By Steve Jackson
Basically, it’s not in the character of most Africans to appreciate merit and excellence but warmly hug mediocrity. In Nigeria, this tendency is almost a national plaque.
The best hands in public service are undermined and unfairly criticized, so very sensationally. And it is sparkled for laughable and sentimental reasons in such region, ethnicity or even religion. So, performance becomes an ass in the eye of the critic, insofar as the target is outside his favoured lenses.
But very many clear-headed Nigerians appreciate and applaud the few best performers one can find in the country. Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and leader of counter-insurgency operations, Lt. Gen. TY Buratai is a rare breed, performer per excellence and military juggernaut.
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He speaks and acts with an uncommon splendor. It’s doubtful whether President Muhammadu Buhari had any inkling about the exact quantum of the professional treasures implanted in Gen. Buratai when he appointed him in 2015 to preside over the total dismantling of terrorism and allied insurrections in Nigeria.
It’s possible that the President himself must have been pleasantly shocked or marveled at the extent of Gen. Buratai’s dexterity in executing the national assignment assigned him. And surely, and in contrast, too, most Nigerians are oblivious of the complexity and intricacies of battling and degrading insurgency.
When you read some withering commentaries from critics about the Nigerian Army’s warfare with terrorists in Nigeria, it strikes you instantly of a pathetic gulf in knowledge. It informs instantly, these critics are unknowing on what it really entails to quench terrorism.
To some of these critics, quelling terrorism in Nigeria or anywhere in the world is akin to a distress call; a call inviting the Police to crush armed robbers in the neighbourhood. It’s far from such token of assumptions.
In fact, striking a superiority edge on insurgency, like Gen. Buratai and his troops have done in Nigeria in less than three years is a hefty task. It’s not all about the military’s intelligence of organizing, training and equipping troops to descend on terrorists. It’s beyond the sound of boots and guns or the worth of armoury or even competence of the field Commanders.
It demands much more! Those in doubt should ask America how tough it has been to rout out terrorists in the Middle East in the past 16 years, with thousands of American troops.
They should research into the history of terrorism elsewhere, like in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Britain, Kenya, and hordes of other countries around the world. It is not an easy task; it is a tedious adventure to battle terrorists.
Pre-war strategies and tactics are very essential. The intelligence of appropriately decoding the shrewd strategies and tactics of terrorists, which is ever dynamic as well as harvesting it to victorious advantage is the real recipes for victory in the battle against insurgents.
It was the revered Chinese war veteran Sun Tsu who echoed that a battle is won and lost at the preparation stage of troops. It means careless lacunas at the stage of preparation could make the best of armies lose the battle to enemy forces so easily.
But Gen. Buratai is an embodiment of this art of war. He is not just a fighter of terrorists, but a military scholar and expert in terrorism strategies and tactics. He exudes it; he acts it in the trenches; reels it out to his Special Teams on Terrorism, at training grounds and dazzles the academia in breathtaking lectures on terrorism.
Days back, at a lecture, Gen. Buratai delivered at the Centre for Contemporary Security Affairs, Igbinedion University, Okada, in Edo state, he reaffirmed his worth.
The lecture titled: “Military and Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria, Appraisal of the Nigerian Army Counter-Terrorism And Counter-Insurgency Operations,” the Army Chief for the umpteenth time, proved to Nigerians that President Buhari made no mistake in appointing him the leader of counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria.
The Army boss gave rare insights into the complex security challenges, unknown to many Nigerians. He was insightfully blunt that insurgency is not tackled with boots and guns alone.
It also inherently requires the infusion of political and security solutions, if Nigeria plans to secure its democracy and good governance. Only this can make the country emerge stronger after the multiple crises. It was a prophetic vision into the future.
Gen. Buratai shocked security dons in the academia by releasing what is known in Nigerian parlance as “expo,” when he gave a link to the success of Nigerian troops over terrorists. He bellowed, “One of the silent but radical changes in the operations was changing the orientation and mindset of troops from a defensive to an offensive posture.”
To illustrate he is a leader, in touch with the tinges of his assignment, the Army Chief exposed the leakages prolonging the final defeat of terrorism in Nigeria. He does not consider himself a sit-com Army General, but a field defender of his people and so, quite conversant with where the problem lingers in the ongoing clearance operations by Nigerian troops.
That security is a collective responsibility is an overbeaten cliché. And Gen. Buratai pricked the conscience of Nigerians and stakeholders to wake up to some concealed realities.
The Army boss was articulate that porous borders, cross-border insurgency, and insufficient international support in terms of equipment and large space of operational environment for troops are the hindrances for a quick extinction of Boko Haram insurgency.
Buratai, the Generalissimo of the counter-insurgency operations again assured Nigerians of triumph over terrorism. He allayed the fears of skeptics that with him as direct overseer on counter-insurgency, insurgents neither have might nor energy to hold Nigerians hostage again.
He assured, “Success recorded so far is an indication that for Nigeria’s democracy to be consolidated, the military must not only play its part but must also fulfill the constitutional roles assigned to them.”
And those thinking Gen. Buratai has forgotten about the rescue of the remaining Chibok schoolgirls and other Nigerians still in the captivity of Boko Haram were reminded of it as the Army’s topmost priority. It means Boko Haram factional leader Abubakar Shekau who has been forced underground into the Cameroonian mountains will also not escape the swords of Nigerian Army, with President Buhari’s latest refunding of the MNJTF with $100 million.
It is pertinent to recount the history of Boko Haram terrorism in the country. Nigerians familiar with it since the 2009 resurgence and progression would attest to its ever-expanding tentacles. Nigeria also experienced its manifest embryonic plots to make incursions to the Southern part of the country before the Buhari Presidency and the emergence of Gen. Buratai.
But that Gen. Buratai has defiantly led troops to confine Boko Haram atrocities to the Northeast and specifically to the Lake Chad Basin axis and the large Sambisa forest is significant. The heart of Sambisa forest-Camp Zero has already been conquered by the Nigerian Army and deserving of eulogies.
And it happened in less than three years. So, when President Buhari extended Gen. Buratai’s tenure of office, some Nigerians who cannot discern beyond the periphery staged out in dishonest and unpatriotic remonstrations. The remonstrators jealously overlooked Gen. Buratai’s splendous performance qualifying him for retention.
But the President, a military tactician himself, knew exactly the treasures in the “wonder boy,” Gen. Buratai in the trenches. And that’s why President Buhari feted him with tenure extension.
By Gen. Buratai’s depiction, routing out insurgency in Nigeria means both the security and political leaderships utmost agreement, which must snowball into the endorsement of a common agenda. President Buhari and Gen. Buratai share the same concerns. And it explains why life has been animated in the Northeast currently.
At the moment in the Northeast, particularly Maiduguri, the hub of Boko Haram terrorism, local and foreign journalists, UN officials, philanthropic organisations, the Red Cross and special delegations of countries across the globe now freely visit and unmolested by insurgents to ascertain the extent of the defeat of terrorism in Nigeria.
Interestingly, in spite of the enormous pressure and stress on Gen. Buratai, he is not fatigued. He knows he covenanted with Nigerians upon his appointment as COAS and leader of counter-insurgency operations to end terrorism anywhere in Nigeria.
He renews this covenant in his heart, every day he wakes up, thinking about Nigeria. Gen. Buratai knows Boko Haram terrorists will not have peace in this country until Nigerians first reclaim their nation to savour the same peace.
Jonathan is a security expert based in the USA.