Dozens of centuries ago, ancient Chinese Army General, legendary military expert and philosopher, Sun Tzu least knew his prescriptions on warfare tactics and strategies, later encapsulated in the work “The Art of War” would survive to become the navigational compass of warmongers, treasured by business/political leaders and philosophers around the world in this newest millennium.
In the countless philosophical constructions he churned out, the Great General Sun Tzu was concerned about the best tactics and strategies to win his wars, with fewer casualties of his troops, but with a loyal and dedicated army, ready to strike and subdue the enemy, beyond resilience. So, he triumphed in seemingly impossible battles and coasted to victory to the honour and admiration of his country-China.
The military strategist mastered the art of war and at all times he deployed his warfare philosophy, which left his opponents gasping for breath.
At the core of his warfare strategies was the idea that warmongers or in battles one should “Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby, you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”
And throughout the world today, successful warmongers and armies do not only consider Sun Tzu as an encyclopedia of military strategies and tactics, but modern armies and military experts depend and imbibe substantial parts of his military ingenuity in the prosecution of small or complex wars.
Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and leader of the counter-insurgency campaigns, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai could rightly be described as a brilliant student of Sun Tzu. Leading the Nigerian troops to counter the raging terrorism war against Nigerians by Boko Haram insurgents is certainly not a tea party. It is a combination of several attributes of leadership in administration, planning, battlefield strategies’ or tactics in trenches.
But the Army boss has been able to weather storm by first raising an enviable, professional and disciplined army to confront terrorists to resounding victories. And Gen. Buratai did not record these milestones’ simply on the mere recognition of him as leader of the counter-insurgency campaigns or the rank on his shoulders as an Army General or status as Nigeria’s COAS. It is a function of serious thinking; the application of various tactics and strategies in enhancing, enriching and advancing loyal his troops to outsmart the enemy.
Sun Tzu says, “Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.” The caution by this aphorism has remained a fundamental guiding principle for Gen. Buratai. The Army Chief inherited disenchanted troops at the battlefield. They groaned under arrears of unpaid salaries and allowances, much as interrupted food supplies while in the battlefield.
He reversed the ugly situation by making welfare of his troops and their families’ topmost priority. He terminated the regime of irregular salaries and allowances. The COAS showered passions of love and compassion, by stretching further to mutually interface with families of troops in the trenches in various barracks and acted swiftly in resolving problems that could become the psychological afflictions of their spouses in the battlefield.
Further cleansing the House, Gen. Buratai untied the chain that locked promotions for deserving personnel and issued strict orders for timely compliance henceforth. To ice the cake, Gen. Buratai promoted and personally decorated troops with exemplary and exceptional performance in the counter-insurgency war.
The COAS made patriotism and loyalty to Nigeria from soldiers an inviolable creed. He preached professionalism in the army’s interaction with civil institutions and perception of the sovereignty of the nation-state as very sacrosanct. Sun Tzu prescribes that “He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces…He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks,” aptly referring to the lawful and equal treatment of all by any Army Commander who targets victories from his personnel.
Therefore, Gen. Buratai scales and monitors to ensure a healthy interaction between junior and senior army officers, and goes all out to protect junior’ personnel from unwarranted victimization from superiors. He outlines acceptable and unacceptable conduct and monitors it from the rear. He sustains it by not hesitating to invoke appropriate lawful punishments’ within the Nigerian Army code of discipline.
In Gen. Buratai, one finds a leader, Sun Tzu insists must possess the essential five virtues. Tzu says “The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage and strictness. Gen. Buratai is both benevolent and strict, which nourishes the standards of discipline and professionalism through the enforcement of a commensurate rewards and punishment system in the Nigerian Army.
And in endless pursuit of wisdom, the Army boss is never tired of acquiring knowledge and imparting his wealth of experience to other armies anywhere the call to service beckons. It is his conviction that the world must be salvaged from the fangs of terrorism through shared experiences on better tactics and strategies.
Therefore, a workaholic to the core, despite Gen. Buratai’s tight official engagements, he still spares time to attend international seminars and workshops abroad, where he makes useful military ideological contributions to the world order against terrorism, extremism and allied acts destructive to humanity. These outings have greatly inspired scores of armies around the world, particularly, in countries tied to the chains of ravaging terrorism.
To strengthen civil/military relations, he directed the Nigerian Army to devote a percentage of their paltry annual votes to the execution of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects in host communities. Thus, the Nigerian Army flaunts projects in water, roads, electricity and Medicare wherever they berth their foot.
