O n Friday, November 4, 2016, members of the Boko Haram sect, in an ambush laid for Nigerian Army troops, killed Muhammad Abu Ali, a lieutenantcolonel and commanding officer of the 272 Task Force Tank Battalion. The attack occurred at Mallam Fatori, a major Boko Haram stronghold on the northernmost tip of Borno State.
Ali was reportedly hit by several bullets as he tried to reinforce troops to repel an ongoing attack in the town. Hours earlier, Boko Haram had launched a sustained attack on the troops of Operation Lafiya Dole.
As the battled raged, Ali had recognised an immediate need for reinforcement. But his team was met by another group of terrorists while making its way back to the battlefront. He was reportedly killed in the fire fight that ensued. The attack left six other soldiers dead, while Boko Haram lost 14 of its members. Since losing out at the battle front, torrents of tributes had poured in from various segments of the Nigerian society for the gallant soldier, who many, especially his colleagues and junior soldiers, have described as a “brave and selfless leader.”
To correcT ThIs anomaly and also To encourage poTenTIal soldiers, our fallen heroes should noTonly be ImmorTalIsed; The process of claImIng TheIr deaTh benefITs should be revIewed and gIven a human face
In killing Ali, the members of Boko Haram sect may have succeeded in decimating the ranks of the troops, but their action have further made the award-winning soldier more popular even in death.
Soon as news of his death filtered through, Ali’s virtues and the details of his achievements went viral across the country. His murder drew the attention of millions of Nigerians to the tireless efforts and selfless leadership skills displayed by the soldier in his fight against terror in the Northeastern part of the country in the last few years.
He has since been buried with the Nigerian Army and government pledging that his death will not be in vain.
But the Late Lt. Col. Ali is one of hundreds of soldiers that have lost their lives in the fight against terror in the North East, and thousands that have paid the supreme price at battle fronts for their fatherland.
In his passionate condolence to the families of the victims and the Nigerian Army, President Muhammadu Buhari noted that their heroic sacrifices were “so immeasurable that no words can do justice to their patriotism and remarkable courage.”
It was reported that President Buhari personally called Late Ali’s father, Brigadier-Gen. Abu Ali (Ryder) to console the family.
Our belief is that it is not enough to salute the courage of men and women of the Nigerian Army or use flattering words to describe them. Nigerians should demand for more for the families of their heroes.
Stories abound of how poorly the country had treated her fallen heroes and the families they left behind. Aside from being left to struggle through life without their breadwinners, the psychological trauma most of their wards endure before they are paid the ‘death benefits’ of their beloved is unsavoury.
In the process, some of their children have reportedly dropped out of school just as their wives had to rely on relatives and friends, going cap in hand before being able to meet life’s basic needs.
To correct this anomaly and also to encourage serving and potential soldiers, we recommend that our fallen heroes should not only be immortalised; the process of claiming their death benefits by their next-of-kin should be reviewed and given a human face. In this light, it will not be out of place if the Federal Government considers awarding lifetime scholarships to the children and wards of fallen heroes.
This will, in the least, ensure the children left behind are not thrown out of schools while also ensuring that they have a secured future, notwithstanding the deaths of their fathers.
In addition, a fallen hero deserves a posthumous national honour by the Federal Government. After all, most of them die in battlefronts in defence of their countrymen.