BY ISRAEL ABIODUN *
President Buhari with Buratai
Even in the midst of the many national distractions and high politics in the country, one man has earned himself the right to receive accolades for his contributions towards ensuring that order emerged out of scenarios that were once predicted to only end doom for Nigeria. The man is no other than Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff, who has made the unwavering commitment to give Nigeria an Army that meets world standard.
This month, the Nigerian Army in conjunction with US Army African Command (AFRICOM) held this year’s African Land Forces Summit with the theme “Unity Is Strength: Combating Africa’s Security Challenges”. This was no mere talk shop and photo op event as the state of readiness and troops’ capabilities was put to the test during drills held in General A.O Azazi Barracks in Gwagwalada, Abuja, code named ‘Operation Silent Kill’.
The COAS used the summit, which is the single largest gathering of African senior military leaders in Africa, to update the world of Nigeria’s successes in degrading Boko Haram. High ranking military commanders fromm Republic of Malawi, Arusha United Republic of Tanzania, Dakar, Uganda, Washington DC and fort Benning, Georgia United States of America are among participants at the summit.
An immediate plus from this is that Nigeria has something to teach the world about curtailing terrorists, extremists and fanatics, something that other countries can draw lessons from in a world where the cancer of religion fuelled extremism and terrorism is spreading. The Nigerian Army, of course, has things to learn from the summit about the Islamic State, but it was not a one-way street since it as information to share with participants from other countries.
The participation of AFRICOM and the Nigerian Army co-hosting the summit with US Army Africa (USARAF) is a reality check for those that are obsessed with demonizing the Army and General Buratai as abusers of human rights. These United States agencies would not openly associate with countries that violate the human rights, more so the rights of citizens. Had the human rights record of the Nigerian Army under Buratai been as dismal as certain interests claim then this year’s exercise would have ended as a flop but that was not the case. The Army adheres to the global best standards in the observance of the rules of engagement for the kind of threats that the Army is called up to address in Nigeria.
The positive reception from this summit must be tapped into in various regards. The contacts must be leveraged to see how the supply of certain military hardware can be made available to Nigeria. Secondly, authorities should exploit which of the countries can be beneficial in stopping foreign terrorists from arriving on Nigerian soil to wreak havoc. Also, without prejudice for their various domestic laws, there should be a way to partner with these countries to eliminate the potentials for devious groups to manage anti-Nigerian Army propaganda from their soils.
On the part of Nigerians, the decorum exhibited for the duration of the summit and the understanding shown during the drill are unprecedented. We only need to extend the same sense of patriotic support for the military to make further gains against Boko Haram and other insurgent groups. This will fit nicely into General Buratai’s vision of improved military-civil relations that stems from stakeholders having mutual understanding and respect for each other. Once trouble makers see this alliance work for the good of the country they will have no option but to fold up and ply their evil wares elsewhere.
One is constrained to task the Army boss not to relent in his quest to deliver a world class Army to Nigeria, the legacy of his leadership. He cannot afford to bask in euphoria of the moment as he must keep striving to outperform himself since he has surpassed his predecessors.
The government would have to provide the financial muscle for the Army to translate vision into realities. The kind of vision Buratai unveiled at the summit, and other fora in the past, is the kind that requires optimum funding of the military with a resolute political will to succeed. It is the least the government can do as its contributions to ensure that the experience the General brought to the job is made to serve the country.
One would not rule out several groups and organizations rushing to give awards of recognition to General Buratai for what he has been able to achieve with the Nigerian Army in such short time. This would not be out of place since acknowledgement of good work is guaranteed to inspire more good work.
*Abiodun is security affairs analyst and wrote from University of Ibadan.