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General Buratai and his Golden Principle on War – By Thomas Uzah PhD 

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Sometime in June 2015, barely 10 days after the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s democratically elected leader, a BBC Africa Security Correspondent, published an analysis, captioned; “Will moving Army to Maiduguri help Nigeria against Boko Haram?” The report captured President Buhari’s earliest decisions and actions in office to stymie the raging and devastating Boko Haram insurgency in the country.

Though the analysis encapsulated different conditions of the subsisting insecurities in Nigeria, a phrase was catchy. He wrote about the Service Chiefs perception and response to the Presidential order to relocate the Military Command and Control Centre from Abuja to the Northeast, the hotbed of the insurgency. President Buhari issued the order to centralize operations nearer the heart of the insurgency, ease bureaucratic bottlenecks and speedy decision-making on the field combats.

But some Military Chiefs loathed this directive. They preferred the comfort of cosy offices in Abuja, then shadow anywhere near the theatre of war. Therefore, they were hesitant, silently grumbled and clandestinely remonstrate. Eventually, though, they bowed to the supremacy of Military creeds, as the BBC report later exposed.  

The catchy phrase in the report chanted defiantly on the relocation of Military Command and Control Centre to the Northeast epicentre of Boko Haram terrorism stated; “However,  the new strategy has not gone down well with some top military men, who view it as a symbolic, populist move by President Buhari, attempting to set himself apart from the previous administration under Goodluck Jonathan.”

Time explains seemingly complex mysteries. The phrase made it abundantly clear the phobia of some senior military officers under the previous administration in leading troops to dismantle the dreaded Sambisa Forest, Boko Haram’s most secured fortress. It was a forest where insurgents hid and persistently emerged to bloodily strike the heart of Borno State and other parts of the Northeast.

Formerly, Sambisa was Boko Haram’s centre for training recruits. It served as a venue for plotting their heinous atrocities and recuperation ground after strikes of violence on communities and villages. Boko Haram’s factional leader, Abubakar Shekau and top commanders of the sect had their most vaulted “mansion,” in the forest’s “Camp Zairo.” Some refer to it as Camp Zero from where they easily coordinated their atrocious acts. The natives called Camp Zairo “Sabil Hida”, meaning the “righteous place,” but insurgents renamed it after they annexed it.

However, the face of the counter-insurgency operations changed with the arrival of Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai, as Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and ombudsman of the anti-insurgency operations. He started commanding the battle from the front and not the back seat, very fruitfully and rewardingly. The crack Infantry Combatant never faltered nor dreaded the trenches or waterfront any day. Even the ambush and attack on his convoy by Boko Haram terrorists didn’t scare or dissuade him.

Gen. Buratai studied the minutiae of the insurgency and discovered a huge concentration of terrorists in Sambisa. He vowed they must not be allowed to possess the forest and then planned several months to capture it. 

And when Gen. Buratai and other Commanders led troops to strike in December 2016, Shekau, his top commanders and foot soldiers sheltered in this enclave were massively dislodged. Some insurgents met their waterloo in the encounter with troops; while a few others escaped, including the factional terror leader.

But from the historic capture of the Sambisa Forest on December 22, 2016, Gen. Buratai brought back to Abuja relics of the demystification, penetration of Camp Zairo and subjugation of Shekau’s empire. The Shekau’s personal effects obtained by the Army were a copy of the Holy Quran and Boko Haram jihadi flag among others.

However, the battle to free Sambisa Forest and entrapped communities in the area had just started. It was clear Boko Haram insurgents were pained to lose their fortified fortress of shelter. Being a vast forest, the insurgents again regrouped and reoccupied other parts. In his customary fashion, Shekau sneaked and reoccupied Camp Zairo from where he organized his foot soldiers to launch pockets of attacks on obscure communities.

Regardless, Gen. Buratai never flinched. Throughout 2017, the leader of counter-insurgency operations turned the Northeast into his permanent home and intensified clearance operations in enclaves within Sambisa Forest to flush out remnants of insurgents.        

Gen. Buratai eventually pulled down the final walls of the forest; cleared all the areas re-possessed by insurgents, confiscated their weapons, again dislodged Abubakar Shekau from Camp Zairo and recaptured it by end of 2017. The second military raids on Sambisa were more deadly on terrorists. 

