He was delivering his final command performances. But he didn’t know it.
Konduga in Borno fell to Boko Haram a December night in 2014. The responsibility to defend the last town before the terrorists hit Maiduguri also fell on a colonel, a master holder in public administration and defence and strategic studies.
The battle of Konduga was decisive for both the insurgent group and the 195 Battalion Lt-Col Mohammed Abdulfatai commanded then.
After the rattle of anti-aircraft guns and AK-47s died down, and Konduga still stood, while over 200 terrorists lay dead, the military higher-ups later had some words to describe that night and its commander Abdulfatai: he was calm.
In a letter of commendation PRNigeria published, the then Commander, 26 Taskforce Brigade of the Nigerian Army in Konduga, Brigadier General (now serving Major General) DH Ali-Keffi captured the night better.
“On the night of December 1-2, 2014, the defensive position of Task Force Brigade and 21 Brigade which formed the covering force of 7 Division in Konduga front came under Boko Haram Attack.
“The assault was preceded by sustained bombardment for about one hour in which anti-aircraft guns and other heavy calibre weapons were fired at own position followed by six waves of ground offensive utilising vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) among other assets.
“At the end of the battle, Boko Haram Terrorists (BHT)suffered heavy casualties over 200 estimated killed and a great deal; more injured as attested by strewn corpses and trails of bloodstains all over the battlefield.
“The troops of the two Brigades put up a remarkable performance as only one soldier was killed. The victory achieved was to a large extent attributable to the gallantry exhibited by the troops, top of which was by you (Lt Abdulfatai). I observed all through the encounter how you professionally handled the forward troops, which was the main focus of the Boko Haram offensive. Throughout the period, you gave firm and effective orders over the radio which ensured that the troops in the trenches, as well as the armoured vehicles, were well-positioned to meet any and every BHT onslaught.
“You equally employed the artillery and mortar in a manner that led to serious degradation of the BHT and in the process also destroyed two VBIEDs. You skilfully integrated most of the battlefield operating systems into a cohesive and effective fighting machine.
“I was most impressed by your leadership as you displayed effective command and control of the troops during the battle. Your calmness and composure over the radio reassured the command and elicited the right response from the troops who met the enemy attack with confidence and morale.
“You equally exhibited rare and uncommon courage as you moved about the battlefield without minding the physical danger that you were exposed to. You were undoubtedly MY HERO OF THE NIGHT. I salute your courage, exemplary leadership, and professional competence.
“It is thus my singular honour and privilege to commend you for conducting yourself in a most professional manner in the face of a determined BHT offensive. You are indeed a credit, not only to your unit, the brigade but also to the whole Konduga sector. Well done and keep it up,” General Ali-Keffi concluded.”
Gwoza, Bama, and Kawuri equally came under terrorist attack after the Konduga night. Abdulfatai marshalled his men and materiel and routed back the terrorists emphatically.
With that same calmness Abdulfatai scored another victory as the battalion under his command whitewashed the bastards, again.
His soldierly response and victory didn’t go unnoticed in the middle of the commotion.
His military commander in a letter with reference No: Hq26/TFBDE/G1/300/03 summed the battle in few words.
“I am delighted to observe that your action during the offensive operation of that day is worthy of commendation as you not only exhibited uncommon courage but exemplary leadership with encouraged many of the troops including my humble self.
“I am particularly honoured and privileged to have engaged in combat alongside such a brave and courageous officer and gentleman like you. You have proved by your action that you are an asset to the Nigerian Army and the country at large.”
As it happened, that was the last action the commander would see. He wasn’t taken home in a body bag. No wound.
The then military authorities just sacked him, along with 37 others in 2015. It was illegal, and an industrial court nullified it. But the court just glanced off the military brasshats.
The gallant soldier is rusticating now.