By Omoba Kenneth Aigbegbele
According to William Hazlitt, a British essayist (1778-1830), “The world judges men by their ability in their professions, and we judge ourselves by the same test; for it is on this that our success in life depends.” May I also be permitted to use the words of Johann Wofgang Von Goette, a German author (1749-1832), who said: “The man, who is born with a talent which he was meant to use, finds his greatest happiness in using it.”
Some of the seemingly intractable challenges facing Nigeria as a nation today are the pockets of crises across the country that are more serious than the dismissal of same as threats to internal security.
Today, Nigerians will agree, as the agitators for ‘Biafra’ to emanate out of the present Nigeria, gun-toting herdsmen, the Niger Delta militants, kidnappers, from all over the country are beginning to toe that evil line, which is causing a lot of people in authority and the entire nation some discomfort. The government sending troops to rout them is evidence that, indeed, they are real problems that must be confronted in a decisive manner.
However, finding a lasting solution to the problem of internal dissention has assumed an urgent dimension that can no longer be played down, let alone ignored.
The excuse of state police and community policing has been at the front burner of national discourse, but what has kept it back in the cooler is the abuse that this policy might be used to persecute perceived enemies and political opponents alike.
As the security situation in the country grows unabated, it becomes worrisome and alarming that the citizenry now have their hearts in the mouths as they go about for livelihoods and the growing fear of being kidnapped, killed, and maimed without protection whatsoever is daily becoming more frightening. It behooves on any serious government to do the needful.
Buoyed by an innate desire, coupled with patriotism to serve his country at this most critical time, Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. General Tukur Buratai came to the rescue of his fatherland as a colossus with multi-dimensional military reforms by introducing and implementing plans and policies focused on professionalism, discipline, transparency, and accountability to democratic ethos and patriotism.
Sequel to the emergence of General Buratai, Nigerian soldiers were notorious for indulgence in public malfeasances, denigrating their uniforms by sheer ego and bravado, without recourse to the consequences of their actions.
General Buratai embarked on word and psychological cleansing of the personnel aimed at refreshing their memories in professional ethics through seminars, courses as well as engaging in strategic military partnership across the globe to train and build the capacities of the men and officers of the Nigerian Army in the area of counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism, decapitating the Boko Haram insurgency and ISWAP terrorists in the North-East.
General Buratai also took a look within the Nigerian Army to enhance the welfare packages of the men and officers, vis-à-vis their high motivational esprit-de-corps. He also helped in building social amenities within the barracks; promotion and procurement of military hardware; creation of new military departments to conform to 21st century requirements; monumental degree of infrastructure development across all the formations of the Nigerian Army.
Indeed, remarkable increase in the Army equipment holdings and improved maintenance culture emerged. The Army is no longer on the defensive, as they now define the territory of combat and battle taken to the doorsteps of the aggressors. Under General Buratai, the Nigerian Army is a consummate Praetorian Guard of the nation’s inviolability.
Consequently, Nigeria’s 26th Chief of Army Staff (COAS) who was appointed on July 13, 2015, galvanized himself and swung into action, launching his campaign on an enduring philosophy and vision of an army devoid of politics. A man of few words, blending words with actions and by December 2015, barely five months into his appointment, Boko Haram was technically decimated and degraded, leading to their total defeat in December 2016. Unarguably, the last vestiges of the Boko Haram insurgency were displaced from the Sambisa Forest at “Camp Zero.”
The gallant Nigerian troops also dismantled the official flag of the terrorists, having liberated all the captured local government areas hitherto seized by the anarchists. What we have today are small cells where the terrorists launch opportunistic attacks to show they are still in existence. Expectedly, General Buratai’s feat has attracted odium from detractors, who have repeatedly tried to haul mud at him, but he refused to be distracted by such innuendoes and invidious campaign of calumny and media trials.
General Buratai is always there at the hour of need. It is his belief that Nigeria should come first at all times. He thinks, eats and sleeps security, peace and unity of Nigeria; these are paramount to him. His loyalty and patriotism to the nation are unequalled.
General Buratai has also done a lot of sacrifices, including the Nigerian Army which has lost men and officers at the prime of their careers in safeguarding the territorial integrity of the nation. To prove his sincerity, he initiated and launched the Human Rights Desk, the Procurement Department as well as the Civil-Military Affairs Department, the Motorized Brigade, establishment of the Nigerian Army University, Biu, and the re-introduction of military at the Nigerian Military School (NMS), Zaria.
He has compelled officers to declare their assets with the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB). He has, as well, created adequate contingency plans for wounded soldiers.