In a video later released, the factional Boko Haram leader confessed to suffering heavy casualties and expressed frustration with the war, preferring to die than live. Still hotly trailed by troops, Shekau disguised into a woman, dressed in hijab and sneaked out of the Northeast. He remained in the cooler and silent for months.

At the start of January 2018, Gen. Buratai sojourned back to Sambisa on an operational thank-you visit to troops and to convey the President’s appreciation to soldiers stationed in different locations of the forest who performed the feat.

The helicopter conveying the COAS from Maiduguri first landed in Bitta village, a small settlement in Sambisa. Thereafter, he proceeded to Tokumbere and then, drove in an MRAP vehicle with his team to  Camp Zairo. He arrived at the spot by 4:15 pm. There, Gen. Buratai was conducted round the Battle Groups 1 and 2 locations and addressed troops. He also inspected the armoured fighting vehicles and equipment captured from Boko Haram terrorists.

It was right inside the darkest belly of Camp Zairo that Gen. Buratai issued the order to troops on the capture of the escapee factional leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau “red-handed.”  “We must move across wherever this criminal is to catch him red-handed. I want you to get him by hand,” he said. 

The display of courage by Gen. Buratai was confounding. Those naturally passionate about the Army fear or dread nothing. They are not scared by the possibility of death or quake at the prospects of danger. The COAS embodies these virtues in abundance. He is more excited in the trenches than swirling on a chair in an air-conditioned office.

This can be gleaned from an axiom in the interview he granted reporters while in Camp Zairo;   “I see all operations in the field as adventurously, a thunderous conquest of the enemy. I always want to explore new tactics, new manoeuvres and approaches to achieving tactical and operational objectives. Fighting wars should be seen as fun with serious, bold, decisive and aggressive approaches to dealing with the adversaries in an unconventional military environment. It is what excites me deeply.”

No wonder, Gen. Buratai is infinitely irritated when a soldier becomes hysteric at the sight of the battle. Not long ago, at the workshop on Transformational Leaders in Abuja,  the COAS voiced a directive to all commanders to flush out lazy soldiers as  “The NA will do all that is necessary to fish out any bad eggs whose willingness to lead or follow as required has waned…Transformational leaders should not wait for them to get out of the way, you must kick them out of your way.” 

Dr Uzah is head of department, Mass Communication, Kwararafa University Wukari.

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Opinion

Lekki Shootings And The Resurrection Of The Massacred – By Philip Agbese

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These are indeed interesting times in the country. I am scared as well as concerned for the future of our great nation with the way and manner the once peaceful EndSARS protests were hijacked by some elements that do not wish the country well.

I recall that in some quarters, the youths on the streets were advised to leave the streets and embrace dialogue as offered by the government towards finding a lasting solution to reforming the operations of the Nigerian Police Force. I know for sure that those with genuine intent did heed to that noble call by staying away from the streets.

However, some saw this protest as the most beneficent avenue to enrich themselves, not minding the socio-economic implication of their actions. And consequently, they continued to defy pleas and overtures made to them. They constituted themselves into authorities overnight and waiting for that moment where the law enforcement agents would make a move, and they would escalate tension in the country.

That moment indeed came with the unfortunate incident at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos state that has been described as carnage by this same set of people and their promoters with pictures and videos making the rounds on the social media space.

It is also sad that these same people that claimed that the number of casualties was in hundreds have suddenly turned prophets that resurrected the dead because as the dust is finally settling, it has been realized that the whole incident was blown out of proportion with scores of people that were recorded as dead as a result of the shootings have now come to the open to say that they are not only alive, they are hale and hearty.

This is the unfortunate situation we have found ourselves in Nigeria, and it indeed calls for concern from all well-meaning individuals and groups that are desirous of the continued growth and development of the country.

We have searched for the mascaraed to no avail. We have also attempted to put faces to the names making the rounds as dead as a result of the Lekki shootings. But our celebrities kept sharing pictures and imaginary videos suggesting how ruthless the soldiers were when they opened fire on peaceful protesters. Some went as far as saying that the soldiers took away corpses of those killed and interestingly; these individuals do not have relatives or families that would raise the alarm as to their whereabouts.

Wonders indeed shall never end in Nigeria because we still haven’t come to terms with the damaging impact misinformation could have on the socio-economic wellbeing of our country, as well as our collective psyche as a people.

