By; IBRAHIM DAHIRU DANFULANI
When he served, as Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and leader of the counter-insurgency operations, His Excellency, 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. So, Amb. Buratai has been publicly arbitrated maliciously or accurately eulogized 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 Gen. Buratai (rtd) unknown to many Nigerians. He is a mystique of some sort, with multilayered ingeniousness. Its 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, His Excellency, Amb. Tukur Y. Buratai. He created wonderous impacts and made indelible imprints in Nigeria’s battles with Boko Haram terrorism. In just 5 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 Muhmmadu Buhari’s appointment of Gen. Buratai (rtd) 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 Nigerian Government of 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. The original countries in this arrangement are Nigeria, Niger and Chad republics. But the needed cooperation for better gains has to be constantly activated or renewed by Nigeria.
And there is a bright hope to end these tribulations with Gen. Buratai (rtd), a soldier who demonstrated his zeal, passion and determination to see to the greater security and peace for humanity, especially in Nigeria, now serving as a bridge between Nigeria and Benin, one of the countries which greases the problem. It is therefore right to say, from the trenches, Gen. Buratai (rtd) has taken up the battle against terrorism and banditry on the diplomatic plane.
Considering that the international community is focal in the fight against armed gangs, in addressing the security challenges in Nigeria, the posting of Amb. Buratai to the Republic of Benin has countless blessings. 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.
Not everything is achieved through brute force or laws. So, diplomacy and international relations on smooth template comes handy in resolving certain problems. Negotiations and dialogue between nations have solved knotty problems which years of wars or conflicts have failed to resolve.
Therefore, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai’s (rtd) ambassadorial mission in Benin republic will harvest and sustain multilateral ties with the West African country. As attested by his impeccable credentials in public service, Buratai is trusted to galvanize international support from this country in the final defeat the Boko Haram insurgency and allied insurgencies in Nigeria.
Gen. Buratai is famed for his passion for multiple approaches in fighting terrorism. While in the service of the Nigerian Military, he was a consistent exponent of the adoption of non-kinetic weapons in fighting terrorism in the country. His service now as Nigeria’s ambassador to Benin republic is a good icing on the cake, hence a standard platform has been raised for him to utilize his competence on embalming the multi-dimensional security issues afflicting Nigeria for peace, progress and security of the country.
Nigerians who know the worth and treasures in Gen. Buratai, applauded his diplomatic sojourn to Benin Republic jubilantly. The timing is also auspicious. Due to sustained pressures, the Federal Government of Nigeria reopened its closed borders in December 2020, after it nearly broke international relations between the two countries. By implication, while Government is desirous to encourage legitimate or authentic trans-border trade and commerce, it must also necessarily confine the operations within the prisms of approved international laws.
Consequently, Amb. Buratai’s first duty or challenge in this direction is how to renew the broken trade relations between Nigeria and Benin in terms profitable to both countries, in accordance with prescriptions of the ECOWAS Protocols. No magic can work better, rather than diplomatic engagements, which Amb. Buratai is poised to vigorously pursue.
Again, Amb. Buratai is working round the clock to promote national security through the Nigeria/Benin border. Topmost on his agenda is how to curb smuggling of arms and other dangerous weapons into Nigeria through the Benin border. It is a germane issue and uppermost on the minds of Nigerians. His initial steps are commendable in less than two months in office.
Amb. Buratai has also engaged the Government of Benin Republic on ways to curb the large scale smuggling of goods into the country. It is a practice orchestrated by economic wolves and saboteurs’ which has deprived Nigeria of critical revenue in billions of naira annually for the development of public infrastructure. With these loopholes blocked, it would open the sure path to a greater and more rapid development of Nigeria under the Buhari Presidency. Individuals engaged in the business of importation will also have robust transactions in a competitive and protected environment.
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.
