- Buhari, CDS: Loss not in vain
Tears flowed freely yesterday at the National Military Cemetery in Abuja, where the remains of the former Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, and 10 other victims of weekend’s air mishap in Kaduna, were interred.
The late Army Chief, three Brigadiers-General, two Majors, three Flight Lieutenants, two Sergeants, as well as an Aircraft Man, died when a military aircraft that took-off from Abuja, crashed in Kaduna, killing all occupants onboard.
Sunday Telegraph reports that proceedings for the solemn ceremony began with simultaneous services held at the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Base, as well as the National Mosque, where prayers were said for the departed gallant senior officers.
Ibrahim was scheduled to grace the passing-out of recruits from the Depot Nigerian Army in Kaduna State as Special Guest, when the misfortune happened. At the national cemetery, emotions ran high, as family members, officers and course-mates of the deceased officers,could not hold back tears when the bodies of Ibrahim and other deceased officers, were brought in by ambulances, in tow.
The first body to be laid, amid tears, was that of Attahiru, whose oration was read by the Chief of Policy and Plans COPP), Maj-Gen. Benjamin Ahanotu, who betrayed emotions in the course of discharging the burden. That was shortly after the bodies arrived the national cemetery at about 2: 07pm, and were honoured in succession by the Burial Party.
There was, however, a bit of confusion, as the family of the late COAS insisted that the remains would be buried at the end of the ceremony, where prayers were expected to be rendered.
Other victims of the air mishap, who were committed to mother Earth, yesterday, were: Brig- Gen. Abdulrahman Kuliya (Acting Chief of Military Intelligence); Brigadier General MI Abdulkadir, Chief of Staff to the late COAS, Brigadier General General OL Olayinka, Major LA Hayat, Aide-De-Camp to the COAS and Major N Hamza. Others were Flight Lieutenant TO Asaniyi, the pilot of the ill-fated aircraft, Flight Lieutenant AA Olufade, Sergeant O Adesina, Sergeant Umar and ACM OM Oyedepo. Sunday Telegraph reports that bodies first arrived the National Mosque, as well as the NAF Protestant Church in Abuja, from 44 Nigerian Army Referral Hospital, Kaduna.
In his remarks entitled “Love for Country”, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Lucky Irabor, said the tragic incident was not only a loss to the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN), but to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He, nonetheless, vowed that the loss would never be in vain.
While describing the late Army Chief as a patriotic and professional officer, the CDS assured Nigerians that “the sting of death will not stop the fight against insecurity”. According to the four-star General:”
He (Attahiru) had a distinguished career. “He showed his patriotism to the unity of the country. “He died at a time he was most needed”. “It is deeply saddening that I have to give these remarks on this occasion. Why are we here? Love for country?
“How did we get here? Love for country. What is the purpose of the oath of allegiance? Love for country.
“Yesterday, the 21st day of May was a very sad day for the Armed Forces of Nigeria. Yesterday was a sad day for the nation as I received with shock and utter dismay the gloomy news of the sudden demise of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru and 10 other gallant officers and personnel.
“The loss of our gallant and energetic but calm Chief of Army Staff, and other heroes of patriotic zeal and love our country is painful, but certainly not in vain”.
He added: “Today, the recruits of depot Nigerian Army were to be on Passing Out Parade to herald their joining the workforce of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. “The Chief of Army Staff was to be the special guest of honour at the event. One of our finest and best pilots was conveying him along with the entourage.
After landing at the Kaduna International Airport, the cold hands of death, which manifested in the stormy weather ended that journey. The sting of death, you have not stopped the fight against all forms of insecurity”.
“It is human for me to recall and with a sense of loss, my personal experience with him at the Nigeria Army Training and Doctrine Command.
That was where I fondly call him my second in command. President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of Defence, Maj-Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd), described the death of the gallant officers and others, as a national tragedy.
This was as he noted that the incident represented a trying period in the life of the country, “It is tragedy to the nation and we must do all we can to them.
They were known for their uncommon loyalty to the nation, a virtue that is required of all of us at this trying moment”, the President said.
Among other dignitaries at the solemn event, were Service Chiefs, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha; two former COAS, Lt-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, and Abdulrahman Dambazzau; Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, among others. Over 3,000 officers and personnel, among others, witnessed the interment.