The Lekki incident has indeed shown us that there is a need for all to be circumspect in receiving and sharing information, especially on the social media space because the social media space is highly deceptive and misleading. For instance, pictures of several years back were dug up and shared as a part of the Lekki incident. There was a case of a picture of a man carrying a boy who was wrapped with the Nigerian flag and dripping in blood, which was a movie scene, and it was passed around as one of the victims of the Lekki incident.

Indeed the general public believed not until the man in question had to come out to inform the people that it was indeed a movie scene and has got nothing to do with the Lekki incident. There was also the case of popular actress, Eniola Badmus who was also reportedly shot by soldiers. She has also come out to deny been shot and that she is not dead or hurt in anyway.

Eniola Badmus is not alone in this regard, as many others have also come out to debunk the news making the rounds that there were either dead or hurt by soldiers. Yes, that was how thick the plot to cause mayhem in the country, and they somewhat succeeded because the gullible ones amongst us joined the bandwagon that was spreading fake news in justification for the destruction of properties and lootings that were recorded in parts of Lagos state.

It is thus my considered opinion that as the dust continues to settle, Nigerians would continue to receive shocking revelations as to what truly transpired at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos State. Nigerians would also know that indeed it was mere propaganda by the sponsors of the protest to give a dog a bad name to hang it.

The handwriting on the wall is clear enough for discerning minds to know that there is more than meets the eyes. Those unseen hands, those unheard voices that are responsible for the mayhem that was unleashed in Lagos would be clinking glasses and celebrating what they would describe as a significant victory against Nigeria.

Ironically, this is what the bulk of the youths out there have not come to realize. They are still probably basking in the euphoria of the moment and forgetting that a time would come when the chicken would come home to roost.

I do not think there is any more to say other than the fact that the youths have indeed allowed themselves to be used by some vested interest against the country by urging them to resort to violence as a means to achieving an end. Trust me; I cannot remember anywhere in the world where violence has proved to be a potent tool towards achieving tangible results. This is just common sense. As it stands, we must continue to pray that all those “massacred” by the soldiers continue to resurrect.

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Opinion

Punch Newspaper and the Era of Misinformation – By Samson Akindele

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I have been an advocate for credible reportage of issues in the country. This was hinged on how misinformation or fake news has led to a crisis of unimaginable proportion in many climes. It, therefore, became imperative for newspaper houses to introduce that extra mechanism that would ensure that information coming from their stable, must have been thoroughly verified and the sources competent enough to hold on to.


All of the above were severally abused by Punch newspaper in one of its report on the EndSARS crisis in Lagos state that resulted in the burning of police stations as well as the encounter with gunmen in military uniform at the Lekki tollgate, where some protesters lost their lives. To say that it wasn’t a despicable story by Punch would be an understatement. It was indeed a story that was poorly written from the beginning to the end.


As a first, Punch newspapers got its sources wrong wherein, it relied and quoted sources on WhatsApp groups to narrate the events that led to the burning down of Orile Police Station by hoodlums. In the said story, it went further to give credence to the source at the detriment of professionalism and objectivity.

We know for a fact that this is the era of fake news, and the Whatsapp platform has been one medium that individuals and groups have used to spread falsehood. And to think that Punch Newspaper could rely on such platforms makes it indeed worrisome for the future of journalism in Nigeria.
What Punch Newspapers has succeeded in doing is to exhibit its bias for the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari through its frequent vicious attacks on the activities of the government. Needless I mention that Punch is the only newspaper in Nigeria that addresses President Muhammadu Buhari as Major General (rtd), a move many have considered as disdainful.

I am concerned that Punch newspaper is unconcerned about the negative impact its stories could have in a polity that is already tensed. A situation where outright misinformation is put in the public space, in my opinion, is aimed at serving one purpose, which is to continue to instigate the people against the law enforcement officers that have been deployed to maintain law and order in the country as a result of the protests.

These are indeed interesting times in Nigeria, and it must be realized that should entities like Punch newspaper continue with their divisive and highly slanted news reportage against the government, Nigerian might erupt in flames , which in my opinion remains the overarching desire of Punch newspapers.

If this is not the case, how could one possibly explain a situation where a newspaper of long-standing and many years would write a full story relying on information sourced from WhatsApp group chats and Instablog9ja? This also means that journalism has gone to the dogs because of no editor worth his onion would sanction such a story where sources are not credible. But again, for Punch newspaper, this is one opportunity to wreak havoc not minding the implications of their actions.

