Molly Kilete, Abuja
Wednesday, June 24, 2015, will remain unforgettable for Major-General Sardauna Davies and his entire family. It was the day he was attacked by Boko Haram terrorists while on tour of some construction projects in Borno State. At the end of the gun duel between the insurgents and the soldiers securing the General who was then the Commander, Nigerian Army Corps of Engineers and, three soldiers paid the supreme price while four others were severely injured.
But for the grace of God and the determination of the soldiers to give the terrorists the battle of their life, the General would have been six feet under the earth or in the alternative, gravely injured in the arm and ended up as an amputee. But thanks to God and the army authorities who rushed him to Germany for further medical treatment. Even at that, he was unable to use his hand perfectly until about three years later.
We caught up with Gen. Davies who recently retired from service this year in Abuja and in this interview, he narrated his encounter with the insurgents, among other issues.
Can you recall your experience in the Boko Haram ambush that took place in 2015?
Well, I was the Commander Corps of Engineers at the time and I had a project going on in one of the villages in Borno State, a construction project in one of the villages and I needed to visit the troops there to find out what they were doing and how they were going about the project.
It was on my trip from Maiduguri through Dambuwa that I fell into an ambush at Bulumbali and I was shot on the arm and I had to be evacuated to Germany for treatment. I want to thank the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, who sponsored my two trips to Germany for treatment otherwise I would have lost the use of my arm. I am also thankful to God for saving my life from that attack.
How did you escape the ambush?
I want to acknowledge the support of Major General Irefin, who was a Brigadier General at the time and also the brigade commander as his troops stood by us and fought back the ambush from the terrorists. Because at that time, the Nigerian Army soldiers were known for their withdrawing from any encounter with Boko Haram. But this group of soldiers stayed back and fought back and defeated the terrorists. And I will tell you that singular act led to our survival otherwise we would all have been killed. We lost about three soldiers during the attack and then we had about four that were wounded.
How did you feel after the attack?
Like I said as a soldier, you know, you just give glory to God because it is like you have overcome one hurdle and you just look forward to the next one, because as at that time, it is either you overcome it or you die in it. Those are the two options. So when I overcame that, I thanked God and my life continued. That was June 24, 2015.
Why did you join the military?
Why and how I joined the military was very interesting because the military was not like a profession that any parent would want you to join knowing the hazards of the profession.
I left secondary school in June 1981; by January 1982, I was admitted into the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) as a member of the 31 Regular Combatant Course and I have never known any other job other than the military.
It took so much explanation before my dad could allow me to go to the NDA. My joining the military has nothing to do with ambition, it has nothing to do with a career plan, but it just has to do with the fact that I was going into a higher institution where my bills will be collected in terms of tuition, accommodation, feeding and above all, there is a job waiting for me at the end of the course.
So these I had to explain to my dad and it was with these reasons that he allowed me to go to NDA.
What was your military career like?
The military career I must tell you is a very fulfilling one because the military trains you to be everything you can be. And like I said, I was a teenager when I was admitted into the NDA, but looking back over the years, I am really grateful to God for having given me that wisdom to be part of this noble profession. I am better equipped now to face the challenges as a retired army officer because I have been prepared for that.
I begin to see that things we do in the military if applied properly in our retired lives, we are bound to excel and that is how I am now, to see how I can impart that training, that knowledge into my life as a retiree but I bet you it’s fun, it’s quite something worth pursuing.
My memorable days were my days in Liberia, you know my days in Liberia when we were in advance and quick attacks and we were encountering the rebels and we had to fight out. As a young officer and a lieutenant, I was not married then and it was like ‘if I die in this encounter what do I have to show for my life in the military.’ That was when I made up my mind that I was going to get married as soon I return to Nigeria.
I came back from Liberia around January 1992, and by August 1992, I was married. So that is one of the memorable occasions I can say. Then in our days as young officers, we had a lot of trainings and exercises and within ourselves you are known by the number of equipment that you can handle, the number of equipment you can operate, number of courses you have attended and all my mates in the NAF, Navy and Army, it’s like wanting to outdo the standard that the white man has laid for a particular equipment. So it’s been really, really fun and then rising up to the rank of Major General, you just see yourself applying those things you have learned overtime in leadership, in command, in operations and everything to bring up the younger ones.
Why did you go for Engineering?
I never really chose Engineering when I joined the NDA. I chose Military Police and Signals. But somehow the NDA Selection Board that was to deploy us found me to be a better candidate for the Engineering Corps, that’s how I ended up there. And I must tell you that it was a fantastic decision because I enjoyed my career and I rose to even command the Corps of Engineers. And that is the best any officer will ever ask for, I am really fulfilled.
Did any of your children take after you?
Surprisingly, none of my children is taking after me.
What do you miss about the army?
I will miss the comradeship. It is so strong that no matter what you have achieved when you look at the family you are going to leave, you begin to doubt whether you can make it without this family. So I am going to miss my colleagues even though I am still with them. But for the fact that you are no longer active with them, it’s like something has been taken out of you. But somehow, we will overcome it and we will all meet again in the civil attire and life will go on by the grace of God.
When was your happiest day as an officer?
My happiest day as an army officer would be the day my posting came out to command the Corps of Engineers, because, I must tell you, I was not among those who are lined up for that appointment because I was the least qualified. I was the least in terms of seniority but the authority felt I was better off to hold that appointment. So that’s my happiest day.
What are your hobbies?
I love farming, reading, traveling and watching movies.
Your best food?
My best food is eba and okro soup.