History tells a story in time past, but first, shapes the story in time present. But it never lies. It truthfully romances men and women of exceptional endowments and preserves them to inspire today’s generation. It provides today’s stamina for the anointed to excel and exceed the accomplishments of yesterday’s historical heroes.
By Ayodeji Abiola*
Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai is certainly an iconic African Army General of Nigerian descent. When President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him the COAS and consecrated him to lead the counter-insurgency campaigns in Nigeria, the clarity of his irresistible choice never dawned on many country men and women until now.
But Gen. Buratai unmistakably knew of the dauntingly sacred and delicate task entrusted in his hands. His briefs were clear and understood, as defeating and terminating the reign of terrorism in Nigeria and in specific terms, the Northeast region, where it ferociously raged uncontrollably.
A lot has happened positively in this direction. And this day in history, at the City of Westminster in London, The Nigerian, an online news portal, compellingly toed the path of scores of other revered institutions and governments around the world in celebrating Gen. Buratai with a unique award as the “2017 The Nigerian Man of the Year.”
Nigerians and the world converged on the famous City of Westminster, housing the Buckingham Palace to again celebrate Gen. Buratai. He is one Nigerian Army General who has proved his mettle as conqueror of terrorists, beyond conjecture in tandem with the famous words of famed English playwright, William Shakespeare in Julius Caesar; as he came, he saw and he conquered terrorists en masse in Nigeria.
He was anointed on a rescue mission of Nigeria manacled by terrifying and soulless, bloodsucking terrorists. Boko Haram terrorists had gone berserk for years and defied all efforts of the then military to repress it for succor and peace to berth in Nigerian communities and cities.
Tales of sorrows and pains; torrents of tears and wailings from fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, men, women, school boys and girls, parents, relations, friends, aunties, uncles, Nigerians of all persuasions, the international community gazed into the skies artificially darkened each time Boko Haram terrorists detonated mass bombs at targets. The agonies and anxiety of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) intensified and confusion replaced reason, as insurgents freely and boastfully multiplied heinous atrocities against Nigerians.
But the ombudsman cap on the head of Gen. Buratai perceived it as a difficult task, no doubt; but not beyond his professional competence in leading Nigerian troops to wipe away the sorrows and pains at break of dawn. He has fulfilled every word of promise to Nigerians in the counter-terrorism campaigns to the amazement cum excitement of all Nigerians and the international community.
He has proven himself a soldier of the strong breed who does not issue empty promises; Nigerians know his credentials as a warmonger with bags of unbeatable tactics and strategies. They know him as a soldier who perceived his designation as leading the rescue of Nigeria as a patriotic, sacred vow and therefore, inexcusable to fail.
Gen. Buratai reminds us of the war exploits of the legendary French war hero and later, Leader of the French Government, Gen. Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970). Memories of his liberation of France in circumstances similar to Gen. Buratai’s emancipation of Nigeria from terrorists have refused to fade in the peoples psyche nearly a century after his demise.
The French Resistance Army was subdued by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi forces in World War II, and Germany captured and took over Paris. Native French soldiers were hesitant to enlist into the crucial battle to regain the freedom of French Government.
Gen. de Gaulle patriotically picked up the gauntlet by reaching out to French colonial territories in Africa and recruited thousands of fighters of African descent into the French Army. Thus, fortified, Gen. de Gaulle launched an epic battle against Hitler’s forces that chased away the German forces that conquered the French Empire and reclaimed Paris from the invaders.
In this historically brave act of Gen. de Gaulle, one sights the portrait, shadows, patriotism and commitment of Gen. Buratai in courageously leading Nigerian troops to decimate and defeat Boko Haram terrorists. Gen. Buratai and his men are being appreciated because they made a lot of sacrifices to come this far in breaking the chains of terrorism servitude on Nigerians.
So, it is rare to find any conscionable Nigerian, who has restrained an applause for Gen. Buratai or any reasonable platform in Nigeria that has not celebrated or intend to uniquely celebrate his remarkable feat on Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria. Nigerians and the international community are not just elated with Buratai’s milestones in extinguishing the venom of the Islamic extremists; Boko Haram sect, but the Army Chief’s splendid eradication of other evolving internal acts of terrorism in Nigeria.
Gen. Buratai led troops to also quench terrorism in the guise of dreary armed bandits and cattle rustlers in parts of Nigeria’s Northwest and North central regions; he rescued Nigeria from criminally violent separatism campaigners in the Southeast and eclipsed the lethal militancy in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta region.
