Framed as a military strategist and tactician, a niche he carved for himself through dedicated service in his career, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai when he was appointed as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) was unambiguously stepping into a spectacular rescue mission of Nigeria.
The country had been demonized and tormented by Boko Haram terrorism insurrections and diverse armed conflicts to the extent that its seat of power was no longer safe.
In his first official interaction with Nigerians, the Army Chief so endearing, calmed the nerves of exasperated Nigerians by soothingly assuring the people that, he will make the difference by defeating Boko Haram insurgency alongside allied insurgencies. That was a promise which he also said must be kept.
And to this end, Gen. Buratai was determined to keep the promise, which was consistently greased by the wisdom of Sun Tzu's Art of War that, "The General who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom."
He instantly mobilized his troops and took the counter-insurgency war to the tents, caves, camps, jungles, forests and other secret hideouts of the insurgents. Based on the severity of the consuming fire of terrorism on Nigerians and their peace of mind, the Army Chief never hedged in, personally leading his troops on some of the operations. Within three months, his troops had substantially decimated the terrorists and reclaimed several territories under the captivity and control of Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria's Northeast region. And refreshingly, Gen. Buratai's troops significantly scaled down the tempo of reckless terrorists attacks, with superior fire power.
The leader of the counter-insurgency operations knew and applied the philosophy of Sun Tzu that, "Speed is the essence of war." With this mindset, Nigerian troops sustained strikes on insurgents at unexpected locations and hideouts, which rattled and shattered their coherence, making it impossible to recuperate from injuries and freely regroup to plot fresh atrocities.
At this stage, Gen. Buratai, a dynamic military strategist adopted Sun Tzu's principle, which stipulated that "When the enemy is at ease, be able to weary him, when well fed, to starve him, when at rest, to make him move. Appear at places to which he must hasten, move swiftly where he does not expect you. Every action of the troop was revealing and was beyond terrorists' comprehension.
Gen. Buratai consciously caused disarray in the Boko Haram camp, which was hitherto whole and under the unchallengeable leadership of Abubakar Shekau. The strategy led to break-ups in the rank of Boko Haram, as several splinter factions emerged; prominent among them, the Musab Al Barnewi faction. Al Barnawi was Shekau's erstwhile publicity scribe, who pulled away a large chunk of Shekau's foot soldiers and top commanders.
Both factional leaders most times, engaged themselves in the battle of supremacy, which weakened their struggle and exposed them to heavy repression by Nigerian troops, hence according to Sun Tzu, "The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy, so that he cannot fathom our real intent."
It was the genesis of the "stick and carrot" approach to counter-terrorism and the voluntary massive surrender of Boko Haram foot soldiers, including Shekau's top commanders to the Nigerian Army. It pathetically deflated Shekau's fighters and the Army Chief ensured avenues of fresh recruitment of Nigerians as fighters for the sect were blocked permanently.
Therefore, after the decimation of Boko Haram sect in December 2015, the reclamation of all Nigerian territories under Boko Haram captivity, Gen. Buratai knew time was ripe to defeat the sect. The invasion of the formerly dreadful Sambisa forest and Camp Zero, the most fortified fortress of Shekau and his evil lieutenants in December 2016, was a profound statement about the defeat of Boko Haram terrorists group that was globally applauded.
Today, the Army has been able to rescue over 20,000 abducted persons including some of the Chibok and Dapchi school girls. Nigerian troops are currently on clearance operations in communities and villages in the Northeast to cleanse them of the last vestiges of the remnants of terrorists. The recent launch of the Army Female Corps is a deliberate step to checkmate the flashes of female suicide bombers.
Boko Haram's factional leader, Abubakar Shekau knows he has been caged, as the Army sights his capture soonest. He has been disabled to the extent that he no longer releases his boastful videos on successful raids and abductions of Nigerians.
Shekau piteously lamented his frustrations in continuing with the battle and wished death came his way. But Gen. Buratai has vowed to capture him. The seemingly invincible Shekau is now afraid of his shadows and whines faintly from the forests and caves of the neighbouring Cameroun.
Indeed, in the last three years, Gen. Buratai has positively impacted on terrorism, insurrections and armed local conflicts. This charismatic leader has made the difference and kept his promise to Nigerians. It explains why he is celebrated home and abroard with distinctive honours and awards.
Onmeje, a public affairs analyst, wrote this piece from the United Kingdom