By Philip Agbese
“Never forget that no military leader has ever become great without audacity.” -Karl von Clausewitz
In Nigeria, audacity in leadership also requires a great dosage of defiant courage. It is because in this part of the world, majority of the people are more atoned to failed leadership predominantly. It sounds odd, but such persons delight in dubiously exploiting failed leaders for personal benefits at the detriment of the whole system.
Therefore, in Nigeria, it is akin to a taboo to display positive leadership. The leader must possess enough content of courage and audacity to break even against dark forces haunting him. The few spoilers, recruit and pay campaigners’ to publicly, malign, distract and outrightly intimidate into submission, leaders with positive disposition, by deploying false narratives and malicious critiques deliberately to dwarf his verifiable good impacts.
It seems to the greatest burden and cross of Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai who has found himself in the midst of devouring wolves now. In the last five years, the Army Chief has deposited in bold imprints in leadership of the Nigerian Army (NA). A soldier gifted with audacious courage; he has repressed the darkest of forces to assert his legacies.
British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill extrapolated; “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities… because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” So, Gen. Buratai has courageously proved himself as an exceptional military strategist, tactician, reformist, innovator and a military leadership guru. He has audaciously asserted his mark of positive leadership against all odds and conquered Nigeria’s anti-development predators.
These enemies of Nigeria and foes of Gen. Buratai have stopped at nothing to ply their trade and activate such passions, the antics of distractions or demean him enough to taint his rising profile. Therefore, they hate the association of Gen. Buratai with the Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Gen. Buratai “came; he saw and he conquered.”
But excitingly, history is an impartial arbiter. And like the printed word, history does not lie and it is permanent. Definitely, it would be fair to Gen. Buratai at the appropriate time. It is the general anticipation of the numerous admirers of Gen. Buratai.
But audaciously, the Army boss has conquered the stormy storms and subdued the volley of forces of sabotage and distractions to significantly transform the previously neglected institution of Nigerian Army within a short time. He has proved his mettle as the unconquerable warrior of the trenches in fighting Boko Haram insurgents/ and ISWAP terrorists and a development czar.
Terrorists sponsors and sympathizers have found Gen. Buratai, the hardest nut to crack in the bloody campaigns of the extremist religious sects terrorizing Nigeria. He is the nemesis of armed bandits in the country and insurrectionists like IPOB or their replicas in the configuration of armed militants. Ethnic warlords and armed militias are mesmerized or they have never encountered this dutifully obstinate Army General, who is extremely very difficult to conquer or compromise like Gen. Buratai.
Nevertheless, where Gen. Buratai has recorded confounding impacts in his leadership of the Nigerian Army is in innovations, reformations and repositioning of a once decrepit Army into a proud force and shinning star in the African continent and beyond. He is a beautiful bride whose usefulness to humanity has no end and the signs are visible.
He has launched the Nigerian Army on many fronts of firsts! Whoever believed Nigerian Army would ever upheld the dignity and human rights of Nigerians in its military operations? Whoever contemplated in even in dreams that Nigerian Army would one day subordinate itself to civil authority or “bloody civilians” to the extent of accepting court summons and appearing in civil courts to answer to allegations of professional misconduct by soldiers levelled against them by aggrieved civilians?
But Gen. Buratai has solved the problem easily by establishing the Human Rights Desks at the Nigerian Army Headquarters (AHQs). It is replicated in all major Army Divisions and most times, in locations outside the Barracks and very accessible to potential complainants. Noticeably, the loud noises by human rights organizations’, both indigenous and foreign on alleged human rights violations perpetrated by soldiers have vanished incredibly. It is just a tip of the many innovations, Gen. Buratai’s leadership has birthed in the institution of the Army
Most host communities of Nigerian Army formations and units are truly experiencing for the first time, the generosity of soldiers in discharging its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects in healthcare, electricity, roads, bridges, major culverts, water and many others. It has immensely improved Civil/Military relations. Before Gen. Buratai’s leadership, CSR policy of the Nigerian Army were only embedded in Army Laws. But he has activated and functionalized it for the first time in the history of Nigerian Army.
However, critics incurably blind to sight reality, can also be told by their trusted confidants that for the first time, Nigerian Army is a proud owner of its own university (Nigerian Army University Biu (NAUB), while Gen. Buratai is leading the Army. It has started training both security personnel and civilians in various strategic disciplines.
