Nigeria Is Worth Dying For, But Not In Vain - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE

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Monday, February 1, 2021

Nigeria Is Worth Dying For, But Not In Vain



By Owei Lakemfa

FELIX Aondaver Kura was a unique Nigerian. At 36 he had neither drank alcohol nor smoked in his life. He was a calm, unassuming and courageous Nigerian youth who had read Linguistics at the Benue State University. After graduating in 2009, he served in the mandatory National Youth Service Corps Scheme in Ibadan. He joined the Nigerian Army in 2012 where his sterling qualities shone. With the terrorist Boko Haram in full swing, he was deployed to that blazing battle field where the insurgents took no prisoners. For five years he was at the battle front serving under the Boko Haram Counterinsurgency Operation Lafiya Dole. He earned praise for his brilliance and bravery in battle.
In 2016, he married his heartthrob, Susan and two years later, was redeployed to the 177 Guards Battalion, Shitu Alao Barracks, Keffi, Nasarawa State. This is near Abuja and the corps is part of the elite guards charged with protecting the Presidency and the seat of power. Despite this, an army of terrorists and bandits have made the neighbouring Mararaba-Udege Road, in Odingi, Toto Local Government of Nassarawa their base.
Fresh from the battles against the Boko Haram, Kura felt more at home in the bush clearing these bandits who apart from making a career of kidnapping had also terrorised residents so much that many had abandoned their farms. With the frequent clearing of the bandits, some of the farmers in the area returned to till the soil. The young army officer became talked about in the town. This might have gotten to the hearing of the bandits.
In the last few months, it seemed the bandits have returned in full force to the area. On September 14, 2020, they ambushed over a dozen officers of the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC. Two officers were killed during the attack and ten abducted but eventually freed. This January, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Anchor University, Lagos, Johnson Fatokun, a professor of Computational Mathematics was also abducted by these bandits. They demanded a N20 million ransom. Ransom was paid before the academic was released.
Earlier in the month, the bandits kidnapped a number of travellers and residents, and Kura who had been decorated with the rank of Captain in August 2020, was directed by the Commander on January 18, 2021 to rescue the victims. He had 13 soldiers whom on entering the forest, he deployed. As he advanced, he saw from afar, men in army uniform. He assumed they were part of his troops, so he moved closer and waved his hand to signal he was approaching. No sooner had he done so he realised these were bandits not soldiers. But it was too late as he came face to face with scores of bandits numbering about a hundred. It was an ambush! All Kura had was a total of 14 men, his experience and courage. The bandits immediately opened fire. He and some of his men were cut down.
When communication with the soldiers was lost, the Command sent a company of about 100 soldiers to find and rescue the men. The rescue team recovered the corpses of Kura, Sergeant Yakubu Bati, Lance Corporal Kefas Iliya and four other soldiers. His batman was said to have escaped while others were missing. When the phone numbers of some of the soldiers were reportedly called, the bandits were said to have picked the calls and advised the army to stop looking for the missing soldiers as they had been killed.
Kura’s corpse suggested three things. First, he was shot in the neck from an elevated angle, suggesting that he was not killed by the bandits he faced, but by some of them who might have been hiding in the trees behind him. Secondly, this suggested a well laid trap which simply ensnared the soldiers. This raises questions whether the mission had been leaked and compromised. Thirdly, those who saw the corpse said it suggested some mutilation. This might mean that the bandits knew him and were revengeful even on his corpse.
What seemed the more perplexing to me is that days after the authorities of the 177 Guards Battalion had informed the families of the slain soldiers and burial plans concluded, the Nigerian Army Headquarters still claimed ignorance of the incident. Is it possible that the army would be liaising with the victims’ families while keeping their HQ in the dark about such incident which occurred so close to Abuja the seat of power? Or could the claimed ignorance be deliberate so as not to create panic in the country’s capital city? Whatever the case, would the non-public recognition of the slain soldiers’ courage and sacrifice, not dampen enthusiasm amongst their colleagues?
Captain Kura was interred last Tuesday in Usambe, Kwande Local Government in Benue State. He and his men are gone. They fought for their fatherland and paid the supreme price. Their killers are still in the same forest continuing their trade of banditry and kidnapping. They may grow in number and strength and move from the forest and Nassarawa highways, through Abaji and Kwali where some of them have carried out kidnappings, and one day decide to move into Abuja itself. That is if the government continues to snore or waste its wakeful moments chasing and shooting members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.
Whatever the case, the matter of Kura and his men raise more questions. Does the army engage in survey, intelligence gathering and analysis before troop deployment? If it does, why did it send 14 soldiers on a combat mission in a forest known to habour hundreds of bandits? Was a strength analysis made before it concluded that a team of 14 was enough strength to engage and overpower bandits that were known to be holding scores of people? Even if the army, given its combat experience – which a civilian like me does not have – was of the view that 14 was enough strength to overpower the bandits, why was there no support cover or backup in case of an ambush or attack? What lessons can the army learn from the Captain Kura sacrifice to ensure there would be no repeat of such a needless sacrifice?
Given the facts that the new Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Lucky Irabor and the new Chief of Army Staff, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru were commanders of Operation Lafiya Dole, will they make the military undertake risk analysis and assessment before deploying men for combat? Can they begin by getting the army to publicly acknowledge the sacrifices of Captain Kura and his men so as to boost morale in the armed forces?
Nigeria is worth dying for, but such sacrifice must not be in vain.

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