Lt. Col. Muhammed Abu Ali: Our Fallen Heroes and Arms-Fund Thieves, By A.S. M. Jimoh
I didn’t know how to choose the title of this piece to properly reflect the depth of my anger while equally paying tribute to Lt. Col. Muhammed Abu Ali and his colleagues killed by Bokoharam terrorist. I am always devastated whenever I juxtapose the death of men of the Armed forces fighting Bokoharam and those who shared the funds meant for munitions. For every death of a combatant or an officer, I always say to myself that it could have been me, because going to university and joining the Nigeria Defense Academy (NDA) was of same importance in my scale of preference to choosing a career. Thus, the death of a soldier could just have been me.
The battle to rout out Bokoharam seems getting tougher for the Nigeria armed forces and her counterpart in the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF). Since the last few months, we are being inundated with chilling news of heavy causalities suffered by the MNJTF in the hands of Bokoharam. Here is a recoup of some of such causalities as reported by premiutimesng.com, an online news platform.
“On 28 September 2016, Maj. D. S Erasmus and 8 soldiers were killed by IED / ambush along Bama-Banki road. Lt Col K Yusuf and 83 soldiers are missing in action since 16 Oct 2016 when Boko Haram attacked troop location at Gashigar. Lt Col Muhammed Abu Ali and five soldiers were killed on 4 November 2016 on their way to reinforce troops at Mallam Fatori during Boko Haram attack. Also, On 5 November 2016, two soldiers were killed at Kwada during Boko Haram attack on troops location. One soldier was wounded while another two were declared missing in action. In another attack in Kangarwa on 6 November, one soldier was killed while four other soldiers were wounded in action.” Troops from Niger, Chad and Cameroun have similarly suffered causalities.
While all the losses are painful, the death of Lt. Col Muhammed Abu Ali on November 4, 2016 is the one that sent the entire nation into emotion and deep mourning. This is because of his exploit in the battle against Bokoharam. Many success stories of territories retaken from Bokoharam are attributed to his bravery and intelligence. According to report, his dexterity in using armored tank is unmatched. He was a gallant officer and yet a humble one. He was a BokoHaram nightmare. Thus, his death is a booster to Bokoharam but a huge loss not only to the Nigeria army but also to the entire nation. His death could also have the negative effect of dampening the fighting spirit of troops in the frontline, as his presence is known to have always inspired confidence, courage and fighting spirit among combatants.
It is one death of fine officers too many. In April 2014, another fine officer, Lt. Col. Kabiru Salisu was killed by Bokoharam terrorist in an ambush which was not helped by the faulty Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) possessed by the Nigerian troops. Between then and now, other officers and soldiers of outstanding field performance have been killed in a manner which tells of faulty ammunitions, lack of intelligence and saboteur.
Nonetheless, if we want to recount how BokoHaram became such a powerful force, the majority of the narration would be dominated by how money voted for arms to fight the monster were shared by some pot-belly generals and their allied politicians in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and elsewhere. While the generals and the politicians were sharing money meant for arms, Bokoharam was taking territories, recruiting foot soldiers, having high-end guerilla training and receiving sophisticated weapons. In the meantime, the rank and file of the Nigeria Armed forces were being sent to their grave in multitude by Bokoharam. Thousands of people in the Northeast were killed, thousand more enslaved and millions displaced by Bokoharam.
Then came a new commander-in-chief, President Buhari, who wants to know what had happened to our armed forces and monies budgeted for arms. Alas, he discovered that high ranks of the military and unscrupulous politicians in the evil-personified cult called PDP had used the monies to acquire life comfort for themselves and their families. The stench of the probe was so strong that we expected the Nigerian people to request for these thieves and their families to be skinned alive on a hot, sunny day on a public square. But we are a people so blinded by ethnicity and religion that we are always the first to defend our oppressor.
