By David Onmeje
The reality in Nigeria on improved security does not need crystalline lens to have a clear sight. Never mind those whose minds are fixated on pulsating or celebrating the odd and the petrifying, which comes erratically for a country adroitly fixing its various insecurity challenges amid schemes of sabs.
But the value of truth cannot be diminished by the media hype of opposition elements, scattered everywhere in the system and only concerned about permutations on how to grab power in the next political dispensation. No one blames them because leadership or power is not donated on a platter of gold to anyone. It is a rough field and all arsenals are recruited either for triumph or defeat of either side of the actors on the turf.
Mindless of the entanglements on field of powerplay, but truth is always visible and palpable enough, in spite of the evil gang-up against it. The Commander-In-Chief (C-in-C) of the Armed Forces of any nation is a serious personality by every rating, whether biased or objective. He holds the ace and accepts every liability or asset in the aftermath.
The C-in-C’s physiognomy is immaterial in the political and security leadership of a nation he bears the nightmarish burden of offering to his people. He is the receptor of everything. He takes credit for good or bad as long as he reigns.
It explains President Muhammadu Buhari’s reasons for painstakingly dedicating of time to carefully scrutinize and appoint capable lieutenants to assist him in the arduous task of governing a complex country like Nigeria. In Nigeria, at least one thing is expressively eloquent enough for all ears. President Buhari, as the C-in-C made no mistakes in selecting his appointees’, especially Service Chiefs. Security is a pivotal component of government in any country globally.
A fortified Armed Forces are the primary strength of any nation. When countries like Israel, America, Russia, Germany, China, Great Britain and several other world powers roar at external aggressors harshly- the countries which threaten their sovereignty and territorial integrity, its because of the might of their Military. The world has never at any time been immune from troubles. It is prophetic and historical.
President Buhari did Nigerians a lot of good which has remained unsung. When Buhari became the democratic leader of Nigeria in 2015, he met a degenerated, polarized, politicized, under equipped, poorly motivated, under-staffed, under-trained and an archaic Military. Nigeria had the infamous chaunt of operating a Military which ducked in the battlefield in the face of menacing enemies.
Boko Harm and other insurgency sects held Nigerians captive in their country and homes for years, right into Abuja. Aware of this situation, what President Buhari never failed his conscience about the leadership Nigerians entrusted to him from the outset was to appoint competent, loyal, patriotic and trusted team of senior Military officers to head the various arms of the nation’s Armed Forces.
The President wanted a total overhaul of the security architecture of the country. It was avoidably the first tonic he discovered as imperative to inject into the Nigerian Military. He allowed the Service Chiefs he inherited to function for nearly two months (May 29 – July 15, 2015) to weigh their performance before taking a decision. If they were truly good, but frustrated by the preceding administration, Buhari was prepared to retain them. He would never have sacked them.
President Buhari gave them the tools and liberty to operate freely for nearly two months. But he didn’t get the required results. Quite disturbed, he relieved these Nigerians of their appointments; thanked them for service to the nation and crowned new Service Chiefs with a specific mandate- to end terrorism in the country as soon as possible.
And among them, a crack professional soldier, patriotic, loyal and a no-nonsense Army General, already used to terrorism warfare, who was serving as Commander of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai was appointed COAS and leader of counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria. It was the genesis of the relocation of Military Chiefs to the theatre of war in Maiduguri, Northeast of Nigeria in compliance with a presidential order.
The insecurity in the region immediately resolved itself because serious senior Military personnel, who are conversant with the asymmetrical style of terrorists’ wars took charge in obedient response to the presidential directive. A lot of gains have been made. The wanton destruction of lives and properties by the Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria has been reduced by at least, 90 percent, even with their bolstered strength by ISWAP.
Today, when some Nigerians malevolently fault the Service Chiefs and playout games to compel President to drop these Military assets to Nigeria for flimsy excuses such as “incompetence,” the President just laughs himself out. It is because he is yet to see where they failed Nigeria or the best to replace them now to effectively dispense results and stick to the earlier stated qualities, especially, loyalty and patriotism. The current internal struggles for leadership in the Military confirms this fear.
Its normal that some Nigerians are sometimes forgetful. The person leading counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria is President Buhari and not the Service Chiefs. The President who has a clearer and better knowledge of the operations of the Military in warfare, knows his Service Chiefs have not disappointed him or the country on this sensitive national assignment and its spiraling into other insurgencies most Nigerians can’t even rehearse in haste. With someone else on Buhari’s seat, it would have been worse for Nigeria.