These baseless persecutors of Gen. Buratai would also be told that in the 157 years of the existence of Nigerian Army, the specialized first Nigerian Army War College is established under the tenure of Gen. Buratai; It is same for the Nigerian Aviation School and a similar policy, formalization of the consecration of the novel Nigerian Army Female Corps to answer to gender-based issues in operations of the Army in fighting insurgencies in the country is achieved. This unique innovation terminated the blistering reign of female bombers in Nigeria.
With two new Army Divisions, and two new Army Referral Hospitals to offer tertiary medical attention to soldiers and their families, including members of host communities, and scores of Army Forward Operations Bases (FOBs) in instant compliance with the Army’s new Order of Battle (ORBAT) as signposts of Gen. Buratai’s stewardship are beyond mindless reproach by professional haters and wailers.
Gen. Buratai’s reforms and innovations cannot be exhausted in one piece. But who has forgotten that for the first time, a Nigerian Army Chief has sourced and succeeded in using 100 percent local contents or materials and indigenous military technologists, to manufacture hi-tech, world class combat weapons, (such as MRAP Ezugwu) Army uniforms and kits, which are very useful in counter-insurgency operations? The Army Chief is the first to introduce digital Army uniforms with sensors to send signals to the nearest military base if a soldier in the frontlines is distressed.
Undeniably, Gen. Buratai is an endowed and enigmatic leader. How he has succeeding in catapulting and elevating the Nigerian Army to enviable heights, others struggled to eternity, but failed remains a mystery. Manifestly, he is an intellectual dynamite and workaholic soldier, whose appointment as COAS was not by accident. President Muhammadu Buhari knew the reasons for anointing him as both leader of the Army and counter-insurgency operations.
And he has not disappointed President Buhari by transforming the support to his leadership by Mr. President to fruits of legacies for the Army. Gen. Buratai is a soldier who came at the right time to conquer an evil against his country and humanity. He has dispensed this assignment with splendid mastery.
Gen. Buratai is known for brutal frankness. No circumstances compels him to tell a lie for any reason. When soldiers slacked at the warfront and allowed occasional Boko Haram attacks, he publicly blamed subordinate Commanders for dereliction of duty and cautioned them to sit-up.
When he relocated to the Northeast theatre of war to lead the battle from the front in April 2020, where he spent two months, Gen. Buratai who sensed a few soldiers who dread battles; and influence others with such negative thoughts to willingly chicken out of the Army because Nigerian Army of today has no room for the faint-hearted.
Gen. Buratai is described by even very senior officers of the Army as the best military strategist today. Counter-terrorism operations have yielded worthwhile progress because of the countless strategies he introduced which have nicely countered insurgents. The introduction of the Motorbike Battalions, Special Female Corps, Super Camp Strategy, cyberspace warfare and lots more have changed the negative narratives of insurgents as invincible forces in Nigeria. He is always weeks ahead of insurgents/terrorists plans. There is no doubt that leader of counter-insurgency operations has coordinated the war against insurgency perfectly so far.
Therefore, his recent statement that insurgency might last for another 20 years in Nigeria was roughly misinterpreted by a section of the society for their selfish reasons. HTe facts were generously twisted to malign Gen. Buratai and portray him as incompetent. Many alien interpretations were imputed into it and some of the perpetual critics even insinuated that the statement was Gen. Buratai’s tacit acceptance of helplessness over counter-insurgency operations and renewed the malicious calls for his sack.
But the Army Chief knows the matrix, character and intricacies of asymmetrical terrorists’ operations better than his traducers. Like the COAS asserted, terrorism has been quashed in Nigeria; what is reigning now is indeed insurgency and it will remain with Nigeria for a little longer. It’s because the massive brainwashing and indoctrination of people into the sect has a history which dates back to 50 or more years. Such phenomenon does not dissipate in a jiffy.
No matter his deliberate persecution, Gen. Buratai gathers his momentum to trudge on from Winston Churchill’s advice; “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Indubitably, the COAS is a fearless patriot who will stop at nothing but to say the truth as it is, no matter whose ox is gored.
Agbese is a human right activist based in the United Kingdom.