Durojaiye Ayeni, 67, retired from the Nigerian Army in 1980, as a Private, after serving for 11 years, yet three decades after, he’s still fighting for his pension. He spoke to Daily Trust Saturday on his predicament, life after service, and more.
Daily Trust: You retired in 1980, as a private. Have you been receiving your pension?
Durojaiye Ayeni: No, I have tried all efforts when the pension office was still in Lagos, but to no avail. In one of my journeys from the Lagos Pension Office, I lost my discharge documents and it became difficult for me to process the payment. Later, I sought help from the Nigerian Legion in Benin, and they told me that there’s nothing they can do without the discharge papers. So I went to the Army Records Office in Lokoja, where I got the duplicate of the paper I have now.
I retired voluntarily, after serving under the Army 4D Signal, in Shendam, Plateau State.
DT: Why, exactly, has your pension not been paid?
Ayeni: I don’t know, but each time I went to fight for it, they tell me that my name is not on the pension list. And honestly, that’s ridiculous. I have my papers now.
DT: How long have you been fighting for the pension?
Ayeni: Since I retired from the army in 1980.
DT: Where does the issue stand now?
Ayeni: Now, they said I should come with the discharge papers, and as I have gotten the papers, I can now fight to get enrolled in the pension scheme. But I have not been able to go there because I don’t have money.
Things got so bad that my wife, who has been a pillar in the quest, got tired and has left me, since last December.
DT: How long have you been married, and how many children do you have?
Ayeni: Five children. We got married in 1979, and have been living peacefully, until my pension issue became unbearable to her. It’s a tough and sad story for me to tell, as she left me because I can no longer cater for her.
I’m just living like a beggar now. I beg to eat, after patriotically fighting for my country, from the bottom of my heart.
I have nobody to depend on, or go to for help, because my only brother and sister are dead. I’m all alone. At my age, sometimes l work at construction sites just to eat.
At a point, I couldn’t even pay my rent in Lagos, and I had to squat. When it became unbearable, I then decided to come to the village, not knowing I am heading for worse. And in the village, there’s nothing for me to do, because I can’t farm. I’m currently at Otuo community, in Owan East LGA of Edo State.
DT: You fought in the Civil War. Which battalion were you?
Ayeni: I was in 3 Marine Commando during the war, and I fought in Oguta, in Imo State. It was a terrible experience, but it was God’s grace that made me survive. A lot of people died, but a soldier doesn’t talk too much about things like that.
We could be in trenches for a whole week without food and water, and we survived by eating leaves. They might be bringing the food and water for us, and Biafran soldiers would attack the vehicle, and that will be the end of it. Sometimes, when we get to a river, we cannot drink from it because it has been poisoned by the Biafrans. Some soldiers who can’t bear the thirst, and drank from it, died on the way. It was hell!
DT: Back to your wife; when exactly did she leave you?
Ayeni: December 14, 2018. I tried hard to persuade her to stay. I even cried because she had had been my pillar. I don’t blame her, because I was not able to meet her needs. I even crumbled her business because of the money I kept borrowing, and could not pay back.
We woke up one day, and she walked up to me and said she is leaving me. I asked why, and she said she can no longer continue with the suffering. I begged her to stay, but she didn’t listen to me. So I went to tell my family members, but before I came back she had left.
DT: Since she left, have you contacted her?
Ayeni: Yes, we were talking on phone after she left. But now her phone is no longer available. She is from Ogbomosho, but I have not gone to her place to see her parents, since she left because I don’t have money. When I have money, I will beg some of my family members to follow me to her place so that we can beg her to return.
DT: If you get your pension will you take her back?
Ayeni: Why not? She’s a nice woman, and she did everything for me to get my pension. If I had not crumbled her business, she would have still been with me. If fortune smiles on me, I’ll take her back.
DT: What is you appeal to the government?
Ayeni: I am appealing to, and begging the federal government, that before I die, they should pay my pension. I pray that God gives them the will to help me out, so that I would at least die happy that I served my country. I also appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari, to help me get my pension, and I will forever be grateful to him, and God will bless him.
I wanted to go to Abuja, but I don’t have money to transport myself. I have been living on people’s goodwill here in Otuo, Edo State, since I came to the village, and I don’t even know anybody in Abuja where I can put up.