This ceaseless courtship of the civil populace has changed the public perception of the Nigerian Army from the habituated hostile and brutish character aligned to them to a disciplined, respectable and humble personnel. Presently, there are glowing positive testimonies from locals and host communities alike about the friendly disposition of soldiers, evident in the cordial civil/military relations under the supervision of Gen. Buratai, a significant departure from experiences of the past.
Thus, the selfless and determined service of Gen. Buratai to his fatherland has restored the confidence of other armies in Africa and the world. His perfect leadership of Nigerian troops to a diligent prosecution of the counter insurgency war in the country and absolute compliance with the best internationally laid down rules of engagement has spurred commendations from high-profile international figures and famous world organizations’. This implies the elevation of Nigeria in the comity of nations.
And through Gen. Buratai’s purposeful, result-oriented, patriotic, unbending and courageous prosecution of Boko Haram terrorism, the Nigerian Army has been stampeded with barrages of commendations and accolades in recognition of these endearing exploits against terrorism.
Accordingly, the Brazilian Army Commander, Gen. Eduardo Villas Boas was so excited with the Nigerian Army’s counter-terrorism campaigns’/insurgency and Gen. Buratai’s sterling leadership qualities that he recommended him to President Michel Temer for Brazilian’s highest military honour. Gen. Buratai who was conferred with the Brazilian Military Order of Merit Award became one of the very few foreigners to be so honoured with the coveted award by the Brazilian Government.
The Columbian Army Chief, Gen. Albert Jose Mejia, and his Bangladesh counterpart, Gen. Abubilal Shafiulhuq at various times extended glowing tributes to the Nigerian Army while on separate official visit to the country. Buoyed by the impressive and near excellence of troops in the handling of the Boko Haram terrorism and other extremists’ sects, the interface goaded instant partnership engagements in the area of training and intelligence gathering in curbing global terrorism.
The United States also commended the operational efforts of the Nigerian Army in the counter-terrorism war in North-East Nigeria through the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington. He led an American Congressional delegation to visit the Theatre Command of Operation Lafiya Dole in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital and his team was received by the Theatre Commander, Major General Attahiru Ibrahim.
Much earlier, at a “Global Coalition Working to Defeat ISIS,” summit in Washington .D.C, the US Secretary of States, Mr. Rex Tillerson commended Nigeria in its battle against terrorism and also urged countries of the world under the biting scourge of terrorism to emulate the example of the Nigeria, by changing strategies and trailing dimensions of the terrorism to the cyberspace. “But let me be clear: we must fight ISIS online as aggressively as we would on the ground,” he counseled.
Similarly, a recent appraisal of the counter-insurgency campaigns in Nigeria, especially the Northeast by the United Nations Organization (UNO) also applauded as exemplary the Nigerian Army’s professional hold on Boko Haram terrorism and insurgency, as conforming to international best practices.
The Special Assistant to United Nations Secretary General (SRSG), Office for West Africa, His Excellency, (Doctor) Mohammad Ibn Chambas expressed his observations during the UN solidarity visit to the COAS, Gen. Buratai in his office, at the Headquarters of the Theatre Command of Operation Lafiya Dole in Maiduguri, Borno State. Additionally, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) led by its President for the Month of March 2017, Ambassador Mathew Rycroft expressed same eulogies on Nigerian troops fighting the counter-insurgency war when they were in Nigeria on assessment tour.
Again, President Muhammadu Buhari has consistently commended Nigeria troops for their steadfastness and commitment in decimating and defeating Boko Haram terrorism, expressing satisfaction with every stage of the counter-insurgency campaigns’.
Early this year, President Buhari said, “With your performances, we have been able to restore the sanity and territorial integrity of Nigeria. I congratulate you.”
It is undeniable that leadership is a hard nut to crack anywhere. It is much more a nightmarish experience in a country like Nigeria. Leaders who strive to make the difference often suffer vilification and unwarranted ridicule from detractors Nigeria has nurtured aplenty. Many have opined that a leader who succeeds in Nigeria has conquered the world in leadership competence because, anywhere he steps his foot, he shall etch indelible footprints. It is reason Gen. Buratai and the Nigerian Army are globally celebrated for braving the odds and distractions in Nigeria to achieve excellence.
By Jessica Angula
Angula, an Oil and Gas expert contributed this piece from Coventry University, United Kingdom.