Nigerian-Newspaper.com                  Posted - October 20th, 2006

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TRIBUTE TO LATE GENERAL NUHU BAMALLI

“From God we came, to Him we shall all return”

The above Quranic verse, (Surah 2, verse 156) explains the rationale of all deaths. Further in the Holy Quran, (Surah 3, verse 185) Allah (SWA) Has told us that every life must taste the bitterness of death. By implications therefore, we all are one way or the other just waiting for the inevitable time. Our prayer is that when the time comes, let it be that we die in peace and be blessed.

Alhaji Soja, the name we fondly called late General Nuhu Bamalli at home, met with his death on 17th September 2006. He was called Alhaji, as a mark of respect, because he was named Nuhu after our Grand father, late Mallam Nuhu Idris and much later in his life the addition “soja” featured after he chose to enroll in the military profession.

It was like yesterday in December 1992 when our father died and amongst the many visitors to our family was General Ibrahim B. Babangida, then President of the country. I was sitting very close to Alhaji when IBB asked him how many children did our father left behind. “Thirty”, Alhaji responded, “15 boys and 15 girls”. Since then we had lost two females in the family, with Alhaji been the third and the first male victim!

I recall my last talk with him on the 4th September 2006, when my MD asked me, as the HR Director of the Company, to represent him at some functions organized by 1 Brigade, Sokoto, one of them as the Special Guest of Honor. I immediately called Alhaji and asked for his guidance on what to do, especially as the visiting guest was the GOC 1 Div. He laughed and advised that normally I would not do anything, but in case I was asked to talk, I should speak on the observed cordial relationship between the civilians and military across the country, the effort the military high command was making in restoring professionalism; as well as the loyalty of the military to democratic system. He told me that the GOC was his close friend and a classmate and should discuss so with him. During the event, the late Brigade Commander, Brig Gen J. Braimah, a gentleman-officer, (who also lost his life in the plane crash) introduced me to the COG, who held me and asked me to tell my brother “West Point”, was a nick name they called themselves. After the above contact, I only received Alhaji’s last text message, at 21:13:25 on the 15th September 2006, thus:

S’Alaikum, sorry for not hearing from me till now. We were with the COAS on his maiden visit to 2 Div formations since Monday and just finished today. We were in Ilorin, Benin and Abeokuta apart from Ibadan….”

Another of Alhaji’s last memorable communication occurred on 7th September 2006 when the wife of his second son put to bed a baby boy. When contacted on the development, Alhaji was so pleased and, in his usual liberal way, asked his son what name he intended for the baby. And in a twist of fate, and history repeating itself, Naziru, the father, chose the name Nuhu for his son! Alhaji was so happy that he decided to absolve Naziru from any expenditure on the naming ceremony. The saddest part, however, was that Alhaji never saw his name-sake, as he died only 3 days after the naming ceremony!

At the time of Alhaji’s posting as GOC 2 Div in December last year, he called me in Sokoto and told me. While I congratulated and wished him success, I categorically reminded him of the “Wild, Wild West” clause, especially against 2007 coming elections. He reflected on my statement, to which he agreed. He promised to do his best under the circumstance; however, fate had other plans for him! On the fateful day of his demise, I was at our CCNN camp house in Sokoto, the state I visited the first time in my life nearly 30 years ago, in 1977/78, when Alhaji was on posting as Lt. That was the time his first son, Lasmar, now a Capt in the Nigerian Army, was borne. The striking co-incidence was that on the 17th September 2006, I had barely sent Alhaji an e-mail at about 3.00pm, in respect of my impending medical visit to Germany, when a close friend of mine, the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Media Trust Nigeria Ltd called to ask me for details of the aircraft crash! Since that minute I had not rested my oars until around 11.00pm when I got the final confirmation of Alhaji’s death from a former Governor of Kaduna State and former DMI respectively. My first attempted contact in obtaining information on the incident was ironically to General Lemu, whom I had known very closely as a bosom friend of Alhaji. All efforts to get his line through had failed, only to discover shortly that he was also a victim. Alone in my house (after Yusuf, my friend, had left me) the next task I faced was how to break the information to our mother and the family of Alhaji! As God would have it, the Brigade Commander in Kano had stormed our family house, at about the same time, with the sad news before I could decide my next line of action. I, however, had courage only to mention to my younger brothers, Hannafi and Sunusi. The rest is now history!

