Service Chiefs General Lucky Irabor and Faruk Yahaya
Service Chiefs General Lucky Irabor and Faruk Yahaya

According ‘exceptional’ officers, soldiers their due honours

It is not easy to be a military officer. Those who go extra mile to achieve uncommon feats in the military profession are few. And that is if they don’t pay the supreme sacrifice along the way.

In the Nigerian Army, for instance, a name like Muhammad Abu-Ali rings a bell. Abu-Ali, prior to his death on November 4, 2016, was described as “Hero of the War on Terror”. Others chose to call him “Sarkin Yaki” which translates into “War King”.

Only 36 at the time of his death, Ali’s record in service fighting on the front lines in the northeast against Boko Haram was remarkable.

In January 2015, after a brutal massacre regarded as one of its worst attacks, Boko Haram captured Baga, a town in Nigeria’s northeast. A month later, Ali, a lieutenant colonel, led an operation to successfully retake the town. As a reward for his bravery, he was promoted from major to lieutenant colonel in Sept. 2015.

After foiling an attempt to overrun Mallam Fatori on Friday November 4, 2016, by over 60 Boko Haram terrorists, who were heavily armed with various sophisticated weapons including Anti-tank weapons, Anti-Aircraft guns, GPMGs and several AK 47 rifles, Lt. Col. Abu-Ali who led the onslaught against the terrorists moved several hundreds of meters ahead to ascertain the casualty figures of the terrorists who were killed and his own troops who were either killed or injured.

As the Commander who led from the front, Ali was said to have disembarked from his T 72 armoured battle-tank while some of his soldiers accompanied him to carry out mop up if any.

This was to ensure that there were no more terrorists hiding in caves, hills or in bushes to carry out further ambush. Having satisfied himself that the environs were clear, the officer was said to have ordered his men to return to their position. However, unknown to him, a new group of Boko Haram terrorists, emerged from nowhere as the soldiers were heading back to position and opened fire on the soldiers leading to Abu-Ali’s death and six of his colleagues.

That was how Lt. Col. Abu-Ali, a recipient of the Chief of Army Staff award for exceptional bravery and excellence who led the army units that recovered Gamboru-Ngala, Baga and several communities from the terrorists, lost his life.

It was in recognition of this commitment and doggedness that the Commander in Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari, it was gathered gave a tacit approval to the then Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Buratai to give a post-humus promotion of a full Colonel to the late Abu-Ali.

There is also Dahiru Bako, a colonel, who was killed in September 2020, during an ambush by Boko Haram insurgents.

Bako was ambushed on September 20 while leading his troops on a clearance at Sabon Gari-Wajiroko axis in Damboa Local Government Area of the state.

“Bako was a true soldier who inspired his troops and led them to frontlines with exceptional courage that was clearly out of pure patriotism.

“He fought very hard and very well. He defeated many enemies of peace and protected many sons and daughters of Borno State to the extent that he gave his life defending the people,” Prof. Babagana Zulum, Borno State Governor, had said in a condolence message to the Nigerian Army, after the gallant officer was eliminated by terrorists.

The Nigerian Army and the Military in general, would have certainly appreciated the stellar contributions of Lt. Col. Abu-Ali, Col. Bako and many other gallant officers and soldiers who paid the supreme price in the course of fighting enemies of the State.

But deliberate efforts were not made to publicly and duly honour the memories of these slain officers, who gave their all to the counter-insurgency operation, most especially.

It may have come late, almost five years after Lt. Col. Abu-Ali’s death, and a year after Col. Bako’s demise, but the Defence Headquarters, DHQ, under the leadership of General Lucky Irabor, clearly demonstrated its commitment to honouring gallant officers and men of the armed forces who died in war theatres, fearlessly combating terrorist elements and other criminals.

As part of commemorating the country’s 61st independence, the DHQ, on Saturday, October 2, 2021, honoured 12 officers and 12 soldiers for their gallantry and professionalism.

The award of honour for Ali was received by Fatima Abu-Ali, his daughter, supported by Samira Abu-Ali, his widow.

Speaking at the ceremony, Gen. Irabor, the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, rendered tribute to the late lieutenant-colonel for his dedication, gallantry and professionalism in commanding troops against insurgents in the north-east.

Irabor said the occasion is for members of the armed forces to share moments of joy with some of its personnel who had distinguished themselves on the battlefields.

He also commended the spouses of officers and soldiers who had dedicated their lives to the service of the nation.

The chief of defence staff said members of the armed forces are committed and resolute to the security challenges facing the country at the moment.

“As we celebrate our independence anniversary today, the armed forces of Nigeria is proud of its role and effort in the Nigerian project,” Irabor said.

“Indeed, at no other time in our nation’s history have members of the armed forces been so engaged as it relates to addressing the current myriad of security challenges in our dear country that threatened the very foundation of our unity, security and wellbeing.

“Rising up to this challenge, the armed forces had made tremendous sacrifices in answering the clarion call.

“The armed forces of Nigeria remain resolute and undaunted in the face of these challenges, and we shall be victorious.”

The auspicious event of last Saturday was indeed timely and significant. It is one that will inspire and motivate other serving officers and men of the Nigerian military to rededicate themselves to the task of protecting the Nigerian State from both external and internal aggressions from outlawed groups and criminal elements such as Boko Haram, the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), bandits and kidnappers.

On one hand, families and relations of deceased military officers and soldiers who died in active service to their fatherland, will be comforted that indeed their fathers, sons, and daughters, did not actually die in vain.

Mahmud is an Assistant Editor with PRNigeria, and writes via: [email protected]

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