By David Onmeje
It is no exaggeration that the evolution of modern Nigeria is inextricably tied to Great Britain. As former colonial masters of Nigeria, the most populous black nation on earth, the influence of Britain on the country’s national life is visible in multiple aspects.
Some liberal thinkers conclude that whatever portrait Nigeria flaunts before the world today, it is essentially a reflection of the ideals and culture imbibed from Britain.
In warfare for instance, pre-colonial independent tribes in Nigeria raised and maintained communal warriors. But they were only concerned with fighting tribal wars or defending their communities and people against external aggressors.
However, Nigeria’s first experience of an organized and conventional Army was enabled by the British in 1863. A Royal Naval officer and the then colonial Governor of Lagos, Lt. Glover, a Briton, selected 18 Northerners and groomed them into a local force identified as the “Glover Hausas.” They were mandated to protect British trade routes in Lagos hinterlands.
The “Glover Hausas” became regularized and morphed into the “Hausa Constabulary” in 1865 and structured to perform police and military duties for the Lagos colonial government. It progressed into the “Lagos Constabulary.” The Lagos Constabulary transformed into the “Lagos Battalion”.
There were several other progressions of the “force” and by 1889, The colonial Governor General of Nigeria, Lord Fredrick Lugard gave fillip to it by forming the emergent force, which in 1890, metamorphosed into the Royal West Africa Frontier Force, (RWAFF), in Jebba, Northern Nigeria. Several colonial transformations of the force occurred and by 1956, when Queen Elizabeth of Britain visited, the existing Nigerian regiment was renamed the Queens Own Nigerian Regiments (QONR).
It later became the Nigerian Military Force (NMF). And on June 1st 1958, the British Army Council in London relinquished control of NMF to the Nigerian Government.
At Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the NMF again changed it’s nomenclature to Royal Nigerian Army (RNA). And Nigeria assumed its republican status a nation, the RNA finally adopted the name of what is today known as the Nigerian Army, severing it from the colonial grip, with its independent organogram.
And in the last 58 years, the Nigerian Army has registered strong presence at the regional, continental and global levels, in warfare and peacekeeping missions. Not only that it is touted as the best in Africa, but its personnel have at different times excelled on military assignments on the global scene.
Therefore, the Nigerian Army under the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari has shocked the world by defiantly confronting and defeating Boko Haram terrorism. World- wide, terrorism has proven to be a scourge very difficult to handle.
But the Nigerian Army under the COAS, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai, who doubles as the leader of the counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria defeated Boko Haram terrorism in record time. The feat is a consequence of skillful application of experience, tactics and strategies in combating the Boko Haram terrorism. So, the Army Chiefs successful outing on insurgency is anchored on several factors.
He re-professionalized and re-organized the Nigerian Army, thus repositioning it for its noble responsibilities. In the leadership of the Nigerian Army, Gen. Buratai has opened his chest wide and exposed himself to a range of external experiences and partnership with world armies to enhance knowledge and performance.
The Army Chief is convinced that a respected military is first the signpost of a respected nation. It guarantees the territorial integrity and sovereignty of any nation. And with Nigeria’s permanent seat on the UN Security Council, the Army Chief believes, a properly groomed, professionalized, disciplined and patriotic Army cannot be compromised by Nigeria.
Consequently, Gen. Buratai does not ignore any opportunity for the exchange of military ideas and experiences with other leaders of the Army anywhere in the world, especially on combating terrorism, which is now a certified global security threat . Just recently, Gen. Buratai was in London to attend the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a British think-tank and assemblage of foreign relations experts in United Kingdom. The RUSI Land Warfare Conference 2018 held from June 17 – 22, 2018.
He also met with selected members of the House of Commons Committee on Defence for a mutual interaction on security and terrorism related issues.
Gen. Buratai’s consistency and zeal to update his skills with the ever changing global trends on terrorism and security has enriched his knowledge and experience. It is what he deploys in the effective leadership of the Nigerian Army and in combating terrorism in Nigeria.
His presence at the 2018 edition of RUSI Land Warfare Conference is the second in the last two years. Even in 2017, the Army Chief attended the RUSI Land Warfare Conference and addressed the gathering on the topic “Current Nigerian Army Operations and the fight against Boko Haram terrorists”.
The visit was also elaborate, as he met and interacted with Nigerian Army officers on professional courses at institutions in the United Kingdom. He also met and dialogued with Major Gen. Giles Hill, the Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) in the Ministry of Defence in the United Kingdom and visited the Royal College of Defence Studies (RCDS).
And even during the last RUSI conference, the Chief of Army Staff, also held a side meeting with selected members of the House of Commons Committee on Defence led by its chairman Dr. Julian Lewis. Other respected parliamentarians like Martin Docherty-Hughes, Mark Francois and Gavin Robinson graced the parley.
Gen. Buratai’s actions markets him indisputably as a wise man who keeps constant touch with his roots. He has elevated the Nigerian Army to enviable heights by partnership with other global military, where experiences and ideas are shared on global security and terrorism.
So, in the last two years, Gen. Buratai’s leadership of the Nigerian Army has exposed the institution to impressive external military experiences and world’s best military practices. Recently, the Nigerian Army Chief influenced the Nigerian Army’s co-hosting of the African Land Forces Summit with US Army Africa (USARAF) in Abuja, Nigeria.
Summit drew Military Chiefs from 40 African countries as well as allies from the United States Army, Africa Command, NATO and the African Union. And at the moment, Nigerian soldiers are part of the officers undergoing counter-terror training sessions between British and Nigerian troops in Kaduna.
In effect, Gen. Buratai is fulfilling his pledge to raise and bequeath to Nigerians, a professionally responsible, disciplined, loyal and responsive Army in the service of the nation. And he holds the British experience dear to his heart.
Onmeje contributed this piece from the United Kingdom.