The year 2016 is indeed a year of gratitude and huge successes not only to the people of Borno or North East but the whole of Nigeria. The year was no doubt full of ups and downs—but what was most remarkable of all was the fall of Sambisa, the ‘almighty’ camp and hideout of the Boko Haram leader Shekau.
As an individual and citizen of the most affected state, Borno, it is incumbent on me to express my unending gratitude to Almighty Allah and all the troops and their commanders that led the battle to the actualization of this feat. The raid on Sambisa by our gallant troops is what no amount of allowance or encomiums can pay—it is a grand sacrifice for Nigeria to remain not only peaceful but a sovereign nation with no internal threat. History will always recall with all sense of fulfilment this long-awaited, almost impossible, feat—just like it did to our warriors at the frontline of the Civil War 50 years ago.
As we bid farewell, once and for all to 2016 and all that it had, my man of 2016 is Major General Lucky Irabor, the 3rd Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, North East, Nigeria.
Many readers and followers of my commentary will wonder why this went to Maj. Gen. Irabor rather than Lt. Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai. His choice is simple and not far-fetched.
To start with, Major General Lucky Irabor, an engineer and officer of the Nigerian Army Corps of Signal has been at the frontline of a ferocious battle for quite a long time and among others, the brain behind the establishment of the Theatre Command, Operation Lafiya Dole.
The history of the Theatre, is not, therefore, complete without his name. A son of Delta State, Major General Leo Irabor has remained, truly, if unfortunately, an unsung hero of the Nigerian Army even though he is among the finest of them—but, at the end, it is history that will judge him.
This is a man from the Niger Delta region, and because his allegiance was to the Nigerian Army, and even more to Nigeria, he fought for the people of the North East as though he was that selfless Samaritan engrossed in that humane expedition to rescue humanity—not in anticipation for any reward. While it is true that, at some time, top military officials from different quarters of the country sabotage the military operations in the region, he has demystified the ‘mythology’ that it was a conspiracy from some sections of the country against the North East (where they converted into an ATM or a money-making machine); or at least, restored and upheld the true mandate of the Nigerian Army.
The General has proven to be modest, down-to-earth and not materialistic in his activities. As a commander, his concern was to make the North East (not his region of origin) a haven for all people through offensive rather than defensive, so that the Boko Haram Terrorists would not have a breathing space.
The fall of Sambisa and other territories hitherto under the control of Boko Haram was possible due to his commanding styles. His frequent visit to troops deployed to fight in the frontlines, mostly via the tarred and unsafe roads is a great morale boost and a testament to the above. As the Theatre Commander, he may wish to command from the four walls of his office, using his experiences as a seasoned signaler. However, he decided to, as a duty, be a commander who commands from the front; not behind, like it was the case before.
Obviously, by joining the Armed Forces, one has agreed to without prejudice serve the nation under the sun or in the rain, defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria and oblige to serve in any part of the nation. How many people even from the North East, who despite having friends and relatives would like to serve in the Theatre, to help routing these terrorists? We have seen how people, sons and daughters, flee the region in the wake of the crisis. We have seen how our sons and daughters deliberately refused to show any commitment to ending the fight.
Based on this, we must appreciate a Niger Deltan, who, not only obliged to stay in the theatre of war for the past two years despite having ways to be redeployed, but visits all the nook and cranny to encourage the troops and direct them sincerely on how to unleash offensive on the terrorists unexpected.
While I join other Nigerians in celebrating this landmark in our history, I wish to most respectfully plead with Borno Emirate Council to consider a unique title for this Gallant General. This, perhaps, would encourage our brothers to emulate and shun prejudice, egoism, stereotype and sectionalism in the discharge of their assigned duties.
Based on the foregoing, I crown the smallish in size but the 'Mazan Fama' Major General Lucky Irabor as my man of the year 2016. I pray to God to grant him every success, lift him to the peak of his career and bless him with long life so that our children would celebrate him at his old age for making sure they didn't witness the ugly experience of taking over a local government, displacement of people and frequent attacks on public places.
Thank you Major General Irabor, you are a rare and really patriotic soldier of the Nigerian Army.
Ibrahim Uba Yusuf
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16 October 2021
13 December 2021