14 July 2017

Nigeria: Buratai - a Soldier's General

The great philosopher Aristotle: (384-322BC) said: 'Every art and every inquiry, and similarly, every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim and according to Adams, John Quincy (1767-1840), the Sixth US President Fiat Justitia, Pereat Coelum: My toast would be, may our country be always successful, but whether successful or otherwise, always right.

Buoyed by an innate desire to serve his country at its most critical time, Nigeria's Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen, Tukur Yusufu Buratai, has sprung pleasant surprises to most Nigerians and indeed the world in his leadership of the Nigerian Army as he unfolds a new agenda for the soldiers. Since the general took over the reins of power as the Chief of Army Staff, COAS, the popularity rating of the Army has kept souring to high heavens, and virtually at every instance Nigerians have had cause to assess the Army since President Muhammadu Buhari became President of Nigeria. It is now on the lips of every Nigerian and indeed Africans that Gen. Buhari is walking the talk, as a result of the multi-dimensional reforms he introduced and implemented in the service, which have been the redeeming grace as emphasis is on professionalism, discipline, transparency, accountability and subservience to democratic ethos, norms and patriotism. Africans and indeed Nigerians have so much rated the Army very high as a result of the reforms by Gen. Buratai, who has preached and ensured the entrenchment of the ideals of a disciplined army: respect for civil authority and the safeguard of the human rights of Nigerians. These attributes have become the cardinal ethos of the Nigerian Army no matter where they are, within and outside the country. There is no gain-saying that under the able leadership of Buratai the Army has re-invented itself. He embarked on moral and psychological cleansing of the personnel by refreshing their memories on professional ethics through courses and seminars, and Nigeria today parades a level -headed, disciplined and morally upright breed of soldiers. General Buratai is the soldier's general, some call him the soldier's soldier, and others call him the gentleman soldier. But one thing that is endearing to all about him is the gentle smile, calmness he beams every time he appears in public and the mien of confidence and competence he exudes. Within the few days of his appointment in July 2015 as COAS, he joined his men in the trenches, and travelled within the different formations and divisions to boost their morale at the fore-front of the battle against terrorism. He dined with the soldiers at the battlefield and on some occasions broke his Ramadan fast in the trenches with the solders, and in a matter of few months with the right strategy the insurgents were decimated, degraded and routed, and territories were recovered from them. He placed loyalty to the state above his personal interest and he truly treated his troops as his blood all in a bid to give them a sense of oneness and togetherness towards the common goal.

In spite of the daunting challenges, he reformed, refocused and repositioned the Nigerian Army for effective combat readiness in tandem with best global practice, and that is why Nigerian Army today is rated the best in Africa. The COAS' ingenuity resulted in the creation of a motorcycle brigade that was able to deploy rapidly to combat the fighters wherever they are carrying out the attacks, and this led to Nigerians to start believing in the Nigerian army again with several commendations from in and outside the country; today the story is different.

Buratai, is quietly repositioning the Army into the strongest and most formidable army in Africa by his gradual actualization of his blue-print and road-map of making the Army professionally responsive to Nigerians in the discharge of its constitutional roles and assignments. However, today's crowning heights of this accomplished infantry general started in 1983 when he was commissioned into the Infantry Corps of the Nigerian Army, after an exhaustive training at the prestigious Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, as a member of the 29th Regular Combat Course. Over the years, Buratai had carved a niche for himself as a no-nonsense soldier, combatant, administrator, commander and an academic genius in military circles. Therefore, when Buratai laces his boots and steps out on the battlefield, he inspires courage and bravery in his foot soldiers. When they reclaimed Nigerian territories captured by Boko Haram terrorists, he re-defined the essence of existence for many communities and thousands of their inhabitants. He is the harbinger of the message of hope and freedom when he visits Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) at different camps. The Nigerian Army courageously determined and gallantly led the counter-insurgency that has ended terrorism in the North East and Nigeria today. Militancy in the Niger Delta became a torn in the flesh of the people, manifesting in vandalism and bombing of pipelines or facilities by aggrieved groups in the region, which made the national revenue to drop drastically, had been reversed through the timely intervention and handling of 'Operation Delta Safe' and 'Operation Crocodile Smile' by the Nigerian Army and guided by a philosophy of the highest military strategy.

Nevertheless the armed bandits terrorizing in some parts of Southern Kaduna were also meticulously dealt with earlier this year with the launch of 'Operation Harbin Kunama 1 and 2. Apart from establishing a military battalion in the area to enhance security, the troops camped and built a strategic command to reduce the menace to the minimum. The general also deserves commendation for the quick response to tackling cattle rustling menace in the North West, resulting in regular altercation between farmers and herdsmen. The cattle rustlers took the northern parts of the country especially the North West as a playground hampering farming and animal husbandry on a scale that had not been seen before. At the height of their criminality, farmers either paid protection fees to be left alone or face the prospect of being robbed of livestock and other valuables. Buratai's 35 battalion, 3 Brigade and 1 Division, Nigerian Army, smashed the syndicates under 'Operation Sharan Daji' where a lot of them were arrested, dislodged and apprehended. In one of the operations in Katsina State, the notorious cattle rustler, Abubakar Muhammed (aka Gora) and his colleagues, Anas Gora and Bello Sani were arrested. The lightning speed with which the Army under General Buratai rounded the rustlers is a clear indication of the battle-ready Army under his command. These criminals did not only challenge the power of the state to dare them, but operated with impunity and moved about unscathed, but the soldiers ended their madness in months and normalcy had been restored. A lot of these terrorists and criminals had been de-radicalized and given new re-orientation by the Nigerian Army so as to live in the society. And a lot of Internally Displaced persons (IDPS) had also relocated to their former homes within the North East region, and the virtual presence of the soldiers within these locations have boosted the confidence of the IDPs to reside peacefully in their homes.

The Army has intermittently embarked on medical treatments of ailing Nigerians in war -torn communities and the IDPs. A lot of sick Nigerians have benefited enormously from the free medical services and distribution of drugs, all funded by the Army which cut across all the regions that have been affected by herdsmen and Boko Haram's mayhem. As a result of the proactive leadership of the Army a lot of changes have taken place; the war on insurgency is fast becoming a thing of the past, while captured or kidnapped people are being re-united with their people. A lot of Chibok School girls have also been released to their families, while roads and infrastructure facilities, including electricity, have been built by the Army as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR).

- Aigbegbele is a strategic brand adviser, journalist, and civil society activist, former Media Adviser to the First Lady of Nigeria (2010-2015); Executive Secretary, Citizens Watch Nigeria (CWN) and President, COCMEGG.

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