By Jessica Angula
Many Nigerians are unaware, octogenarian Mallam Yusuf Buratai, the father of Nigeria’s current Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai had survived World War II and aged gracefully until early hours of the day. He has answered the divine call to reunite with his maker in paradise. Mallam Buratai died in a hospital in Maiduguri.
Born in a small obscure village of Biu in Biu LGA of Borno state, ‘Baba” as he is fondly called by his admirers lived a fulfilled military and communal life as a hero and mobiliser. An ex-serviceman of World War II fame, this fulfilment stems from the devotion of his life and lineage to the worthy and patriotic service to his country, Nigeria and the cause of humanity across the world.
At a tender age of 18, Mallam Buratai was inspired by this innate passion of service to humanity by enlisting into the regional, but colonial Army designated as the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF) in Nigeria in 1942. He embarked on sea voyage to distant lands for the training and combatant engagements.
He started this awesome journey of life from Lagos to Cotonou; proceeded to Cape Town in South Africa and eventually to Mombasa. His last destination was Bombay in India, where he finally landed in Lahore. He received combat training and fought in the Burma version of World War II, alongside his other West African combatants.
Obviously destined for the military, justified by his raising of a lineage of crack soldiers, Mallam Buratai, fought gallantly during the World War II and embarked on the same strenuous voyage back to Nigeria safely for retirement.
Though he had no access to western education during his time, Mallam Buratai was a repository of natural wisdom and foresight. He believed mankind must be freed from the excesses of satanic souls. It was clear to him that standing on the fence was no remedy, as he could only sight this reality by active participation in the process of enthroning global peace in communion with other compatriots.
He stepped out boldly to join other patriots in conquering enemies of the world. He relished these moments unto death, but regrets that his closest friends and brave soldiers, whom he described glowingly as brave men, lost their lives during the war.
However, this World War II hero and veteran believed in staking his life to salvage humanity. So, at his old age, he marveled painfully, each time he heard, soldiers had retreated from the warfront in the face of enemy forces.
In an interview, he granted Daily Trust newspaper in September 2015, Mallam Buratai lamented that “But today, you hear of soldiers running away from war.” At such moments, he felt like dusting his boots to jump into the trenches so as to redeem and reclaim fatherland. But age and strength failed him.
Therefore, the scars of war and its dreariness could not diminish Baba’s passion for the Army. When his biological son, and Nigeria’s COAS and leader of the counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria, Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai voluntarily decided to toe the vocation of his father, he had no reason to object. “I did not ask him to join the army. He joined willingly. When he finished school here in Maiduguri, there was an advertisement urging young men to join the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA). He applied and was successful, so he voluntarily joined the army,” he recounted.
Mallam Buratai no doubt, has gone to reunite with the Almighty God in the blaze of glory. But he left Mother Earth a happy man, as the heights he could not attain in the Army because of the peculiar limitations of his time, his son Gen. Buratai has gladdened his heart by achieving it in manifolds.
A core disciplinarian, Mallam Buratai had an evergreen advice for his son when he conscripted into the Nigerian Army. He counseled the young Buratai to , “… be loyal to his superiors and constituted authority. I warned him to avoid any form of vice and I am grateful to God, he obeyed what I told him.”
Baba no doubt, he died a happy father to see that his son never deviated or abused any word from his advice. He was excited that his son also imbibed this same spirit and zeal in fighting for the freedom of humanity, anywhere it is in bondage.
He was indeed proud that the COAS and leader of anti-terrorism in Nigeria, his own off-spring has proved to the world, what he would have done, if it were possible to rewind the hand of the clock. It thrilled him that Gen. Buratai fought fiercely and courageously in defeating Boko Haram terrorists which had tormented and traumatized Nigerians for years.
And the passage of Mallam Buratai to the great eternity is a glorious transition in all ramifications. Aside Gen. Buratai who bears Baba’s insignia of an ideal soldier, the COAS’s son has also followed the family line of vocation and passion for rendering oneself to the service of humanity by enlisting into the military.
The elder Buratai has departed this sinful world. But he has reincarnated, by leaving Nigerians and the world, with the proud gifts and treasure of thoroughbred professional soldier-sons, who would continue to impact positively on humanity. This is a soothing reality to his departed soul, now surely resting in the cuddling arms of Allah, his creator.
Baba, Nigerians and the world would mourn endlessly, your sudden exit. It would miss your wise counsels so greatly, much as the care and affection. But we pray God to grant you eternal life and give the Buratai family, especially, the COAS, the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss. Like famed English poet, John Donne vibrated in his elegiac poems, “Oh death, thou are wicked.” Good night, Baba!
Angula is Managing Director, TheNigerian News Ltd.