The snail-speed trial of the arms-fund thieves began, and with the talk of rule of law, these thieves are moving freely while Bokoharam continue to mow down our finest military officers, fighters and civilians alike. Nauseatingly, those thieves on temporary restrictions are paid visits by pastor and their comrade in heist. Some dust-brain heads also began to make ridicule of the government asking whether it didn’t claim that Bokoharam have been defeated. The poverty of their brains never allows them to realize that it takes time to reawaken an army that has been seriously demoralized to defeat a guerilla forces. They fail to realize that if armament had been procured earlier, the magnitude of causality would have been minimal and the strength of Bokoharam would not have grown to such a formidable force that until today we continue to reap the evil planted by their hero and 40 thieves.
As the trial of the weapon-fund thieves has become a mockery while soldiers continue to die, I ask whether it is not time for the president to change his tactics on punishing those who shared funds for armament. If the President has the power to continue to keep Dasuki in prison, all those he shared the money for or with should equally be enjoying same treatment. At this point, I urge the president to immediately order the arrest of all those closely or remotely involved in the arm scandal. The president has the constitutional power to bridge the so-called human right of anybody, if the action of such person violates national security. The action of Dasuki and his beneficiaries caused the violation of our territorial integrity that almost ceded a significant portion of our nation to a murderous group who slaughtered our people daily like fowls.
Sadly, the arm-fund thieves have continued to enjoy freedom, sending their children to the best schools, while young men and husbands in the frontline, poorly kit, are slaughtered frequently. For every soldier that is killed, a woman is widowed, at least a child is orphaned and a family is bereaved. Yet, those who are the source of their deaths are moving about freely in the latest car while their children and wives in a most secured apartments. May God twist the mouth of anyone whoever mentions the rule of law in the fight against corruption.
I wholly support the president when he replied during a media chat that he would not allow somebody whose act had sent millions to a refugee camps to go enjoy in a foreign land in the guise of visiting a hospital. Yes, our war on corrupt people should have a moral dimension.
At this juncture, if the quotation I saw on social media which is purported to be the last words of Lt. Col. Muhammed Ali Abu is true, it only take a rare patriot like him to defend his country with his life. I reproduced below the quote,
“I don’t think I will make it. I‘m proud to have diligently carried out my duty, thereby paying the Supreme price. I pray that Nigerians remember my sacrifice to the nation” Emphasis mine.
This last word sounds of a lamentation, in my opinion. If his experience had been that our fallen heroes are accorded the deserved honour, he would not have uttered such in his final hour. Dead combatants are quickly forgotten and their death benefits even appropriated by the ranks of the military, leaving their children and wives to regret the sacrifice of their breadwinner to the nation. Therefore, it is time to start giving proper recognition to our heroes who laid down their lives to defend this nation and her people. Beyond the cry of a general and gun salute at their burials, their families must not be left to suffer. For this, I urge the Nigeria government to set up a scheme that will offer automatic scholarship up to university level to children of the personnel of the armed forces killed in operation. Their widows/widowers should be likewise empowered, for them to cater for their children and make ends meet.
It is also time that the commander-in-chief of the armed forces leads this war from the frontline. We are being flooded daily of news of lack of equipment in the battlefront and lack of motivation for combatants. There have been reports of battle-weary soldiers not given a break or redeployed. We have seen videos of poorly kit military men in fierce gun duel with Bokoharam. It appears the talk of improvement of soldier welfare is just propaganda. The president must ensure the generals he has entrusted with the war are not just deceiving him. He should find out independently how the war is being prosecuted and fund for equipment and soldiers welfare are being disbursed. Occasionally, the president can visit soldiers at theatre of operation to get firsthand information on soldier welfare and take an on-the-spot assessment of operation. Such unexpected visit will boost the combatants’ morale in great measure.
For the president not be at the funeral is a minus for him, especially when seen attending a ceremonial event elsewhere. But, he can quickly redeem that bad optics by giving a befitting honour to all our fallen heroes. One such immediate honor is to announce a scholarship scheme for their wards and re-arrest all those involved in the arm purchase scandal that has resulted in the proliferation of Bokoharam.
Rest in the highest level of Paradise, Lt. Col. Muhammed Abu Ali and all those fell by BokoHaram’s weapon. Posterity will remember you as one who gave his life to keep safe his compatriots.
A.S. M. Jimoh. The writer can be reached on email@example.com and on twitter @anehi2008.