By Esther Okpabi
If I were not a Nigerian, resident in Nigeria, I would have regrettably missed the blues that enliven life at auspicious partisan times. Nigeria has less than a year and five months to the next general elections. The political undercurrents, which precede every ballot, sprouting bile partisanships, crafted and disseminated by a few opportunistic, opposing politicians would have skipped me.
At such times, less thoughtful personalities usually find themselves in the dilemma of sieving the chaff from the grains. A volley of mounting media hype, from motley of propagandists and antagonists, assail the senses. They doggedly and determinedly scheme to peel the skin off every public office holders.
It’s usually a season of blatant lies and falsehood, freely hurled, as some vulnerable Nigerians easily forget the realities of yesterday by the anointment of the falsehood of today. And lethal critics set out to chain the genuine convictions of the gullible.
President Muhammadu Buhari is receiving enough of the senseless bashings. When the opposing assailants cannot get his voice or convince Nigerians, they shift grounds to his focal appointees, assisting his salvation mission of Nigeria.
The Nigerian Army has come under such senseless fireworks from these arm -charm critics. I hear pleasant internal voices praising soldiers led by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and leader of the counter-insurgency war, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai for assisting civil security in restoring peace and security to hitherto troubled parts of the country. The voices are loud and razor-sharp in appreciation.
I have chosen lately to admire the Nigerian Army as one cannot afford to be left out of another selfless deed to take back Nigeria from its enemies within and outside. I have decided to undertake a special inquest into the reasons our military is being celebrated across the globe and in specific terms how Gen. Buratai’s leadership of the Nigerian Army has consistently posted rewarding results in the war against terror.
The world is at best overwhelmed with victories songs and the defeat of Boko Haram terrorists. And the winning streaks of Buratai’s foot soldiers have effectively berthed in both north and south poles of Nigeria against all subsisting and budding terrorists sects and their activities against humanity.
A voyage into Gen. Buratai’s leadership of Nigeria’s most priced armed force, the Nigerian Army, revealed very interesting insights. I discovered that his magic yesterday, today and tomorrow has remained his prioritization of troops welfare. Expectedly, Nigerian troops in the warfront have replicated his leadership splendor with loyalty, patriotism, zeal and courage, resulting in the series of victories against all acts of terror or local armed conflicts, previously at the cusp of pulling down Nigeria’s sovereignty.
Some Nigerians may doubt me. But history does not lie. Experiences do not peddle falsehood, but invade the conscience indelibly. We have seen or heard Nigerian troops in the battlefield against terrorists committing mutiny, by not only disobeying their field Commanders, but pulling the trigger against them in rebellion. Nigeria has experienced its worse, as Nigerian troops effeminately retreated from the battlefield field against insurgents.
Much more, we heard tales of Nigerian soldiers femininely scampering to take shelter in foreign lands and dumped their weapons; they became unwanted guests to communities and villages in the republic of Cameroon. And at the heart of this physical and psychological revolt was the issue of neglected welfare of soldiers in the warfront.
But Lieutenant General Buratai has changed the narrative in the last two years. Nigerian soldiers prefer to now sacrifice their life gallantly than bid a retreat to Boko Haram terrorists in the field of battle. This is because they have seen reason to live for our country. Our troops have successfully navigated previously dreaded Boko Haram enclaves, like the Sambisa forest. These parriotic officers and soldiers under Gen. Buratai do not wait to swear on the shrine of their ancestors, before responding to distress calls from communities trapped by insurgents like in the recent case of Madagali LGA in Adamawa state. They move with the speed of a thunderbolt.
And Gen. Buratai’s secret for commanding a loyal, patriotic and effective Army is his unpretentious focus and expeditious treatment of welfare issues affecting soldiers. He did not only imbibe the philosophy of famed Chinese war leader, strategist and tactician, Gen. Sun Tzu, but has exhibited mastery of its application for best results. This Great War philosopher believed that “The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.”
