Lt General Tukur Yusuf Buratai! Some call him the soldier’s soldier others call him the gentleman soldier. One thing that is endearing to all about him is the gentle smile he beams every time he appears and the mien of confidence and competence.
He caught my attention when he served as commander Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo shield in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State. The mandate then was to restore peace in the restive Niger Delta area and the General demonstrated his capacity to deliver as he efficiently mobilised the task force under his control to achieve peace in the area, and in record time. I watched a few interviews he granted subsequently after the “victory” and I was impressed by the humility in the tone of his words, which is a trait not too common in this part of the world; especially when you bear a gun.
By the time he was done with the task, security had improved tremendously in Rivers and Bayelsa state. Oil theft, kidnapping, armed robbery and other violent crimes had been contained tremendously. Soldiers that served under him then could testify to how seriously he took the issue of welfare of men and women under him. Several renovations and rehabilitations were carried out in their barracks to ensure an ideal level of comfort for the officers within the task force.
When I heard he has been announced as the force commander of the multi-national joint task force(MNJTF) to tackle the Boko Haram menace , I was very elated, those who know this Soldier will attest that he is a complete no nonsense soldier who discharges his duties with the highest form of professionalism and discipline.
I am certain that President Muhammadu Buhari expressed a sign of full confidence in his competence by appointing Tukur Yusuf Buratai as the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and Just like I had thought, he got down to business immediately and backed by a new commander in chief, the stage was now set for the full onslaught thereafter unleashed on Boko Haram.
At this point the stage was set for a revolution in the fight against Boko Haram; Buratai was now fully in charge of the army and he was not going to be the type of chief that will be commanding operations from a cosy office in Abuja. Within days of his appointment as COAS he was back in Maiduguri, he also travelled within different formations in the north east to boost the morale of the troops at the fore front of the fight
He did not only assure them of improvements on their welfare but backed it up with action, within a few weeks the same army that fled from Boko Haram terrorists a few month ago were now doing the chase, taking back territories that had hitherto been possessed by Boko Haram for years.
Within months of being appointed as chief of army staff things, the entire outlook on the terrorism war changed, with the Nigerian troops leading the onslaught and rescuing several hostages, the success achieved within a short period was like a miracle even to an individual like me who has always been aware of Gen Buratai’s antecedent.
Suddenly Nigerians started to believe in the Nigerian army again with several commendations from Individual and places that had earlier criticised them for not doing enough against the insurgents.
Some people say Nigeria needs strong institutions and not strong men, true! However, in some cases strong men are required to help rebuild our institutions and then restore the confidence required in running such institutions going forward; after all, weak people are not likely going to possess the competence to build strong institutions.
In the short while he has been COAS, just like every other human he has had his dark moment. One of such is the clash with the Shiite group in Zaria and as much as I sympathise with the families of those that lost loved ones, I will also say that it is foolhardy for any group of people to attack soldiers violently and also threaten to kill them without expecting self -defence from the soldiers, more so in a convoy conveying the COAS.
I am sure they were not expecting to get a pat on the back for that especially when the nation was still battling with an extremist group boko haram that almost succeeded in running over the whole country. The army, given that scenario was definitely not going to be taking any chances with the open and violent shiite group.
That said, I think the military can measure its reaction next time to reduce the number of collateral damage. The military though has submitted itself for investigation by the panel set up by the Kaduna state government; let us hope that the truth behind this incident is unravelled quickly.
Despite the Kaduna case, I think COAS has performed way above average to put it in modes terms of human right and civil-military relations. I have also observed that the allegations of abuse of human right against the Nigeria army which hitherto was a regular occurrence has lately disappeared despite the significant victories recorded against the Boko Haram sect in recent times. I cannot recall a word of complain from Amnesty International or our own National Human Rights Commission and this is largely because Lt Gen Buratai from the onset made it clear that he will not support any of such abuse by the army under him.
This leadership trait is what has trickled down to the rank and file of the army as the COAS continues to emphasise the need for the army to stick to their rules of engagement at all time irrespective of the level of provocation.
The General who hails from Buratai town in Biu local government area of Borno state has had his fair share of the Boko Haram dose , his house was attacked by Boko Haram terrorist whilst he was commander of the joint task force in the Niger Delta, such was the situation then in Borno, Yobe and in fact Adamawa states. No one and nowhere was safe Including a General’s house, but today all of that is almost history.
The residents of places like Maiduguri, Gamborou, Dalori and other such places are best positioned to tell the difference in the last one year, if anyone is happy about the progress made by the army, no one can be happier than the residents of these areas, some of which were under Boko haram controls for several months.
The army has achieved a lot in just about a year of Lt Gen Buratai’s appointment as COAS, we certainly look forward to more progress and exploits as he settles in to transform the Nigerian army into the strongest and most formidable army in Africa at first and subsequently one of the strongest armies in the world.
Amuna is an environmental activist based in Port Harcourt.