By the next day I had arrived Kano in preparation for the arrival of Alhaji’s corpse, which we had planned to bury in Kano. Already Idris, one of our younger brothers had concluded arrangement for the grave, next to our late father. I recall at the time the space was preserved in 1992, we all wondered which of us in the family would join the ancestors first. Every one of us rejected the possibility, except Alhaji, who simply smiled. All contacts with Abuja did not provide any in-road until on Tuesday, 19th September, 2006, when some military delegates came to Kano and confirmed on the State burial arrangement and that our presence was required in Abuja. Up to the morning of 20th September, I had maintained the firm deceptive belief, in my mind, that Alhaji was still alive, until at around 7.00am when we saw him. There he was as if in deep slumber, with peace and tranquility all over his slightly bruised face! It was indeed a very sad moment for us!!!

Alhaji had been a very rare gem in his life-time, which equally manifested in his death as well. First and foremost, he had recited the Holy Quran before he completed his primary school and was a Head boy during his time. He had led all extra curricular activities in his school and came out with one of the best results. His decision to join the military was purely his choice and was duly supported by the family, albeit the initial resentment from our mother. I recall the first day we took him to Military School, Zaria in 1968, our father strenuously identified one RSM to hand Alhaji over to him for guidance. From that time I noticed it had become the habit of our father to always establish contacts with every school/organization where his children were. We thought he was doing it for fun, until we discovered much later that he was closely monitoring our actions through those contacts!

I still remember when Alhaji was in class 1 at NMS, General Gowon, then Head of State, paid a visit to the school. Alhaji and one other student happened to be the smallest in size and were assigned as stick boys to the visitor. I still have the picture in which Gen Gowon was talking to him and proclaimed that he would one day become a General in the Nigerian Army. At a later time, sometime in 1992, I had cause to cross check the above statement from Gen Gowon, when he called Dodan Barracks to talk to Alhaji, who was not available at the time. When Gen Gowon identified himself I reminded him of that statement, which he easily recalled and still affirmed that Alhaji had a very bright future in the army and would surely rise to the peak of his career.

The level of seriousness and commitment Alhaji had had on every of his actions made him to stand out at all times. At NDA he took the silver medal for being the best army cadet, which ushered in a number of other medals in his career, culminating with the C-in-C Award for being the best graduating participant of the NWC, course 9. I was there during the passing out ceremony and witnessed one of the special displayed gifts of Alhaji. We all happened to reside in Abuja during the time, where I was the Branch Manager in a Bank, Hannafi at the Foreign Affairs Ministry and Alhaji at the NWC. He had told us earlier that he might receive the best award in the course, but in his usual way did not elaborate that the awards were as many as three! We invited all the family members, with our mother and his two wives and all the children and relations. When the moment of pride came, the first price of the Inspector General of Police was awarded to him. He collected and came straight to where we were sitting with our mother and handed the price to her. The next was the COAS Award, which he collected and went to his first wife and handed it over to her. Again he was called for the C-in-C Award, which he collected and handed over to his second wife, thus making a complete circle and balance.

The career of Alhaji in the army had been worthwhile, because he had devoted all his time and energy to his chosen profession. He had taken the top most positions and grades at all times. I remember he told me about his experience at Staff College, Ghana in 1986. He had just completed his assignment as ADC to Gen MG Nasko, then Commander Corps of Arty as a Capt. He said to me when he reported for the course he discovered all the participants were Majors. Those of our readers who know the hierarchy structure of the military would appreciate the situation better. Almost all of the others resented his presence, wondering if he had made a mistake! Alhaji kept his cool, as usual, and the course began. Soon his qualities began to manifest and within no time the fellow participants accepted him, not only as equal, but also a reference point for details throughout the duration. He recalled how they teased him as a “Wonder Capt” after the discovery of his capabilities. Alhaji had always subjected his fate to God, without much struggle to seek for favors. He had strong believe that God’s choice was the best for him. Soon after Ghana he was sent to India and again to Pakistan, each for a year. On his return in 1988, he called me one night and said he was to be posted back to the Arty H/Q. By the next few days he called again to tell me that the posting was changed to MA of Gen Bali, then Minister of Defence. A few hours later he called once more to say that a former ADC of IBB had just called him from US, that he was posted to Dodan Barracks as Staff Officer to C-in-C. The last posting eventually prevailed. In this capacity, he told me how one day (I was by then also working in Lagos) the late ADC, Col UK Bello had proposed to him an opportunity to accompany one of the presidential planes to Saudi Arabia, on official assignment, for Umrah sometime in 1990, having also benefited from the same privilege earlier. Alhaji took permission and off they went. The following day Orkar and his colleagues stroke and the ADC lost his life. May his soul rest in peace. That was my first time of experiencing the effect of military coup, which also nearly claimed my life and that of my family.