It was indeed a gross display of a deep-rooted desire to continue to mislead the members of the general public in a manner that has never been seen before. The danger is that most members of the general public would take the misinformation hook line and sinker and after that form their opinion about the happenings in the country and the efforts of the government thus far. It is also despicable that from available information, the events that led to the burning down of Orile Police Station is far from what Punch newspaper reported.

What does this tell us? It simply tells us that news mediums such as Punch have ulterior motives and they would stop at nothing until they succeed in misleading members of the unsuspecting general public, as in this case.
In the light of this, Nigerians must be circumspect with news content from Punch newspapers because there is an overarching desire to propagate highly misleading information to the general public in furtherance of their evil intentions against the country. This is indeed a statement of the fact because when a news medium elects to peddle outright falsehood without minding whose ox is gored intentionally is an indication that every parameter of reasonability has been exceeded, and the next step is to unleash the jargons on the gullible readers.

In my opinion, this is the worst form of journalism and one that negates every aspect of the journalist creed. I doubt if the promoters of Punch newspaper still remember that journalism entails a high degree of public trust. To earn and maintain this trust, it is morally imperative for every journalist and every news medium to observe the highest professional and ethical standards. In the exercise of these duties, a journalist should always have a healthy regard for the public interest by refraining from publishing inaccurate and misleading information.


They must also be reminded that all journalists and news mediums must strive to enhance national unity and the public good. Can the Punch newspaper claim to be within conduct with regards to the above stated? The answer is a huge no, and it is indeed a shame that for a newspaper as old as Punch would elect to throw away all known principles required for credible and reliable journalism.

The promoters of Punch newspaper must also come to terms with the reality that their news medium would fast lose its readership if that is not happening already.

They must also realize that the general public has seen through their gimmick that is evidenced in their disjointed editorial style that spews hatred, misinforms the general public, castigates the government for no justifiable reasons and threw away all the tenets of credible journalism in the thrash can all in their despicable desire to rubbish whatever gains that have been made by the present administration in all spheres of our socio-economic life.

From the look of things, there is no difference between Punch newspapers and other blogs and gossip sites that aggregate half-truths to drive traffic to their site. Perhaps, Punch is now an affiliate of Intablog9ja and other blogs that does nothing but spread gossip. It is sad, and there must be retracing of steps in the overall interest of peace and tranquillity in Nigeria.

Akindele wrote from 13 JOEL Ogunnaike, Lagos.

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Opinion

#EndSARS: Knowing When To Fight And When To Quit – By Philip Agbese

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The positive public perception; the overall consensual verdict and even desirability of the more than 10 days #EndSARS protests have faded. It is fizzling out with the speed of a tornado surprisingly.

By this development, the general consensus among Nigerians is clear-#EndSARS protests originally conceived by Nigerians as peaceful expression of grievances against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), an outfit of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) over years of extrajudicial killings, brutality, bribery, extortions and unlawful arrests/ detentions have ostensibly become public nuisances.

Apparently, the protests have been hijacked by some politicians who are allegedly sponsoring hooligans, miscreants, criminals and deviants to cause massive public unrest, attack law abiding citizens, breach public peace, torching of public buildings and personal properties, prison breaks, vandalization and looting of businesses. The latest tales from the protests are the targeted assault on prominent politicians and personalities in cities rocked by the protests.

It is daybreak for the protesters now because the #EndSARS protests have become violent and bloody. Its mutation into such violent and undemocratic character has prepared its grave and coffin early enough. Indeed, the death knell has sounded for the protesters.

The reasons instigating the protests are genuine and the concern of every Nigerian. This is irrefutable. But its concomitant abuses have dealt a fatal blow on an otherwise noble cause. Nigerians have won the battle against SARS by drawing Government and global attention to the evils embodied by SARS, a microcosm of the NPF.

And at the same time, Nigerians have lost the battle in the sense that the veiled infiltration of the #EndSARS protests by reprobates and the conspicuous rebranding of its original agenda and concept signifies the defeat of the same populist cause and struggles. It now appears more like a replication of the aborted planned mass disruption of public peace before the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari for a second tenure, the mild version, which later surfaced as #RevolutionNow protests.

