By Femi Fani-Kayode
Today is yet another sad day for our country Nigeria. This morning General Mohammadu Mamman Shuwa was murdered just outside his Maiduguri home by a group of heartless people who are suspected to be members of the muslim fundamentalist sect Boko Haram.This is a tragedy of monuemental proportions. General Mohammadu Mamman Shuwa was not only an absolute gentleman but he was also perhaps the most respected, effective, disciplined, restrained and successful battle commander in the Nigerian Army during the civil war. He was in command of the 1st Division of the Nigerian army and it was the 1st Division that managed to defeat the Biafran Army and enter the east from the northern front.
Unlike many other commanders on both sides of the war, Shuwa was known for his immense compassion for the civilian population quite apart from his extraordinary courage and fighting skills. It is a matter of historical record that, unlike with other commanders, no massacres of civilians were carried out under him or by his 1st Division throughout the entire course of the war.
After capturing them he treated the Biafran soldiers, enemy combatants and the igbo civilian population with immense respect and remarkable compassion. This man was not just a profoundly good and humane person, he was not just a war hero, but he was also a great father, husband and family man. He was a very quiet man that consistently shunned the limelight and public office even though there is not one retired senior army officer in this country or politician, alive or dead, that did not revere him and hold him in the highest esteem.
He was not only one of General Yakubu’s Gowon’s most trusted and able officers and senior commanders during the war but he was also exceptionally close to and highly respected by other great and distinguished war-time commanders like General Olusegun Obasanjo, General Mohammadu Buhari, General TY Danjuma, General Benjamin Adekunle, General Adeyinka Adebayo, General Sani Abacha, General.Alani Akinrinade and General Ibrahim Babangida. They all looked up to General Shuwa just as did those of us in the younger generation and who are not in the military.
I should mention the fact that again as a measure of this great man’s level of compassion it is on record that during the northern officers counter-coup of July of July 1966 he saved the lives of many igbo offices by locking up the armoury and refusing to give up the key after the mass killing of igbo officers started all over the country. At that time General Shuwa was Commander of the 5th Battalion in Kano. Had it not been for his timely intervention and efforts and the efforts of the late Major General James Oluyele, who was his Second in Command at the time, many more igbo officers that were stationed in Kano, would have lost their lives that night.
Yet there is far more to the story of this great man than just his efforts, as gallant and indispensible as they were, during the civil war. He went on to live a long and distinguished life of honour, duty, selfless service and distinction after the war. I mourn with my brother Hon. Yusuf Tuggar and his dear wife who have lost their father-in-law and father respectively in such tragic and cruel circumstances and I mourn with the Shuwa family of Maiduguri for this great loss. If I were to ever use the great Mark Anthony’s words when he saw Julius Caesar’s bleeding and dying body after he was cut short by Brutus and the other Roman traitors this is the time that it is appropiate to do so. For I can say of General Mohammadu Shuwa as Mark Anthony said of Caeser that “here lies a Caesar, after whom comes no other”.
We have lost a true ”titan” and a living ”immortal” all rolled into one. He was a great son of Nigeria and a glorious shining star and we must do all that we can to honour him even in death. May the Lord have mercy upon General Mohammadu Mamman Shuwa and forgive him of all his sins. May his good deeds speak for him before God. May the Lord welcome him into the hosts of Heaven. May his beautiful and compassionate soul rest in perfect peace. And may the Lord avenge him of all those that saw fit to cut short his precious life.