“We know what a person thinks not when he tells us what he thinks, but by his actions.”
– Isaac Bashevis Singer, “Action”
Every action of man is motion-inclined and motivated. No wonder Isaac Bashevis Singer, a Polish-American writer in Yiddish, who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978, accurately described man and his intentions in his poem, titled “Action.”
The military is known for its action. A military man without “action” is as good as dead. Same should be expected of its leadership. They should be full of action and vitality. Without action, the leader cannot exhibit the ability to articulate visionary ideas that would move the group he is leading. As it is with leaders,a time comes when they carry out self-appraisal of their activities, monthly, quaterterly or yearly, as the case may be, like biblical Paul of Tarsus, who, after toiling for the ministry of Jesus, beat his chest and proclaimed, in 2 Timothy 4:6, “I have fought a good fight.” So that observers and stakeholders can be better positioned to ask such question as posted above, “has the military performed?”
It is in answering such questions that Singer’s quote comes alive.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, as the face of the Nigerian Army, has made his intentions over the years manifest through his actions, which he recently made public in Jaji, where he reeled out his concretised intentions and actions. Definitely, many Nigerians and close observers of the military since Buratai was appointed on July 16, 2015, to bring an end to the nightmare known as Boko Haram, which even the military has abbreviated its demonic name to be “BH,” unfortunately, neither the military nor the concerned government ever refers to them as “terrorists,” instead, they now call them “BH.” No, please, they must be called what they are, simply, Boko Haram terrorists.
Immediately Buratai was handed the baton, the military high command carried out a SWOT analysis on the war against terror in the North-East, by dissecting the operation, with a view to identifying the missing links and devising better and more efficient strategies to prosecute the war.
High on the list was boosting the morale of soldiers, which was then at its lowest ebb, high casualty rate, and inadequate equipment to confront the terrorists. In an interview with this writer, when Buratai was asked to put a figure on the number of casualties among Nigerian soldiers, his countenance spoke volumes. He only directed me to the Defence Headquarters.
As Buratai reels out his achievements and future projections in all areas of his administration and operations, the applause from the officers and men again speaks volumes. It is important to take a critical overview of his almost three-year tenure as the Chief of Army Staff. It is interesting, that Buratai was frank in assessing himself inwardly before coming out in public to x-ray his achievements. It is important to note that the military is only constitutionally mandated to guard the external frontiers of the country and not the take on internal security of the country, which is the constitutional preserve of the Nigeria Police. The question then is, why has the military taken over a larger percentage of the internal security operations of the country, like chasing after kidnappers and armed robbers, fighting Fulani herdsmen and dabbling into internal conflicts? Truly, the military interfering in internal security issues is always at the instance of their Commander-in-Chief, who usually has the last say. Moreover, the police, over the years, have been starved of funds, while the military, being the immediate constituency of the President and Commander-in-Chief, stands tall.
That not withstanding, non-performing characters are often appointed as Inspector-General of Police, to the detriment of the police institution. Like the immediate past IGP, whose tenure impacted negatively on the police institution. The same cannot be said of Buratai, whose vision is “to have a professionally responsive Nigerian Army in the discharge of its constitutional roles.”
The question begging for answer therefore is, “has this vision been actualized?” Nigerians would judge the Buratai era based on what he and his soldiers have been able to achieve in stopping the activities of the Boko Haram sect.
Buratai said in his address at the Jaji military conference, “I must also acknowledge the resilience and doggedness of our troops in reversing the ugly trends that almost marred our concerted efforts in the North East. As you are all aware, Boko Haram has aligned with the Islamic State West Africa Province to make northern Borno and the general area of the Lake Chad Basin an enclave straddling the four countries in the region. Thus, the fight requires a combined holistic approach by the countries of the Lake Chad Commission to ensure the total defeat of both Boko Haram terrorists and ISWAP. That is why Operation Yancin Tafki was launched to effectively ensure the total destruction of the insurgents hibernating and operating from the ‘tumbuns,’ with a view to crippling their ability and capability to wage any form of war. The operational successes recorded in this first quarter 2019 in this fight have further underscored the NA’s resolve to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria.”
That Buratai was able to effectively read the dictates of the war shows his leadership qualities. A time was in this country, when the military leader was oblivious of the war situation. Today, relative peace has been secured in the North East, where Buratai hails from. No sane officer would allow terrorists to overrun his fatherland.
Buratai, like the Agama lizard that fell from a tall tree and was not applauded by onlookers, went ahead to appreciate and applaud himself. According to him, “the NA, within the first quarter of 2019, has performed creditably well, starting with the seizing of initiatives and turning the battle momentum against the Boko Haram terrorists in the North East.”
Despite some misgivings from certain quarters about men and women of the Nigerian Army, they have nonetheless exhibited that professionalism and discipline they are noted for. The last general election was a serious test that would have dented their profile. Impressive was the synergy exhibited between the police and the military. Such inter-service synergy is what the country wants this time around.
( To be continued)