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Dogonyaro: Goodbye to newsbreaker brigadier

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Dogonyaro

Thirty-six years ago, precisely, in the early hours of August 27, 1985, it took the voice of a young military officer from Plateau State to lift the dense fog that covered Nigeria. That voice belonged to Brigadier Joshua Dogonyaro.

Yesterday, the clock ran full circle at a time history is repeating itself. But, instead of lifting the despondence in the nation, the news of the death of Dogonyaro accentuated the mournful atmosphere in the country.

Eldest son of the former military officer, Joseph, was forced to emulate his late father, when he broke the sad news of his (father’s) demise. The young Dogonyaro disclosed that although his father suffered a stroke and was rushed to the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) for treatment, “around 3.00 a.m., he breathed his last.”

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Only adult Nigerians that were around in the 80s would contrast the country’s current socio-economic predicament with what obtained 36 years ago, when Dogonyaro’s voice sent citizens into a wild jubilation.

A quick rewind: The democratic government of President Shehu Shagari having been sacked two years earlier, the succeeding Buhari/Idiagbon junta could not sustain the national goodwill that ushered it in.

With cost of essential daily items skyrocketing, life was becoming unbearable, students unable to afford exorbitant fees amid draconian decrees that constricted social space; Nigerians began ‘praying’ for a reprieve. And so, that quiet August 27, 1985, the ‘prayers’ were answered!

It was a broadcast on national radio: “I, Brigadier Joshua Nimyel Dogonyaro, of the Nigerian Army, hereby make the following declaration on behalf of my colleagues and members of the Nigerian Armed Forces.

“Fellow countrymen, the intervention of the military at the end of 1983 was welcomed by the nation with unprecedented enthusiasm. Nigerians were unified in accepting the intervention and looked forward hopefully to progressive changes for the better. Almost two years later, it has become clear that the fulfillment of expectations is not forthcoming…

“Finally, a dusk to dawn curfew is hereby imposed in Lagos and all state capitals until further notice. All military commanders will ensure effective maintenance of law and order. Further announcements will be made in due course. God bless Nigeria.”

Before the national anthem that signed off the palace coup speech against the Buhari/Idiagbon regime could fade, distraught citizens in all the state capitals, particularly Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt and Jos, including the weak, old and infirm, went into a paroxysm of joy.

Although he came into national limelight with his coup broadcast as a brigadier, Dogonyaro rose to the rank of Lieutenant General and to the office of Chief of Defence Staff in the Nigeria Army.

Dogonyaro belonged to the mythical Lantang Mafia, comprising military officers from Langtang, Plateau State, who played strategic roles in the emergent General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida regime of 1985 to 1993 era.

Tall, athletic and well built; Dogonyaro joined the Nigeria Army in 1964 and was commissioned a lieutenant in the Armoured Corps in 1967. His detribalised nature and sense of fairness helped to facilitate his rise in the Army.

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He made friends and cultivated a wide network of influential people, especially around the many Army formations he commanded, both in Nigeria and the West African sub region.

That might explain the tenor of condolence messages to the family of the deceased, qho died at the age of 80. Plateau State Governor, Simon Bako Lalong, expressed “deep shock over the death of former Chief of Defence Staff. The nation has lost a patriotic and loyal Nigerian who served with courage, dignity and selflessness.”

While recalling the achievements of the late General Dogonyaro during his career in the Army, Lalong said: “Plateau State has lost an elder statesman, whose outstanding achievements in his military career brought a lot of pride and honour for the state.

“His commitment towards the defence of Nigeria’s territorial integrity and well as ensuring its peace and unity stood him out as a soldier of repute whose professionalism continues to inspire many younger ones.”

The Plateau State chief executive recalled that Dogonyaro never hesitated to offer the state and the nation his wealth of experience and knowledge, particularly towards tackling security challenges of insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and other crimes.

Also, Dogonyaro’s colleague and kinsman, Senator Jonah David Jang, described the former CDS as “a brave, distinguished and accomplished officer, whose military career was of first class ranking by all standards.

“He rose to the peak of his military career, serving as the Chief of Defence Staff and as a member of the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) in the course of his career and service to the nation and humanity.

“As a senior military officer, his exploits in peacekeeping operations have left an indelible mark in the sands of time. As the Task Force Commander of a peace-keeping force in Chad and later commander of the ECOMOG in Liberia, the late Dogonyaro distinguished himself and displayed the professionalism for which the Nigerian Armed Forces is known.”

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Senator Jang noted that after retirement, Dogonyaro “continued to serve as a father and mentor to all military officers from his Plateau State and beyond, in addition to serving as a guide to those who joined politics, having risen to senior administrative positions in Nigeria, while in service.”

Jang described Dogonyaro as very loyal, dedicated and committed, stressing that as an accomplished officer and experienced leader, “his enormous contributions to the development of his people, Plateau State and the nation at large will forever be cherished and remembered.”

Jang prayed for God to give the immediate family, as well as those of us who worked closely with him and benefitted from his magnanimity and fatherly love, the courage and fortitude to bear this irreparable and painful loss.

“He was indeed, a father, leader, mentor, support system and a peacemaker throughout his life. We will miss his love, care, wise counsel and exemplary lifestyle, which has remained a guiding light to many.

Adieu brave soldier! Even in death, you stand tall as a beacon,” the senator mourned.

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