Many today stand on the podium to loudly bash Gen. Buratai with edifying sobriquets like “Hero of Heroes”, “Boko Haram nemesis”, and “The Peoples General”, among others. As the Army Chief regales in the celebration of his success; millions of men of conscience have also conscripted into the celebration with him and they do it with elations.
And with this reality Gen. Buratai feels an aura of a fulfilled man. Mr. Howard Schultz, the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Starbucks, a multi-billion dollar company, one of the largest and successful coffee companies on earth said; “Success is empty if you arrive at the finish line alone. The best reward is to get there surrounded by winners”. Therefore the victories and successes of Gen. Buratai in the counter-terrorism war are celebrated with him by hundreds of millions around the world as exemplified with the latest in Westminster.
And like most heroic figures of his ilk, Gen. Buratai has been able to etch his memory on the psyche of the world for his discipline, hard work and dedication to all duties. His uncommon transparency, accountability, humility, knack for excellence and purposeful leadership of the Nigerian Army, laced in the constant overriding concern of patriotism for Nigeria were the pillars that sauntered him on the ladder of successes and victories over terrorism.
These are no doubt a wide range of qualities and virtues, quite difficult to find in sufficient measures in a single leader. But Gen. Buratai exhilaratingly epitomizes all of them, which unconsciously stands him out tall among equals.
But briefly, Gen. Buratai’s timeline as leader of the counter-insurgency campaigns in Nigeria exposes that he promised to substantially decimate Boko Haram insurgents by December 2015, after he assumed office in July of the same year. He wasted no time in setting the machinery in motion.
The Army Chief met troops whose morale in the battlefield was dampened by poor or lack of arms and ammunitions to battle insurgency; a condition further worsened by poor welfare packages of troops in the battlefront; arrears of unpaid salaries and allowances of army personnel and zero initiative on incentives to fighting troops. He toured Army formations and heard from the horses mouth and instantly corrected the wrongs to stabilize the psyche of troops.
A man of his words, as Gen. Buratai promised, by December 2015, Nigerian troops had decimated Boko Haram terrorists and by early 2016, Buratai’s troops had reclaimed the 16 local government areas in the Northeast annexed by terrorists and returned them to Nigeria. By mid-2016, insurgents had been pushed back incredibly and confined to few areas of sporadic bomb attacks in the Northeast, a feat acknowledged by former US President Barack Obama and later, the United Nations (UN) former Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon.
The victory streaks against insurgents intensified as in December 2016, Gen. Buratai pleasantly astounded Nigerians with an unexpected New Year gift; the Nigerian troops demystification and invasion of the dreaded Sambisa forest to Camp Zero.
Sambisa forest is reputed as terrorists’ most secured fortress of recuperation and plotting venue for atrocities on Nigeria. The feat marked the defeat of Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria, as IDPs returned to deserted homes and life in the Northeast advertised incredible normalcy. And with restoration of respite and peace, the rebuilding process in the Northeast is also progressing steadily.
Beyond it, the Nigerian troops led by Gen. Buratai have being instrumental to the voluntary surrender of Boko Haram top commanders and thousands of adherents who have renounced terrorism, de-radicalised and re-integrated into the society as sane beings. Actions of troops in the last two years served as springboard for the rescue of over 20, 000 persons abducted by Boko Haram insurgents, including the released Chibok schoolgirls.
Gen. Buratal is in the last phase, by leading the battle for the final termination of Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria, as he has issued a directive for the capture of Boko Haram sect’s factional leader Abubakar Shekau “dead or live; Himself and other colleagues have relocated to Maiduguri in compliance with Presidential directive to end the recurrent suicide bomb attacks on soft targets in the region; a mission that has started yielding fruitful results.
His transparent and accountable leadership of the Nigerian Army has earned him uncontested loyalty from Army officers and personnel, which has fostered unity of purpose, mutual interactions with the civil populace, respect for human rights, patriotism and the passion of love for their country, Nigeria, as evident in the sacrifices to free Nigeria from terrorism.
Suffice it to say, President Buhari is a blessed leader and father of modern Nigeria, privileged to see the crop of decent and disciplined officers and soldiers that God gave him the foresight to nurture with the appointment of Gen. Buratai as Nigerian Army’s helmsman. Congratulations, Gen. Buartai, “The Peoples General” for adding another feather to your cap with this well-deserved award.
*Ayodeji, a columnist at THE NIGERIAN writes from 199 Watford Way, London, United Kingdom.