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Exercise Crocodile Smile: Before We Crucify Lt. Gen TY Buratai – By David Onmeje

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Exercise Crocodile Smile VI commenced today , the 20th of October 2020, and is scheduled to last to the 31st of December. The exercise has been a huge success in dealing with criminals and scaling down the level of crime in many parts of the country in the past five years in areas like the Southwest, Southsouth and others within its scope.

But since the Nigerian Army made the announcement to launch this year’s exercise, some have gone to town with the wrong interpretations saying it is a ploy to unleash soldiers on EndSARS protesters. The mischief in that line of thought exposes in the fact that since they launch Crocodile Smile in Warri, Delta State, in 2016, the exercise has been relaunched in five different phases every year within the same period of the year.

How the bid by the Nigerian Army to continue in that tradition became an issue this year due to the ongoing EndSARS protests befuddles the mind as there’s no link between the commencement of the Exercise Crocodile Smile VI and the ongoing protests if not for the sake of mischief.

The EndSARs protesters from Day One had made it clear that their angst is not with the Nigerian military but a unit of the Nigeria Police which they accuse of wrong doing and sought that it be disbanded and the Federal Government has complied with that.

They also sought the reform of the Nigeria Police due to perceived professional misconduct, which process again, is in place.
At no time did any of the protesters list any act of wrong doing against the Nigerian Army though it has been in the field of operation and engaging terrorists and bandits that were making life hard for the people.

Since 2015, when the Nigerian military took the fight to the doors of the insurgents, it has maintained high professional standards in the fight against terrorism and banditry and has adhered strictly to the rules of engagement that not even the insurgents have accused it of any professional misconduct or crime.

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai has even opened channels for people to report any act of abuse or professional misconduct by any soldier or officer. So, it is clear that the protesters hold the Nigerian Army under General Buratai in high esteem and have absolute regard for how it has conducted its affairs in the last five years .

This is why the Nigerian Army has insisted it is wrong to say the exercise is targeted at protesters explaining that this year’s exercise has no relationship with any lawful protest under any guise whatsoever.

Said the Nigerian Army:“For the records, Exercise CROCODILE SMILE is a yearly exercise in the NA Calendar/Forecast of Events which traditionally holds from October to December of each year.

“Thus, to now insinuate that it is an exercise meant to stifle the ongoing ENDSARS protest is to say the least highly misinformed. Exercise CROCODILE SMILE VI has nothing to do with the ongoing protest and the NA has never been involved in the ongoing protest in any form whatsoever. So far, the army has acted professionally since the civil protest started over two weeks ago.”

But beyond that, the Chief of Army Staff has built a reputation for himself as a General with high respect for human dignity and one who is a staunch defender of democracy and it values that no such fears should be entertained in the first place.

Gen. Buratai has brought many reforms to the army to foster military/ civilian relations and to defend democracy and rule of law.

It was the current Chief of Army Staff who introduced the Corporate Social Responsibility into the Nigerian Army to make the institution give back to the society in terms of projects and other services.

Under him, the Army Medical Corps have been deployed several times to assist civilians in getting medical care and health services. Such that as the Army is fighting criminals in many parts of Nigeria, the soldiers are helping people pick up the pieces of their lives.

In that bid, soldiers have organised classes in warring and war ravaged communities, helped in clearing blocked drainage through environmental sanitation exercises as well as construct bridges in communities to ease transportation.

General Buratai has also made it a policy to interact with the populace at the highest level by personally going to communities and engaging them in discussions. To further demonstrate his commitment to democracy and rule of law, the Chief of Army Staff also commissioned Situation Rooms for election monitoring to stop violence and other ugly incidents that go with elections.

He has also partnered several times with media executives and Civil Society Organisations to foster a better understanding between them and military. With the measures he has put in place people’s perception about the military has begun to change and it is now common sight to see troops being welcomed anywhere they are sighted in any operation unlike before when people take to their heels.

It is high time people begin to appreciate the Exercise Crocodile Smile as it has achieved a lot in curbing crimes such as crude oil theft, kidnapping, banditry and others.

