Three days ago, specifically on Tuesday, November 24th instant, one of the finest military officers that Nigeria has ever produced celebrated his birthday in the lowest-manner possible. Rather than doing so in pomp and pageantry, he chose to celebrate in an awkward kind of way. Together with some principal staff officers of the Nigerian Army, he jogged several kilometers and followed it up with intense press up and push up, among other physical exercises. What a way to mark one’s birthday!
But the celebrant is not given to frivolities. He is Lieutenant-General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, who many believe is the best Chief of Staff that the Nigerian Army has ever had. Since his appointment to that office by President Muhammadu Buhari, Buratai has always emphasized the need for military officers to keep fit and keep their brains sharper. But he does not just utter the words: He lives through it by personal example: always leading and showing the way.
Buratai took over the leadership of the Nigerian Army at a very difficult time in Nigeria’s history. Firstly, the terrorist Boko Haram group had made very deep inroads in its quest to impose a caliphate on Nigeria. The terror group was still very much in control of more than twenty local government areas in Borno and some neighboring states.
Secondly, it came at a time the new administration was contending with serious financial crunch. The money meant for purchase of weapons, a whopping two billion dollars, ended up being shared to some politicians of the immediate past administration. So bad were the shape of things at the time that the best that President Muhammadu Buhari could do was to apply half percent of our Growth Domestic Product (GDP) to prosecute the war.
The President was in a serious quandary, as finishing the Boko Haram war was one of the key promises he made to the electorate. But war in no picnic. You need billions of dollars to prosecute it. And the money was no longer there. A large chunk of it was shared recklessly, perhaps because the President of Nigeria at the time was said to harbour deep feelings that the whole Boko Haram war was orchestrated by northerners to distract and weaken his government.
He has forgotten that the war started in 2009, at a time a northerner – Umar Musa ‘Yar’adua was the President. Throughout history, no country has ever applied less than ten percent of its GDP to prosecute and win any war against terror. But here we are, still facing the problem of inadequate financing, as the priorities are far too many, and the government of the day was making barely a quarter of what the previous one had made in terms of revenue.
Another big problem confronting the then new Chief of Army Staff was a general low-morale being experienced by especially the rank and file of the Nigerian Army. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), in a report on October 16, 2014, cited several examples of Nigerian soldiers deserting the battlefront, complaining of lack of adequate equipment and pay. Writing on Friday, May 9, 2014 under the headline: Boko Haram exploits Nigeria’s slow military decline, Reuters also bemoans the then administration’s failure to invest in the military. In its words: “a lack of investment in training, failure to maintain equipment and dwindling cooperation with Western forces has damaged Nigeria’s armed services, while in Boko Haram they face an increasingly well-armed, determined foe. The Nigerian military is a shadow of what it is reputed to have once been,” the report concluded.
It was one of the lowest points in Nigeria’s history, with many fearing that the prediction that Nigeria would cease to exist by the following year 2015 was going to be realized. A Discussion Paper by the American National Intelligence Council issued on March 5, 2005, entitled “Mapping Sub-Saharan Africa’s Future” predicted that Nigeria will breakup ten years later (by 2015).
Everything was pointing to that bleak reality until Nigerians saved the day the following year by massively voting into office, General Muhammadu Buhari, defeating the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari did not reckon with the rot that had eaten massively deep into Nigeria’s moral fabric until he took over power in 2015 and came face to face with the new reality. To realize his ambition of vanquishing Boko Haram, the new President decided he must go for the very best. And so, he asked for the files of all the serving generals of that time.
It was after several days of deep scrutiny that he picked Tukur Yusufu Buratai, at that time a major-general, to serve as new head of the Nigerian Army. Another brave major-general, Gabriel Olanisakin, was appointed as Chief of Defence Staff, with the four topmost positions shared equally, two each for the southern and northern parts of the country. Also, President Buhari balanced the appointments by ensuring the four topmost service chiefs were two, Christians, and the other two, Muslims.
The President considered the fact that apart from the need to appoint the best into the new positions, there was also the need to ensure they have a record of transparency, integrity and accountability. Many Nigerians did not realize that the ability of the four service chiefs to seriously degrade Boko Haram, reducing the terror group to a shadow of itself within only a few months of their appointments came against the backdrop of dearth of resources and obsolete equipment bequeathed the nation by the Jonathan Administration.
Another problem the new service chiefs confronted was of politicians who swore never to allow the Buhari Administration a peaceful reign. These are people with deep pockets, who kept sponsoring one negative story after the other, trying to ensure Nigerians did not see the then new administration in any positive light. They also kept writing petitions to foreign governments, asking them not to sell weapons to Nigeria.
