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Nigerian Army and the revolution taking place within

One of the greatest blessings any society or a system could have is a leader who can sacrifice his today for its tomorrow. It is…

One of the greatest blessings any society or a system could have is a leader who can sacrifice his today for its tomorrow. It is the opinion of the generality of people of goodwill that in Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, Nigeria, not just the Nigerian Army to which he is the helmsman, has one such person. It is difficult to imagine that any Chief of Army Staff, appointed to that office at the time Buratai became COAS, would brave the odds  to record his achievements. At the time of his appointment, Nigeria was facing the most difficult time in her entire history. Most development indicators were pointing downwards. Unemployment and underemployment, occasioned by deep recession, were some of the highest anywhere. The terrorist group BokoHaram was therefore finding it very easy to brainwash and recruit young men and women in its avowed determination to dismember Nigeria. By July 2015 when the appointment was made, Boko Haram had taken over vast swathes of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.

For an administration that has made security and well being of its citizens a cardinal issue during the campaigns, the Buhari administration clearly planned to deal with crimes and criminalities, and bring to conclusive end the rampaging Boko Haram. In his typical characteristic of picking only the most qualified and the best, President Muhammadu Buhari wasted no time in picking Buratai and saddling him the task of ensuring the continuous existence of Nigeria as a nation. 

The National Baseline Youths Survey gives a clearer perspective on the enormity of responsibility faced by Buratai at the time of his appointment: The population of youths aged between 15 to 35years in Nigeria was a staggering 72 percent of the population. Yet the rate of unemployment and underemployment is put at a whopping 47.5 percent. On account of this, youths in their several thousands, especially those who lacked moral training at home, were making themselves available for recruitment as terrorists. And it is against this background that Nigerians will appreciate where Buratai was coming from.

Two years down the line, Boko Haram has been defeated and every territory of Nigeria it had forcefully taken over has been recovered. Of course we still witness pockets of suicide bombings, mostly of soft targets, which has enabled some unpatriotic elements to go to the ridiculous extent of making a jest at the military. But then even the strongest army in the world is still contending with similar tendencies in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, etc, where it succeeded in routing out the insurgents but the terrorists are still throwing bombs left, right, and centre.

Being a son of the soil, General Buratai must have realized the urgent need to deepen civil-military relations to bring about an enduring solution to the problem. Force alone cannot win the war and eradicate it totally. Aside from the need to make the locals understand the need to stop hiding these terrorists just because most of them belong to their tribe, or to feather their political nests, there was also the need to ensure the rules of engagement are strictly adhered to, difficult as that might be, especially against the most lawless and most heartless insurgent group that capitalizes on that to cause extensive damage.

Against the backdrop of the asymmetric nature of the enemy in a fourth-dimension war being fought by the army, the need to work more closely with the civil populace, in order to understand, identify, engage and completely eradicate the enemy, was realized.. To achieve this strategic objective, the Nigerian Army has embarked on sensitization workshops so that the troops can be more knowledgeable in the Laws of Armed Conflicts and therefore avoid those unprofessional conducts that could destroy their career and tarnish the good image of the Nigerian Army.

Commanders have been directed to fashion out professional approaches to their military duties, in conformity with the vision of Buratai. Today, for the first time since 1863 when the seed that germinated to become today’s Nigerian army was planted, every Nigerian can simply place a toll-free phone call and give information or report abuse by any officer or soldier. In the new era, almost every week, the military engages in one community service or the other. Little wonder that the Nigerian Army has continued to earn plaudits from the United Nations, the American military, as well as countless individuals and groups from different corners of the globe. 

Nigeria has a responsibility to ensure that no individual or group, under whatever guise, are allowed to undermine the Nigerian State by distracting the Nigerian military, as the respected  Global Amnesty Watch, Africa Arise for Change Network etc, have cause to warn, recently. These organizations, in addition to American military and the United Nations, have passed an unequivocal vote of confidence in the Nigerian military and asked Nigerians to openly support the Army rid Nigeria of all traces of terrorism, of whatever shade.

The series of commendations by the United Nations Organisation started on November 17 last year when it openly commended the Nigerian Army for being professional in the handling of Boko Haram insurgency and maintaining international best practices, particularly in adherence to all codes of conduct, as enshrined in the Rules of Engagement. Also, the Civil-Military Advisor of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) particularly commended the Nigerian Army when he paid a courtesy call on the General Officer Commanding the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army in Maiduguri.

Under Buratai, the Commander of Africom, a general of the American Army, also commended the Nigerian Army and called for sharing of intelligence. Until about two years ago, the American Armed Forces didn’t want anything to do with its Nigerian counterpart, largely because of human rights abuses. Now, things have generally changed, so much that when US President Donald Trump called his Nigerian counterpart Muhammadu Buhari a few months ago, he commended the government’s achievement in the war against terror and offered bigger assistance to the Nigerian military.  If these people or the institutions they represent believe the report bandied by Amnesty International alleging gross human rights abuses by the Nigerian military,, they will not touch it even with a ten-foot pole.

Now that insurgency is becoming history, as the army has chased the terrorists away and the people, displaced in their millions, are regaining their much-cherished freedom. It is only natural that these people will pour invectives on any so-called international organisation for producing a report that can at best be described as a tale by moonlight. To these people, the best thing that has ever happened to them is the Buhari administration that has given the military worthy commanders and the wherewithal to fight and win the war against terror. Amnesty International is undoubtedly a very credible institution, and that is even all the more reason why it needs to ensure that some of its officials are not being influenced by desperate politicians.  

 Zainab wrote from Nile University of Nigeria, Abuja.


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