Therefore, Buratai’s preparation of troops for war deployed many known and unknown strategies. And welfare was key to his pre-war plans, having imbibed Sun Tzu’s philosophy that “Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.”
This quintessential Army Chief has accorded attention and handled troops’ welfare as his first and last cardinal weapon against the enemy. His emphasis on welfarism has impacted positively on the psyche of Nigerian troops both in the Northeast and in other parts of the country, where troops are engaged in special assignments and military operations.
Military strategists brand this disposition as military-welfarism, which has effectively served as a potent tool anywhere in the world towards achieving higher goals and objectives in warfare. He has used it to successfully tread on grounds, where others failed.
When I freed my instincts and delved into dissecting the foresight and vision of Lieutenant General Buratai upon assumption of duty as COAS, it stared at me that he inherited an Army in complete shambles and disheveled. He could not get his mind off the dire necessity to re-professionalize, re-discipline and re-orientate the Nigerian Army. The results are the global accolades and encomiums that President Buhari has continued to receive from Nigerians and the diplomatic circle.
The Army boss introduced reforms that have evidently raised the portrait of the Nigerian Army to admirable levels. He has been able to instill the culture of respect and dignity into the institution, as reflected in its cordiality with other arms of the Nigerian military and security agencies in Nigeria. It is the tonic for the seamless field operations which have raised the bars for Nigeria on the global map of war against terrorism. Respect and subordination to civil authority and the sanctity for the respect of human rights of Nigerians is in its historic all-time high, with a functional Human Rights Desk at the Army headquarters, Abuja.
The Army Chief untied the knot to the months of cumulative unpaid salaries to Nigerian troops on the warfront or any other destination in Nigeria and abroad. The operational allowances that became the pepper bonus for top military officers are now paid to troops regularly and promptly. His leadership became the guardian angel to families of Nigerian soldiers. He regularly met and interacted with them at different military formations, and remedied problems that should have ordinarily been the responsibility of their spouses.
At the warfront, Nigerian soldiers witnessed new levels of courtship in welfare. Soldiers injured in battle were given swift medication attention. Military hospitals in military formations across the country were instantly rehabilitated and stocked with drugs and other medical accessories for excellent medicare services to soldiers and their families. Any Nigerian soldier unfortunately gunned down by the bullets of the enemy was accorded dignified burial and their families consoled by the Nigerian Army in multiple ways.
The establishment of a housing scheme that would enable every soldier that served in the counter-terrorism campaigns to retire into a personal home after years of meritorious service to fatherland is one of the hallmarks of his sterling leadership . There are rare welfare incentives that can only take rare foresight and extraordinary vision to conceive.
The impact on the morale and psyche of troops on the warfront has been evidently tremendous. It explains why the streak of victories against insurgents has been sustained. It is the chief reason for the fruitless attempts by Boko Haram to bounce back to reckoning. Terrorists spirited efforts to reclaim territories in Nigeria have been met with stiff resistance and rebuffed with equal and higher measure of strength by Nigerian troops.
In effect, under Lieutenant General Buratai, the Nigerian Army has ventured into new realms of knowledge and exploits in warfare, which are likely not to escape the attention of Wikipedia’s grandeur collection of words and axioms from the battlefield for posterity. And the singular reason would be Nigerian Army’s uncommon exploits and amazing defeat of terrorism, which the entire world has deployed its best brains in war laboratories and research institutes to evolve strategies to unravel.
What other nations under the spell of terrorism for decades could not achieve, the Nigerian Army has impressively conquered the world of Boko Haram terrorism very speedily. Gen. Buratai has remained for me an enigmatic soldier in military-welfarism; his unsung formula for victories in terrorism warfare.
Okpabi, a post-graduate student of Peace, Conflict and Strategy Studies at Nile University of Nigeria, Abuja and can be reached at Ezegwuokpabi@gmail.com