Updated: I’ve been so deeply saddened by the death of Lt. Col. Muhammed Abu Ali. The insurgents had tried to take Mallam Fatori but were repelled, though lives gave, including that of Lt. Col. Abu Ali, the Commanding Officer of the 272 Task Force Battalion at Mallam Fatori, Borno State. I mourn!
While I know that in war times, casualties are inevitable, the percentage of deaths of our men can be drastically reduced, by say 90%, should they be adequately equipped for this war. Nigeria must go beyond just having a ‘Schedule of Equipment’ (SoE) for the Army to actually use it to serve as a guide in ensuring our men are indeed equipped, bearing in mind tactical advancement of the insurgents vis-a-vis improvements and modernization of war equipment. For now, what we have is just a list, because the ‘archaicness’ and insufficiency of what’s on ground is nothing compared to what is/should be captured in the SoE. And, especially, this war is not just a battle with an external (BH) enemy, the Army must rid itself of internal enemies – regardless of ranks – if we must indeed record complete, quick success. Let the reader understand.
Lt. Col. Abu Ali’s death is one that rips me. My heart aches. Eyes bulge, mind unsettle. He, and ‘others’, don’t deserve to die like this! Who’s next? I must admit how I daily deal with deep fear for these great officers and soldiers I have come to know and love, whom I can only pray for and wish well. ‘Oga Ali’ was a fine, calm, humble, intelligent gentleman. He’d map tactics and be in the forefront to execute them. He puts his chest forward and doesn’t just delegate. The same approach he used when leading the tank operations to retake Baga, Monguno, Gamboru-Ngala, and other BH-captured communities, while protecting several other locations. Oga Ali’s bravery, leadership style, and short-lived impact is one that must be conspicuously captured when penning the story of this eight-years-and-still-running war.
Oga Ali would always talk about his men, just like several other unselfish Officers I have met. These Officers, like mother eagles, have this unusual protectiveness for their men and would always prioritize their needs over theirs. Even when given ‘pass’, they hardly enjoy the short break and would cut it short, thinking about those they are responsible for in the battlefield. As one said to me, “I feel I’m betraying my boys by leaving them; if anything happens to them, I won’t forgive myself.” Oga Ali was no different. Though smallish, was fierce and brave! The insurgents feared him. Internal enemies disliked him. His men revered him. The nation has lost a committed fighter, an illustrious son!
As at October 2014, one of my trips to the North East, Yola precisely, Lt. Col. Ali was there. Humanitarian access was possible because of his work and that of his team. He was still a Major at the time before his accelerated promotion to Lt. Colonel as announced in February 2015, though decorated in September 2015. He was around 35-37 years old at the time, I was told. Quite young for what he commanded, I supposed. And, as I’d always say, that these men wear Army uniforms does not make them invincible. They are humans like you and I. The uniform does not immune them from bullets. When they are shot at, it penetrates. They are flesh and blood, after all. These guys are people’s brothers, husbands, sons, fiance, boyfriend, fathers, nephews, cousins, friends… they love, and they are loved. Let that sink in!
For Lt. Col. Ali’s death, even as that of Major D. S. Erasmus, who died after an ambush around Kumshe, and several others, I’ve seen and heard men weep and grieve, forgetting their highs and ranks. Gosh, this drills deep. See, these guys are HUMANS!!!
I hope Nigeria honours Oga Ali and his irks in the best way possible. Perhaps, we can start my naming the ‘others’ who died with Oga Ali, and not capture them as mere ‘4 others’, which is a slap on the huge risk they took and the ultimate sacrifice they paid.
While we pray for Lt. Col. Ali’s departed soul and for those he left behind, especially his young wife and infant daughter, and his household in Etsu, Bassa-Nge Kingdom of Kogi State, including those who died with him and that have died ever since, I ask that we, please, raise our voices in our own ways in amplification of our troops’ plights. Mention them in your conversations. Escalate their issues and concerns to relevant authorities. Press all ‘buttons’ you can. They are among the category of ‘primary victims’ in this ongoing war. We can do all we do – work, move, associate, assemble, travel, eat, sleep – freely and safely, because there are men, like Lt. Col. Abu Ali, on the battle front waging war, protecting lives, and repelling harm from coming close to you and I, while putting their lives on the line in so doing.
I only wish Oga Ali lived to experience the peaceful Nigeria he doggedly fought for. I so wish!
See this two-minute video of Lt. Col. Abu Ali’s decoration, you’d understand better –
Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zey0wu5SAMo
Adieu, gallant hero!
Adieu, brave one!!
Adieu, Sarkin Yaki!!!
Good night, Lt. Col. Muhammed Abu Ali!
God help Nigeria.
Bukky Shonibare is the Coordinator at Adopt-A-Camp & Head of Strategy, BBOG