Through the exercise, the Army have destroyed several criminal hideouts and made further attacks on the public difficult for the criminals.

Its intention to extend the current exercise to cover cyber warfare to identify, track and counter negative propaganda on social media is highly commendable as it would help track suspects from their bases.

Its inclusion of a positive identification component aimed at identifying Boko Haram terrorists fleeing from the North East and other parts of the country is also brilliant. It will not be asking for too much giving the Nigerian Army benefit of doubt as it launches Exercise Crocodile Smile VI.

Onmeje wrote this piece from the United Kingdom.

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Opinion

NYSC: Ibrahim’s Silent Transformation – By Bukola Olasanmi

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Youths of any nation globally are the foothold of a secured tomorrow for the country. Nigeria is a country blessed with agile and vibrant youths. In them, the portrait of endurance and perseverance exudes, laced in the dogged determination to conquer the challenges of life. But most times, they are not properly to arrive at the destination of a purposeful and worthy life.

Therefore, it is the first time, Nigerian youths have found a friend, an ally, a partner and boss in the incumbent Director-General (DG) of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim.  Since he became NYSC’s DG, the   young Army officer has dispensed himself as a formidable plank for youths of Nigeria to realize their full potentials in order to become assets to the nation, rather than miscreants.

Brigadier Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim has undeniably proven himself as an agent of transformation, a reformer, an innovator and pacesetter in leadership. He has spared nothing to reposition the NYSC and in ensuring corps members are genuinely guided. Now, Nigerians are delighted to see the ingenuity embedded in Nigerian youths serving in the NYSC scheme, maximally exploited for their personal development and nation-building.

A peek into the administration of Shuaibu Ibrahim as DG NYSC for these past months shows a progressive trend of solid legacies and unshakable commitment to his avowal of rescuing a pivotal scheme which was almost paralyzed. The aims and objectives of the NYSC scheme have been his sacred book and at every point and everywhere, NYSC is now noticed with the badge of a rebirthed scheme.

The welfare and social security of corps member is not only of paramount concern, but a top priority in the policies of the NYSC boss.  His consistent preachments to corps members have always been that they should consider anywhere duty beckons for the primary assignment as their birthplace and ancestral abode. To him, everywhere is the home of every Nigerian.

He has guaranteed the financial security of   Nigerian youths serving the country under the NYSC scheme. Brigadier Gen. Ibrahim fought relentlessly to ensure the   implementation of the new National Minimum Wage (NMW) of N30, 000 monthly. Every corper now collects N33,000 (thirty-three thousand) as monthly allowance and it is paid promptly, despite the economic crunch. And through subtle persuasions, the NYSC boss has been able to convince employers of the services of corps members in augmenting the Government pay package with some stipends.  And the respond has been tremendous.

A foresighted stickler to standards anywhere he serves his country, Ibrahim provides leadership for the scheme in very exceptional ways. He thinks more about a rewarding future for Nigerian youths than the realities of today and has silently launched a variety of economic empowerment programmes to assist them to become responsible citizens by utilizing it to clutch the niceties of tomorrow.

Obsessed with this agenda, as soon as he was appointed the DG NYSC, Shuaibu Ibrahim engaged the International Labour Organization’s (ILO), Abuja country office in Nigeria in mutual talks. It was in pursuit of the economic empowerment of Nigerian youths who have passed through the scheme.  His reception and outcomes of the parlays with ILO were commendable.

The mission of strengthening and deepening relations with ILO to open windows of utilizing the potentials of youths’ empowerment through employment and entrepreneurship skills development in Nigeria were not an effort in vain. These trips have yielded amazing dividends to corps members through ILO’s ‘Start and Improving Your Business (SIYB) Management Programme.’

Brigadier Gen. Ibrahim has also elevated the NYSC’s “Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) initiative to a new realm, by utilizing the creative ingenuity and productivity of corpers. The greatest success narratives of the scheme now is that through SAED, NYSC under the leadership of Ibrahim, sought and stabilized ways of generating internal revenue to fund some of its operations. Corpers were trained and mastered various crafts within the one-year duration of the scheme.   

