Opinion

Lt. Gen. Buratai : As An Icon Bows Out Of Military Service

By Toby Prince

“Veni, vidi, vici, which means “I came, I saw, I conquered”- William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”.

The popularized dramatic character, known to us as Julius Caesar was a reconfigured and fictionalized personality in many of the plays of English outstandingly gifted playwright, William Shakespeare. Caesar lived in actual life and was indeed, a warrior of his times; an unbending conventional warfare mystique or enigma, a dozen centuries ago in Greek society.

I understand, through historical sources the near accurate accounts of a Greek historian, Appian of Alexandria, who wrote to the Roman Senate, proclaiming Caesar’s warfront victory against Pharnaces II of Pontus in the battle of Zela. It led to the cited quote, proclaiming Caesar’s victory to the glory of his country.

Shakespeare only replayed Julius Caesar’s valour in war through dramatic arts. The playwright only preserved the history of the battle exploits and bravery of a living legend, Julius Caesar. He wanted it etched in the psyche of his country and the world. Today, we talk about Julius Caesar with very little or even zero consideration of his energies/life devoted to rescuing his country from the cliffs of sword-bearing wolves.

I perceive the immediate past Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and watchdog of the counter-insurgency operations, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai in the fascinating significance of Julius Caesar’s historical fame. Nigerians forgets; and they forget very easily.

Nevertheless, as a liberal minded person, I will always concede to differing opinions on Gen. Buratai from Nigerians. He was their leader within the military realm. But it does not obviate reality, at least within my perceptive judgment of his tenure as COAS and Chief assegai-bearer of the counter-insurgency operations in the country.

So, in spite of whatever ill-feelings, misgivings or malice, any Nigerian nurses against Gen. Buratai , he has stamped and entrenched his image in my psyche or that of unbiased Nigerians, as Nigeria’s most iconic Military officer and vibrant leader of all times. I don’t think my assertion is wayward or off the track for those waiting to give me hard knocks. I hear some nauseating giggling that President Buhari sacked Gen. Buratai. Very erroneous! Mr. President only relived Gen. Buratai and the others to rest having done so impactfully in tackling insecurities in the country for over five years.

I always hotly argue with friends in disputation of the notion that leaders must be accepted by everybody. It’s not humanly tenable. A leader is loved and despised; he is scorned and even ridiculed. Whilst he served our fatherland at the risk of his life, Gen. Buratai was both hated and loved by the same people he served.

Gen. Buratai narrowly escaped assassination by the whiskers on the Mafa- Dikwa road, Borno state, in the hands of Boko Haram terrorists barely two weeks after his resumption of duty, while returning on operational tour of troops in the warzone. Insurgents ambushed him. It was in his very few weeks in office as Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and ombudsman of the counter-insurgency operations in the country.

That’s the inevitable cross of leadership. Perceptively, the intention of the Boko Haramists ambush on Gen. Buratai was predictable. Terrorists plotted to kill him or in the happenstance he escapes unhurt, Nigeria should have a frightened COAS, too scared to contemplate a visit to the theatre of war.

But incident rather bolstered Gen. Buratai. He personally stepped down from his convoy and led the battle against the ambushers. Scores of insurgents died! Today, I fondly recount his memories as an Army Chief who has personally spilled more blood of terrorists in the battlefront than the enemies had wished on him or have ever done to Nigerian troops.

In 2020 and within three weeks of Gen. Buratai’s relocation to the Northeast alone, over 2,000 Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists kissed death in the frontlines. Buratai’s cozy offices in Abuja were not his comfort zone really. Gen. Buratai was a leader who always preferred the trenches. That’s the mark of a gallant soldier.

Unfortunately, in the incident of insurgents attack on Gen. Buratai’s convoy, another gallant soldier of the out-gone Army Chief, a personal Military aide, died protecting his boss. May the soul of this courageous soldier rest in perfect peace. He paid the supreme price so that Gen. Buratai could live; he martyred himself so that Nigeria could defeat terrorists.

And I am excited we are near the point of total defeat of terrorists now. These are incidents that have excited me with Gen. Buratai’s years of faithful service to the nation.

And no matter the predisposition of anybody, it does not impair the genuine attributes and performance of a leader I have sighted in the soldier, Gen. Buratai. He perfectly squares into my philosophy and understanding of an ideal leader. He combines all the traits of leadership and professionalism-friendliness, humaneness, kindness, sternness, strictness, compassionateness, amiableness, a perpetual gaze on excellence and brutal frankness in all situations.

I can vividly recall the sunken state Gen. Buratai met the Nigerian Army in 2015. I can also write a whole book on the visible transformations Gen. Buratai has rubbed or imposed on the Nigerian Army in merely five to six years. Like Julius Caesar, Gen. Buratai came, saw and conquered, Nigeria’s insecurities at a very auspicious time when vicious evil drenched our country. A workaholic to the core, Gen. Buratai was never tired, moving from North to south on operational tour.

