NO matter how elaborately the death of a soldier is celebrated, it still remains a tragedy the nation and his family would have loved to avoid. They would rather he should live and be continually garlanded, than die and be mourned with fulsome elegies. No parent appreciates this painful fact as the late Lt.-Col. Muhammed Abu-Ali’s father, a retired brigadier-general. Lt.-Col. Abu-Ali, Commanding Officer of the 272 Tank Battalion, died in October in the battle for Mallam Fatori against Boko Haram insurgents. It is disputable whether any officer’s death has been so celebrated. In fact, the celebration led to some grumblings in the army, with many families of fallen officers wondering why there seemed to be some partiality in the way military heroes were mourned.

Barely two months later, the death of another heroic officer in the hands of Boko Haram insurgents in the same war theatre has provoked fresh controversies, with grieving family members accusing the government of being insensitive and partial. Lt.-Col. Otobrise Umusu, Commanding Officer of the 118 Task Force Battalion of the Army’s 7 Division in Borno, was killed by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) on the road to Baga on December 12.

In a letter indicating the family’s displeasure with the way his death was handled, the younger brother of the fallen officer allegedly wrote a letter to the president and military authorities, saying: “It is now Wednesday 14th December 2016, and as I write this letter with tears in my eyes, my father, my brother’s wife Ufuoma Umusu and his siblings have not been contacted by you, your office, the Chief of Defence Staff or the Chief of Army Staff to offer your condolences for our loss.

My brave brother sacrificed his life and future with his family to make yours and every Nigerian’s today safe. In my humble opinion we deserve your acknowledgement and appreciation and as a former army officer I know you appreciate the sacrifice involved in serving your country and it saddens me that in over 24 hours after the passing of my brother a call has not been made to my family. I do not under any circumstance believe this is too much to ask; for the fallen heroes of our beloved country Nigeria.”