NYSC has reactivated its formerly silent commercial values and strength. It now operates its bread factory and table water company in Kubwa, Abuja.  And the NYSC boss has plans to replicate same in   states of the federation. It is an uncommon innovation and a gradual path to NYSC’s financial independence in the nearest future.

To further fortify and expand its investments web, some corpers are trained in fish and snail farming in NYSC farms. Most of them started practicing the skills before they were discharged from the service. So, NYSC farms across the nation are no longer dormant territories, as even rice cultivation and other agric-based businesses are undertaken by corpers, as the scheme’s response to local content policy of the FGN, in what the DG hopes to keep expanding in order “…to internally generate our revenue.”

The global outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic in 2020 was a tough period, not only for the NYSC, but Nigerians generally. But Brigadier Gen. Ibrahim provided a patriotic, astute and focused leadership when it was most needed. The greatest joy engineered by Ibrahim was that throughout the period of the raging Covd-19 pandemic, no corper’s life was risked to Covid-19 or snatched by the cold hands of death because of the epidemic.  The religiously strict enforcement of all Covid-19 social protocols in camps and other places of congregation by corps members became a golden rule.

Therefore, whilst Nigeria bled under the yoke of the Covid-19 pandemic, NYSC members were reoriented and mobilized to join the league of other Nigerians working to salvage their nation by rendering the needed sensitive services. The NYSC boss created a historic record. He ensured corps members nationwide were activated in battling the Covid-19 pandemic. So, corpers produced face masks, sanitizers, disinfectant tools, and automatic sanitizing machines as their national contribution in battling the Covid-19 pandemic.

This was in addition to a vigorous and robust public sensitization campaigns as well as active participation in distribution of Government palliatives to various communities in the country. It was the first of its kind in the annals of Nigeria’s history that corpers were mobilized to play a focal role in a national emergency.  It never happened in the days of Ebola outbreak.

It has excited everyone that corpers have marketed themselves as assets to the nation, rather than liabilities at a season of tribulations in the country, spurred by the Covid-19 epidemic.  Today, through the worthy and purposeful leadership of Brigadier General Ibrahim, the seasons of NYSC orientation camps have been fully restored throughout the country. 

And with Ibrahim still on board, even the Covid-19 phase II has posed no worrisome threat to this aspect of the scheme.  He started his leadership of the NYSC on a sound footing and has sustained the tempo; expanded the productive tentacles of corpers in unimaginable ways. By his impactful ideas, millions of Nigerian youths are assured of a brighter tomorrow and economic independence after the mandatory national service.

Olasanmi wrote this article from Abuja.

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Opinion

Obioma And His Midas Touch in NECO – By Philip Agbese

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Femi Adesina, the presidential aide is a fantastic and affable fellow. Nothing else has glued me to him like bees on honey more than his present role as a presidential spokesman to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Adesina is one person it will take me a long time to forget in the history of strategic presidential communication and publicity. I have seen and read his predecessors in the same office over the years; but certain things make him a unique human being on the job; one of which is his prose style. It’s doubtful whether Adesina has any known enemies or foes when he pens down anything.

He has a peculiarly friendly way of disarming his traducers without striking a war. To me, Adesina is an equivalent of an armless Military General who goes to war. He is not combative in his writings, but coasts home with victory without firing a shot. He is calculative and philosophical.

He sometimes decides to be comical or whimsical even on the hottest of issues. He could also be difficult and in many cases, but very factual. Whichever way one sees Femi Adesina, he is just that man even his enemies love to read and hate to despise for whatever reason. I have echoed it several times and I hate to miss his columns any day!

It was on Mr. Femi Adesina’s page recently that I saw an old-time friend, Professor Godswill Obioma. It stirred fresh memories in me. I met him during his tenure as the Executive Secretary, National Education Research Development Council (NERDC) sometime in 2008. The Abia state-born, thorough bred educationist, academic don, innovator and Professor of Mathematics and evaluation has redefined educational policies, monitoring and evaluation in Nigeria.

