YNaija Editorial: How to honour Lt. Col. Muhammad Abu-Ali

The life and death of Lieutenant Colonel Muhammad Abu-Ali brings into focus once again the sacrifices of the Nigerian Army in the fight against Boko Haram.

Abu-Ali earned a double promotion in to Lieutenant Colonel earlier this year as a result of the bravery he has displayed on the front lines, and the outpouring of emotions on news of his death, means he is no ordinary soldier.

Yahaya Bello, governor of his home state of Kogi even issued a statement and President Buhari is sending his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, to his funeral. These gestures however pale in comparison to the long list of tributes which have poured forth, from those who have fought alongside him, and those who have heard about him. All those tributes are unanimous: Muhammed Abu-Ali is a hero. In giving his life for his country, he serves as a reference point for his comrades and the rest of Nigeria.

His powerful example of valour and professionalism is in the very best traditions of the Nigerian Army, before repeated interventions in politics caused that institution to lose its way. More than ever before, the Nigerian Army – and Nigerian society – needs more like him.

Abu-Ali’s example stands in stark contrast to much of Nigerian society. Where corruption is the norm, he displayed selflessness. While others use instruments of the state to inflict harm on others, he used his talents to protect his countrymen.

To see him celebrated in this manner, will be a source of consolation to the fighting men who are away from their families for months on end, not knowing whether if they will ever make it home. It will show the comrades he has left behind that their sacrifice is appreciated by a grateful nation.

It is vitally important that these sacrifices of Nigerian soldiers are not in vain. Their welfare – and that of other men in uniform – must be given the highest priority. Their salaries must be paid on time, their families taken care of, and all the equipment necessary for their safety and success in the discharge of their duties must be provided.

Not to ensure this is treason, and that is what has been going on for the past several years. Money meant for the war on terrorism was stolen by top military officials, while the soldiers risked their lives defending their country. Since the Buhari administration came into office, large sums have been returned or seized from these people, but no one has been put in jail.

These men have the blood of many soldiers on their consciences, and should be brought to justice. Just as important is to ensure that those abuses do not happen again, or else, the labour of our heroes would truly have been in vain.

Muhammed Abu-Ali was just one man, but his actions show how one person can make a difference. His father was a former military governor in the 90s, and he could have decided not to put his life on the line. His colleague, Sufi Abubakar, wrote this on Facebook in his memory:

“I remember, you left me in Gwoza and after every 2 days you call or chat to hear how I am doing. And when BHT starved us for good 5 days of continuous attacks in Gwoza, you always call to offer me advice on how to go about it. Your advice really worked as we always beat them. Abu Ali, you are the only person in the NA that can do what you did to this country. You took part and led all the major operations to liberate all the communities and clear all BHT hide outs and enclaves in the NE from Yola to Borno. Only God can pay you”.

Muhammed Abu-Ali will be buried today. May he, and the rest of our heroes, rest in peace.

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