The Nigerian Army, under General Buratai, has embarked on the provision of social amenities and infrastructure such as roads and electricity to the communities in the North-East region ravaged by terrorist attacks as part of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and soldiers at times became voluntary teachers to pupils in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps.
They also embarked on intermittent free medical treatment of ailing Nigerians in communities hosting them while on special assignments.
A lot of these terrorists and criminals had been de-radicalized and given new re-orientation by the Nigerian Army, so as to live in the society. And, a lot of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) had also relocated to their former homes within the North-East region and the virtual presence of the soldiers within these locations have boosted the confidence of the IDPs to reside peacefully in their abodes, all funded by the Nigerian Army, which cut across all regions, where the Army operates. All these are realities that were never linked to the Nigerian Army in the past, but came to being under the gallant leadership of General Buratai.
Indeed, General Buratai is walking the talk. As the soldier’s General, he has placed loyalty to the state above personal interest. In spite of the daunting challenges, he has reformed, refocused and repositioned the Nigerian Army for effective combat readiness in tandem with best global practice.
No wonder that is why Nigerian Army today is rated the best in Africa!
General Buratai is quietly repositioning the Nigerian Army into the strongest and most formidable force in Africa by his gradual actualization of his blue-print and road map of making the Army professionally responsive to Nigerians in the discharge of its constitutional roles and assignments.
He has, as well, consistently warned the men and officers to be apolitical in all their undertakings. That was why the Nigerian Army’s roles have been greatly acknowledged in stabilization of the policy and the electoral process.
The election observers from the international community are more excited and have argued plausibly that Nigeria did not burst into flames, all because of the dogged resolve of the Nigerian Army under General Buratai and his forces as well as its para-military security agencies.
As the Nigerian Army basks in the euphoria of a refocused, refined and repositioned 21st century army that prides itself as a super-power in the African region, Nigerians, indeed, the international community should lend their support to the army. This is because of its strategic and onerous task by safeguarding the territorial integrity of the nation, as well as joining the army leadership to re-invigorate the fight against militants, insurgents, criminals, kidnappers and herdsmen across the length and breadth of the country, for its socio-economic growth and development.
The Nigerian Army, on its own, has rekindled and pledged its support for the Nigerian constitution, as well as supportive of the democratic structures of the country in whatever aspect it is called. This is to add value and deepen democracy in the country.
As such, the suspicious nature of politicians and a few Nigerians towards the activities of the Nigerian Army in bringing about long lasting peace to the country calls for concern as operations to be embarked upon by our military are always tainted towards an ulterior motive of militarizing the space and muzzling the civil populace, which is not the case.
Worried by the incessant attacks of kidnappings, armed robberies, armed rustlings, criminalities, farmers-herdsmen clashes, insurgency and counter-insurgency within the country, the military has been, from time to time, engaged in a civil populace approach to rid the nooks and crannies of the country of these criminal elements tagged under different military operations since the advent of the 26th Chief of Nigeria’s Army Staff.
This has greatly curbed the menace once and for all. Yes, we have collectively agreed that it remains the constitutional responsibility of the Nigeria Police to deal with such issues like internal security, but the military can as well be co-opted when and where necessary because of the police unavoidable incapability to deal with ever increasing dimension of such security needs in the country.
The Nigerian Army, after critical information and intelligence gathering by its hierarchy, has discovered there was a resurgence of these criminal activities across the country, orchestrated by fifth columnists and the re-grouping of cells of Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists across the country.
In view of the foregoing, it has decided to cleanse this Augean stable of criminal elements across the country, but was met by hues and cries from the political class, accusing the Nigerian Army of trying to muzzle the populace.
It is indeed sad, as the Chief of Army Staff was summoned to the National Assembly and a lot of Nigerians took to the social media to castigate and malign the Nigerian Army in its ask of safeguarding the territorial integrity of the nation. Is prevention not better than cure any longer? The Nigerian Army will do anything possible to secure lives and property as it is their duty and obligation to do so no matter whose ox is gored.
Yours sincerely is in tandem with these operations carried out to rid the country of criminal elements, so we can live in peace and tranquility.
The Nigerian Army has been involved in numerous operations across the country such as the Operation Harbin Kunama I, II and III, Operation Sharan Daji, Operation Lafiya Dole, Operation Safe Corridor, Operation Atilogwu Udo I (Dance of Peace), Exercise Egwu Eke (Python Dance), Exercise Ayem A Kpatema II, Operation Crocodile Smile, Operation Delta Safe, Operation Safe Conduct.
As we speak, there are various military operations going on in 30 out of the 36 states of the federation. There is no gain-saying the fact that the innovations brought by the Nigerian Army leadership should be applauded for the results so far achieved.