Therefore, when the protests morphed from #EndSARS into the display of placards with inscriptions or hashtags like;” #EndBuhari; #BuhariMustResign; #EndMarginalization; #EndbadGovernance; #EndNepotism #OnResourcceControlWeStand; #EndNNPC; #EndModernSlavery; #FreeNigerDeltaRegion; #ShameOnNDDC; #LegalizeNigerDeltaLocalRefineries;#EndBadDrinkingWater #LegalizeNigerDeltaPetroleumProduction; and #EndGovernmentFraud among others signaled a trouble at its explosion stage.

And the sensed trouble is very near; lurking in the corner and dark rooms of Nigeria. The obvious politicization content of the #EndSARS protests gave rise to another group of Nigerians who displayed a poster in Abuja with the counter hashtag, #March4Nigeria. The messaged was lucid that a ten million -man march will be organized to appreciate President Buhari as a listening leader who granted all the requests of the original protests and engineering the needed reforms at the Unity Fountain, Abuja on Wednesday, October 21st, 2020.

These are not only worrisome signals, but witting romance with the path to anarchy, chaos, disruption of public peace and total breakdown of public law and order. No responsible government, unlike emperor Nero, would go feasting while the country is on fire. If times have ever been tough for Nigerians, they would now become tougher.

Let Nigerians take this precaution from Yobe state Gov. Mai Mala Buni, and APC national caretaker chairman, “… the protests should have ended since the Federal Government has responded and promised to address all the demands of the protesters; demanding an end to police brutality in Nigeria and total reform of the entire Police Force…The ongoing protests show that there is a hidden agenda after the government has responded to the protesters’ demands. There are criminals who see the disbanded police unit as threat to their criminal activities.”

Dear protesters of #EndSARS and whatever other identity or agenda infused into the remonstrations’, the time to quit is now that the ovation is loudest. There is a strong sense in what Kimberly K. Jones uttered; “The time to quit is before you wish you had.”

The unpleasant howls of the chickens in the poultry yard signifies ominous danger of a prying hawk. Elvis Presley admonished that“When things go wrong, don’t go with them.”Knowing when to fight and when to quit the stage with dignity, unbruised and unscathed defines the strength of one’s character.

A wise man who is fighting a battle knows when victory has come and when to accept defeat. Nigerians have earned the most important victories in the #EndSARS conundrum with Mr. President disbanding the discredited police outfit, and a promise of overhauling and reforming the NPF. In fact, Mr. President has promised to meet all the demands of the #EndSARS protesters.

Now, it is crucial for all and sundry to realize that actions on some of the demands of the #EndSARS protesters are immediate, which the President has responded accordingly; while others will definitely take weeks and even months. Therefore, continuous occupation of streets, cities, breach of public peace, violence and destructions can never be the panacea. This will only cause avoidable carnages and deaths.

Quite bluntly Nigerians, with the recent developments in the country on the #EndSARS protests, it’s obvious, the goal post has been missed after all the beautiful dribbles on the playing turf. But the protesting Nigerians failed to locate the 18-meter yard box when the goalkeeper was on the ground. The glory of the protests is also discloured by the alien and unacceptable tenor of the protests.

No one tells a blindman that it is raining, he feels the downpour. Nigerians again, it is time to quit the struggle honourably and give government time to act on the demands. Let compatriots learn from the quip of Sakeya Barns whosaid; “I refuse to let this house become my grave”or Lauren Oliver’s, “There’s always some relief in giving up;” because according to Curtis Tyrone Jones, “Life is never too heavy to pick up where we left off.”

The brazen breach of the democratic rights of other Nigerians in the guise of asserting and exercising what the protesters feels it’s their own liberties is pathetic display of dimwit and has irrevocably hamstrung the struggle. The ongoing criminal activities in the country in the name of #EndSARs protests should prick every conscience. In this regard, Nigerians won the battle, but lost at the same time. It is a time-honored lesson for all.

There is no victor nor vanquished! Definitely, Government has learnt from its past mistake of docility over the unlawful oddities of SARS; also, individuals have learnt a pile of lessons too. An American author, Dan Crenshaw in his book, “Fortitude: American Resilience in the Era of Change,” unknowingly counselled the #EndSARS remonstrators; …. Quitting isn’t about succumbing to reality or failing to change what can’t be changed. Quitting is not the same as failure. Quitting means giving up – in a context where there are other options. Options you know you have.” The time to quit the #EndSARS protests is now! #

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