May 21, 2021 will forever be etched in the annals of history as a day Nigeria lost her heroes, the former Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru along with 10 other soldiers. The sad event occurred in the evening of that fateful day when the late COAS, traveling on an Air Force plane, was en-route to attend the passing-out parade of soldiers at an Army Depot in Kaduna State.
The day that Lt. Gen Ibrahim Attahiru died was a day that saw less love, less compassion, less light in Nigeria. He leaves us a solid message of service, virtue, duty and solidarity. The witness of his life was a model of integrity, kindness, simplicity, humility and charity. He was the proverbial gallant soldier who served his nation meritoriously and was popular among his troops as a fatherly figure who was stern, loyal and incorruptible.
In his lifetime, he had a successful, accomplished and distinguished career as a soldier. Born six years after Nigeria’s independence, his dream of becoming a soldier came true when he was accepted into the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) in 1984, thus becoming a member of Regular Course 35 of the Academy upon completion. He was also a graduate of the Command and Staff College Jaji and the Nigerian School of Infantry.
He held a Master’s Degree in Strategic and Policy studies from the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA). He also had a Maters of Science in Human Resources Management and Development from Salford University in the United Kingdom and a Graduate Diploma in International Studies from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. He undertook leadership and security policy course at the prestigious Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, USA.
Before his appointment as COAS, he held several command positions prominent of which was a tour of duty with the United Nations in Sierra Leone as a Military Observer, where he facilitated Operation Barras in September 2000. He was also an operations officer for ECOMOG Operations in Liberia. As a staff officer, he was Chief of Defence Transformation and Innovation and Chief of Defence Logistics at Defence Headquarters Abuja. In that position, he worked with the Defence Logistics Agency on enhancing the operational readiness in the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
He was also an Instructor at the NDA and the Nigerian Army School of Infantry. He was later a directing staff and Chief Instructor at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji in Kaduna state. The late Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru was at the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Special Forces Academy Shijiazhuang-Hubei Province, China for the Basic and Advanced Special/Operations Commando Forces Courses.
Gen. Attahiru went through the chain of command in the Nigerian Army, including the 146th battalion of the Nigerian Army, operation harmony 4 in the Bakassi Peninsula. He was an instructor at the depot Nigerian Army, NDA and the Nigerian Army School of Infantry. Until his appointment as COAS in January, he was the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Enugu. He was also theatre Commander, Operation Lafia Dole, a counter terrorism and insurgency outfit in North-east Nigeria.
Throughout his meritorious service as a soldier, General Ibrahim Attahiru bagged several honours and awards. He was a highly decorated officer with UNAMSIL Medal, ECOMOG Medal, Forces Service Star, Meritorious Service Star, Distinguish Service Star, Grand Service Star, Corp Medal of Honour, Command medal, Field Command Medal, and Field Command Medal of Honour. On his appointment he put himself in the forefront of bringing enduring peace to the country by touring the frontline states in the fight against insurgency. He also visited various military formations across the North-east to assess and motivate troops and officers.
The news of the General’s death is, indeed, very sad and Nigeria as well as the military in particular shall miss him greatly. Since his death, the testimony of his renowned modesty and humility has been on the lips of those that knew him. His warmth of spirit, his duty to country and loyalty many who served with say are part of his sterling qualities.
During the cause of his life, he never ceased to remind us that the greatest poverty of all is to live and to die without faith, with no integrity and sense of duty. The simplicity of his lifestyle and loyalty to his country will serve as an example for generations to come. He was an unassuming man with unbelievable generosity toward mankind; an accomplished soldier; and a dedicated, tenacious, and brilliant military brass, who spent his entire professional career working for the betterment of his country and safety of his fellow citizens.
Summing up his life, those who knew him will always reiterate and come back to one thought; never will you meet a man who more faithfully lived his values. His kind was rare. His method was simple. He lived by example. His character is the foundation of the conscience of many of those who came into contact with him, who worked with him and who were part of his life. He was strong in body, in spirit, and in commitment. He fulfilled every obligation he ever undertook. His word was his bond, and everyone knew it.
Many who were in contact with him attest to the fact that he was loyal, faithful and steadfast in maintaining ties with anyone he ever knew or came across. He had a quiet dignity, respecting himself the way he respected his superiors, his peers and those under him. Although he is no more, today, however, we have the privilege of celebrating someone who epitomizes leadership; someone whose life reflects a heart of service and commitment to faith, family, friends, and the nation.
In his tribute his immediate successor, Lt. Gen. Yusuf Tukur Buratai (Rtd), noted that Ibrahim Attahiru was on the verge of making the nation proud before his untimely death. Gen. Buratai acknowledged the tremendous efforts Gen. Ibrahim was making in the counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. He noted that while Gen. Ibrahim had worked under him at various capacities, he had no doubt about his determination to take the Nigerian military to success.
Watching his internment along with 10 other senior officers on TV who also died in the plane crash, tears rolled down freely down my cheeks as I joined Nigerians as well as the country’s top military brass, to bid farewell to the General and former Chief of Army Staff. During his funeral oration, the Military’s Chief of Policy and Plans, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Ahanotu, aptly described the late COAS as a “disciplined, gallant and professional soldier, who added value to wherever he worked.”
Indeed, Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru will long remain an inspiration to those who would serve their country, and we are blessed to have shared the gift of his life with us all. He will not soon be forgotten. His reward will be great in Heaven.
To all who loved him; his community, neighbours, admirers, friends and family, especially his wife, Hajiya Fatima, “May the Almighty reward you and help you to apply patient endurance and appreciation. Indeed our spirit, possessions and families are magnificent gifts, which God has loaned us for a period and he takes them away after the termination of that period. Gratitude becomes necessary when He gives, and patience is mandatory when He takes. Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru was from among that great gift which God allowed you to enjoy in a way that was fortunate and gratifying. Although you loved him, his place is with his maker now. As he has gone home, it is your duty to show patience in his death and gratitude for his life. May the Almighty augment your recompense, be kind in your misfortune, forgive the deceased, encourage you with endurance and give you peace. I pray you have the fortitude to bear his loss.”
As time ruthlessly rolls on towards the next death, I pray that Allah forgives and has mercy on the soul of Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru and makes honourable his reception. May Allah keep him safe and sound, protect the place where he has rested and make his entrance wide; bless him for his good deeds and surround him with a garden filled with beauty. I pray Allah admits Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru to Paradise and may his grave be spacious and filled with light; Amin.