By Esther Okpabi
A lot has been said in recent times as regards the exploits of the Nigerian troops fighting Boko Haram terrorists in North East Nigeria. Some have argued in favour of the Nigerian forces, while some have also doubted the claims that Boko Haram has been decimated in the past three years.
While this is understandable given the peculiarity of the war against insurgency, it must, however, be stated in black and white that Nigeria has indeed defeated terrorism with the exploits of the Nigeria Army under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai as the Chief of Army Staff.
As a policy, I have abstained from commenting on this all sensitive issue for the mere fact that as one conversant with military strategies and operations, I know too well how the Nigeria Army has indeed risen to the occasion to take the battle to the Boko Haram terrorists in the past three years. Yes, while I must admit that it is not yet Uhuru, I think it is most uncharitable for certain quarters to assume that the exploits of the Nigeria Army were more of a fluke.
For those who know the Chief of Army Staff, they would readily attest to his excellent level of patriotism in service to the fatherland. As a fact, it runs in the blood with the exploits of his late father who was also a world war veteran. Given the circumstances that we had found ourselves since 2015 when Boko Haram violence escalated, accolades and not condemnation should come the way of the Nigeria Army.
Take the recent engagement of the Nigerian troops in Baga where clearance operation of remnants of Boko Haram terrorists took place. I must add that the efforts of the troops in North East Nigeria have not been appreciated. This is against the background of reports that Boko Haram terrorists overran the military base and carted away a large cache of ammunition and weapons from the army armoury. While that report might have been exaggerated, it nonetheless brought out the leadership strength of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai. And I knew that it was only a matter of time before the truth would suffice.
And alas, when I read the statement by the Army Spokesman, Brig. Gen. Sani Kukasheka on troops clearing Boko Haram insurgents in Northern Borno. I was impressed and doffed my hat for the COAS. The statement reads in part “troops of the 707 Special Forces Brigade dealt a decisive blow to the Boko Haram insurgents’ faction of the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP). The troops, which began operation on Dec. 28, 2018, successfully cleared Zare, Gudumbali, Kukawa and Cross Kauwa without resistance from suspected terrorists.”
This is indeed a welcome development and testament of the never say die spirit of the Nigeria Army. Take it or leave it, the Nigeria Army has performed brilliantly well in the fight against insurgency, particularly from 2015 when the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari took over. What some school of thoughts might never admit is the fact that the progress made from 2015 till date is such that deserve accolades from all and sundry given the precarious situation we were before the advent of the new administration.
To say it was a bad situation would be an understatement. The simplest way to put it is to say we were on the brinks. So much so that even the federal capital territory was not spared. Critical government infrastructure was affected, the United Nations Building was also affected and many more instances I do not wish to recall. And today, all of these are no longer the norm as people now freely go about their daily activities without fear, the yuletide season did witness any form of a security breach in all parts of the country including the theatre of operations in North East Nigeria. And yet the Nigeria Army isn’t working?
If not for anything I would remain a great fan of the COAS, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai for how he has commanded the Nigeria Army. He has over time proved that to be and remain a leader, one must be sensitive, proactive and ready to sacrifice — these attributes he has displayed from time immemorial even at the detriment of his safety. I recall on one such operational visits where he would be in the trenches with the troops; his convoy was ambushed. It is also on record that the COAS routinely interacts with soldiers on operational strategies and way forward towards achieving higher results. Needless I also mention that he also regularly dines with troops on the battlefront to boost their morale a great deal.
And this is the real test of a leader. Especially where he stands in times of adversity. The resurgence of attacks by members of the Boko Haram/ISWAP group in the Baga/Lake Chad axis and how the Nigeria Army responded buttresses the famous saying that once the head is good, the body would be in good shape. And once the head is bad, the body is as well useless. The leadership style of the COAS can indeed be seen in the successes of the counterinsurgency operations in North East Nigeria.
It is, therefore, my considered opinion that if not for anything, we should take out time to appreciate the Nigeria Army for the enormous sacrifices in keeping Nigeria safe and secured.
Okpabi wrote from Nile University of Nigeria, Abuja.