By Nkechi Odoma
When General Tukur Yusufu Buratai was appointed as the 20th Chief of Army Staff by the President and Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on July 13th, 2015, the choice was hailed by all and sundry.
This was because, in the history of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Buratai remains one of the most decorated officers ever to be elevated to that enviable position. This could be gleaned from the fact that the Chief of Army Staff had equipped himself well in anticipation of this onerous task.
He belongs to an exclusive class of officers to have traversed virtually all the nooks and crannies of the Army formations before becoming the overall head of the Force. This no doubt placed him in better stead to putting up strategies aimed at revamping the Army.
Before his appointment, Nigeria had been engulfed in a crisis arising from violence orchestrated by militancy, terrorism and banditry. Nigeria was placed on the world ladder as one of the most unsafe countries to live. For instance, entire South-South Nigeria was in the pocket of the militants. Ditto to the North East which had been commandeered by the Boko Haram terrorist group. Also, the Army was highly demoralised as they were battling the insurgents with less sophisticated weapons.
It is important to note that in 2014 alone, 6,600 people were reportedly killed. In January of the succeeding year (2015), the BBC documented that no fewer than 15,000 Nigerians were annihilated by this murderous sect.
The ferocious activities of this monstrous group led to the displacement of about 2.3 million natives while about 250, 000 others were coerced to fled the country in search of safety. Also, was the infamous case of the Chibok girls that were kidnapped from their school.
This was the situation that the country found itself before the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as the President.
It was in an attempt to eradicate this menace that a worried and concerned President Buhari after comprehensive scrutiny of officers of the Nigerian Army zeroed his search on the Biu born General as the only man capable of exterminating the quagmire with dispatch.
According to military sources, going by the visible records of all the Army Generals in the country, General Buratai was considered the most suitable. His training, experience and dexterity were heralded as most suitable for the job. And that was why his appointment was perceived not only in the military circles but in the public domain as putting a round peg in a round hole.
Like the phraseology, “in whom much is given, much is expected”, the General was instantaneously expected to turn the tide. But to do so, much needed to be done as war victory could only be achieved via the instrumentality of strategic planning and execution.
To prosecute the war effectively, Buratai who prosecute military strategies with the scientific application, first of all, embarked on confidence-building anchored on morale-boosting of his officers and men as soldiers, before they were said to be highly disillusioned, disorganized and disoriented.
To restore the prestige, pride and dignity of the Army to its previous status, General Brutai proceeded and dwelled in the battlefield with the soldiers fighting alongside with them. Unlike in the past where military chiefs remain stagnant in their offices in the Army headquarters to dish out orders without experiencing the situation, General Buratai was physically in the war zone. This no doubt endeared him to the generality of the soldiers who in their minds said, “if the Chef of Army Staff could be in the field with us fighting, then we must put in our best and prove to him that we are capable”.
By so doing, the general had either deliberately or inadvertently inculcated into the soldiers the noble spirits of patriotism and nationalism.
The strategy paid off as before sunset, most of the communities in the hands of the insurgents were liberated. Bama, Goza, Baga, Gamboru-Ngala, Kala-Balge, Dikwa, Kanamma, Geidam, Chibok, Kwajaffa, Mubi, Madagali, Marte, Gombi, Michigan and others that were hitherto in the hands of Boko Haram were liberated.
For the first time in the history of Boko Haram, they were roundly defeated and decapitated. So many of them ran to take refuge in the Lake Chad region while others fled towards the Cameron mountain when Buratai led the onslaught. But the fearless General who is solidly grounded in the arts of war turned the heat on them by chasing them to Lake and the mountains. He boiled the Lake and melted the mountains against the insurgents. Consequently, the reprieve came to Nigeria.
Normalcy was restored as places uninhabitable before the appointment of Buratai became inhabitable.
Since coming on board as Chief Of Army Staff, General Buratai has done so much by liberating the previously ravaged five states of Adamawa, Yobe, Bauchi, Taraba and Gombe as well as other places across Nigeria from the claws of Boko Haram terrorists.
With the feat achieved by the General just a few months after his assumption of office as the Chief of Army Staff, Buratai shifted his attention to the Niger Delta with the hope of extricating the region from the grips of militancy.
The criminal activities of the various groups of militants in the Niger Delta no doubt put the Nigerian economy in jeopardy. Oil which is the major pillar of the Nigerian economy was being depredated daily therefore creating a deliberate regime of an economic adversary for the country.
After, a careful appraisal of the unfortunate situation, Buratai who is variously and fondly called the ‘Soldier’s Soldier’, the ‘Fearless General’ by his admirers, took the battle to liberate the region to the creeks of the Niger Delta. There he confronted the militants and extinguished them in no time. The few remnants took to their heels and fled to other countries when the battle became too hot for them to handle.
With the decimation of militants in the creeks, People hardly hear about these criminal elements in the country today.
Even though it is believed that a Prophet has no honour in his town, the laudable achievements of General Buratai had made nonsense of that cliche as some reputable international and national organizations have all bestowed on him several garlands.
Some of these wreaths were: Forces Service Star (FSS), Meritorious Service Star (MSS), Distinguished Service Star (DSS), Grand Service Star (GSS), Pass Staff Course Dagger (PSC(+)), Field Command Medal ( FCM), Training Support Medal (TSM), United Nations Medal for Angola, Verification Medal, etc.
Despite the above, the General no doubt deserves more appreciation from Nigerians as his numerous sacrifices for the country can not be quantified. This is because, under the leadership of Buratai, the Nigerian Army has recorded incredible feats in the war against terror, banditry and militancy.
Odoma wrote from Abuja.