By Usman Bello
Since 2015, there have been some remarkable improvements in the operations of the Nigerian Army. The Nigerian Army, though not my constituency I have over the years followed its affairs critically, and it has somewhat become my hubby to make analysis whenever there is a change in its leadership, when redeployments are carried out and the likes.
You reading might be wondering why my passion is in the affairs of the Nigerian Army. The reason is simple. As a young boy in the streets of Kaduna, I have had the privilege of seeing soldiers from the Nigerian Defence Academy carry out morning drills. I have always been fascinated by their way of life, though regimented, it still interests me. In a way, that gave rise to a desire for me to enrol in the Nigeria Army, but as they say, man proposes, and God disposes. That dream didn’t materialize, but the interest remained.
I recall that I made a scanting remark when President Muhammadu Buhari appointed the present Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai. My statement was not in any way meant to slight him. But instead, I believed that there were other better-qualified people to have been so appointed.
I wasn’t swayed by the fact that he was a northerner like myself, but I was somewhat interested in what he would bring to the table since the little I gathered about him was that he was at a time commander of the Multinational Joint Taskforce situated in Chad. In truth, he wasn’t flamboyant and was always wearing a smile. I felt as a general in the Nigerian Army; he should smile less and wear the dreaded look that would send chills down the spine of the enemy. But I was wrong.
Back to the crux of this article. I won’t mince words. I have never liked General Buratai because he is a hardliner despite his meek looks. Even though from all available records, he has done quite a lot since he came on-board, I still had some reservations. I was propelled to write this article upon a discovery which was brought to my attention by bosom friend Aminu Saleh, a military historian on a research he conducted titled “Operational Effectiveness of the Nigerian Army (2015-2018)
The report looked at the various innovations in the Nigerian Army since 2015 in details. It touched on the war against terrorism, the quality of postings and appointments, promotions, discipline, welfare, amongst a host of others.
I must confess that I was astonished by the revelations in the report. It contained facts and figures and concluded that the Nigerian Army in the years in the review had indeed experienced tremendous improvements in the areas mentioned above. One of the areas was in the over 50 commissioned projects that cut across education, infrastructure, innovations, and capacity building, and research.
I recall the report contained over 50 laudable projects that were initiated and commissioned under Tukur Buratai as Chief of Army. From the establishment of a Nigerian Army University to the reintroduction of military training in the Nigerian Military School. There is also the establishment of a Directorate for Civil-Military Relations, as well as the creation of a Human Rights Desk in all Nigerian Army formations.
There was also the resuscitation of all Command Secondary Schools across the country to the establishment of the Nigerian Army Aviation, as well as the Nigerian Army Vehicle Manufacturing Company. There was also the commissioning of housing accommodations across military formations in the country. And the list is endless.
But my point of departure was the way and manner he has executed the war against Boko Haram. In my opinion, the approach has been that of a hardliner giving no room for a flexible approach. Of course, this position of mine would be contested by some with a view that disapproves a soft approach in dealing with a terrorist group that has caused wanton destruction to the economy and the lives of the people of North East Nigeria.
But they must understand that I am not in any way in support of the activities of Boko Haram, but I thought that the Operation Safe Corridor initiative should have been more expanded to allow the Boko Haram fighters the window to surrender peacefully and embrace peace. But that has not been the case. Instead, the approach has been that of crushing them.
But I have realized that it is too late in the day for General Buratai to change his hardliner stance. In a way, it has paid off, with the decimation of the Boko Haram group, but we must also realize that we would have achieved more if the approach had been softer. This is my opinion.
To me, General Buratai shares some similarities with President Muhammadu Buhari, who once he believes in a cause goes all out for it. Yes, this has its merits, it also has its demerits, and that is the point I am trying to make with profound respect to their personalities and commitment to the Nigerian cause.
In all, the Nigerian Army has witnessed tremendous transformation under General Tukur Buratai. That much I admit and appreciate. He has done more for the Nigerian Army than any other Chief of Army Staff in times past. He has added value to the operational effectiveness of the Nigerian Army. This was the position of my friend Aminu Saleh, and I concur with him. My disagreement with his execution of the Boko Haram war is a personal opinion being a northerner, but it did not in any negate the numerous achievements that litter the Nigerian Army.
Borrowing from the words of my friend, Aminu Saleh, General Buratai is the Mr. Commission of the Nigerian Army. Somewhat hilarious, but the truth and a reflection of the reality on the ground.
Most times, I wonder where he derives his energy from. And what are the factors that propel him to do what he does? No doubt, he has done well, and the Nigerian Army is better for it. It is hoped that he should continue in this fashion for as long as he remains at the helm of affairs at the Nigerian Army.
Bello is a retired civil servant and wrote from Kaduna.