With Amb. Buratai at the helms of affairs, Nigeria is bound to see a new form of healthier bilateral engagements with Benin. He has already set modalities in motion to entrench a culture of mutual benefits of the trans-border trade between the two countries. Amb. Buratai is ensuring that not only Benin Republic’s Cotonou smiles in the long run; but Lagos and indeed, Nigeria count multiple gains from the business interactions.
The leadership style plus moral courage of Gen Buratai has since assisted heavily in taming the activities of the terrorists in the North East and banditry in the North West, despite occasional hitches or setbacks here and there not withstanding.
Clearly, many factors are accountable for the achievements recorded in checkmating insecurity in Nigeria. Some of the factors are – Gen Buratai’s courage, charisma, perseverance and leadership by example has made him a hero and one of the greatest motivational military Commanders in the military history of Nigeria.
So far, he has shown extraordinary commitment, selfless service and devotion to duty oftentimes at the risk of his health and at the risk of his life.
Credible reports have it that Gen Buratai, in some cases, led his troops in the battlefield with resounding victory.
As a patriotic Nigerian who is fully concerned with the happenings on security of our country, it is easy for me to list some of the visible achievements of Lt Gen TY Buratai during the period under review.
Successful war against terrorism
Despite the asymmetric, complexity and international dimension of the Boko Haram and ISWAP Terrorism (BHT), and the dwindling fortunes of the Nigerian troops in the areas of equipment, motivation and the will to fight, Gen 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.
Thus, it is interesting but not surprising that in less than 6 months the troops recovered lost ground and pushed on to defeat terrorism in our nation.
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.
- Improved Internal Security Operations
Internal security operation in Nigeria has improved dramatically from where we were in 2015 when Gen 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.
Additionally, on the issue of insecurity in Nigeria, it is obvious that alot of succeses have been achieved in the areas of fighting terrorism in the North East and banditry in North West.
Suffice to state that the hitherto identified security threats in the south east, south west and south south have all been effectively checkmated.
Security challenges such as farmers – herders conflict, communal conflict, kidnapping, armed robbery, arms sales/arms proliferation, armed robbery and Cultistism 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 Gen Buratai is working on a regular basis.
- Effective Civil-Military Relations As a Force Multiplier in Insurgency War
As a polyvalent military strategist and war time military Commander, Gen Buratai has since recognized the importance of civil populace in helping to win war against terrorism and banditry activities.
He has through various corporate social responsibility/ intervention projects identified the need to assist some selected lucky fluky communities with palliatives and free medical outreaches to help enhance relationship between host communities and the NA in its area of operations.
This effort helps tremendously in creating harmonious working relationship between the troops and the locals with the benefit of sharing information that could be of interest and advantage to the success of military operations and the process is ongoing.
Accordingly, the NA is supporting the Government’s efforts at encouraging Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to return to their ancestral homes.
To this end, the army under Gen Buratai conducted Operation Last Hold designed to further degrade BHTs, facilitate the relocation of IDPs back to their communities as well as to promote excellent civil-military relations which have so far yielded the desired results and require continous collaborative efforts and supports from relevant stakeholders to consolidate on this achievement.
It is important to state that through Operation Last Hold, over 5,000 IDPs have returned to their communities in Northern Borno State as reported by the media.
- Reorganisation of Army towards professionalism
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 Portharcourt, 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 created by the COAS for the present and indeed more profoundly future benefits of Nigeria.
- Enhanced Trainings and Capacity Building for NA Personnel*
Training and retraining of NA personnel is one of the topmost priorities of Gen Buratai. For instance, at an occasion recently, Gen 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 cadre of officers and men.
In the Year 2018 alone, a total of 156 personnel have attended foreign courses while 2,390 have attended courses and training programmes here in Nigeria ranging from masters degree programmes to workshops, seminars and conferences. The NA has also hosted over 300 local and international conferences, seminars or workshops either solely or in-conjunction with other relevant bodies.
We hereby hailed the Army General turned Diplomat for all these achievements