He has raised the bar to unimaginable heights! Prof. Obioma’s uncommon imprints in the development of Nigeria’s education sector whilst he served the nation as NERDC boss attracts standing ovations anywhere his identity is disclosed. He is a perfect model of a team player and those who have worked closely with him in the numerous places he has served the nation are usually euphoric each time his is sighted.

His impacts in NERDC were mostly felt in redefining curriculum development, upgrading the quality of teaching and learning materials, policy formulation and re- structuring for the overall development of the Nigerian child from basic to tertiary education. They are reference points to date amongst education specialists.

I have a penchant of getting glued to people I perceive as knowledgeable, intelligent and hardworking to also learn something from their wealth of endowed wisdom. So, having heard so much about Prof. Obioma’s spectacular performance in NERDC, his deeds naturally courted my attraction. On a good day, I decided together with a few colleagues to pay a visit to meet this rescuer of Nigeria’s education sector and also salute his lauded efforts in this agency.

Prof. Obioma’s impact and footprints in the agency astounded and marveled to infinitum. Because of limited space, I cannot touch on all that beseeched our eyes in the course of the visit. But the varsity don was the major architect and backbone of the current National Policy on Education (NPE) officially adopted to remodel our educational system in consonance with the dynamism of our socio-economic and political realities.

It’s a wide gamut of amazing innovations and reforms, which have reshaped, articulated and repositioned guidelines, objectives, standards, structures, strategies, and management patterns for attaining the national goals of education in a developing country like Nigeria. I think, he who deserves an applause should be given and Prof. Obioma is one such person.

He did a lot more by venturing into virgin or obscure areas like giving a formidable boost for the quest for education of Nigerians. He pioneered and raised a platform for indigenous educationists to consummate their full potentials through what NERDC tagged the National Book Policy (NBP) where books of indigenous authors are brought on stream in a special manner to embolden local creativity.

The NBP as crafted and implemented endorsed investigation and research into book development, the production of books in specialized areas; for example Braille for the visually impaired; support for the establishment and growth of libraries at all tiers of the educational system and promoting and rewarding local authorship of educational books in the country. And it is working even after his exit from NERDC.

Outstanding both in academics and administration, Prof. Obioma worked in several other establishments and later joined INEC. His talents and perfections were sighted and he was elevated to the position of Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of Ebonyi state. While serving in this capacity, Prof. Obioma sustained his evangelism on merit, hard work, honesty and commitment to duty. He is a public servant who abhors corrupt acts. He also brought his peculiar stamp of incorruptibility to bear on all INEC staff in the state office of Ebonyi state .

Therefore, when a few deviant staff under his supervision were fingered in collecting bribes to alter the results of the 2019 presidential elections, Prof. Obioma did not play the usual Nigerian game of godfatherism and cover-up of alleged offenders.

He believes, if Nigeria must become a great country, all bad eggs must be flushed out. He won my heart when he testified against indicted INEC staff for collecting N300 million bribe to manipulate results of the presidential elections in certain areas when he appeared at the Special Investigative Panel (SPIP).

Obioma’s strictness on discipline of subordinates and with eyes fixed on the dais as the Ebonyi state REC, the state and Nigeria ended up better for it when general elections were conducted. His good job was evident in the smaller number of post-elections petitions which emanated from Ebonyi in the last elections. The state had the least cases of post-election disputations in the election’s tribunal, a rarity in Nigeria. This is Obioma’s peculiar midas touch.

Those yet to decode President Buhari’s leadership idiosyncrasy, may not understand. But Mr. President endears himself to any Nigerian who demonstrates uprightness, selfless service and honesty in public office. I know, Mr. President has keenly monitored the impeccable antecedents of Prof. Obioma and knows, he is a suitable candidate to come on board of the train to the #Nextlevel.

Therefore, it never surprised me, when the President sought the golden fish, Prof. Obioma and appointed him the Registrar of National Examinations Council (NECO) in May last year. I discerned the NECO boss assignment as cleansing the cesspool of filth and maladministration which have become a defining character of that examination’s body. The NECO boss is on a familiar path. And in less than a year, Prof. Obioma is proving his mettle, by launching several innovations and reforms to standardize the operations of NECO.

