Ali and other soldiers killed in the Boko Haram attack were posthumously awarded national honors, afforded national funerals and buried in the national cemetery in a ceremony streamed and watched by thousands of Nigerians on Facebook.  An online condolence register has also racked up hundreds of messages. Ali’s death serves as a blow to the Nigerian army at a time when it is widely believed to be winning the war against Boko Haram. Reports of attacks on soldiers have increased in the recent weeks.

Over the past seven years, since the start of the Boko Haram insurgency, the frosty relationship between Nigerians and soldiers has taken a better turn. Increasingly, Nigerians are more appreciative of soldiers and have organized campaigns to #ThankASoldier for their sacrifice in difficult circumstances. Ali’s death is serving as a momentous reminder of that sacrifice.

Hamza Idris, a journalist who covered the insurgency in the northeast, put it best. “Only those who were in Borno at the height of the Boko Haram’s inglorious territorial conquest would understand, appreciate and then lament the exit of Lt. Col. Abu Ali,” Idris wrote in a tribute. “His was a life full of gallantry, sacrifice, love for Nigeria and ever willing to die in order to keep it one.”

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.