By Salim Umar Ibrahim
The history of the Nigerian Army has been since the colonial masters actively involved themselves in the activities and creation of the country, with traces to three 19th Century military formations, established first in 1862 by Captain John Glover, of a small Hausa militia to defend the British Colony of Lagos.
The mission behind the formation was to expand imperial defence when dispatched to the Gold Coast during the Asante expedition of 1873-74, performing both police and military duties until 1895, when an independent Hausa force was carved out of the constabulary and given exclusive military functions which as a result, perpetuated the use of Hausa as a lingua franca of command in Ghana and Nigeria. This, among other reasons marked the historical evidence of the ethnic imbalance that has characterized the Nigerian Armed Forces to this day.
Going by the above assertions, it is clear evident that the Hausa blood has been a driving force in the veins of the “Nigerian Army” since inception, and by virtue, could be explicably attributed to the performance of both present and past high ranking officers in the field.
The Nigerian Army got its first Chief of Staff in 1956 then under the watch of General Officer Commanding (GOC), Major General Kenneth G. Exham, who reigned through 1959 after which Major General Foster succeeded him and saw the birth of Nigeria as an independent country in 1960.
Subsequently, witnessing series of high ranking officers rising and earning the position to date all within the ranks of Major General and Lieutenant General, having the giant Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai as the 29th in the position in the history of the nation, came in as a result of a major shake-up in the military high command by President Muhammadu Buhari on July 13, 2015.
The distinguished soldier right away set the ball rolling by flipping all pages open in efforts to end the menace of the haunting challenges of insurgency more specifically in the Northern Region and security in the country at large.
Why all the waving? Is to have a clear view of how it all started, having men of timber and caliber to steer the wheel right affront in order to protect the country’s image and integrity.
The Niger Delta militancy and Boko Haram insurgency pose the greatest security threat to the nation since the end of the civil war in 1970. Durable peace has remained elusive since the country returned to civil rule in 1999 after 16 years of continued military dictatorship.
Though political instability is neither peculiar to nor new in the country, the radicalization of Niger Delta militants in the South and the Boko Haram insurgents in the North has seriously become disturbing new trends.
It is indeed no news that Lieutenant General Buratai has proved beyond doubt that he is a true hero by standing up against all odds, sweeping into all nooks and crannies in countering anti-terrorism in the nation and still on foot. This, one no need to ask anyone coming from the nation’s North Eastern part.
History was there and most of us have witnessed the most brutal and blood shedding of the Nigerian civil war, how it started and was won, leaving the Niger Delta insurgency as one terror group bedeviling the country.
But, with the coming of the Boko Haram insurgency, how it began in 2009, when the group started an armed rebellion against the government of Nigeria, spreading through 2012, after which tension within the group split into a conservative and more dominant, violent faction resulting to having one part into al-Qaeda affiliated and the other became ISIL’s West Africa branch by 2015, insurgency then got a ground to stay and purely established – performing operations at wish and at when due, everywhere is at risk, the security situation was poorly implemented. Remember, there was still a top General on seat, but not anyone is capable of doing the do when it wakes up and raises its head.
What happened then with the coming of anti-terrorism hero? “Operation Lafiya” was set up to counter terrorism and insurgency. It was later expanded to specialized operations including “Operation Crackdown,”“Operation Gama Aiki,” launched to clear the remnants of Boko Haram from the Northern part of Borno State and the border regions with Chad and Niger Republic as a joint operation with the Nigerian military and the regional Multinational Joint Task Force, Gama Aiki, in particular, targeting terrorists fleeing “Operation Crackdown.”
After a bull-by-the-horn taking style and bringing the security situation to a state of calm, Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai renamed the code name for the war on terror to “Operation Zaman Lafiya Dole,” thus signaling his determination to attain peace in the North East by force by embarking in a major restructuring in all commanding posts and units around the country having the command more stronger and effective in its combat against insurgency, recording henceforth much success and a continual neutralization of several Boko Haram insurgents, making arrests, the freeing of abducted hostages and discovery of bomb making factories.
Then “Operation Awatse” came in 2016, designed to dismantle the operational bases of pipeline vandals and militants who made life unbearable in the coastal areas of the South West Region – a place known for notorious all sort of underworld dealings. Since then, there has been relative peace in the entire area and “Operation Delta Safe” took up with the mandate to protect Oil and Gas Infrastructures, deter and prevent sea robbery, crude oil theft and other criminalities that could impact negatively on economic activities in the Niger Delta.
Nevertheless, just of recent, the “Operation Crocodile Smile III” was launched across some states of the Niger Delta, to stern the tide of pipeline vandalism in the region.
Ahead of the 2019 general elections, all in a bid to protect the integrity of the country and maintain peace, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Buratai launched “Operation Python Dance” in all 36 states of the federation in efforts to combat threats such as stockpiling of arms by criminal groups, formation of ethnic militias and violence induced by political activities. What else could one ask for?
In 2017, the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) reported that the killing of innocent people victimized by the Boko Haram insurgency has reduced by 80 per cent. Another report shows that the nation has recorded the biggest decrease in terrorism worldwide with a landslide of a number of 3,100 fewer people killed in 2015.
We have also clearly seen how this distinguished soldier, who senses wrong from miles away tried to disintegrate in 2017 by commissioning the 7 Division Human Rights Office at the Maimalari Cantonment in Maiduguri, instituted to promote good human and boost civil-military relations in the counter-insurgency campaign – human rights were also given due consideration.
No doubt, the series of operations being executed within a very short period of time all in effort to counter insurgency in Nigeria and beyond have stood and have a place in the book of history, undoubtedly, from Operation Lafiya Dole down to Ruwan Wuta has yielded the desired outcome which, is now giving birth to LAST HOLD!
Forgive my negligence, but, can I ask a question? Where are all these today? I guess you and I don’t need an answer from anyone else, because we all knew, Sambisa has now become a home and will soon become a tour zone.
Terrorism in the world has never been eliminated, but can only be defeated and reduced to the nearest minimum. It has been defeated and on the verge of breaking the record by suffering elimination.
Anything else, contrary to the development being experienced and still counting by the Nigerian Army under Buratai, shall be taken as envy because it will be doubtful and absolutely hard to have such a true, selfless and tough hero today who deserves a “World Honour” and accolades to bath him clean.
Ibrahim wrote in from Kano and can be reached via his e-mail address: email@example.com