By Sanya Otuyalo
Just had the heart-breaking task of seating through my cousin’s funeral, Captain Omitola Falana. He died in active service in Katsina on the 24th of September 2020. His wife couldn’t even see his body as he was shot in the head at close range after being wounded and was lying down injured. He was a fine officer and complete gentleman. A second-generation soldier he knew what he was signed up for and paid the ultimate sacrifice for country (Not sure this country is worth dying for though). He was a soldier’s soldier and had served for 6 years in Maiduguri. Sometime last year he was kidnapped somewhere in Kaduna but luckily escaped, as he was to say to me later about his escape ‘ I decided to take my chances as I would rather die trying and fighting than to be killed like a dog’. Well he went down fighting.
I confess to reading headlines in Newspapers and online about Nigerian Army soldiers that die daily in battle but like everyone else, it was just another news story, just another casualty, just another number. Now it’s hit home, it takes a new meaning. At 37 years old he was in the prime of his life. He was someone’s husband and son, brother, and cousin but to every other person another statistic in a war we know nothing about and is far closer to us than we can ever imagine. He died 2 weeks ago today and I have read news articles since then about more soldiers that have died defending this country. They have all paid the ultimate sacrifice and are with us only in numbers and in memories, but nothing changes in terms of the commitment of our leaders in all tiers to take this problem seriously. Hitherto the enemy was Boko Haram but now it’s the major problem is banditry. Slowly but surely, this is moving down south. Just yesterday a Nigerian Army Colonel was reportedly kidnapped, along the Abuja-Kaduna road. A Lt. Colonel was killed in the ambush that my cousin died in about 2 weeks ago, 12 men from the police who were part of the advance team of the Borno State Governor were killed in an ambush, casualties and figures to everyone else but sons, husbands and fathers to some others.
I don’t know how much an MRAP ( Mine Resistance Ambush Protection vehicle ) costs but in a country where those that beg us for our votes are treated much better than those who pay the ultimate price, surely there’s something wrong.
It was Maiduguri years ago, Kaduna today and who knows if it’s Lagos the next. In a country where DSS paid a ransom to free one of their agents, are we truly safe? There’s definitely a lot wrong with this country but if with all our problems we can sleep well at night, can’t travel freely and safely, don’t take care of those that die protecting us, we are in bigger trouble than we all realise.
As I write this, maybe another soldier has once again paid the ultimate price, definitely in the coming weeks and months others will but we move on with our lives and leave those that have been affected to mourn while this country counts yet more bodies who become statistics in a war that doesn’t have to be.
I was having a conversation with a friend who knows quite a bit about Military matters and his opinion is that the insurgency will never end. He says there are too many people profiteering from this war to want it to end and this is not a Nigerian thing. Money and profit has always been the motivation for many wars but surely there are people willing to do right in this country cos surely it will consume every one of us…..it’s just a matter of time. As my cousin goes home to his maker, I truly pray and hope for the best for my country Nigeria, I truly do but gradually with each passing day the strength to pray gives way to worry and despair. May God help us all.
Rest in peace Omitola, while its tradition to speak well of the dead, you were truly and brave officer and quintessential gentleman. The scars of battle and experiences of war never changed who you were. Always had a positive attitude to things and life. Always respectful and polite. Our December yearly gathering will never quite be the same again.
God Bless You Bro.
NB: Captain Omitola Kolawole Falana also happens to be my first cousin, i am grieved and still grieving for his death in a ‘war’ that is senseless. But his death would not be in vain along with other Officers and Men who have laid down their lives defending this nation. Salute!