The Coalition of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) hardly hail appointments of people into public offices; but that of Prof. Godswill Obioma as the National Examination Council boss was applauded because of his wealth of experience in educational sector. And the signs have started manifesting. Nigerians are aware of how he has shaped NECO in the last few months since taking over office.

Certainly, Godswill Obioma is a man destined for greatness as symbolized by his name and NECO is damn lucky to have him as its boss. It’s the beginning of its regeneration. Even a blind man needs no soothsayer to know that President Buhari is blessed to have some of the best hands in the various sectors, as today epitomized by Prof. Obioma.

With the likes of Adesina, Obioma and several others, it will indeed be a mission fulfilled and a legacy secured for President Muhammadu Buhari. Those seeking to frustrate his laudable policies and programmes might soon become frustrated themselves because there are competent gatekeepers and sentinels mounting the city gate to wade-off saboteurs and subverts. #

Agbese is a UK based human rights activist.

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Opinion

Ambassador TY Buratai: A Testament to Patriotism – By Oche Oche

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A story is told of Oedipus the King, a play written by Sophocles, a great Greek writer. Oracle of Apollos prophesied that Oedipus would kill his father and marry his mother, and so it came to be that Oedipus actually killed a man he met in the wilderness, but the same man happened to be his father, the king, and went on to marry the King’s wife (his mother, Jocasta).

The summary of the story is that, Oedipus became king by solving a riddle, which helped to save the land of Thebes from all kinds of plagues affecting the land. The new king gave the order that whoever that killed the king shall go on exile. At the end however, Oedipus was exiled from Thebes, because the man he once killed in the wilderness was the king. As he went on exile, the commoners watched in disbelief, and the commentary went that, “Behold the sons and daughters of Thebes. This was Oedipus, greatest of men; he held the key to the deepest mysteries; was envied by all his fellow men for his great prosperity. Behold, what a full tide of misfortune swept over his head.”

This lay credence to the words of Professor Patrick Lumumba that, “none can be called successful until the day that he or she dies and carries his or her success to the grave in peace.”
Who would have believed that such a doom would befall King Oedipus? Nevertheless, he ended up becoming a stranger among those whom he presided as a King, and whom he loved, cherished and adored.

Today, the searchlight is on the life and times of Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, who having served as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) for over five (5) years under President Buhari, may have recorded remarkable successes and made startling innovations in military tactics for national security. But like in the case of Oedipus, to say that he is successful is to be arrogant and misguided, because the rule is that one must die and carry his success together with him into the grave, to be considered a successful man.

While one may avoid any discussion on the success of Lt Gen TY Buratai, the fact remains that his life as COAS became a beacon of hope and practical demonstration of patriotism, loyalty and defender of the supreme document, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Many a times, patriotism is understood in a narrow sense to mean one’s loyalty and service to the fatherland, especially involving those serving in the army, risking their lives and defending their fatherland. More than that, patriotism also includes civilians who serve with honesty and commitment to the ideals of the land.

This is not borne out of some frenzied outbursts of emotions, but as Adlai Stevenson puts it, “patriotism involves the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. It consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that the country shall be righteous as well as strong.”

Since patriotism entails a lifetime struggle for a righteous, formidable, strong and prosperous nation, needless to doubt the patriotism and constitutional loyalty of Gen TY Buratai (rtd) as COAS for over five years. Ever since he was commissioned into the infantry Corps of the Nigerian Army in 1983, he served in different administrative and operational units, moving through the ranks as Lieutenant (January 1985); Captain (January 1989); Major (January 1994); Brigadier General (January 2009); Major General (January 2012); and Lieutenant General (August 2015). He won several awards, including Forces Service Star (FSS), Meritorious Service Star (MSS), Field Command Medal, and others.

Lieutenant-General TY Buratai’s patriotism and loyalty was recognized when on July 13, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him as Chief of Army Staff, which made him the highest military officer of the Nigerian Army, with the statutory responsibility to formulate and execute policies towards the highest attainment of national security and operational competence of the force.