As ADC, Alhaji had gone through many experiences, which helped to shape both his career and social life. His cordial working relationship with his boss was quite memorable and had tremendously changed his focus in life. I remember one evening, Alhaji asked me to accompany him to see the President. I remained in the car outside the presidential mansion, while he went in. Momentarily he came out completely a changed man. His happy face had become gloomy and was in deep thoughts and worries. One look at him told me all was not well. But in his usual way, he only would want you to know what he wanted you to know, so I ignored his condition and we moved on. It was like he finally came to terms with whatever bothered him before he offered explanations. The Military Secretary (a former Military Governor) had proposed him for accelerated promotion to Lt Col, but the President had called him to advise against it, insisting that he should grow normally to avoid any future victimization and enmity from colleagues. Apparently Alhaji had wanted the new rank, but soon accepted the guidance. We prayed over the issue and he put the matter behind. Much later in his life, he recalled and thanked the good advise, especially after the series of retirements at different regimes.

It was, however, not all rosy for Alhaji in his position as ADC, because he told me his ordeal during one of the independence ceremonies in Abuja. By sheer human error they forgot the pick-up cap of the President. He said somehow he did not know what happened, but he just took with him one of the berets of the President to Abuja. The error was only discovered when the President was dressed to go out for review of parade and no pick-up cap! In the atmosphere no one could explain anything, so Alhaji brought out the beret from nowhere and offered to his master to use. He told me that IBB snatched it and threw it back at him without any word. In the end the President had to use it like that and after the activity all returned to normal. I came to know this story because of my inquisitive questions to Alhaji at all times, on their military affairs. After the ceremony, which we all saw live on TV, I asked Alhaji what was that new style of using beret on ceremonial dress. He laughed and told me the whole story.

Alhaji was a dutiful husband and a good father to his children. He cared about them and ensured they had the basic needs in life, without excesses. He was a brother and a father to his relations and a true friend to others. He respected all and sundry and lived a very simple life. He was unassuming and down to earth in all his dealings. One great quality he had was his ability to control his mouth with regards to what he said. He could keep his opinion to himself for as long as it was safe for him to express and could also be trusted with anything in this world. He was generous, loyal and obedient. I can still remember as part of his care for his own, in 1980, I was then a part 2 student at ABU Zaria, when I had an operation on my foot and the Doctor advised me to walk less around the campus. By then Alhaji was a Capt and SO-CBC at the NDA and had come to see me in the hostel on his way from Kano. Immediately I told him about the Doctor’s recommendation, he arranged and bought for me a Chopper bicycle, which I used throughout my university days. In his enduring nature all you needed to do was to pass your problems to Alhaji and you would be off the load. His life had positively impacted the lives of so many people. But I do not know if it is true that the military gives injections to its men, so that they could be wild once in a while. Sometimes Alhaji could be as wild as a lion.

While we have lost a son, a brother, a husband and a father, his colleagues have lost a friend indeed and the nation has lost a General, popularly described as “a soldiers’ soldier” in his constituency. May the soul of Major General Nuhu Bamalli rest in perfect peace, amen.

On behalf of our entirely family, we thank every Nigerian and foreigners who have condoled us over Alhaji’s death and pray to God to reward each and everyone in abundance.


MUHAMMAD NOURAH BAMALLI
Abuja Road, Sokoto
nourah_bamalli@yahoo.co.uk
October 20th, 2006




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