By Idoko Ainoko
When service chiefs were appointed in July 2015, like many people with keen interest in the polity especially security. I went further to dig into the profile of the newly appointed chiefs. They all seem to be great choices made by Mr President.
However one of them exceptionally caught my attention, Lt Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai. With a physically imposing figure, backed up with an equally impressive Curriculum Vitae. Buratai was already serving as the head of the MultiNational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) set up by countries within the sub region to help tackle the menace of the Boko Haram terrorist group.
I would imagine his performance at the MNJTF assignment must have earned him the opportunity to serve at a higher level as Chief of Army Staff (COAS). It seems Lt Gen Tukur Buratai more than anyone else understood the urgency of this President Buhari’s saying “We need to secure the country first before we can develop it”. Upon his appointment, Buratai moved straight into action. Within the first few weeks of his appointment he quickly grasped the task which was to get rid of the Boko Haram terrorist menace in the North East region of Nigeria. The core areas of emphasis were Adamawa, Borno , Yobe and some parts of Gombe and Bauchi States.
The group had become a menace in the North East region of the country, launching dare devil attacks on military formations, taking over whole local government areas and hoisting their Flags on Nigerian territory. It was a very sad sight to behold.
Then came the game changer, a few weeks after his appointment as COAS, the command centre of the theatre of operations of the Boko Haram war was relocated to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. Buratai as COAS practically relocated to Borno as well. He was not the general that would just fly over the battlefield claiming to inspect the troops, he was on ground with the troops at the theatre of war.
This must have been a great morale booster for the troops. This was a departure from the past where we heard that some chiefs were lodged in luxury hotels revelling away, whilst the country was losing territories. Buratai made sure that the issue of troop’s welfare was tackled to the root. He made sure allowances were going straight into the accounts of the troops at the theatre of war unlike what obtained in the past where they were paid through their commanders on the field and many were short changed,
Buratai, having worked as head of procurement in the Army at some point, moved quickly to streamline the procurement process within the army to ensure efficiency and transparency in the process. This action tremendously improved the supply of needed tools, gears and logistics to prosecute the war against insurgency.
Within a few months of his appointment as chief of Army Staff, the army under the leadership of Lt Gen Buratai had started taking back lost territory, Boko Haram that was carrying out dare devil attacks was now scattered and on the run. To some of us it was like a dream, to watch the same Army that fled a few months ago returning under a new leadership and taking back hitherto lost territory and almost everything changed.
Buratai upon assumption of office as COAS in 2015 had made it clear that the game was going to change and that was exactly what happened. He indeed changed the game. Buratai , made it a point of duty to continually spend considerable time with his soldiers at the battle front. There is nothing that boosts the morale of soldiers as much as seeing their commanders in the trenches with them. Buratai is a thorough bred soldier with many years of infantry experience, he even headed the Nigerian Army School of infantry at some point in his army career. His infantry operations knowledge must have rubbed off on the successful strategies deployed that helped decimate Boko Haram in the North east region.
With the success in most parts of the North East region, Boko Haram had been decimated and reduced to activities at the fringes of Borno State alone. The fleeing Boko Haram terrorist changed gear and moved into cowardly suicide bombing attacks and planting of Landmines, this was also tackled by our great Army under the leadership of Buratai. He, working with local partners empowered the Nigeria Army engineer to produce their own Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicle, this was a game changer as the army no longer had to wait for the long and tedious procurement process of getting this critical equipment abroad.
The general sure knows his onions, like he has always maintained the Boko Haram have been technically defeated. Nothing proves that more than the cowardly suicide bombing of the time, thank God the army has gotten on top of that now. Their remnants of the decimated terror group must have joined up with some other criminal elements to cause part of the banditry challenge in the North West region.
So, it wasn’t surprising when the Mr President gave the order to the service chiefs to end the menace of bandits in the North West region that Lt Gen Buratai was about the first to move in immediately. The operation Sahel Sanity was set up immediately to help tackle the crisis there. The idea behind the operation is to quell the activities of bandits and other criminal elements in the north east region.
Within few weeks of set up, the operation was already yielding results, clearance operations in Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina states successfully cleared out the camps of bandits in the forests in these states, several bandits were neutralized, many were arrested with arms and ammunitions recovered from them. The operation Sahel sanity has no doubt been a successful operation.
The establishment of super camps across the North West region has also helped tremendously to track down fleeing bandits. Many keen observers of the security sector have applauded and commended the Operation Sahel Sanity as very successful. With the level of success the operation is currently witnessing, I have no doubt that within a little time the issue of banditry will be a thing of the past in the North West region. It is always refreshing to know that the man in charge of a project is competent and committed and that is COAS Lt Gen Buratai for you.
Mr Game changer has left no one in doubt that he is on top of the situation and in a very short while banditry will be history in the North west , just as Buratai had proven himself in the North east, he will no doubt deliver in the North West region.
What is required now is the total support for the troops and the army. It is important that the local communities and indeed government at all levels support the Army in their bid to rid the region of bandits. The locals must be willing to expose those within them that are aiding and supporting the bandits with all sorts of logistics. It is very crucial to cut off these supplies of support with the help of the local communities.
Once this is done you can leave the rest to Buratai and his soldiers to handle, but the truth is that the army needs the support of local communities for speedy success.
Ainoko is a security analyst writing from Kaduna.