Former Senate Leader, Teslim Kola Folarin is bereaved. He lost his nephew, Shehu Emiola when Fulani herdsmen swooped on a unit of soldiers in Agatu, Benue State.
Street Journal gathered that Shehu actually died trying to save a colleague, another Second Lieutenant who was shot by the rampaging herdsmen. As it is the culture of the army never to leave a wounded man behind, Shehu carried the soldier who was shot in the chest on his shoulders and beat a retreat which saw him running several kilometres with the wounded man.
Accounts from soldiers who would not want to be named stated that in his bid to escape the attackers who grossly outnumbered them, Shehu saw a canoe on the river bank, put the colleague inside and paddled to the other side. He however gave up on reaching the shore.
He was buried on Tuesday, 21 January, 2014 given full military honours. Family and friends gathered at the Guard Brigades Central Mosque in Mambilla Barracks, Abuja to pray for the repose of the soul of the deceased. After that, a military burial party led mourners to the cemetery at the Lungi Barracks where his remains was interred.
Just before the interment, Street Journal’s WOLE ADEJUMO had a chat with the former Senate Leader who spoke in glowing terms about his departed nephew. He also spoke on the security situation in the country. Excerpts:
Accept our condolence on the loss of your nephew sir. In a few words, how would you describe him?
In the English sense of it, he was my nephew, but in the traditional sense, he is my son, somebody who we brought up. His father who is my brother is late and his mother, my sister-in-law, both late. So I was like a father figure to him. A jolly good fellow, brave guy, always wanted to join the Army. He would do no other job but the Army. He was proud to be a soldier.
From accounts we were hearing from his superiors, they said he was courageous. It’s a shame such a promising career had to be cut short. I think the Nigerian Army needs to look at their policy, recruitment and training again. It takes a lot to train these officers, it takes a lot, very expensive. To train them and now to lose them to some cowboys, area boys, that’s what I will call them. Its so unfortunate
Losing a son is always very terrible and devastating loss. How is the family coping?
We are not coping. I am not going to say we are coping. We are in shock. Going by our tradition, I am not even supposed to be here but I thought that is the last thing I can do to him as a mark of respect to show how much I loved him.
Everybody is coping their own ways but its very difficult for me because besides being a son, he was also my best friend. He was like the bridge between my generation and the coming generation but he’s gone now. But we take solace in the Almighty Allah. There is nothing we can do. We are not happy. People will say you thank God, but also we have a right to tell God that we are not happy.
You mentioned training and policies of the Army. In what areas do you think they might need to be reviewed?
When I say training, looking at his corpse, there is no single bullet wound on his body. So he died of cardiac arrest. No question, he was exhausted. So they need to look at that aspect of their training so they don’t lose more young officers. And then this policy of engagement has to be looked at again because from what they kept telling us, we were in constant touch with him, they were looking at these people for weeks.
They were on the other side of River Benue, they knew they were going to attack them and the question is why didn’t the military send soldiers on the other side of the river to check what was going on. If that wouldn’t happen, they should be properly ready. Its very simple, if you are looking at people across the river, if they are 300, make sure you have like a thousand waiting for them. That didn’t happen. Its so sad. He left no family. He hasn’t got any wife, any kids. But like I said, we are blessed in our family but we also expected him to contribute. Not monetarily but in bridging the gap with us and the younger ones. He was also very close to the younger ones, extremely close. So sad.
Do you think the Government is doing enough in its war against terror?
I am not going to begin to castigate the government because of my bereavement. I think we are in a most unfortunate period because if anybody said to me 20 years ago that things like this would be happening in Nigeria, I will say no way. Israel, Pakistan, all those places but not Nigeria. We are not equipped and I think the last Army chief tried to remodel the army for these new challenges.
The old army was trained to fight conventional warfare but now, that takes time. But I think they are doing their best. Its not easy. They now have Counter Terrorism courses, Counter Insurgency courses, that’s a step in the right direction. But then, it has to be done in such a way that you don’t lose officers and men. In that incident, I believe 2 officers were lost.