This particular Saturday morning, August 25, 2017 in the United Kingdom was like any other normal day. The weather was bright and people went out as usual to perform their daily chores in search of a rewarding livelihood. But a few hours into the day, around The Dorchester, in the City of Westminster, the mood began to change slightly, as electrified with the presence of some unusual visitors.
The Nigerian, (TN), a London-based online news portal had slated that day to stage twin genial celebrations.
First, it was the celebration of TN’s first anniversary of birth on the newsstands as medium of information dissemination and, secondly, a stately celebration of what the Master of Ceremony (MC) repeatedly chanted as “the best of the best” from the pool of Nigeria’s distinctive, eminent leadership personalities and public institutions that have remarkably etched profound memories of performance on the Nigerian public in the year 2017.
The preparations engulfed weeks of dedicated planning. But two days to the D-day, the hearts of the organisers was thrown to the backs, with feverish and tension-packed last minute authentication of arrangements. But eventually, every foreseen and unforeseen barrier was cleared.
The organisers lined up a flurry of activities to spice the celebrations, including a symposium centered on the topic “ Oil, Terrorism and Globalization: Security Challenges to the Capitalization of Nigeria’s Natural Resource Market”. On the appointed day, guests invited for the occasion started filing into the neatly decorated moonlit hall, which was decked with artifacts that stimulated the instincts of celebrations.
The guests came from different parts of the globe to fraternize with the management of TN’s one year of uninterrupted and the finest quality of robust development journalism, rooted in the ululations of African heritage.
Most were enthusiastic because of TN’s edifying consummation of journalism on the plank of the Biblical myth of the mustard seed, from its little beginnings to its near unbeatable influence and impact on African populations anywhere in the world in just one year.
Therefore, within 30 minutes, the marble-walled and brightly lighted hall was full to the brim as almost all the invited guests and the awardees were seated. But the joy of the organisers was incomplete, as something was still conspicuously missing from the array of personalities that converged in The Dorchester in the Westminster to grace this maiden anniversary of The Nigerian.
But the anxiety soon eclipsed, and morphed into the mood of excitement as the Master of Ceremony (MC) or Achor, Mr. Mark Jones bellowed into the microphone the arrival of the delegation from the Nigerian Army. The other guests and dignitaries were no less important.
But the demystification of terrorism in Nigeria, the quelling of acerbic separatism movements and other insurrectional acts in the country by the Nigerian Army conferred on them a reverence and status that made Nigerian soldiers the cynosure of all eyes wherever they registered presence. This instance too was no exemption, as it amply verified their veneration, judging by the loud applauses that greeted the arrival of the delegation of the Nigerian Army.
Nigerians through TN’s online polling massively voted the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai “The Nigerian Man of the Year 2017” and the Nigerian Army, “The Nigerian Best Public Institution of the Year 2017. In effect, what was conceived as a mere award ceremony inevitably slipped into a day of ceaseless global celebration of the Nigerian Army in a manner that almost inspired envy from the organisers for their unconscious “stealing of the show.”
As the event progressed, speaker after speaker eagerly took turns to eulogize and extoll the virtues of the Nigerian COAS and leader of the counter-insurgency war in Nigeria, Gen. Buratai and the Nigerian Army.
Gen. Buratai himself was understandably absent at the event because of urgent security matters back home. But he sent a powerful delegation that accentuated the seriousness he attached to the global recognition of the Nigerian Army.
The MC introduced Major General CAT Jemitola, the Chief of Policy and Plans, Nigerian Army, as Leader of the delegation and representative of the Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Buratai. He was accompanied by Major General CO Ojo, the Rector of the Nigerian Army Institute of Environmental Technology, undergoing the metamorphosis of becoming the first Nigerian Army University, in Nigeria.
Other members of the delegation, included Major General RO Yusuf, the Commanding Officer, Training and Doctrine Command, Minna Niger State; Major General Nani, a Director at the TRADOC; Major General G Oyefesobi, Nigeria’s Defence Adviser to London; Brigadier General US Mohammed, the Chief of Staff, Office of the Chief of Army Staff; Brigadier General SK Usman, the Director, Army Public Relations; a retired Colonel, Michael Oladeji, who is a friend and Course mate of the Chief of Army Staff and Colonel HI Zaria, another friend of the COAS.
Members of Nigerian Defence Academy Regular Combatant Course 29, COAS’s course mates were also fully represented by their President who personally graced the event to witness firsthand the global honour done to a distinguished member of the Combatant Course 29 and the Nigerian Army under his leadership. The ceiling almost pulled down, with vibrations from applauses and excitements inspired by their presence.
The International Press stood up in engaging and stimulating appreciation of the Nigerian Army, as Mark Jones summoned two reputable international journalists, Patrick Smith, the Editor-in-Chief of the African Confidential and John Milton, an American journalist to present the awards of THE NIGERIAN OF THE YEAR to the Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Buratai and the NIGERIAN BEST PUBLIC INSTITUTION to the Nigerian Army. Spontaneous ovations again greeted the hall, as the Nigerian Army as an institution was conferred with these distinguished awards.
The Chairman, Board of Directors, of The Nigerian and former Minister of State for the Niger Delta, Hon. Dr. Sam Ode and the entire management of TN were taken aback by the outpouring of encomiums on the Nigerian Army from Nigerians in the diaspora and foreigners alike . Speakers including academics and conflict resolution experts stopped short of publicly requesting approval to partner with the Nigerian Army on matters of terrorism.
But it gladdened the heart of Hon. Ode, who hinted at the beginning that the event was packaged to celebrate the very best of the best in Nigeria had his assumption confirmed by the reactions of the congregation. The dignitaries and guests at the ceremony confirmed it eloquently by its celebration of the Nigerian Army and indeed, all the awardees for their distinctive leadership qualities, which has earned them a special place in history.
It is not in doubt that the Nigerian Army’s global recognition is spurred by its fruitful battles against insurgency, extremism and separatism. But what has earned them this fame the more as clearly gleaned from the excitement of the world is their dexterity in prosecuting a delicate war like terrorism.
They complied with the most acceptable standards of the rules of engagement and, respect for the sanctity of human rights of both victims and the aggressors in the anti-terrorism campaigns.
And that the world is elated at the penchant of the Gen. Buratai-led Nigerian Army to court civil/military relations excellently. It’s execution of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) manifest in the barrage of interventions in community development services to host communities, like offering free Medicare, construction of roads and provision of water among others.
The humility of Nigerian soldiers to key into the environmental sanitation creed to keep the streets clean and maintain a healthy environment are testimonies of a professionally disciplined Army.
These manifestations have earned them global recognition and endeared them to men of conscience around the world. As the Nigerian Army celebrates the token of appreciation of Nigerians and the world by the awards, may it serve as catalyst and elixir to a greater determination to serve humanity anywhere the call of duty beckons for them in any part of the world.
By Prince Ugo
Ugo, a legal practitioner sent in this piece from the United Kingdom.