By Esther Okpabi
Lieutenant General Yusuf Tukur Buratai; When I heard he had been made the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of the Nigeria Army I knew we were in for a game changer. He first caught my attention when in May 2015 and upon assumption of office, President Buhari invigorated the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) and made then Major General Tukur Buratai the head. Even though his tenure was short- lived his impact in that short period was huge. Nigeria made huge success in taking back territories that had hitherto been taken over by Boko Haram Terrorist group. I guess his performance within that short period must have been part of the reason why the president opted appoint him as the Chief of Army Staff later. I would not have done otherwise if I were the President. Consequently, the remarkable growth made since Buratai became Chief of Army Staff, adjudged by the headway made by the Nigerian Army against the terrorist group Boko haram has come without surprises.
As President Buhari will always say “We must first secure the country before we can manage it” No one understood this phrase more than Lt Gen Buratai. He acted with the resolve of someone who knew the urgency and the importance of the task ahead. The command and control HQ of the theater of war was moved to Maiduguri, he was practically almost always in Maiduguri every week in his first few months of assumption of office as COAS despite other army management commitments across the country. His actions boosted the moral of the troops on ground and further motivated them for the subsequent results that are now evident for all to see.
In the last 3 and half years as COAS, Buratai has worked hard on a massive rearmament of the Army. He has carried out major reorganization of various units of the army for more efficiency. A lot of effort has been put into modernization of army equipment and processes.
The Nigeria army created two new divisions under Buratai’s watch: The 6th division of The Nigeria Army with headquarters in Port-Harcourt and the 8th division with headquarters in Sokoto. The creations of these new divisions have helped improved security in both the North- West region and the South- South region tremendously.
He has also helped in the streamlining of procurement processes within the Army to make it more transparent thereby reducing graft significantly. Prior to now, some Generals saw the funds for prosecuting the war against insurgency as a bazaar and shared same with relatives and cronies.
If we can recollect where we were a few years ago and compare with where we are now, we may be able to appreciate the success made so far; from having 14 local governments under Boko Haram control to zero Local governments under Boko Haram. The same soldiers that were fleeing from terrorist a few years back are now doing the chasing; which is some huge success by any standard.
The humility of the man at the center of all this success is admirable. Despite grand attempts to distract him, he remains focused and unperturbed. It is very hard keeping a focus let alone making giant strides when, some people are determined to bring you down by every means.
Lt Gen Buratai could not be doing this without the sense of exceptional patriotism that he has. At such difficult times as these, if you are not very patriotic it will be very difficult to succeed in such national assignment as it is easy to bend , conform to the status quo and just enjoy your tenure without rocking any boat, after all you are already at the pinnacle of your career. But not Buratai, whilst other generals preferred to enrich themselves, He rather decided to get down to the arduous task of repositioning the army to be able to confront the current challenges facing our nation.
Many who know Lt General Tukur Buratai will not be surprised at the success he has made. He was raised by a world war two veteran, known for his uprightness and discipline, so no surprise at what Lt Gen Tukur Buratai has turned out to be, a disciplined and professional soldier like his father, Alhaji Yusuf Buratai. His father must have been very proud to be alive to see his son not only rise to the top of his career but also to see him perform so excellently, I cannot imagine his joy.
Lt Gen Tukur Buratai was recently awarded “Life Patron” of the Institute of Economics of Nigeria. This is a well-deserved award. In a country where awards are often lavished on politicians, who practically do nothing for the country but cause more problems sometimes; It is refreshing to hear about this award to Lt Gen Buratai as it is well deserved.
Many know Buratai for tackling insecurity and boko haram headlong but there’s more that stands him out, he is cerebral. Speak to those who work closely with him and they will tell you how that his attention to details is exceptional. He is a good listener which perhaps may be one of the reasons for a good turnout of quality decisions.
LT Gen Buratai has a degree in History from University of Maiduguri, He has a Master of Philosophy in Security Studies from the Bangladesh University of Professionals, Dhaka. He is a graduate of the Nigerian Defense Academy, Kaduna, and he is also a graduate of National Defense College Mirpur, Bangladesh. He is a well-read soldier; his “barrels” are not empty; no wonder many Ivory Towers across the globe have reverted to his faculty. He has earned many titles in his career among them the famous “Pass Staff College” Dagger (PSC Dagger).
Buratai is a model to young and upcoming Nigerians who may want to join the Army or other professional discipline, he is a symbol that hard work and dedication to duty will stand you out any day. He has devoted himself to personal development and giving all to his duty. He is a soldier’s soldier.
That’s perhaps why the honour keeps pouring in. The Centre for Contemporary Security Studies, Igbinedion University Okada recently named the Centre after Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, It is a honuor well deserved. His wealth of knowledge and experience will help the Centre greatly. Very few security personnel can boast of the kind of experience and knowledge Buratai brings to the table.
I am particularly glad that honour is now going to those that deserve it. This will boost the morale of both officers and men of the Nigeria army who put their lives on the line daily. The young men and women who study at the school will also be beneficiaries of this knowledge. I read that Buratai has been given the honour to determine the topics that will be taken in the annual lecture of the institute henceforth, that’s a lot of resources that will be unleashed on the institute considering the sphere of influence of the General, I can only imagine the impact on the institute a few years from now.
I will close with this quote from Theodore Roosevelt, Former President of the United States of America “If there is not the war, you don’t get the great general; if there is not a great occasion, you don’t get a great statesman; if Lincoln had lived in a time of peace, no one would have known his name.”
The Boko haram challenge helped to produce a Lt General Tukur Buratai, whose life will be a mentoring manual for many young Nigerians and indeed Africans for generations.
Okpabi wrote from the department of Peace and conflict resolution, New Nile University, Abuja.