The erstwhile Army Chief is one soldier, I have never met, but through his actions, I have every reason to believe he is audacious, courageous, dexterous, determined and with eyes fixated on excellence on all his assignments. Even his most unrepentant and hardline critics cannot miss these exemplary qualities in him. He is my hero, an exceptional role model; a soldier versed in military craft, administrative excellence and the game of the trenches. That’s my ideal soldier!

How many of us ever dreamed that Boko Haram bombs and other explosive devices would stop exploding in Abuja, the nation’s capital city? Gen. Buratai told us its possible and he accomplished it. Did Nigerians ever believe that the rising tide of Militancy in the Niger Delta as propelled by the Niger Delta Avengers would subside for a smooth and uninterrupted exploration of Nigeria’s crude oil?

We must not stop asking these questions to prick the conscience of a sleepy Nigeria. Did we ever know the malignant cancer in the Southeast of Nigeria called IPOB, whose members were used by an opportunist with a flaccid nationality known as Nnamdi Kanu, who gladly indulged in extra-judicial killings of their own kith and kin in the guise of secession agitations would have respite? Kanu’s brigandage was the worse form of roguery in Nigeria’s recent history. His IPOB overpowered the Police, but Gen. Buratai halted its lacerations on Nigerians’ very noiselessly.

It takes a heart imbued with compassion and mercy to lead impactfully in Nigeria. We all live in this country and knows what determined sabs could do to a dedicated leader. Gen. Buratai was not spared the rod of organized saboteurs. The destructive leeches were unleashed everywhere. But he cleverly dodged the arrows hurled at him and rather preferred concentrating on the national assignment Mr. President had given him. He ignored the campaigns of denigrations tossed at him.

Let’s be frank with ourselves again! Before the administration of President Buhari , did we believe the five states in the Northeast, which Boko Haram extended suffocating tentacles in its vicious venom would ever know peace and tranquility? Leaders, sponsors and sympathizers of Boko Haram are pretty aware that the cursed religious extremists have been restricted to the fringes of Lake Chad in Borno state, which shares borders with neighboring countries like Niger, Chad and the rest by Gen. Buratai.

A globally acclaimed warmonger and advocate of peace, Gen. Buratai has not disappointed us. The performances of troops in the frontlines over manifold insecurity challenges in the country have been commendably outstanding in the frontlines. Can Abubakar Shekau roar again with the fury of a demigod over Nigerians like he did in the years past? Gen. Buratai has reduced him to a living vegetable in his hideout?

I look at the new Army schools Buratai has built or the old ones revived under his leadership. These are rare innovations; the Nigerian Army least expected that Nigeria is capable of establishing specialized schools for its Army or the Military. The Nigerian Army University Biu, (NUAB), Nigerian Army Aviation School, Nigerian Army War College, separate from Nigerian War College are some of the additions Gen. Buratai is bequeathing to his constituency as legacies. How did the incident of female suicide bombers end? Gen. Buratai introduced the novel Nigerian Army’s Female Corps.

Buratai’s ingenuity broke the cultural or traditional prohibitions on curbing female suicide bombers. We have stopped running away from ATM queues when a female teenager dressed in “hijab” is sighted. Anyone who still insists that Gen. Buratai wasted his years in office as Army boss is a potential psychotic patient.

Abubakar Shekau can only bark now, but cannot bite. All of us knows it. He dreads Gen. Buratai like anyone would dread a searing apparition in a dream. Whoever thought, aside the popularized Chibok schoolgirls, there were not more than 20,000 Nigerians held hostage by Boko Haram in secret gulags is truly a joker. Gen. Buratai rescued them from the grip of captors.

Borno state Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum has repeatedly reminded us that before the Buhari Presidency, Boko Haram insurgents had illegally appropriated at least 21 LGAs and enclaves in the Northeast- very famously, Gwoza, Baga and Bama areas. Buratai’s poisonous slap on their faces recovered all of them. I know that by today, none of Nigeria’s territories is under Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists’ administrative control.

Therefore, Gen. Buratai was not sacked as some persons believe. He had to naturally bow out of active military service at the discretion of Mr. President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN). That day was July 26th, 2021. Sir, please, enjoy the blissful ease of retirement after a meritorious service to fatherland. We are proud of your golden torch on terrorists!

Regardless of the thoughts of your adversaries, you were truly a great leader together with your colleagues’ in the hierarchy of Service Chiefs. And in all of you my great leaders, I dare say with the inspiration of your collectively rewarding service to nationhood, we are well pleased. Again, have a blissful retirement with God Almighty’s ordained longevity. Gen. Buratai, “ you came, you saw and you conquered.

Prince wrote this piece from Abuja.

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