired soldiers who are very sick and could not come to the farm, adding that his wife and children are the ones working hard to feed the family.
Sergeant Kachalla’s son, Mohammed, and his other siblings who were working on a maize field some few meters away from where their father was tending to groundnut, said most children of the retired soldiers got to know one another on the farm.
“Although we don’t live in the same place, the children of the old soldiers know one another. We all come to the farm to work. Our parents also send us to their friends’ farms to help; especially those who are sick or don’t have children. My father has 19 children; so sometimes he sends some of us to help his friends on their farms,” he said.
Mohammed said some of the older children in the family also have portions where they grow crops to take care of their needs.
It was further gathered that despite the assistance they get from other families, some of the veterans still employ people from the surrounding villages to work for a fee and watch over their farms.
Danjuma Isah, who was planting beans on one of the farms when our reporter visited, is one of such people. He was employed by two of the retired soldiers to look after their farms.
He told Daily Trust on Sunday that his employers were old and had some health challenges which prevented them from doing tedious jobs like farming.
“Occasionally, they only come to see how things are going and tell me what to do. I always report to them what goes on in the farm,” he said.
The veterans also appointed a farm manager among themselves. The manager oversees all the activities on the farm and reports to the leadership of the Legion.
Wearing a military camouflage jacket to protect himself from cold, the farm manager, Sergeant Yakubu Bakaw (retired), told our reporter that they still maintained their military discipline, even on the farm.
“Despite being retired soldiers, we still observe our discipline of obeying orders and respecting our superiors. Everything done on this farm must be reported to the person in charge. If you want a parcel of land or an addition to the one you have, you must go through the appropriate channel.
“The people who would work for you, as well as what they would do for you, must be known. Their number must also be noted. We don’t take chances, especially at this time. We must be very vigilant on the people we engage in our farm,” he said.
The national leadership and other members of the Legion recently embarked on a tour of the farm to see how their members were utilising it to eke out a living despite their challenges.
Members of the delegation comprised the national chairman of the Nigerian Legion, Colonel Micah Gayya (retired), its national secretary, Captain John Adole (retired), the chairman of the Bauchi State chapter of the group, Captain Musa Yakubu, a representative from the Ministry of Defence, Major O. A. Alabi, and others from other parts of the North-East.
Captain Adole said the farm was acquired in 1984 when the present Emir of Zuru in Kebbi State, General Sani Sami, was the military governor of Bauchi State. He said the farm covered an area of 213×180 hectares and bordered the Bauchi Polo Field on one side and the Gubi dam on the other.
Another retired soldier, Usman Yahaya, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the farm had enabled them to maintain their bond of relationship, adding that it reminded them of the need to always work together as a family.
Also speaking, a retired warrant officer, Abdullahi Bala, said that if assisted to achieve optimum production, the farm would help them to meet their needs, especially given the delay in the payment of their retirement benefits.
The representative of the Ministry of Defence during the tour, Major Alabi, said he was impressed with what he saw on the farm and how the retired soldiers were dedicated to work. He urged other soldiers to engage in farming after retirement as it is good for them and the country in general.
Also speaking, the chairman of the Nigerian Legion, Bauchi State chapter, Captain Musa Yakubu (retired), said his members engaged in farming to key into the agricultural initiatives of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
He, however, lamented that despite that fact that they have enough land for mechanised farming, they had not gotten the needed assistance to actualise their vision.
“We hope to key into the various programmes of the government in the agricultural sector to contribute our quota to the development of the country,” he said.
Captain Yakubu said his members would be glad to get assistance from government in the form of farm inputs like fertiliser, seeds and other things that would help to increase their yields.
He described their situation as a sad one, saying the people who sacrificed all they had, including their lives, to keep Nigeria one and peaceful, should be able to get a better treatment from the government.
It was observed that despite the efforts of the retired soldiers, the farm is being grossly under-utilised. They only practise subsistence farming on about one-tenth of the total acres of the land.

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