By Lawrence Moghalu
Over the years maybe largely due to where I come from, I have had people tell me “these people are evil, those people are bad, they don’t like us, they are the reasons for our underdevelopment” etc. These words over time have built up feelings in me that had potentials to lead to hateful thoughts. However, in recent times, most of the things I have been seeing seem to negate these earlier thoughts. It is becoming more glaring to me that most people who peddle the heavily intoxicated hate message do so mainly from the point of ignorance, with barely any fact based reason but more of hearsay and falsehoods. And to think I was almost a disciple of this malicious doctrine at some point.
Latest events are changing my perspective for the better. The presentation of a 3-bedroom house to a retired warrant officer by the Nigerian Army at the instance of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai has really helped change my view.
The act by the COAS touched my heart greatly. The 85 year old retired warrant officer, Paul Ojo as the name implies is not from the same region nor religion as the Chief of Army Staff yet read what Lt Gen Buratai said at the presentation of the house to retired WO Paul Ojo “I was emotionally touched by your plight and consequently directed that an alternative permanent accommodation be secured for you and your family” These are the words of a caring leader.
For those not too familiar with the story. This is what happened, a retired warrant officer in the Nigerian Army, 85 years old Paul Ojo was evicted from his house by a state government and the house demolished. He was reported to have lost all his belongings in that process. You can only imagine what the man’s case would have been had there not been an intervention like this from the Chief of Army Staff.
Acts like that of the Chief of Army Staff are rare in Nigeria of today. We seem to be getting increasingly more bigoted. We have given too much room to ethnic and religious strives that we have little or no room left for love, care and harmonious living. It is the reason why I believe acts like this ought not to go without being celebrated.
Lt Gen Buratai has exercised his discretionary powers with great wisdom and that is the hallmark of a great leader. Leadership especially in public office is a position of trust where one is often times bestowed with many discretionary powers, what you do with those powers when in that position of authority ultimately defines you.
People who use such discretionary powers to look out for others are rare these days. Leaders who are passionate about taking care of the interest of those they lead are uncommon in this era of self-aggrandizement. Leaders that are committed to the welfare and well-being of those they lead are often more successful than those that are not. Commitment fosters camaraderie and trust between the leader and the led. This ultimately leads to unity of purpose which is one major ingredients required to get things accomplished.
Buratai has proven himself over the years as a leader who is committed and passionate about the wellbeing of those he leads. Lack of commitment to those that are led by leaders in this part of the world is one of our biggest challenges. Many who find themselves in leadership positions are mainly more concerned about themselves alone, and in the rare occasions they look away from themselves to reach out to others , it is to people within their clan and perhaps immediate family members. This short sighted approached to leadership has denied our country and perhaps the continent great leadership qualities required for rapid growth.
Society needs more men and women who are committed to the people they serve. Some may not understand how important this is but the reality is, leadership is everything. In countries or even organizations where things are working very well be sure that the key reason for that is because of the quality of the leadership available. Quality leadership is the difference between a succeeding organization and a failing one, same goes to nations.
Countries and organizations that have given good attention to recruiting and shopping for quality leaders tend to be more effective and more successful than the organizations bereft of such quality leadership. We therefore as a people must continuously build the culture of appreciation for quality leadership traits wherever we spot them. Once our society is built around appreciation for quality leadership skills, we can be sure that the demand for excellence in leadership will increase.
My appreciation for the person of Lt Gen Buratai has increased in the last few months, I equally took time to read about the work he is doing within the army, what I found shocked me. It became clear to me that for whatever reasons we have just been fed falsehood by some group(s), who are probably not happy about the reforms going on within the army.
After reading a few things , I decided to do my own investigations on what is true and not. It is shocking to find out that a lot of things shared about other people especially those in leadership positions are not true. The most notorious platform for disseminating these falsehood is the social media platforms.
I read online once that that soldiers at the theatre of war in the Operation Lafiya Dole were being fed only garri and groundnut and that their allowances are not regularly paid, some reports even claimed they were only paid 300Naira a day for feeding. I was very angry and sad at such rate of wickedness. I wondered why anyone will deny troops basics such as food, these are people fighting and in many instances laying down their lives for the rest of us to live and be secured.
I was worried because at the war front there is always little or no time for anything but to fight. At that point you need well-nourished and fit soldiers. They don’t only need the food to be fit they also need the nourishment so they can remain healthy while at the battle field.
By the time I made some effort to investigate deeper. I found out the stories were a pack of lies. What I found out was that the army actually makes available a thousand naira per soldier for daily feeding. I found out that they enjoy several other allowances for being a part of the Operation Lafiya Dole which is outside their regular salary. A friend in the army that I spoke with told me that there is no soldier at the battle front that gets any monthly allowance less than 50,000Naira a month. The interesting part he told me is that these monies go directly into their bank accounts on a monthly basis.
My friend mentioned something quite profound, he said before Lt Gen Buratai came on board as Chief of Army Staff, many of these operation allowances were paid as they call it “on the table” through commanding officers, unfortunately there were some complaints about some people being short changed. To avoid anything that will affect the morale or welfare of the troops at the battle front Lt Gen Buratai made sure that all of such kinds of allowances were now being paid directly into the soldiers’ bank accounts. That way there was no need for soldiers at the battle front to worry about their allowances any more. Unfortunately what you read on social media and in fact some other media platforms are different.
When I consider where the Nigeria Army was before the year 2015 and what it is now about 5 years after Lt Gen Tukur Buratai was made COAS, I am beginning to consider the appointment of Buratai as one of the best appointments the president has made so far.
I am now beginning to appreciate Buratai’s vision of building a truly professional army. His strategy of making the welfare of his soldiers’ paramount priority seem to be a very potent plan for boosting morale within the force. Pre 2015 morale must have been really down within the army as they lost territory to the terrorist almost on a daily basis. There were several allegations of corruption and troops being denied their entitlements.
However the speed of change as soon as Buratai took over is really fascinating. Within a few months territories lost were recovered , same army that fled a few months ago returned to take back the lost territories and decimate the enemy badly.
All of these are achievable because of a leadership that is committed to the needs and welfare of those under him. This is the type of leadership we should seek as a people. I have also read about the great works Buratai is doing in providing decent accommodation at the various barracks across the country for the men and women of the Nigerian Army, the several water projects in different barracks across the country. Many of these water projects are so large they not only serve the barracks but also the local communities around the barracks.
What about the health intervention projects like the world class military hospitals the army under the leadership of Buratai is building to meet the health needs of the soldiers and their families. Not forgetting the Nigeria Army University Bui, Borno State, a world class university that will also be available for the educational needs of the soldiers and their families.
These are only a few of the things Buratai has done to improve the welfare of the men and women of the Nigeria Army. Time and space will not permit me to say all that I discovered.
Consider this, If Buratai could affect soldiers so passionately and affectionately, then one will really not need a soothsayer to inform us how much of his troop’s welfare he will be concerned with. Lt Gen Buratai is indeed a General of welfare!
Moghalu wrote this piece from Enugu.