Whether desperate political power seekers inflaming or aggravating the insecurity problems appreciate it or not, the evidence is palpable or unalterable. And those who for various reasons deny it openly, still admit it in their secret and reflective moments.
Beneficiaries of this insecurity breather as necessitated by President Buhari are also chorusing songs of praise to the Military every day. The journey started quite far and President Buhari prepared for it. He has kept watering the pipe of Military empowerment for excellence in Nigeria.
Under President Buhari, the Nigerian Armed Forces have not botched on security as often irreligiously echoed sentimentally. The brave officers, personnel, men and women of the Nigerian Air Force, the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Army have all been retrained, adequately equipped and properly motivated for the job. And the morale has ever been high, among air, water or the ground troops of Nigeria.
A combination of these Military personnel constitute the troops cracking the swampy Lake Chad Basin area in final Clearance Operations. It is exactly the last battle ground between Nigeria and the enemy forces of Boko Haram/ ISWAP terrorists.
And as the Nigerian Military expend weapons every day on the battlefield battling insurgents, so also President Buhari ensures that Military armoury is consistently replenished. It is what has made the Military of other nations like the USA, Great Britain, Russia, China and Germany thick and proud in defending their countries. Nigerian Military is at their doorstep now.
However, anywhere in the world, the Army is the largest and biggest component of the Military. They are the first fighters deployed to the field in the event of a sudden outbreak of war. And the Army is also the last to end field battles with enemy forces. President Buhari, a retired soldier himself realises it; what many Nigerians failed to decode.
Therefore, his anointment and support of a knowledgeable Military expert like Gen. Buratai as COAS and leader of counter-insurgencies in Nigeria has paid off handsomely. The Army Chief has repositioned the Army to accept, absorb, deflate, dismantle and effectively tackle all the insecurity challenges of Nigeria staunchly. Nigerian soldiers now are not just brave, courageous and resilient, but excitedly execute the manifold tasks at the frontlines with Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists.
But it has come through months and years of strategic planning and prudent application of resources. Gen. Buratai has revived the Nigerian Army to levels where it is confirmatory that not every fighting weapon troops need in the warfront with the latest touch of technological innovations is acquired externally or imported, but fabricated locally. Hitherto moribund Army institutions like Nigerian Army School of Artillery, et al and training institutions like the Nigerian Army University at Biu and the Nigerian Army Aviation School and others, with widely acclaimed world class infrastructures attests to Gen. Buratai’s epochal leadership of the Army.
Beyond these achievements, Gen. Buratai has ensured the return of accountability, probity and transparency to the Nigerian Army through various innovations and reforms championed by the C-in-C who appointed him to supervise the Army.
A soldier reputed as someone ahead of his time, Gen. Buratai by the directives of President Buhari has prioritized the expansion of the Nigerian Army his topmost agenda in other to meet the numerous security challenges in Nigeria. From Nigerian Army’s former six Divisions, Gen. Buratai has added another two to the number. Nigerian Army now has Army Division 6 (Rivers state) and Army Division 8 (Borno state) in addition to countless Forward Bases and Battalions across the country.
Buratai’s almost monthly expansion of the Army also has bold imprints in recruitments of both direct and short service officers for training. It is therefore, not unexpected that the Nigerian Army has won laurels and medals in international organizations, signposts which have restored Nigeria’s lost Military glory in the comity of nations.
The COAS also thinks a soldier deserves economic empowerment; a life of comfort and financial independence. Therefore, and in line with global trends, the Army under Buratai has evolved and implemented an economic development agenda for the convenience of soldiers and their families in tandem with the political leadership vision of President Buhari.
Pointedly, never before had the Nigerian Army boasted of the Nigeria Army Farms and Ranches; Nigerian Army Property Limited; Nigerian Army post- Service Housing Development Limited; Command Engineering Depot; and Nigerian Army Welfare Limited through an organized Guarantee or surety under friendly terms for soldiers. But under President Buhari’s direction and Gen. Buratai’s compliance, the Nigerian Army is a proud owner of these legacy investments and heritage.
When Nigerians read a recent interview Gen. Buratai hurriedly granted a journalist in his makeshift camp at Maiduguri , headquarters of Operation Lafiya Dole, while kitting himself to hop into the jungle again, he said; “ I am a soldier; am a highly patriotic soldier; a highly patriotic Nigerian who loves his country so much; who loves the progress of his country, and who loves his profession so passionately and is interested in the welfare of anyone I come across.” Truly, Gen. Buratai came prepared for the task roundly.
Onmeje is a public affairs commentator and contributed this piece from the United Kingdom.