By Abaji S. Abaji
For some time, I refused to register in the somewhat national debate about the Nigerian Army and its leadership. I have read the divergent opinions from Nigerians about the Army’s ongoing counter-terrorism in Nigeria, with Northeast in focus, where troops are trying to clear remnants of insurgents in clearance operations.
I discovered there are deliberate attempts by some Nigerian critics, commentators and analysts to undermine the Army as an institution and its leadership led by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt.Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai, who doubles as the head of the counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria.
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Of course, some of these commentaries support and appreciate the army for its rare sacrifices to free our country from the fangs of terrorism. But a few others attempt vainly to cast aspersions, underrate or even malign our troops and the leadership. I consider it unfair and those who have made it a habit are doing it for unpatriotic reasons. So, I decided to add my voice for the sake of strengthening the records.
There is no doubt that I love my country, Nigeria. And any other Nigerian who shares this same passion with me would agree that Nigeria has no reason to be tormented by terrorism. The factional leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau is a Nigerian, born of a Kanuri family. Recently, his biological mother spoke in pains and tears, and almost blamed God for this gift of the womb. I understood her dilemma as a mother, who wished the best for her children.
But Shekau has turned out to be the exact opposite of whatever dreams her mother had for him, while nursing the infant boy. Today, we have ended up with him as a terrorist and a senseless killer of men and women. So, soldiers who strive every day to free us from the chains of terrorism ought to be appreciated and honoured in our individual places or comfort zones.
Terrorism in Nigeria got to a high point where none of us could even sleep with two eyes closed in Abuja or anywhere else. The phobia of terrorism was real and haunting. Bombs were detonated everywhere and every day, before President Muhammadu Buhari became our democratic leader. I don’t want to mention the Northern part of the country, because obviously the people lived in fear and agonies of exploding sounds of bombs and deaths.
If this Islamic militant sect could invade the revered Kano state with bombs, it meant that nobody was safe. Anyone could just sympathize with me that the entire North was unsafe. Only by providence Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi narrowly escaped death, at his mosque when these terrorists came visiting. It became this bad with us and our country. We became a threat to ourselves and the rest of the world.
Now and for nearly four years, no bomb has exploded in Abuja. For four years, residents of Northern cities and communities have not experienced bombs. In Plateau before 2015, bombs were detonated in football viewing centers and killed us. We saw mass deaths; experienced pains and destructions.
But the Buhari Presidency has changed this sad narrative. Under Gen. Buratai as leader of the counter-insurgency operations, I can assert in appreciation that Nigeria is substantially free from terrorism. Boko Haram has been decimated and weakened to the extent they can no longer strike freely and everywhere as they did previously. I know their atrocities are confined to the remotest parts of Borno state, where it originated.
But to some of us who see nothing good in others, or hate the progress of the nation we call our country, Gen. Buratai who has led this battle in the trenches does not deserve our praises. To some of us, the simple, costless act of eulogizing him and the troops in the warfront is something akin to a plaque, which must be avoided.
Yes, no one is forcing anybody to pour accolades on Buratai or our troops. We all have the right to be silent or speak out. But when we speak, should it always be on baselessly excoriating the efforts of the Army or its leadership? Do we have a conscience that is alive? Do some of us really know what it takes to battle and defeat terrorism anywhere in the world?
This is Easter season; a period we hitherto never celebrated in peace because insurgents were in total control of Nigeria. It was same for Sallah, Christmas and New Year celebrations. But today, we cannot say the same thing. We celebrate these festivities lavishly and without the fear of bombs blasts anywhere in Nigeria.
So, a man, like Gen. Buratai who has brought this bliss and security to us does not deserve even our verbal praise? Its unfair, uncharitable and an arrow we have shot at ourselves and hearts. Other nations are wishing to have a brave soldier like Gen. Buratai; God has gifted us with him, but we are unthankful.
Regardless of whatever some of us feel, Gen. Buratai, remains my historical hero. This patriotic soldier dispenses himself as one of a troop and leader transparently committed to the cause of salvaging our country. His actions leaves no room for me to doubt him. He has imbibed the same mentality in his troops, which has caused the winning streaks in the terrorism war in favour of Nigeria.
As a person, Gen. Burati left indelible memories in me when insurgents challenged his competence soon after his appointment as COAS by striking Buratai , his home town in Biu LGA of Borno, killing and destroying houses. Buratai proved his worth as a soldier by leading the assault on the terrorists personally. And the terrorists were extinguished in minutes.
If we remember, a former security chief’s village was invaded by insurgents in same state who captured and occupied it. But Buratai resisted them. Gen. Buratai has personally booted himself, clad in battle jackets and hopped into the trenches with his troops to battle terrorists. They have done this for our sake and many of them have paid the supreme price.
Insurgents are much of a relentless and cursed souls. They again dared Gen. Buratai’s after the attack on Biu by ambushing his convoy while travelling to Maiduguri-Gamboru-Ngala. Buratai again braved the odds and did not only deflate the terrorists who attacked his convoy, but also arrested some of them who later made useful confessions. He is my kind of soldier. He could have been killed in such ambush.
No Nigerian, who is at home with his soul would think history will not be kind to Gen. Buratai. He has proven to me and millions of Nigerians that history will be kind to him because of the countless and priceless sacrifices for us, his country and humanity. Those who wish to pointlessly criticize Gen. Buratai and our troops are free to do so, but it does not blur the senses of some of us. Certainly, history has a positive page for Gen. Buratai.
Abaji writes this piece from Bariga, Lagos.