As a patriotic Nigerian and COAS, TY Buratai demonstrated loyalty and kept faith with the relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Section 217 (2) states that the federation shall, subject to an Act of the National Assembly made in that behalf, equip and maintain the armed forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of defending Nigeria from external aggression, maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sea or air.

In the past beginning with first military intervention in Nigeria on January 15, 1966, it was fashionable to hear and witness coups and counter coups, with reasons such as corruption, abuse of power, nepotism and insecurity. Military interventions became so frequent that Afro-pessimists would say that, “coups were as frequent as breakfast.” Even the recent events of military interventions in Zimbabwe, Mali and the Sudan, were enough to sway the COAS to grab power because of man’s insatiable quest for power after power. For TY Buratai however, the constitution as a grand norm that embodies the laws of the land is sacrosanct.

There is no gain saying that Nigeria was bleeding on all fronts, providing a fertile ground for conspiracy leading ultimately to military intervention to save the ugly trend. The economy was and still structured in favour of few privileged individuals who live in affluence to the detriment of the majority of the people who live in misery and excruciating poverty, laying credence to Roberto Michel’s “Iron Law of Oligarchy,” that played out to ensure a gulf gap between the rich and the poor in Nigeria. It is amazing that the institutions of higher learning in Nigeria, with their research centres in a state of moribund, and hardly provides findings that would address the myriad challenges affecting life across the spectrum. These institutions produce medical doctors, but whenever we are sick, especially those from the political class, embark on medical tourism in foreign countries because in Nigeria, people die of even avoidable disease. Life has lost its value in the country.

Poverty is worn like breastplate in Nigeria, and this inhibits the people from exercising their volition on issues affecting their lives as daily as they live. Nigeria became the official world headquarters of poverty in 2019 based on a report from the World Poverty Clock. The same report predicts that, by the year 2030, more Nigerians would join the league of extremely poor people, making the country a home to the world poorest people.

Nigeria, the most populace nation amongst the black race has been embroiled in brutal campaigns occasioned by Boko-Haram insurgents, and accentuated by the religious extremism of the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP). Banditry, kidnapping, and armed-robbery attacks have taken the centre stage. Climate change too, has threatened Nigeria’s food security with the consequence of increased forced migration, and rising tensions that trigger conflict, including presently herdsmen attacks nationwide.

For TY Buratai, an enduring solution to the above socioeconomic and political debacles could not be found in the desecration of Nigeria’s democracy, but through dialogue, collaboration and synergy of arms of government, tiers of government and other critical stakeholders. His stock in trade was not taking to ‘blame-game,’ casting aspersions on other institutions for poor budgetary allocation, corruption, complicity, conspiracies of some stakeholders and the likes. The task before TY Buratai as a patriot was the decimation of Boko-Haram terrorists and other elements of insecurity in Nigeria. On December 22, he led his men to the war front where they successfully took over Sambisa Forest, a ground zero for the terrorist group in Nigeria.

As a demonstration of practical patriotism, the COAS recognized the constitutional provision in 217 (2)(c) which empowers the military to act in aid of civil power. This is why he collaborated with the Civilian Joint Task Force, civil society organizations, traditional rulers and religious bodies in the fight against insecurity and terrorism in Nigeria. This disposition earned him the award of Millennium Hero conferred on him by a coalition of over 80 civil society organizations.

For TY Buratai, it must be recognized that the constitution is a supreme document that embodies the laws of the land—laws which must be respected—to midwife the enjoyment of the rights of the people and to deliver for the public good. As demonstrated in the scriptures ((Number 16:21) in the case of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, who rebelled against the laws of Moses, were consumed along with others, prompting Moses’ declaration that, “there is no freedom outside of the law, and those who do not live by the law, shall die by the law.”
For democracy-loving and public-spirited individuals, this is the story of a patriot, Lieutenant General TY Buratai (rtd) who once served as Chief of Army Staff for over five years under the President Buhari-led administration in Nigeria. Let it be known that TY Buratai was once here, and this is the legacy for which he would be remembered.

Oche wrote this piece from Enugu, Enugu State.

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