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Remembering a true patriot: Happy posthumous 56th birthday to Lt-Gen Attahiru

‘…whilst we thank God for an impactful short life he spent here on earth, for his immediate family and close friends, especially his wife and his three beautiful girls, his birthday serves as a reminder of their loss. An evocation of their pains, the hurt, and the vacuum that his exit had engendered and buried deep within’

BORN on August 10, 1966 in Doka, Kaduna North Local Government area of Kaduna State, the 25th Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru would have been 56 today, but for the tragic event of May 21 2021 that claimed his life and those of 10 other fine officers and men of the Nigerian Army.  I have no doubt in mind that if he was here with us today, we would have been celebrating, most likely in a small family gathering, with friends and family. That was his nature. A complete gentleman who was not given to glitzy living!

Gen. Attahiru was a true patriot who served his fatherland with every fibre of his being for 35 glorious years. Today, on the occasion of his birthday, we remember a gentle giant who was resolutely determined to end the Boko Haram menace and the insurgency in the North West part of the country within the shortest time possible. Anyone who knew General Attahiru would confirm that, despite holding the number one position in the Nigerian Army, albeit ephemerally, he was simplicity, humility, and above all, grace, personified. He shunned publicity and was refreshingly one of those blessed individuals who just graciously do what they do to improve outcomes for humanity without drawing attention to themselves.

Quite providentially, August is a celebratory month in the Attahirus’ home as his darling wife’s birthday is only seven days after his. I, therefore, recall with fondness, the birthday of his wife in August 2020 when the country was just coming out of the Covid-19 lockdown and only family members were allowed to meet. I was privileged to be invited to the birthday lunch where less than 10 of us were present at this up-market restaurant in a convivial company of only close family members. I teased him by saying I was the odd one out as a non-family member. He just laughed and said, “Nooo… you are family, that’s why you are here.” This was some five months before his appointment as the COAS and as the host, his love for his wife, Fati, and their three beautiful daughters (Farrah, Maliha, and Iman) was there for all to see.

Armed with two Master of Science degrees in Strategic Management and Policy Studies from the Nigerian Defence Academy and Human Resources Management and Development from Salford University in the United Kingdom, as well as a Graduate Diploma in International Studies from the University of Nairobi, Kenya, General Attahiru was a refined and well-read family man who would readily and confidently discuss any subject with such clarity and open-mindedness of a true scholar. 

One cannot but ruminate over what might have been. Were he to be alive here with us today, his classmates from Rimi College would have found a unique way to celebrate one of their own; Members of the 35th Regular Course of the Nigerian Army would have feted him, as they were lifelong friends and families; the general military constituency would have saluted a courageous, patriotic and a fiercely fair and just COAS who had the fear of God in him. I can only imagine how much they miss him!  

In all of this, whilst we thank God for an impactful short life he spent here on earth, for his immediate family and close friends, especially his wife and his three beautiful girls, his birthday serves as a reminder of their loss. An evocation of their pains, the hurt, and the vacuum that his exit had engendered and buried deep within.

The establishment of a Foundation in his memory (General Ibrahim Attahiru Foundation) by his dear wife is a truly remarkable way to, not only immortalise him, but to ensure that General Ibrahim Attahiru continues to do good and touch lives, even from his grave. The documentary on his life and his biography, “The Man, the Soldier, the Patriot” succinctly chronicled the life and times of this great Nigerian who departed this sinful world, just three months into his role as the Chief of Army Staff. 

I want to end this by quoting the author of Proverbs 10:7 who says “the memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.”  As his birthday is marked posthumously, may the soul of General Ibrahim Attahiru continue to rest in perfect peace, and may Almighty God continue to guide, protect and bless the beautiful family he left behind.

*Olukiran is a family friend and he writes from London. He can be reached on [email protected]

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