By David Onmeje
The story of the Nigerian Army is such that invokes memories of exploits, especially in the Sub Saharan Africa. In times past, the Nigerian Army won countless laurels in its operations so much to the envy of other nations. At a point, the Nigerian Army was adjudged one of the best professional armies in the world.
Nigerians were indeed proud of the Nigerian Army, and it became a thing of pride for one to be enlisted as either an officer or a soldier in the Nigerian Army. This euphoria continued until the advent of democracy in Nigeria in 1999. And that era saw to the gradual and steady decline in the operational effectiveness of the Nigerian Army for some strange reasons.
We didn’t notice the decline until we were confronted with the Boko Haram challenge from 2009. So much that the Nigerian Army has lost its footing on the threats posed by evolving warfare such as cyber warfare, insurgency, terrorism, nuclear warfare and other forms of unconventional wars. It was so apparent that the Nigerian Army was still leaving on past glory. And this gave rise to the casualties it suffered during the early stages of the Boko Haram crisis.
The Nigerian Army was at its lowest ebb. The morale of the fighting troops was at an astonishing low. And Boko Haram continued to gain grounds so much so that over 16 local government areas in North East Nigeria fell under the control of the Boko Haram terrorists. Other parts of the country too were not safe including the federal capital territory that witnessed scores of Boko Haram attacks. This was as recent as 2015. It was such a bad tale to recount in the annals of Nigeria and the Nigerian Army.
But all of that has changed for the better as we are now witnesses to the return of the Nigerian Army to the path of glory in the past three years. In my opinion, there is no way one can talk about the return of the operational effectiveness of the Nigerian Army without mentioning two people. One is the president and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari and also the dynamic Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai.
How the Nigerian Army has achieved total peace for Nigeria is still what observers and researchers are still battling to unravel despite the security threats posed by the Boko Haram terrorists and other militant groups such as the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), the Niger Delta Avengers, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). This is mainly on the heels of the fact that before the coming of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian Army was a shadow of its self. In truth, we had a Nigerian Army that was just some kilometres away before its final disintegration. But not anymore.
I am of the opinion that God truly loves this country. If not for the intervention that saw the coming of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and the subsequent appointment of a dexterous general as the Chief of Army Staff, I wonder what would have been left of Nigeria with the ferocity with which the Boko Haram terrorist carried on. The terrorists and other militant groups would have overrun Nigeria.
That the Nigerian Army under the leadership of Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai was able to turn the tide against the enemies of the country is indeed an indication of capacity and strategic intelligence. I stand to be corrected. For the Nigerian Army to carry out operations simultaneously across the country and was still able to maintain peace is an indication that the Nigerian Army has been repositioned for operational effectiveness by none other than Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai. Little wonder the avalanche of awards that have come his way? Worthy of mention is the award of the Brazilian Military Order of Merit Award, which is the highest military honour awarded to military officers that have distinguished themselves in various military endeavours.
The likes of Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai should be a topic of research for military historians on how he was able to take the deplorable Nigerian Army to an effective operational force in a record three years. In my opinion, the topic of the research should read “Army Leadership in Nigeria and operational effectiveness: a case study of Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai.”
In so doing, other upcoming officers and commanders would have something to chew on when the lot falls on them. In truth, this is what is obtainable in western climes ass it is done to the likes of General David Petraeus. It is indeed a record feat for Nigeria to have turned the tide against the Boko Haram terrorist. And it explains why the war exploits of Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai should be subject to a robust academic pursuit.
One of the landmarks of the operations of the Nigeria Army in North East Nigeria is the creation of the Special Strike Force that has continued to lead the onslaught against Boko Haram terrorists in North East Nigeria. In my opinion, the establishment of the Strike Force was the game changer and in conformity with the famous quote by General David Petraeus that says “Life is a competitive endeavour. And there’s nothing more competitive, obviously, than combat.”
And I could not agree less. It takes a whole lot of thinking outside the box when fighting an unconventional war. You must be prepared to assess the psychological state of the terrorist to be able to formulate an effective counter-strategy. This much I have noticed was deployed by the Nigeria Army in the fight against Boko Haram terrorists and other militant groups in Nigerian from 2015 to date. And with the present state of the Nigerian Army, it is just a matter of time for the remnants of Boko Haram terrorists to be wiped completely. Need I say more? Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai is indeed a study in warfare.
Onmeje is a media strategist based in the United Kingdom.