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Attahiru: General who departed in the middle of war

This shock may eventually subside into numbness and resigned acceptance,

Losses at all levels of life, are traumatic. But a loss resulting from a sudden and unexpected death, particularly of a national figure, tends to be several times more so, especially for the immediate circle (personal and professional) of the deceased. It punctures the psyche and leaves a tear in the fabric of the mind.

Work is abruptly cut short. Plans made with assured certainty are, in a matter of minutes, doomed to remain forever unexecuted. Appointments are instantly voided, and dozens of loose ends are left hanging, never to be tied up.

The bustle of public life and urgent national assignments are brought to a forced and destabilizing halt. Phone numbers dialled frantically in disbelief no longer connect, and Whatsapp messages from only a very short while back are pored over, as the “last seen” time fades further and further into the past.

This shock may eventually subside into numbness and resigned acceptance, but the stark lack of closure in most cases, will always remain.

Such was the confusion, pain and bewilderment one felt on receiving the news of the ill-fated plane crash of Friday May 21, 2021. Almost two weeks on, I am trying to recover and navigate the debris of that devastating event as I put pen to paper.

I had been in close and regular communication with the late COAS since his appointment in January. Given my role as the Kaduna State Government’s liaison with security agencies, the intersection of our duties was inevitable.

His close links with Kaduna State, and the spirited efforts by the government against armed bandits and terrorists meant that military deployments had to be sustained at various flashpoints. General Attahiru immediately gave us renewed confidence and ensured we had prompt attention in this regard.

The Kaduna State Government over the last few years already enjoyed a robust relationship with the Nigerian Army. Attahiru’s predecessor, Lt. General TY Buratai (himself a good man who we will continue to appreciate) along with General Abayomi Olonisakin and Air Marsharl SB Abubakar, had laid a solid base for collaboration. During his brief tenure General Attahiru saw that the relationship was consolidated even further.

Lt General Ibrahim Attahiru displayed reassuring ebullience and determination. He radiated clarity of purpose from the first day, and he appeared maximally ready to steer the Nigerian Army towards the vanquishing of all prevailing security threats. He was enthusiastic about our cooperation against banditry, terrorism and criminality in Kaduna State, and indeed in the region.

It was in the course of our ongoing cooperation, we planned to meet up at the Nigerian Army Depot, Zaria, for the Passing Out Parade (POP) which was to hold on Saturday May 22, 2021. He departed Abuja for Kaduna late on that rainy Friday afternoon. The rest, as they say, is history, as I am still trying to appropriate the shock I felt since receiving the news of the crash that evening.

Lt General Attahiru was a disciplined, highly professional and determined soldier. He was braced, ready and fully committed to the daunting battle to which he was assigned. He  had a lot to give to that fight. Sadly, he has exited the arena all too abruptly.

As we all move on slowly from the tragedy, to continue in our roles and to forge ahead in this fight, Lt General Attahiru’s dedication, vigour, crystal-clear vision and dogged commitment have ensured that he will remain the unforgettable general, who departed suddenly in the middle of a war.

May the souls of all who lost their lives in the crash rest In peace and may God bless all that they have left behind.


Samuel Aruwan is the Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Kaduna State.

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