When he served as Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and leader of the counter-insurgency operations, Ambassador Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai (rtd), stretched his last energies to save his country from the twinges of insurgencies and insurrections. He donated his life and strength to the cause of liberating humanity to the best of his capacity and conscience for six years in leading the battle in the trenches.
But life has mixed experiences; some pleasant and others unpleasant. Thus, Buratai has been publicly arbitrated maliciously or accurately eulogised based on who holds the other end of the stick, as ennobled by his personal perceptions.
Nonetheless, he is not exhausted yet. There are still a lot of treasures embedded in Buratai unknown to many Nigerians. He is a mystique of some sort, with multilayered ingeniousness. It’s easy to describe him as a soldier of the trenches or a warmonger of the finest breed. And it’s also very appealing to denote Gen. Buratai as an administrator of rare configuration in military circles. His service records yawns with uncommon accomplishments.
But these are just the elementary understanding of Nigeria’s envoy to the Republic of Benin, Buratai.
He created wondrous impacts and made indelible imprints in Nigeria’s battles with Boko Haram terrorism. In just five years, he set unimaginable records in the anti-terrorism combats in the country. His shadows while he served his fatherland in the warfront were acknowledged by national and international bodies/ world leaders.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointment of Buratai and his posting to the Republic of Benin was for strategic reasons. Fighting and defeating terrorism requires more than just having a properly trained army and warfare weapons. It transcends such basic considerations. It needs international alliances, collaboration and partnership with other foreign nations.
Benin Republic is strategic to Nigeria for several reasons. As a nation which shares a major commercial border with Nigeria- the Seme border, the country has come with its enough blessings on the economic front; and much as the concomitant burden. Both legitimate and illicit trade transactions occur on the border. The Seme border’s most terrifying nightmare to Nigeria includes trans-border crimes such as smuggling of firearms and contraband goods into the country.
While smuggled weapons have exacerbated insecurity in Nigeria; smuggled goods deny the Nigeria its essential revenue or tax levies on imported goods. Importation of banned items also destroys the local economy and kills productivity. Nigeria has battled with these malaises for years.
Angered by the danger posed by such sabotaging acts, President Buhari closed Nigerian borders, including the Seme border in August 2019, to curb smuggling of goods and weapons by these economic criminals.
Nigeria’s greatest problem on insecurity is battling banditry and terrorism, which has lasted for over 10 years. Much as the country has attempted to weaken terrorists and bandits operations within, they resurge from time to time, exalting more powers through smuggled weapons into the country.
Through subtle talks and persuasions, Benin Republic joined the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), a regional security outfit set up to confront the madness of terrorism in the West African sub-region. He is in a better position and more experienced to search for diplomatic solutions to Nigeria’s porous borders which facilitate smuggled weapons from that axis by striking a mutual understanding with the country to checkmate the trend.
Gen. Buratai performed incredibly, as Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) in the very few months of his resumption of duty. He is again replicating the same feat in Benin. Nigerians are looking forward to more of such exploits in his mission in Benin Republic. And the quick wins have started trickling into Nigeria, evident in the curtailing of the flow of smuggled weapons into the country. The reduced tempo in acts of terror or banditry. The series of surrenders by terrorists and armed gangs to the Nigerian Army is an apt indication of their suffocation in various ways, including weapons supply.
Amb. Buratai has hit the ground running in his usual fashion. And as a friendly and likeable leader, the Nigerian Embassy staff in Benin Republic are in high spirits to work with him. They are excited with his vision of service and willing to actively assist him to re-energize his foreign mission in that country. Gen. Buratai’s (rtd) reign will definitely birth prosperity for both nations.
Despite the asymmetric, complexity and international dimension of the Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorism, and the dwindling fortunes of the Nigerian troops in the areas of equipment, motivation and the will to fight, Buratai has within a short time succeeded in reinvigorating troops’ morale and fighting spirit through deliberate multiple dynamic war strategies to keep pace with the mutating nature of terrorism.
The NA in collaboration with other security agencies have so far dominated the area of combat and continue to carry out sustained operations against the Boko Haram and ISWAP Criminals.
Similar operations are simultaneously going on intensively in the North-western states of Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto and Zamfara to checkmate banditry activities like kidnapping, cattle rustling, farmers-herders clashes, among others.
Internal security operation in Nigeria has improved dramatically from where we were in 2015 when Buratai took over command of the NA. Before he took over as the army chief, NA was in most cases in the news for abuse of human rights and some professional misconduct such as reckless extortion on the highways, illegal duty and poor dressing among others. These professional malfeasances have been gradually eradicated to the barest minimum through deliberate institutionalized efforts by the COAS.
Security challenges such as farmers/herders conflict, communal conflict, kidnapping, armed robbery, arms sales/arms proliferation, armed robbery and Cultism as well as violent activities of outlawed secessionist agitators have been checkmated to the level that the hitherto troubled zone is now one of the most peaceful region in Nigeria.
Similarly, in both South-south and South-west zones, the threats of militancy, kidnapping, sea piracy, illegal oil bunkering and pipeline vandalization have all been brought to the barest points.
Although there are some potent threats that require continuous operational review which the NA under Buratai is working on a regular basis.
As a polyvalent military strategist and war time military commander, Buratai has since recognized the importance of civil populace in helping to win war against terrorism and banditry activities.
The NA has so far witnessed a lot of reorganization and injection of modern equipment, platforms and hardwares in a bid to improve the overall operational responsiveness, effectiveness and efficiency. It is on record that new divisions and new commands have been created namely 6 Division Port Harcourt, 7 Division Maiduguri and 8 Division Sokoto to combat terrorism and the lingering insecurity across the country.
Also Special Forces Command, Nigerian Army Women Corps, NA Special Forces Training School in Buni Yadi Yobe state and Cyber Warfare Command among many institutional reforms were created by the COAS for the present and indeed more profoundly future benefits of Nigeria.
Training and retraining of NA personnel is one of the topmost priorities of Gen Buratai. For instance, at an occasion recently, Buratai said –”In the area of training, we have expanded our in-theater training for troops in the frontlines to afford them the required capabilities to operate and conduct effective operations. Special attention was also given to providing local and foreign training opportunities for all cadres of officers and men.
We hereby hail the Army General turned diplomat, for all these achievements.
Danfulani writes from Abuja.