Any other person as Army Chief will simply have given up and perhaps resign at that time. But applying the highest standard of accountability and transparency, Buratai ensured the few resources at the Army’s disposal were managed in the most effective and honest manner, making it possible for the Army to continue to rout the terrorists, so much that less than a year into his appointment, Boko Haram was no longer in control of any part of this country.
And since most foreign governments have decided to stop selling weapons to Nigeria without even according the country a fair hearing, Buratai, working in concert with the Chief of Defence Staff, and getting the best support from the President and Commander-in-Chief, ensured the Nigerian Army was producing a lot of weapons, including Main Battle Tanks and mine-resistant tanks, as well as a lot of arms and ammunitions.
The Army Chief also decided that since one of the major means that the terrorists use to recruit soldiers is riding on people’s ignorance, he should strengthen the capacity of the people of especially Borno State to be more educated and fight, rather not than cooperate, with the terrorists. It was in the course of that that he set up the Nigerian Army University in Biu, a gigantic project of serious significance, which has since taken off. A lot of people are amazed that the Army, in the face of deep financial crunch, could still squeeze out the funds to make that major dream a reality. But then that is what President Buhari meant when he appointed only the best to that position.
In April this year, shortly after the Shura Council of the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) set up a media committee to deepen negative propaganda against the Nigerian Army and the Buhari Presidency, Buratai went to Borno, where he stayed for weeks with our troops, commanding the war against terror personally. The Army Chief was reported to always lead from the front, going into the dangerous war zones with his troops, and rewarding those of them that have made extraordinary brave efforts. So selfless is Buratai that last year, he strongly recommended for Lamidi Adeosun, a major-general, to be promoted to same rank of Lietenant-general as him. Thus far, hundreds of colonels and brigadier-generals have been promoted to the next rank, while promotion for the rank and file is almost an everyday thing.
Welfare of personnel was placed on the front burner, and today, most army barracks are wearing a new look, and subject to availability of funds, the Army does not delay payment of salaries and allowances to soldiers, including even those that are not presently serving in the war front.
So effective is Buratai’s leadership of the Nigerian Army that in April this year, Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, was heard in an audio crying profusely begging his soldiers not to desert him and complaining about the superior fire-power of the Nigerian Army, as the terror group was losing its top commanders on daily basis. To give the false impression that they are still very much on the ground, Boko Haram now mainly resorts to attacking soft targets, taking advantage of the fact that the military does not have the numbers to cover every nook and cranny of the country, or even the war zone.
There is no way a space like this could cover all the accomplishments of General TY Buratai, but suffice it to say, the Army Chief has been working hard to ensure total victory for Nigeria in its quest to rout terrorist and terrorism from our shores. It is remarkable that he has continued to achieve what ordinarily was looking impossible, even against the backdrop of sustained blackmail and negative propaganda in the social and traditional media.
It says a lot about the trust that President Buhari has on Buratai and the other service chiefs that he has retained them in their position, giving them the best that he could, to ensure they achieve the noble objective for which they were appointed in the first place. Buhari, being a war veteran, wears the shoes and knows more than all of us where it pinches.
The President knows that even after spending more than four trillion dollars fighting Taliban, the best military in the world has stilwl not recorded success. He knows more than all of us that war requires patience and discipline, and you cannot win it by allowing the opposition to confuse you.
This column wishes General Buratai the very best in his quest for a better and secure Nigeria, devoid of terrorists and terrorism of any sort. It is noteworthy that whereas the security challenges keep mounting, especially owing to inability of the police to effec maintain internal security, the Nigerian Army under Tukur Yusufu Buratai has continued to record one achievement after the other, to the pride of not only the administration of President Buhari, but millions of Nigerians of goodwill who always pray for the best for him and his brave troops.
TY Buratai: A General in the eyes of the media
I find the write up headlined above very interesting, and reproduce it hereunder. It was written by Mahmud Abdulsalam, an assistant editor with PRNigeria, a frontline public relations outfit. Excerpts:
The only time I could have had a chance, albeit a brief talk, with the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai, was about a month ago. Alas, it was not destined to be. It was during the #EndSARS ‘drama’. PRNigeria, our ‘darling’ media platform, here in Abuja, was the reason I could have spoken directly with the COAS. Like others, PRNigeria, also reported extensively the entire EndSARS demonstrations, across the country. Our reports, however, were laced with concrete and solid facts. I mean, iron-cast facts, with convincing details.
