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There are men…and there are MEN! Whatever interpretation you give to that, the bottom line is, there is a difference. Muhammed Abu Ali fits into the “superior group” of men-by birth, by grit, by profession, by heart, by whatever criteria one brings as the canon.

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By birth, he is a prince, by profession he was a soldier, and it is by the latter we will narrow down the content of this article. Abu Ali was not just a soldier; he was an exceptional one. Both on and off the battlefield. Abu Ali was the officer who was granted accelerated promotion from the rank of Major to Lieutenant-Colonel in September 2015, for his courageous performance in a series of the army’s engagements with Boko Haram. In February 2015, he led a team of the Nigeria army to recapture Baga from the control of terrorists.

Early life and education

Lieutenant Colonel Muhammad Abu Ali was born on the 15th of August 1980. He was born to Brigadier General Abu Ali, who was a one time Governor of Bauchi State, Nigeria from August 1990 to July 1992 during the military regime of Major General Ibrahim Babangida. Abu Ali’s father is the current Etsu of Bassa Nge in Kogi State, a first-class titleholder who is widely respected.

Ali graduated from Command Secondary School, Jos, Plateau State Nigeria, in 1997 and was admitted to the Nigerian Defence Academy in 1998 as a member of the 50th Regular Course. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant into the Nigerian Army Armour Corps in September 2003.


Abu Ali participated in the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), United Missions in Darfur (UNMO), and received an accelerated promotion from the rank of Major to Lieutenant Colonel, receiving a gallantry award from the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai in September 2015. He was the Nigerian Army officer who commanded the Army’s 272 Tank Battalion.

Chief of Army Staff Award for exceptional bravery

Ali received the Chief of Army Staff award in Gamboru for exceptional bravery from Lt Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai on September 9, 2015, for his role in the fight against Boko Haram. Ali on several occasions received commendations from the army for his bravery. An eyewitness of his bravery said: “Whenever the Boko Haram terrorists brought an armoured tank to a gunfight, Abu Ali was always there to face them with his T-27.” Abu Ali served the nation with his all and paid the supreme price by laying down his life for the peace of the country. He will be remembered for his sacrifice and commitment to the cause of the Nigerian Army to rid the Country of insurgency which has been a source of concern to everyone.

Another notable show of bravery was the case of Baga. Abu Ali was the soldier who led that operation when it was recaptured from Boko Haram. Abu Ali, a major at the time, told the soldiers that they should not worry, that they should only do five percent of the job, that he was going to do 95% of the job with the tanks. His colleagues attested, “…that was exactly what happened. He did most of the work with the tanks. He was a major at that time and his promotion after the operation was automatic because he performed very well.”  After they recaptured Baga, the soldiers were so happy that they raised him up, telling the president to elevate him to the status of colonel, not even lieutenant-colonel, because he really performed exceptionally. He also led most of the operations in Sambisa Forest at the time he was in Borno.

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Lt Colonel Abu Ali was preparing for a Sambisa operation before he was shot by Boko Haram. Abu Ali was killed by Boko Haram members on Friday, November 4 at about 10:00 pm in Borno state. He died in a confrontation with suspected Boko Haram terrorists who attacked 119 Battalion, Nigerian Army location at Mallam Fatori. He was buried on November 7, 2016, at the National Military Cemetery, Abuja.

Hamza Idris, a journalist who covered the insurgency in the northeast, put it best. “Only those who were in Borno at the height of the Boko Haram’s inglorious territorial conquest would understand, appreciate and then lament the exit of Lt. Col. Abu Ali,” Idris wrote in a tribute. His was a life full of gallantry, sacrifice, love for Nigeria and ever willing to die in order to keep it one.

Ali’s last words to his men were, “Pray, stay Alert and Stay Alive. If someone must die let it be me.”




Featured Image Source: Nigerian News Direct

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This article was first published on 5th February 2020


Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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