The nation was Friday thrown into mourning following the death of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru and ten other military personnel. Benjamin Samson captures the mood of the nation and citation of the late COAS.
The remains of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru and ten others who died in a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Beechcraft King Air 350 crash in kaduna on Friday were Saturday laid to rest with full military honours amidst tears and anguish at the national military cemetery Abuja.
Others buried along with the Army Chief were Brig.-Gen. Abdurahman Kuliya (Acting Chief of Military Intelligence), Brig Gen MI Abdulkadir (Chief of Staff to the COAS), Brig Gen Olatunji Olayinka (Acting Provost Marshal-Army), Maj. L. A. Hayat (ADC to COAS), Maj. Hamza (Acting Deputy Director Finance in the office of the COAS) and the Ordely, Sgt. Umar.
Others are the crew members of the ill-fated NAF aircraft. Flt. Lt. Osaniyi, Flt. Lt. Olufade, Sgt. Adesina and ACM Oyedepo.
Members of the decease family wept uncontrollably as sympathisers had a hectic time consoling them as the caskets, draped in national colours were arranged for burial.
Encomiums were showered on late General Attahiru for his patriotism as professionalism. His untimely death no doubt has robbed Nigeria a Chief of Army Staff who, since he took over had left no one in doubt as regards his determination to succeed.
Speaking at the funeral, President Muhammadu Buhari eulogised the late COAS and other officers and men for their dedication and commitment to national security. He said Lt.- Gen Attahiru was a source of inspiration to both officers and soldiers of the Nigeria Army.
The President who was represented by the Minister of Defence, Maj Gen Bashir Magashi (retd), said today is indeed a trying moment for the Nigeria Army and the Armed Forces of Nigeria . President Buhari averred that the sacrifices of the personnel to their fatherland would always be remembered.
He particularly noted that the late Gen Attahiru is an icon of professionalism, bravery and a discipline senior officer who led the Nigeria Army from the front. This virtues, the President said is worthy of emulation by officers and men of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. He then condoled the families of the fallen heroes and assured them of the Federal Government’s support.
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor, in a speech captioned “For the love of country”, described the late Lt. -Gen. Attahiru as gallant, ebullient and energetic senior officer, who is patriotic and loyal to the unity, security, stability and well-being of the nation. He also eulogized the fallen heroes for their patriotism and zeal while noting that their sacrifices would never be in vain.
According to Gen Irabor, “as we mourn, I remember with a deep sense of pride the life and time of an accomplished General, a reliable professional and a dependable colleague”.
The CDS recalled his personal experience with the late Lt.-Gen at Nigerian Army Training and Doctrine Command, where they both shared thoughts on advancing the Armed Forces of Nigeria and the Nigerian Army in particular. He further noted that the late COAS had a distinguished career having commanded with distinction at the tactical, operational and strategic levels of military engagement in the Nigerian Army.
“These positions afforded him the unique opportunities to express his determination, energy, resourcefulness, professional endowments and strength of character. Quite significantly, he showed his patriotism and loyalty to the unity, security, stability and well-being of the nation. He was truly a fine officer and a gentleman.
“He has left us at a time when he was needed the most, a time that is now gone forever, irretrievable and painfully sad. I assure you Ibrahim, that your dreams and passion for a better and more professional Nigerian Army and indeed the Armed Forces would not die with you. I salute you and all the other compatriots aboard with you,” he said.
On the current insecurity facing the nation, the Defence Chief noted that the AFN remains undaunted as he said the war against insecurity must be won. He commiserated with the families of the departed compatriots, assuring them of the commitment of the AFN towards their welfare and well-being.
Beside families and friends, other dignitaries that attended the burial ceremony were the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasiru Ahmad el-Rufai, Senate President, Dr Ahmed Lawan, Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Defence, Mr Istifanus Musa, the Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Inspector General of Police, heads of security and paramilitary agencies, serving and retired senior military officers.
Early life and education
General Attahiru was born on 10 August 1966 in Doka, Kaduna North Local Government Area, Kaduna state. He was a graduate of the Nigerian Defence Academy, Armed Forces Command and Staff College , and Nigerian Army School of Infantry. He commenced officer cadet training in January 1984 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in December 1986 as an Infantry Officer. He held a Masters’s degree in Strategic Management and Policy Studies from the Nigerian Defence Academy. He also attained a Masters 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 had a tour of duty with the United Nations in Sierra Leone as a Military Observer, where he facilitated United Kingdom military engagement Operation BARASS in September 2000. He was an Operation Officer and later Company Commander in NIBATT 19 ECOMOG Operations in Liberia. Also, he had the unique privilege of having commanded with distinction all through the chain of command in the Nigerian Army. Prominent among these appointments is Commanding Officer 146 Battalion Nigerian Army (Operation HARMONY IV) in the Bakassi Peninsula, Commander 13 Brigade Nigerian Army (Operation PULO SHIELD), General Officer Commanding 82 Division Nigerian Army. He was a one-time Theatre Commander Operation LAFIYA DOLE (the Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Insurgency Outfit in North-Eastern Nigeria). It is on record that he brought relative stability to the region with the surrender of several Boko Haram combatants.
As a staff officer, he was unit Adjutant, 7 Battalion Nigerian Army, Serti, Chief of Staff, 1 Brigade Nigerian Army Sokoto, General Staff Officer Grade 1 Training/Operations as well as Staff Duties/Plans at Headquarters 1, 2 and 81 Divisions of the Nigerian Army. He was Deputy Director Military Secretary 2 at the AHQ MS (A) and one-time Director Army Public Relations and Spokesperson of the Nigerian Army. He was later Director staff duties and Deputy Chief of Policy and Plans at the Army Headquarters. He was equally privileged to serve as Chief of Defence Transformation and Innovation and Chief of Defence Logistics at the apex organ of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, Defence Headquarters Abuja. In that position, he worked with the US Defence Logistics Agency on the Vertically Integrated Logistics Approach (VILA) Programme towards enhancing the operational readiness in the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
On the instructional, he was an Instructor at the Depot Nigerian Army, Nigerian Defence Academy 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 – Kaduna.
He was at the National Defence College, Kenya for the National Defence Management and Security Studies Course and at the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Special Forces Academy Shijiazhuang-Hubei Province, China for the Basic and Advanced Special/Operations Commando Forces Courses. He undertook leadership and security policy course at the prestigious Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University USA, Graduate School of Media and Communication, Agha Khan University of Nairobi, Bournemouth University Disaster Management Center, and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.
Awards and medals
The General had several honors 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