BOOK REVIEW: Portrait of an intellectual soldier


People have various ways of rationalising death and consoling the bereaved, especially if the deceased died young. ‘Igi t’o to ki pe ni ‘gbo’, meaning straight trees don’t last in the forest, is one of the common sayings of the Yoruba to explain untimely demises. Straight trees, they say, are usually the first to be logged for human use, and that, like them, good people, too, don’t last. 

This appears to be the case with the late chief of army staff, Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru, who spent just 114 days in office before his death in an air crash alongside 10 other officers and men of the Nigerian Armed Forces on May 21, 2021. He was appointed army chief on January 26, 2021. He had started introducing impactful changes that analysts believe would have turned around the fortunes of the Nigerian Army, particularly tackling the Boko Haram insurgency, before his passing.

His demise, alongside others caused by ‘inclement weather’ as the aircraft, was landing at the Kaduna International Airport, shocked Nigerians and the international community. It was trailed by an outpouring of grief, with mourners attesting to Attahiru’s sterling qualities. He was settling in office and had articulated his vision for turning around the Nigerian Army. Sadly, death only allowed him to touch just the tip of his plans, with most Nigerians still in the dark about the man and his antecedents.

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