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With A Profile In Courage, Tarfa reminisces about childhood, military career



The book, A Profile In Courage, is Major General Paul Chabri Tarfa’s autobiography.

It is the memoir of a soldier, administrator and poultry farmer. Parresia published this second edition in 2017.

Tarfa tells his story in a simple, compelling language, and bluntly too.


The Nigerian Army general recounts his upbringing in Garkida, his choice of a military career and his role in frustrating the January 15, 1966 coup at the Federal Guards, Lagos.

He further recounts his active participation in the civil war, other coups and counter coups until his retirement in 1988.

A Profile In Courage, with its rider: Let the truth be told, is a revision of the first edition published by Spectrum Books, Ibadan, in 2007.

Here, he restates the truth of today’s Nigeria and the courage displayed by himself, Yakubu Gowon, Theophilus Danjuma and many others during that time of extreme emergency.

The massive paperback edition contains 12 chapters, a foreword, an introduction, 414 pages, a concluding chapter, photo gallery of six pages, a glossary of words in the vernacular and an index of four pages.

Also, there are 53 images spread all over the book.

The images represent occasions of joy and merriment captured in pictures in the course of Tarfa’s career.

In his foreword to this book, whose title replicates the Pulitzer Prize winning book of the former American President John Kennedy, the country’s former Chief of Army Staff and Minister of Defence, Danjuma, reveals he had known Tarfa since he became a second lieutenant during the January 1966 coup in Lagos.


Danjuma says in the book, Paul was one of the five officers in his unit when the coup took place.

The unit was in confusion, because the officer commanding and other officers of the unit had gone out to participate in the coup.

Tarfa acted manfully on the side of loyalty to the government.

In the words of Danjuma, Tarfa took control of the situation, by ordering the Federal Guards to resist the coup.

Tarfa arrested the coup plotters at Dodan Barracks, Lagos and with loyal soldiers, refused the orders from the rebels.

Paul’s boldness was the greatest factor in the collapse of the coup in Lagos.

The book is into three parts. Part one covers chapters one to seven; where the author describes his life from childhood to adulthood, highlighting the stages he went through in the build up to higher responsibilities in life.

While growing up, Tarfa was saddled with positions of leadership, which eventually propelled him to taking a career in the Army.

Part two covers chapters eight to 11 where Tarfa relates how his secondary school principal; seeing his potentials, encouraged him to enlist in the Army.


He was never found wanting in the discharge of his duties as military commander, which has inspired and led many others to emulate him.

Part three covers chapters 12 to 17 at which the author provides a balanced view of events during and after the January 1966 coup.

He, thereby, straightened the distorted history of coup, which he termed unhelpful to the cause of true reconciliation.

Prior to his appointment as Provost Marshal the Corps, alternatively called military police, the Corps was barely of battalion strength – consisting of general military police duties and a Special Investigation Branch (SIB).

It was under Tarfa that the MP Corps got the good image that it is well known for today. Tarfa expanded the Corps, promoting the capacity building of its officers and men to meet the ever-increasing duties of the Corps.

As Provost Marshal, Tarfa reinforced sanity and order in the Nigerian Army.

After the civil war, the Army underwent reorganisation and reconstruction and as the chair of the panel assessing the quality of work done by field commanders, Tarfa accomplished the nationwide assignment without compromise.


In order to curb corruption, Tarfa and his panel apprehended many defaulting officers and recommended appropriate punishments.

Tarfa retired in 1988 after 26 years of meritorious service as major general and was appointed managing director and chief executive of the Nigerian Railway Corporation.

Though, not an engineer, Tarfa reached out to experts who helped him perform creditably.

In 1994, he was appointed the chair of a panel to reorganise the Nigeria Customs and Excise.

There, the general proved himself competent and transparent.

“On the issue of the coming of American missionaries to my village, Garkida, in March 1923 and the growth of Christianity and western education in north eastern Nigeria, I have tried to highlight the hardship they had to endure in the hands of the British Resident, Sir Richmond Palmer, in Maiduguri and Major Edgar Rogers, a Divisional Officer in Biu.


These two tried to frustrate and stop the establishment of Christianity and western education in the area.

“The purpose of this story is to show the extent of the Resident’s action on Garkida.

Garkida, which enjoyed prominence territorially, covering east and west of River Hawul, was divided into two thereby reducing it to a mere village in status.

This happened when it was excised from Borno Province and annexed to Adamawa in November 1927.”

The facts restated in this edition of the autobiography are not meant to rekindle quarrels, but to further educate the reader on the sources of the problems of Northern Nigeria as regards ethnic cleansing presently going on in the central and eastern zones of Northern Nigeria.

This book is also to debunk wrong conceptions created by those who least knew Nigeria and who blindly align themselves with particular sections of Nigeria; propagating their falsehood, bias and motives to dominate the country.

Paul Chabri Tarfa was born in Garkida, Adamawa state in 1941.

A member of the Nigerian Military Training Course 5, and commissioned into the Nigerian Army as second lieutenant in October 1963. He retired as major general in 1988.

Tarfa served as commander and staff officer in the Nigerian Army, he was in the First Battalion, Enugu, the unit which was a UN Peacekeeping Contingent in the Congo.


His actions at the Federal Guards frustrated the January 1966 coup.

Tarfa then served as Battalion commander, and Brigade commander during the civil war.

He was Assistant Adjutant General, and Provost Marshal, Nigerian Army.

Later, he was posted to Oyo State as Military Administrator, prior to the October 1979 handover to civilian regime.

He became director, Army Faculty, Command and Staff College, Jaji and commandant, Nigerian Defence Academy until his retirement.

An avid golfer, General Tarfa now lives in Kaduna where he enjoys the company of his grandchildren and works on his poultry and citrus farm. He holds the traditional title of Yeriman Garkida.

A Profile In Courage has been on the bestseller list since being launched.

I recommend its perusal to all hankering for a better Nigeria.

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