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General News of Saturday, 28 February 2015

Source: Standard Tribune

Revealed: The late Captain Matute's last words to parents

Captain Elvis Matute Mbene who perished recently at the battle front on 25th February was a confident man. True to his calling, his thoughts were more on the enemy’s defeat, than on the risk involved.

Reports say he and a driver, both of the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) died when their vehicle drove over a land mine on the Mora – Limani road. He was 33 years. (Mora is south of Waza Park in the Far North region and Limani is near the border with Nigeria.)

In his last phone conversation with his father the same day he died, Mbene said, “We can surprise Boko Haram.”

His father, Chief Emmanuel Matute Mbene, 68, told me at his Towe (Alpha Club), Mile 1 residence in Limbe, 26 February, the day after the tragedy: On Tuesday, I rang him. He didn’t pick the call.

On Wednesday morning at about 9am, he rang me and said he couldn’t pick my Tuesday call because they stayed in the bush overnight, on the front. “I said to him, ‘you know those Boko Haram people, be careful, they can surprise you people’. He said, ‘As well as we can surprise them too’.

That was my last conversation with him.

“A few minutes to 1pm, I received a call from a police commissioner, a family friend who informed me that my son had been killed in the Boko Haram battle. He advised I should get in touch with the BIRs in man O’ War Bay for confirmation.”

Half a dozen other soldiers reportedly survived with injuries from the incident.

Chief Mbene, 68, quarter-head or third-class chief of Towe, said he went home and found a way to inform his wife, Dorothy. “I first preached to her to prepare her mind before unleashing the bombshell.

I could see that she suspected something was wrong from the way I spoke, but I prepared her mind and though she was devastated with the news, we both found a way of managing it. She’s alright. As you can see, she’s calm.”

Dorothy Mbene sat stoic in their living room, looking into what looked like a void throughout my chat with her husband on the veranda. Those who know her say that is unusual as she could be very emotional.

As for his father, he said he absorbed the shock his usual way. “I’m a positive thinker, nothing shocks me.”

Ayisi Onana, a longtime neighbour, now living in Germany, confirms. “Yes [chief] is a very strong a man. You can hardly read his mind.”

True to character, Chief Mbene reversed roles between mourner and consoler. Receiving calls from sympathizers in between our interview for these series of stories (there are two others), he admonished his consolers to take courage and be strong.

To a certain Nadege calling from London: “Nadege be strong. We all have to be strong, else who will comfort the other? Your father just left my house.”

To certain Chamda, “If you meet a man without a smile, give him one.” To a lady on a condolence visit to his residence: “It’s God’s plan. We cannot ask questions.”

If this war drags on and more men fall in battle and bereaved families begin to pull together to share grief and comfort each other, Chief Mbene is the kind of a strong man many will find comfort in.