As these military exercises and operations are intelligence-based, it is aimed at keeping the nation secure and safe. Whatever it does today has national and security agenda and therefore, its activities should not be misconstrued by mischief makers or a few Nigerians to serve their selfish and inordinate ambitions.
Yours sincerely keenly noted that, in its task to safeguard and protect the lives and property of Nigerians, the Army has on several occasions, sacrificed young career men and officers with aged parents and families left behind. These are people that are being looked upon as celebrities, patriots and heroes. But in Nigeria, the reverse is the case.
Therefore, we need to engage Nigerians to begin to look at our military men and officers as heroes, who are ready to pay the ultimate price for peace and unity. They therefore deserve our accolades, commendations and honour for their oath of allegiance to our nation. It is high time, we celebrated the armed forces, and it is high time we accorded them their rights in their fatherland.
The Nigerian Army is usually called upon by the civil authorities to give a helping hand, which is empanelled by Section 271 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to assist the civil authorities on addressing internal security challenges, aside its primary constitutional role of protecting the territorial integrity of the country, which is also backed by the Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. General A. G. Olonisakin and the Ministry of Defence.
Our military forces have remained the best led, best trained and best equipped. It is therefore high time we inspired them with our words, actions and support as they go out daily to make their ultimate sacrifices. At a time when people play politics virtually in everything, the military doggedly continues to make sacrifices to keep the nation together.
It is therefore pertinent for all and sundry to support the officers and men of the Nigerian Army. Therefore, instead of castigating them, we should rather encourage them. We are enthralled each time soldiers move into communities for special assignments, they socialize with the host community instantly and make them friends for information and intelligence gathering.
Just recently, the Nigerian Army launched Operation Positive Identification, by giving information that would assist in the identification and arrest of fleeing Boko Haram terrorists in any part of the country. The operation which is to last from 1st November to 23rd December, 2019, is an integral part complementary to Operation Lafiya Dole in the North-East, Atilogwu Udo I (Dance of Peace) in the South-East, Operation Ayem A Kpatema in the North-Central, as well as Operation Crocodile Smile in South-South zone respectively.
This intelligence-based, deliberate and targeted operation was condemned by a few Nigerians, the National Assembly as well as insignificant number of civil society organizations, due to inadequate awareness on the importance of the proposed exercise.
However, this exercise was aimed at fishing out fleeing Boko Haram members and other criminal elements, who had infiltrated the length and breadth of the country at this yuletide season.
However, with the mass media campaign orchestrated by the Nigerian Army, it is changing the narrative of the Nigerian public as to the gains of the exercise and that it intends to achieve, which ostensibly led to the capture of eight Boko Haram members a few days ago in Lagos in their plan to rock the boat.
Part of the plans for the operation across the country by the Nigerian Army is that during the yuletide, there would be an upsurge in criminal activities across the country. This was discovered after meaningful security information gathering. To combat this trend, the Nigerian Army now embarks on a pro-people and civilian operation bearing in mind the rules of engagement in a democratic society and best global practices at all times.
However, a Federal High Court in Lagos recently ordered the Nigerian Army leadership to maintain the status quo, regarding the operation, pending determination of the suit challenging it.
Consequently, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) should have embarked on a nation-wide campaign to teach, create awareness and enlighten the public on the essence of the operation and what to do to counter the activities of terrorists. The campaign will educate people how to inform the police or other security agencies when a terrorist is noticed, how to discourage our wards from joining terrorist groups and as well as possible self-defence strategies. With such orientation, the society would be put on alert against criminal elements roaming about in our society.
As Buratai displays his avowed patriotism as a professional colossus towards Nigeria, no fewer than 450 armoured vehicles of various types are completely refurbished by Nigerian Army Electrical and Mechanical engineers at various workshops across the country.
This has put paid to the over-reliance on foreign equipment and spare parts which had been a huge setback in the immediate past, thereby boosting our local military prowess.
The Chief of Army Staff’s patriotism and loyalty to his country and his readiness to sacrifice even his life for Nigeria and Nigerians should stimulate passion of endearment to him.
Whether serving in the Niger Delta creeks or Bakassi Peninsula or the states on the fringes of Nigeria’s North-East region, General Buratai remains an impartial soldier, who has placed premium on national interest higher than any other consideration.
He sure deserves a national honour as a statesman, academician and gentleman soldier for the successes achieved so far as well as the various innovations brought on board.
It is therefore necessary to urge General Buratai not to relent on his oars as he drives his mission and vision of protecting the nation’s territorial integrity, and safeguarding the lives and property in the country.
Omoba Kenneth Aigbegbele is Executive Secretary, CWAI and President, COCMEGG, Abuja.