Lt. Col. Abu Ali: The Painful Death Of A Gallant Soldier, By Michael Jegede
The news of the death of Lieutenant Colonel Muhammad Abu Ali, said to be the most gallant commander and efficient fighter in the Nigerian Army’s battle to crush the members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect, was received with pang of shock, tears, anguish and lamentations by Nigerians. It was really shocking to hear that the celebrated young valiant soldier was killed by the same deadly terrorists, even after they are said to have been technically defeated.
The late Abu Ali, an indigene of Kogi State and recipient of the Chief of Army Staff Award for exceptional bravery and excellence, led the army units that recovered Gamboru-Ngala, Baga and a number of communities from the heartless and ruthless insurgents in the North-East. According to military authorities, he died on Friday during an encounter with suspected Boko Haram extremists that attacked 119 Battalion, Nigerian Army location at Mallam Fatori in Borno State.
A statement released on Saturday by Army spokesman, Sani Usman, to confirm Ali’s death stated: “Yesterday (Friday) at about 10.00pm suspected Boko Haram terrorists attacked a 119 Battalion Nigerian Army location at Mallam Fatori, northern Borno State. The troops fought gallantly and repelled the attack, killing 14 Boko Haram terrorists. Unfortunately, we lost an officer and four soldiers, while four other soldiers sustained various degrees of injuries during the encounter. One of those killed in action, was Lieutenant Colonel Muhammad Abu Ali, the Commanding Officer of 272 Task Force Tank Battalion.”
While mourning the late Ali, his colleagues who worked relentlessly with him to confront Boko Haram terrorists in the North-Eastern region, described him as a gallant, battle tested and a trusted and patriotic soldier of the Nigerian Army. In a statement on Saturday, the Theatre Command Centre of Operation Lafiya Dole in Maiduguri said Ali, nicknamed, Sarkin Yaki (Chief Warrior), “served the nation with unwavering commitment and dedication, paying the ultimate price so that millions can sleep on their beds in peace. We are deeply pained at the loss of one so selfless and committed to routing the misguided terrorists from the North of the country.” The centre further noted that Ali served as “the face of the campaign against Boko Haram which embodied commitment, loyalty, service and hope for a better, peaceful and prosperous nation.” It added that the deceased was “a source of inspiration to us and millions of Nigerians praying for the speedy end of the insurgency. At this point we pray for his family and the Nigerian Army that God gives them the fortitude to bear the loss.”
Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello commiserated with the family of Etsu of Bassa-Nge Kingdom, Brigadier General Abu Ali (Rtd.) over the demise of Lt. Col. Muhammad Abu Ali. The late Lt. Col Ali was the son of the retired Brigadier General, a widely respected traditional title holder in Kogi State, who was governor of Bauchi State between August 1990 and January 1992 during the military administration of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB).
The condolence message of Kogi governor was contained in a statement signed by his the Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Petra Akinti Onyegbule, describing the death as unfortunate and a colossal loss to the people of Kogi State and Nigerians in general.
According to Governor Bello, the late Commanding Officer “was a gallant officer who served the nation with his all and paid the supreme price by laying down his life for the peace of the country.” He maintained that “the late Col. will be remembered for his sacrifice and commitment to the cause of the Nigerian Army to rid the Country of insurgency which has been of concern to everyone.” The statement also said: “Governor Bello extended his condolences to the Etsu of Bassa-Nge Kingdom over this devastating loss. Allah giveth and He taketh, from Him we came and to Him we return. May Allah give you the fortitude to bear this irreplaceable loss. May Almighty Allah grant late Lt. Col. Muhammed Abu Aljannah Firdaus. Ameen.”
Beside the Chief of Staff Award bestowed on him for his efficiency on the battlefield, the late Ali equally bagged accelerated promotion from being a Major to a Lieutenant Colonel and there were insinuations that he was to soon be promoted to Colonel before the painful and ill-fated death came to cut his promising life short. During his official decoration with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in September last year, Buratai applauded Ali, an expert in the handling of armoured tanks, for his “courage, bravery and exceptional performance in the fight against the Boko Haram terrorists”. His elevation and recognition for the significant roles he played in taking out the Islamic fundamentalists from many of the areas they held with iron grip across the North-East, was fully supported and appreciated by his co-fighters, who so much cherished him for his great display of professionalism and unmatched bravery on the battlefront.
A special tribute to the deceased hero by Col. Mustapha Anka, Deputy Director, Department of Army Public Relations, and spokesperson, 7 Division Nigerian Army, Borno State reads: “An officer and a gentleman. Cherished, admired and adored. By officers, soldiers and civilians. As angels adore God in heaven. Your transition, a shocking transition. Was like a candlelight blown out by the wind. An evil wind in an evil world. Though your memories remain. Forever in our hearts. A great hero of our time. The scourge of the enemies. A commander, a lion and a desert fox. Feared by cowards, revered by adversaries. Whenever your name echoed in the battlefield. We have lost a conqueror, a brave officer. Whose name was engraved with diamond. For diamonds are forever. We are in pain, an enormous pain. As your blood flows in our veins. We will never be the same. Your death will never be in vain. We part to meet, this I’m sure of. We will regroup to part no more, this I know. Because from Him we come, and to Him we return. Rest in peace ‘ma men’.”
While eulogising the late Lt. Col. Abu Ali, President Muhammadu Buhari promised that his sacrifice and that of other fallen heroes will not be in vain. Buhari declared that their memories would perpetually be engraved in the hearts and minds of the Nigerian people for whose sake they laid down their lives.
The president’s promise must be backed with action. The families of Lt. Col. Abu Ali and other members of the armed forces who have sacrificed their lives for us to live, in the fierce battle against terrorists in the northern region, must not be abandoned. The government must do much to compensate and appreciate our great military men (both the living and the dead) for making the supreme sacrifice to ensure the protection of the nation’s territorial integrity.
Also, greater effort must be made to motivate the military officers in the battlefield. The intensity of activities of the Boko Haram radicals has taken a dimension in recent weeks that calls for serious concern from the government, especially coming after several months of relative success by the troops of the Nigerian Armed Forces, in which the late Abu Ali played a major role. Therefore, all the motivation needed to further boost the morale of the soldiers should be given to them, to enhance their capacity to ensure the final defeat of the Boko Haram devotees, whose nefarious activities have left over 20,000 innocent citizens dead and destroyed property worth about $9 billion since 2009.
Michael Jegede, a media professional, writes from Abuja.