By DAN AMOR
This year’s Armed Forces Remembrance Day took place on January 15, about a month ago. It is usually an annual event during which the country and her citizens remember our fallen heroes -those who paid the supreme price to protect the territorial integrity of our beloved country. Nigerians use the date to celebrate not only members of our armed forces who died during the Nigerian Civil War (1967 – 1970), but also Nigerian soldiers who died during the Second World War or World War 2, a global war that lasted between 1939 and 1945 when the principal belligerents also known as the Axis powers – Germany, Italy and Japan – and the Allies – France, Great Britain, the United States of America, the Soviet Union, and to a lesser extent, China, fought themselves with modern weapons. It is also an event used to remember Nigerian soldiers who died during the United Nations peace-keeping operations since 1945 and peace-keeping operations in Africa like the Congo crisis of the 1960s, the Liberian and Serra Leonian civil wars in which ECOMOG soldiers led by Nigeria played a very significant role. This year’s Armed Forces Remembrance Day was also used to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of the Nigerian Civil War. As a Nigerian child whose father also fought in the World War 2, I chose to use this piece to celebrate the Nigerian Army and its leadership, especially in these trying times. It is heartwarming to note that the Army, under the able leadership of Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai, has been rebranded beyond words.
Leadership is about using people and resources to achieve maximum results. A leader’s history of successes and failures makes a big difference in his credibility. To build trust, a leader must exemplify these qualities: competence, connection and character. People will forgive occasional mistakes based on ability, especially if they can see that you’re still growing as a leader. But they won’t trust someone who has slips in character. In that area, even occasional lapses are lethal.
No leader can break trust with his people and expect to keep influencing them. Trust makes leadership possible. This is what the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai NAM GSS psc (+) ndc (BD) BA (Hons), MA, MPhil, exemplifies. At the emergence of the Muhammadu Buhari administration on May 29, 2015, the fear of Boko Haram, the Islamist terrorist organization which had crippled economic and social activities in the North East geopolitical zone of the the country was the beginning of wisdom. To stem the tide of this menace, President Buhari announced the relocation of Army Headquarters from Abuja to Maiduguri, the theatre of war. This was indubitably based on the necessity to intensify the fight against the terrorists. In fact, through alleged official negligence, conspiracy or collusion of previous leadership of the military, Boko Haram became a terrifying force taking tens of thousands of lives, destroying property worth billions of naira and capturing several towns and villages and even local government areas thereby rendering hundreds of thousands of Nigerians homeless.
Consequently, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, the 26th Chief of Army Staff (COAS) who was appointed on July 13, 2015, galvanized himself and swung into action. Launching his campaign on an enduring philosophy and vision of an army which could inculcate the ideals of discipline, professionalism, esprit de corps and hardwork, Buratai told his officers, rank and file that his administration would instill and imbibe the ideals of a professionally responsive army which must have respect for and be loyal to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Under him and in just four years, renewed vigour and a rare sense of direction have been introduced to the Nigerian Army.
Aside from a potent manifestation of professionalism amongst the rank and file and the officers Corp, there is a high degree of human rights observance in the army. Also, there is a monumental degree of infrastructural development across all the formations of the Nigerian Army. There is, indeed, a remarkable increase in the Army equipment holdings and improved maintenance culture. The army is no more on the defensive, as the organization now defines the territory of combat and the battle taken to the doorsteps of the aggressors. Under Buratai the Nigerian Army is a consummate praetorian guard of the nation’s inviolability.
As a practical leader, Buratai travels to war fronts in the North East to pray and felicitate with his highly motivated troops during Eid-el-Fitr. During Christmas, he visits several units and formations, and personally assesses their operations. Through specific directives, he proactively addresses some of the identified challenges of the troops. This is how it should be. Using the template tagged Operation “Lafiya dole”, the Nigerian Army, under his command, has identified the challenges in the dynamics of modern warfare which requires constant innovation, research, intelligence gathering mechanism, advancement of technology and the building of local capacity.
In consequence, therefore, the COAS has set in motion a deliberate programme for the immediate repair and refitting of all the abandoned and unserviceable weapons and equipment in the Army inventory. In fact, about 178 armored fighting vehicles of various types are completely refurbished by the Army electrical and mechanical engineers at various workshops across the country. This has put paid to the over-reliance on foreign equipment and spares which was a huge setback in the immediate past. In fact, what the Army could not achieve in thirty years has been achieved within just four years of Gen. Buratai in the saddle as Chief of Army Staff.
Expectedly, this feat has attracted odium from his detractors who have repeatedly tried to haul mud on him. But he has refused to be distracted by such invidious campaign of calumny and media trials. Rather, he has kept his head above waters culminating in the recent victory of our gallant troops over the Boko Haram insurgents. Indeed, fifth columnists can go to town with their verbiage and vituperation that the insurgents are still not totally defeated given their occasional strikes at targeted objects and ambush attacks.
But they fail to understand that this is a nonconventional war in which the terrorists do not wear uniforms. How many times have the insurgents infiltrated Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory as was the case in the past when detonation of bombs in Abuja was almost predictable? A man of few words, Buratai blended words with actions, and by December 2015, barely five months into his appointment, Boko Haram was technically decimated leading to their total defeat in December 2016. Unarguably, the last vestiges of the Boko Haram insurgency were displaced from the Sambisa Forests at “Camp Zero”.
The gallant Nigerian troops also dismantled the official flag of the terrorists and have liberated nearly 20 local government areas hitherto seized by the anarchists. An accomplished senior infantry officer who was commissioned in 1983 and has had multiple command, administrative and institutional appointments in his illustrious military career, Buratai gained admission into the prestigious Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna as a member of the 29 Regular Combatant Course on January 3, 1981.
A highly decorated senior military officer with several local and international awards, Gen. Buratai has a barrage of both military and academic qualifications and has served in various military formations in Nigeria. Under him, all information regarding the activities of the Army is known to the Nigerian public as against the past in which everything was shrouded in secrecy and cover ups leading to massive frauds. Nigerian troops are now properly motivated, all thanks to his eclectic leadership.
Amor is on the Editorial Board of TheNigerian Tabloid.