EDITORIAL: Buhari MUST immortalise Lt-Col Abu Ali


On November 4, 2016, when Boko Haram gunned down Muhammad Abu Ali, a lieutenant-colonel and commanding officer of the 272 Task Force Tank Battalion, the insurgents must have thought they were eliminating a bitter enemy — a man who had handed them heavy defeats each time they came up against him.

They must have thought they were wasting him and punishing his wife and three children. It was mission unaccomplished — because, unfortunately for them, Ali was more than a Boko Haram nemesis. He was more than a family man. Lieutenant-Colonel Muhammadu Abu Ali was a unique officer, uncommon leader, patriotic Nigerian, fine gentleman, level-headed fighter and national hero. By killing him, Boko Haram has only elevated him to martyrdom.

In the first place, commanders seldom die in wars because they play a supervisory role while pushing the foot soldiers to the front lines. When insurgents arrived Mallam Fatori around 10pm that day, it was Ali himself who went to check what was happening. Other officers in his shoes would simply have signalled some soldiers to find out what the disturbance was about. That Ali ended up paying the supreme price is proof of his selfless leadership.

That was not the first exhibition of his selflessness. A sergeant once told TheCable that when Baga was to be recaptured from Boko Haram, Ali told the soldiers to concentrate on just 5 percent of the job, as he would take care of the remaining 95. A soldier then confirmed that this was exactly what happened, saying: “Lieutenant-Colonel Ali did most of the work with the tanks”.


Ali was also a tireless soldier. He had led a successful operation to clear Mallam Fatori of insurgents and was already preparing for another raid on Sambisa, straight from Mallam Fatori. He did not ask for a moment to celebrate that brief victory or some time out with his family; he was battle-ready for Sambisa. He worked day and night for the protection of Nigeria’s territorial integrity; he denied himself of sleep and rest so that Nigerians, particularly those in the north-east, could sleep and rest.

The war against insurgency has claimed the lives of many soldiers, but that a commander would put his life on the line is not an everyday occurrence anywhere in the world. That is what makes the case of Ali unique.

Ali gave his life for Nigeria. Now that he is gone, what will Nigeria give him and his family in return?


TheCable recommends that the federal government, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, should name an army barracks or a school in Borno state after the fallen hero. He must also be given a posthumous national honour. If selfish officers who undermined the war against terror for personal benefit could be given national honours, those who went against the grain by leading from the front deserve better.

We urge the government to place Ali’s children on lifetime scholarship, of a standard no less than the one accorded the freed Chibok girls currently in the United States.

Six soldiers have been confirmed to have died with Ali; the children of the sextuplet should also enjoy government scholarship so that they can attain the highest levels of education anywhere in the world.

And in Ali’s honour, the families of all soldiers killed in the north-east should be compensated; the government must simplify the process of claiming entitlement, while the army must investigate and prosecute officers found to be culpable in the repeated allegations of corruption in the management of slain soldiers’ entitlement.

Lieutenant-Colonel Muhammadu Abu Ali lived for his soldiers. Now that he is a martyr, the Nigerian government must not only live for him, it must live for ALL the soldiers risking their lives in the north-east, whether dead or alive. That is what Ali would have wanted were he alive; and Buhari cannot afford to fail him!

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies.