By Philip Agbese
Being a full text of speech delivered by the Guest Speaker, Philip Agbese at the public presentation of the book in Abuja on Friday, May 17, 2019.
I welcome you all to this occasion, the public presentation of the prosaic rendition of the counter-terrorism efforts in our dear country, Nigeria, encapsulated in the book, “The Legend of Buratai”, authored by a distinguished scholar and publisher, Dr. Abubakar Mohammed Sani. First, let me clarify that I am still a junior scholar in this field and unworthy to bear the cross of a Guest Speaker at this auspicious ceremony. Nonetheless, I felt highly honoured and privileged and I shall strive to share my little perspective on this book and the personality of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Nigerian Army, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai.
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Before the reality of this occasion today, I have read some funny commentaries about the title of the book. I have encountered attempts at disparaging the personality of Lieutenant General Buratai, and deliberate efforts to undermine the relevance of the fictional narrative as creatively reflected in the title of the book, by some persons. I could see the futile laborious efforts to diminish the laudable impacts of the counter-terrorism operations under the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, through the commanding heights and ingenuity of Lieutenant General Buratai, a military leader, strategist and tactician. He is unarguably one of Nigeria’s finest breeds of soldiers.
Some self-appointed critics have queried the title of the book by its reference to him as a legend. So, the egocentric critics prefer not to fete the honour of Lieutenant General TY Buratai with such grandiose concept; but to see him exit the Nigerian Army and the world, as an unknown little boy from Buratai village in Biu Local Government Area of Borno state. But fate and destiny are not susceptible to the conscious twists of debased minds. The worth of real men is measured by their actions and impact on a world consistently in search of liberators for its troubled souls. In contrast, I dare say emphatically that Lieutenant General Buratai is more than just a hero, but an eminent legend, conqueror of the most fortified terrorists’ havens in Nigeria.
An American renowned psychologist, Philip Zambardo says, “…to be a hero means you step across the line and are willing to make a sacrifice, so heroes always are making a sacrifice. Heroes always take a risk. Heroes are always deviant. Heroes are always doing something that most people don’t and will want to change – I want to democratize heroism to say any of us can be a hero.” So, heroes are people who came, saw and conquered. Yes, we have many heroes; but ironically, not every hero is a legend. However Lieutenant General TY Buratai is a combination of both and much more.
Through courage, selfless sacrifice and exemplary leadership, he commanded the Nigerian Army that save me and you; our brothers and sisters from the brutal strangulation of insurgents and criminal gangs in Bama, Gwoza, Sambisa forest in the Northeast and other places in Nigeria.
Therefore, Lieutenant General Buratai has amazingly surpassed the mark of a mere hero, and has launched himself into the nobility of remarkable legends. A famous American athlete, Max Holloway says, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” For me, this is a perfect description of the persona of Lieutenant General Buratai and the monograph is excellently structured to keep him evergreen in our memories for his unprecedented efforts and exploits to save humanity.
The fictional prose is inspirational and prods into deep thoughts each time we think about the Nigeria’s numerous battles and encounters with insurgents; the retinue of tormenting religious and regional extremists and the legion of dark forces amassed against our collective existence as a nation. Whatever respite and exculpation Nigeria savours today from Boko Haram terrorism streams from the relentless sacrifices of Lieutenant General Buratai and Nigerian Army troops’ years of sleeplessness and battles in the trenches.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, you may recall that when Gen. Buratai was appointed the COAS in July 2015, he promised to make a difference in the counter-terrorism operations; he vowed to defeat Boko Haram insurgents, reclaim all seized territories and free Nigerians held hostage by terrorists. He gave us timelines to execute his assignment and has religiously complied with it. Today, we sit here to savour a greater freedom from these demonic forces.
