By: AA Adebayor
Soldiering is one of the hardest professions in the world. I say this because, having tested its good and bitter sides, I stand to appreciate my colleagues for the sacrifices they make in the course of service to the nation.
But I have come to realize that sometimes our Nigerian experience posts different results for the wrong reasons. After the Nigerian civil war, the only time the Nigerian military has been stretched is the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast. That Nigerian troops have been able to subdue the rampaging and devilish instincts of the sect members on Nigerians to enthrone peace is not only inspiring, but fulfilling.
I was however taken aback, the deliberate campaigns of calumny and mudslinging a few months ago by a few detractors and by implication, the enemies of Nigeria, against the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai.
To these retrogressives and dark minds on the African continent domiciled in Nigeria, Buratai is better confined to the dustbin of ignominy. But fate works differently. It is the neutral umpire that recognizes hard work, determination, resilience, doggedness and selflessness. It endures like the Biblical prophecy of end times.
I discovered that these evil-minded characters in Nigeria, thrive better when society is in chaos or anarchy. So, Buratai’s brutal confrontation of insurgents and his unbreakable resolve to defend the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Nigeria against Boko Haram Terrorists, offended these few enemies of progress. They hate the peace soldiers have enthroned in the country, much as they are resentful to Buratai, his foot soldiers and the Nigerian Army.
These felons contrived series of plots against the personality and leadership of the Nigerian Army to the extent of seeking to distract the Army Chief from his professional duties of protecting the geographical space of Nigeria against enemies of the nation. They have vainly sought to diminish and frustrate his service to fatherland in order to impose their idiosyncratic flair of violence and destruction of Nigeria.
But the Army Chief who is not given to trivialities, ignored all their misguided notions against him and surged ahead. So, the unperturbed Buratai has proved all his adversaries wrong, by excelling on every professional outing and exhibiting uncommon leadership qualities that stream applauses even from foes.
I admire his courage. As a strong breed from Northern Nigeria, Gen. Buratai is defamed, castigated, persecuted and even insulted; yet his spirit remains unbroken and resolute, waxing stronger against enemies of his fatherland. He is an embodiment of flawless character and excellence.
In Buratai, Nigerians have truly testified that a gold fish has no hiding place. And in spite of devilish plots of a few, majority of Nigerians have come to fete Gen. Buratai as a rare army officer, a messiah to the people once chained by terrorism and one Nigerian who is extremely passionate about peace and unity of Nigeria.
My heart was gladdened when the Editorial Board of a reputable and influential publication, The Politico Magazine, like many other organizations, fished out Buratai from the mesh of personalities in Nigeria, who made the list of finalists to fete him with an award, as The Politico Man of The Year 2016.
For me, the ceremony itself, timing and the substance in the honouree has ignited a special sense of patriotism, loyalty, commitment, appreciation and the unyielding spirit of excellence in national, regional, continental and global assignments personified in one man – Lt. Gen. Buratai.
I was disarmed by the disclosure by The Politico Magazine’s Chief Executive Officer and Editor-in-Chief, Mustapha Shehu during his speech at the presentation of the award in Abuja that on the online polls on various social media platforms organized by the Editorial Board, Nigerians massively voted Gen. Buratai ahead of other equally prominent Nigerians and nominees. Buratai towered above personalities like Lagos state Governor Akinwunmi Ambode; Fomer Defence Minister, Gen. T.Y Danjuma (rtd), the DSS D-G, Mallam Lawal Daura, America’s President Donald Trump and Dr. Sale Abba.
Shehu spoke my mind when he said; ”that General Buratai is deserving of this award is not in dispute. Even his arch enemies, leaders of the Boko Haram, cannot, but concur with us, if in their sober moments, they tarry a while and review their brutal misadventure. For, they had heard from the General, in a loud and clear voice. And I believe they will continue to hear from him.”
And truly, an elated Buratai could not conceal his appreciation of the magazine for exposing to him how much Nigerians love and appreciate him and by extension the Nigerian Army saying, ‘the Nigerian army and the media are partners in peace and development of the country.”
As it is customary with him, Buratai does not forget that his efforts would have piled into insignificance if devoid of the blessings of President Muhammedu Buhari (PMB). The President provided the needed logistic and financial support to the Nigerian Army in their quest to protect the country’s sovereignty against internal and external aggressions.
But I asked myself why Nigerians have not ceased feting Gen. Buratai, as recently done by The Politico Magazine. After a deep reflection I came to the pleasant realization that Nigerians are coming to terms with the burden of soldiers on the battlefield and the sacrifices they make for millions of country men and women to live in peace and harmony. And Gen. Buratai is the epitome of these sacrifices.
I make haste to say the era of Lt. Gen. Buratai and the Nigerian Army has conferred an aura of respect for soldiers. Boko Haram terrorism remained the single most challenging menace on Nigerians until PMB came on board and after a thorough search appointed Gen. Buratai who is familiar with wars and the trenches to lead soldiers in the battle against counter-terrorism.
Buratai inherited troops who were in the battlefront, but with an extremely dampened morale. I know it is not an easy task to revive soldiers under such psychological conditions in war and reposition them to bring out the ultimate best, but Buratai seamlessly accomplished it.
I was thrilled to no end when the Army Chief effectively blended all the disparate aspects of anti-terrorism warfare and obtained the targeted results. He was personally on the battlefield with troops and led counter-offensives against insurgents; he identified and tackled the political arm of BHTs and the sponsors/agents who spiraled into cyberspace with awful propaganda against the Army in favour of terrorists. He placed premium on issues of human rights violations by troops and recorded a near zero incident of human rights abuses by troops on such special assignments.
Buratai ensured he rewarded excellence by troops, paid their entitlements promptly and made welfare of families of troops in the battlefront a top priority and it gave soldiers comfort, courage and zeal to go the extra-mile to achieve results. The stylish invasion and demolition of the once dreaded Sambisa forest and the consequent dislodgements of terrorists are rare exploits in military adventure, only capable and experienced officers like Buratai would anchor.
His surveillances and clean-up operations in the Northeast against remnants of terrorists are strategic theories that military science alone cannot accord you the wisdom. It required extra thinking, planning and execution. But Buratai proved his mettle excellently.
His current campaigns inspiring all stakeholders in the Northeast to sustain the peace, detailing the measures they should adopt, are exceptional leadership dexterity only gifted officers of his caliber would have an insight. I am compelled by these rare feats to describe Lt.Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai, as an all-rounder military officer.
And when Nigerians again voted him, The Politico Magazine’s Man of the Year 2016, I nodded with a feeling of satisfaction that we are beginning to appreciate the rare gifts in Buratai and his sacrifices’ to protect the territorial boundaries and sovereignty of Nigeria.
And like Oliver Twist, if I may add, a man of Gen Buratai’s stature truly deserves more of such awards in appreciation of his service to the nation. Having once served in the Army myself, I am convinced that no amount of honour or award is too much for a man of General Buratai’s standing in a nation he has donated his life and comfort to serve meritoriously. He is an Army General that Nigerians will cherish for a long time. May God Almighty continue to protect and preserve Lt.Gen. Buratai and his family as well as the Nigerian soldiers.
Adebayor is a security consultant and contributed this piece from Lagos.