The First Lady Dr. (Mrs) Aisha Buhari declared on Tuesday, that the the Armed Force’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Centre, originally scheduled to be built by the Defence and Police Officer’s Wives Association for treatment of military and Police personnel suffering the trauma of the war against terrorism, banditry and others, would now be built by the federal government.
Consequently, Mrs Buhari told a gathering of Senior Military Officers, Captains of Industry, the Private Sector and other invited guests, for the ground breaking ceremony of the PTSD Centre to channel their contribution to other benevolent causes of DEPOWA, noting that personnel of the military suffering the disorder became exposed to it because they were performing national causes for the peace and security of the nation hence it is the responsibility of the federal government to build the Specialized Medical Centre.
In this regard, she told the DEPOWA President, Barr. Mrs Vickie Anwuli Irabor that she (Mrs) Buhari has personally taken over the project, vowing that the project would be completed and handed over to the military before the end of the Buhari administration in May 2023.
“Soliciting for and raising funds for a project as important and so dear to issues of mental health and post war trauma is a waste of time. There would be no time for fund raising here. It is the responsibility of the federal government to build this hospital. The officer’s and men who suffer this PTSD are exposed to it because they are performing their duties for Nigeria. So the federal government will do it”, Mrs Buhari said.
She continued, “I want to thank DEPOWA for this foresighted vision of establishing a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Centre for our soldiers. Indeed PTSD is a mental health condition triggered by terrifying events. It is a reality that soldiers and military families have to live with, despite its negative consequences.
“Being a soldier’s wife or a retired soldier’s wife and a wellness expert, I understand the challenges associated with PTSD and its impact on military families and the nation. My husband served the Nigerian Army for 27 years before he was over-thrown in a coup d’etat. He fought civil war for 30 months without rehabilitation. He ruled Nigeria for 20 months and was detained for 40 months without disclosing the nature of his offence.
“One year after he came out from detention, we were married, I clocked 19 years in his house as his wife. I suffered the consequences of PTSD because having gone through all these, and at the age of 19 to handle somebody who was a former Head of State and Commander in Chief of Nigeria’s Armed Forces; to tell him that he is wrong is the first mistake you will make.
“So at the age of 19, I had to figure out how to tell somebody of his calibre that he was wrong or right and that was the beginning of my offence in his house and contesting elections in 2003 and failed, 2007, failed and 2011, the same thing, all without rehabilitation, I became a physiotherapist.
“Finally the whole nation rose against the misuse of power and bad governance. He only succeeded when it became a movement and here we are today. He ruled Nigeria before and he is ruling Nigeria now and this is the last time and final.
On the 2023 elections and PTSD, Mrs Buhari said, “Failing election for three times was a big blow to every contestant but those that have contested for just yesterday, a simply primary election, they are still living in a traumatic condition.
“I tried to console them, I tried to talk to them, some of them have switched off their phones up till today, just because of a primary election, you can imagine myself at 19 years, handling somebody that went to war, suffered coup d’etat, then lost several elections and finally getting to the Villa in the 2015.
“Also for a woman to tell them (Politicians) that this is wrong or right in Nigeria and Africa is a problem. In that case, I want to use this opportunity to appreciate members of the Armed Forces of Nigeria for their sacrifices and contributions to nation building.
“The fallen Heroes remain evergreen in our minds and many with us are wounded physically and mentally, I want to appreciate their wives and families, I want to let them know that the whole nation is with them.
“The PTSD Centre is important to members of the Armed Forces and beyond, because soldiers are the primary victims. This Centre is timely as PTSD is a problem that really deserved solution of this nature and providing facilities for treatment and rehabilitation of patients is key. Therefore, fund raising is not the solution. The solution is the Federal Government that sent them to war front to take responsibility in taking care of the mental health of returnees from war front. PTSD cuts across all ages.
“I thank DEPOWA for this initiative and the military establishment for supporting them, I call on them to ensure that this Centre provides quality and sustained care for soldiers that suffer from PTSD . It is the responsibility of the whole Armed Forces to extract from their budget and build this Centre, Mrs Irabor, it is no longer your project, it is my project and the project of Mr. President, we are going to work round the clock to make sure that it is completed and commissioned before we leave office”.
Earlier in her welcome address, Mrs Irabor said, “As President DEPOWA and leading an Association of women bound together by marriage to Military and Police Officers in Nigeria, I was confronted by the image of experiences of trauna suffered by military personnel which I similarly experienced when my husband went to fight in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“Experiences of injured men, the wives who became widows, the children who became fatherless, the personnel who had to leave the service as a result of their injury, the trauma the men, the wives and children must have experienced and the many years that have passed with these unspoken experiences not discussed.
“The effects of these experiences in our barracks community and the extreme burden it placed on military families have kept me wondering “how did we survive these experiences as a community because they remained unspoken, unheard, and therefore untreated” I realized that indeed, all of us, the Officers and men, wives and children were true victims of war and peacekeeping!
“I was also confronted with stories from wives of personnel who had faced much worse and couldn’t speak out about the challenges and the traumatic experiences, such as insomnia, nightmares, substance abuse, violent outbursts on members of their family and society, and even suicidal tendencies. Uniting our voices as mothers and wives, we decided not to remain silent.
“While we have hospitals to take care of physical injuries, we have realized that there is a huge gap in mental health responses globally, including Nigeria – especially in the treatment, management, and rehabilitation of PTSD faced by families in the Armed Forces.
“In response to these issues, DEPOWA, under my leadership decided to pursue the implementation of a novel, first-of-its-kind, Legacy-based Armed Forces PTSD Centre.
“When completed, the centre will help evaluate, counsel, and provide adequate support to personnel and, by extension, their families before reintegration from conflict zones. It will also help to enhance national, regional, and global stability, as well as help, boost military capability to continue to deal with all forms of insecurity.
“I believe that establishing this facility will be a step in ensuring the stability of military families post-conflict engagements and encouragement to officers and soldiers that help is available should they need it after assignments. The facility will also serve as a repository for future research on mental health challenges in the Armed Forces of Nigeria”.
“This is a project borne out of deep love and appreciation for our husbands, the Nigerian Armed Forces and the protectors and defenders of the peace in our society. It is a thank you project for the contributions and huge sacrifices of our Personnel to the hard-earned peace and security we enjoy today. It is not just a brick and mortar project but a symbol of hope for present and future generations of our people and not just the military”.
Other speakers at the occasion were the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, Vice President of Liberia, Chief Dr. Jewel Howard-Taylor, former President of Malawi, Dr. Joyce Banda and Baroness Sandy Verma, Member, UK House of Lords.