By Best Agbese
According to the great general of war, Winston S Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts”. This is the reality of great leaders. Those who must excel in life must keep at whatever it is they want to achieve despite setbacks.
Setbacks are a regular feature in the life of men and women who would excel in their chosen fields. The ability to manage both success and failure very well is the key character of successful people. The courage to do the right thing is one thing that distinguishes true leaders from others. Lt Gen T Y Buratai has shown true leadership characteristics in all ramifications.
I do not envy the General at all. His job, albeit one of the toughest in the Nation, appears a thankless one as little or no appreciation due to him is actually accorded to him. I have read some recent disparagement of his person and I wonder aloud if these people actually think through what they write or say sometimes. Then again I remember the saying that a prophet has no honour amongst his people, which is perhaps the only reason for some of those harsh criticism and sometimes outright falsehood against him.
This is the same man that his modest efforts have been recognized by several international bodies. In 2017, far away in Brazil he was honoured with the Brazilian military Order of Merit, he was considered a great ambassador of global peace and security due to his efforts at dealing with the Boko Haram issues. Same man was honoured by The Anti –Terrorism Accredited Board (ATAB) with the award for exceptional bravery and peace building in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region under the multinational Joint Task Force. He was also honoured by the UK based Global Risk International with the award of Master of anti-terrorism Specialist award. These are just a few of the international awards Lt Gen Buratai has received. This is aside the many too numerous to mention Local awards that he keeps bagging sometimes almost on a weekly basis.
The reasons for the awards are not far-fetched. When you live your life as a sacrifice for the good you believe in your work will always stand out. Buratai took up the role of COAS as that of a change agent with a mission. We should never forget where we were some few years ago. If we do, we may take lightly what has been accomplished since then
Pre July 2015 when Buratai was appointed Chief of army staff COAS, the Security situation in the Country was at a state of crisis and that is putting it mildly. Boko Haram attacks were incessant in many parts of the North East states. Bandits and kidnappers were also having a field day. As at July 2015, about 14 local governments were already under the control of Boko Haram terrorists. Before then, there were attacks almost everywhere in the country, and even Abuja the Federal Capital and seat of Authority was not spared. There were roadblocks almost everywhere within the Country which ended up paralyzing the economic activities in those communities.
General Buratai took over the leadership of the Army at a time when morale amongst the troops was at its lowest ebb. The troops were seen in propaganda videos shared by Boko Haram terrorists fleeing and abandoning their arms and ammunition. There were stories of Generals and politicians helping themselves with defence money and short changing the troops at the battle field.
There were complaints that troops were not getting their complete allowances when due. Coupled with allegations that they weren’t being provided the equipment and tools required to adequately prosecute the war against terror.
Such was the magnitude of security failure and the precarious situation we were in as a Nation when Buratai took over the leadership of the Army. He however got down to business immediately. Acting on the order of Mr President to relocate the HQ of the command and control of the thereafter of war to the North East region. Lt Gen Buratai relocated to Maiduguri, Borno State within weeks of his appointment.
He met with troops on the battlefields, planned operations with them, and held several meetings with different groups and ranks within the army. He made sure allowances were being paid directly into the troop’s account rather than cash payments that were being done earlier. He promised improved welfare for the troops and indeed all the men and women of the army.
His experience as head of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) was very helpful especially as head of the Army in prosecuting the war against Boko Haram terrorists. Within a few months in charge and precisely by mid-2017 all local government areas under the control of the terrorist had been recovered. The Boko Haram terrorists were badly decimated and chased away to the fringes of some parts of Borno State.
Adamawa, Gombe, Yobe and Bauchi states that were hitherto hotbeds for terrorist activities have now been cleared of these evil criminals. Almost all the military roadblocks have been dismantled and economic activities back in most of the areas that were shut down in the days of the boko haram rage. Life is gradually returning back to normalcy in most of these areas.
Lt Gen Buratai thereafter launched several operations to tackle different types of security challenges that popped up with the dispersal of the Boko Haram terrorist, issues such as banditry, kidnapping, castle rustling etc.
Buratai comes across as a workaholic. He makes it a point of duty to visit with troops very regularly especially those at the theatre of operations. This is kind of rare in this clime judging with some of the past holders of the same office. Let me put it this way, he is in touch and on top of the job. He makes visits in the night, he visits during the day. He travels sometimes for several days visiting different formations of the army, just to encourage the troops and propel them to victories.
The much dreaded Sambisa Forest has been taken over by the Nigeria Army under the leadership of Lt Gen Buratai. Same forest that was considered a no go area before now. His deep interaction with the troops perhaps helps him a lot with the clear understanding of what is required to move the Nigerian Army forward. The life of a soldier is one of a continuous battle. In fact, the calling is a call to combat. Like other things in life you will win some and you will lose some, however how you handle both situations determine how successful you will be.
Buratai has shown himself a man of real courage and conviction. He is no doubt an enigma, whose dedication to duty ought to be emulated by all who seek positions of leadership and authority. Buaratai is no doubt an epitome of quality leadership.
Agbese, a scholar and author contributed this piece from University of Dundee, United Kingdom.