Though, we were apparently unsympathetic but very objective and fair on the Nigerian Army, especially its role on the lingering Lekki Shootings incident on October 20, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf, still, perhaps, not minding our editorial stance, acknowledge the ‘works’ of our media platform. How? You may wish to know. Okay, here is it. The COAS, at a conference with Principal Staff Officers (PSOs) of the Army, and General Officers Commanding (GOCs), among others, at the Army Headquarters (AHQ), began. “Where is PRNigeria‘s reporter?” I was told he had asked. But my colleague, who were there to cover the auspicious event, replied him, saying I was not yet around. Mind you, I was not the only reporter invited, even as PRNigeria was not the only media organisation he publicly acknowledged at the event. He did inquire about some of my colleagues.
It may be the first time, Buratai would personally acknowledge PRNigeria at any fora, but his relationship with the media has been long-standing. He has kept faith in the media, as a public figure who loves the media. This, perhaps, is why he has been warmly welcoming to his office, the editorial team of various media establishments, for partnership agreements and collaborations. The DailyTrust and DailySun newspapers’ team were once his guests. The Nigerian Army of Buratai has effectively involved and carried along the correspondents who cover its activities. While there are reporters in Abuja and other safer places reporting about its activities, the embedded journalists attached to the COAS, have been dishing out stories from the volatile North East. Add all the above with the streams of exclusive chats he normally grants media outfits, and one would have no choice but to conclude that Buratai, indeed, is receptive and friendly towards the Fourth Estate of the Realm.
In terms of his stewardship as the COAS since 2015, let me recall this. Prior to his appointment, Boko Haram insurgents had succeeded in instilling fear in the minds of Nigerians. The Nigerian military was losing its officers and men in large numbers. A military, regarded as one of the best in the world, became the butt of jokes, apparently because the past COAS did not do the needful. A compassionate leader that he is, Buratai does not joke with the welfare of his officers and men. That his officers and men should always be in their right frame of mind in order to discharge their duties professionally, is what bothers him. Unlike in the recent past, priority has now been given to the ammunition and weapons used by the soldierd to combat insurgency and other crimes, among other steps taking by the army chief. What about the allowances and bonuses of soldiers? They are now paid to troops as when due.
Gen. Buratai, solely engineered the establishment of special Army schools like the Nigerian Army Aviation School for training pilots and crew technicians; and the Nigerian Army University Biu (NAUB), which is spearheading the training of soldiers on modern technological warfare. With the Aviation school already afloat, it will not be long before the Nigerian Army, under the pragmatic leadership of Buratai, launches the Nigerian Army Aviation wing, perhaps with a view to battling Boko Haram and ISWAP elements. In partnership with some private organizations, the Nigerian Army is investing. But investing in the NA Post Service Housing Development Limited. This is a project for soldiers, with first, and special emphasis on soldiers who served in the counter-insurgency operations.
Since coming on board, the amiable Gen. Buratai, made sure that soldiers, who are still in service are no longer constrained to inhabit ramshackle and dilapidated Barracks, with their families. Small wonder, Army Barracks have undergone a facelift, with equipped schools, hospitals, water and other amenities for convenience of soldiers and their families. In just within five years, the Nigerian Army is now the proud owners of two new and additional referral hospitals. One is in Ebonyi and the other in Maiduguri, with the mandate to serve both the Military and civilians. Buratai, a celebrated military officer, has demonstrated exceptional leadership, evidenced in his frequent visits to troops in the Theatre of War, to motivate and lift their fighting spirit.
And as a thorough-bred professional soldier, he has ensured that the Nigerian Army, under his watch, dispatches its duties in line with its constitutional mandates, and global practices, especially in terms of obeying the rules of engagement and safeguarding human rights. The rescue of about 101 abducted female students at Dapchi, in Yobe State, together with several women and children from the enclaves and cocoon of Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists, is another eloquent testimony to the fact that the counter-insurgency war, since the coming of Buhari, is in another gear level.
Though, much still remains to be done, Nigerians, can do well to support the Army in its bid to stamp out insurgency, banditry and other crimes. Nevertheless, the odds are not staked against the Nigerian Army of Lt. Gen. Buratai. Since it is an Army led by a gallant and fearless general, we are sure it is going to have a date with victory. In other words, with the indefatigable Gen. Buratai, it is only a matter of time before Nigerians and the country itself, heave a sigh of relief from the cantankerous maladies of insurgency, banditry, and kidnapping, to mention a few. Mahmoud Abdulsalam Asst Editor, PRNigeria