I fondly remember Lt Gen. Buratai’s adherence to the promise of decimating Boko Haram by December 2015; his speedy reclamation of seized Nigerian territories by the turn of 2016 and the symbolic defeat of Boko Haram terrorism with the invasion, penetration and capture of the dreaded Sambisa forest by December of 2016, as Christmas gift to Nigerians. I recollect the several times insurgents had ambushed Lt Gen. Buratai’s convoy in the Northeast; but with his gallant and courageous resistance, the assailing terrorists rather met their waterloo.
I see in Lt Gen. Buratai the image of an uncommon soldier; rugged and combative on the battlefields and a torn in the flesh of insurgents, insurrectionists and other enemies of Nigeria. He is a soldier tough at battlefront, but meek, kind and humble at home.
His humility and compassion always leave whoever encounters him in awe. He is the face of a perfect humanity, who shares the pains and agonies of a suffering people and steps out to assist traumatized and helpless people. He counts his joy and happiness in the number of people he has freed from torments and the hangman’s noose and the lives he positively impacted. Because of his immense love for humanity, Lt Gen. Buratai goes out of his way to assist individuals and communities.
The prosperity and development he brought to many communities across Nigeria are uncountable. His numerous philanthropic and humanitarian gestures touched my heart dearly; the one dearest to me was when he supported returning Internally Displaced Persons in the Northeast to resettle in their liberated, but deserted communities and homes. Lt Gen. TY Buratai assisted them with implements and tractors to clear bushy surroundings, construction of roads and boost farming.
Elsewhere, Lt Gen. Buratai has never shirked in displaying his milk of human kindness, as we have seen in the provision of water to Abakpa Nike community in Enugu State, south east Nigeria, or the electrification of some communities in the Northeast or free Medicare to host communities in North, South and East of Nigeria. He is an epitome of a good neighbour’s keeper.
A watchful world is not unmindful of these rare exploits, which have not in any way exhausted all that ought to be done on Nigeria’s inglorious path of induced insecurity. But Lt Gen. Buratai remains a legend as thoughtfully observed by a famed journalist, Don Yeager, who says, “Sometimes legends find themselves remembered more for what they have not done than for their accomplishments.
But those resume gaps can also help drive them to achieve even greater things in new arenas.” We cannot claim, every insecurity challenge has been dismantled in Nigeria. Controversial novelist, Salman Rushdie said that “There is no such thing as perfect security, only varying levels of insecurity”, reminds us. But Lt Gen. Buratai has substantially dispensed himself as an Army Chief whose footprints are not only indelible, but have dwarfed the accomplishments of all his predecessors put together.
I am encouraged to say, Lt Gen. Buratai’s mutation from heroism to a legend is mirrored in the promises he has kept and the change from midwifing the formally agonizing and nightmarish face of insecurity in Nigeria to a peaceful and secured country, we are proud to call our dear nation. Our men and women in the Armed Forces are truly heroes and we must commend and emulate their courage and patriotism as we think of replacing our parents as leaders of tomorrow.
Therefore, as students and future leaders of Nigeria, we must know that to be a General, you must first become a soldier. But not all soldiers are Generals and so, you must embrace hard work. To be a legend, you must first become a hero and it is also a function of dedication to your work. But not all heroes are legends; Just like not every collection of books make up a library. If we perceive Lt Gen. Buratai today as a legend, it means, we must imbibe the virtues of hard work, patriotism and loyalty to our country.
It is pertinent that anytime we think counter-terrorism in Nigeria, we must know, Lt Gen. Buratai is an authority, a point of reference and an encyclopedia. But again, not every collection of knowledge makes up an encyclopedia. So, assuming Lt Gen. Buratai is an encyclopedia, a book and library, and then it will be apt to state that a big library like Buratai in counter-terrorism can only be equated with the library of Congress.
The legendary Buratai will remain a reference point not only for us, students, but an inspiration and motivation for the upcoming generation in emulating celebrated patriots.
Therefore, I must commend the author for ercognising these and wrote this wonderful book in honour of our legend and hero, Lieutenant Tukur Yusufu Buratai.
Agbese is a human rights activist and online publisher.