Whether some unpatriotic Nigerians discern it or not, the unalterable truth about the Nigerian Army under the leadership of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai is his restlessness in redefining a professional Army in conduct, discipline, loyalty, patriotism and interactions with all segments of the Nigerian state. Pleasantly too, the Army Chief has demonstrated a great flair for pioneering innovations in his leadership and administration of the Nigerian Army.

In the New Year of 2018, Gen. Buratai has again sprung another surprise, which may keep his baseless critics wondering at his wizardry and leadership ingenuity. He led the Nigerian Army to sign a patronage pact with a Nigerian indigenous motor manufacturing company, Innoson Motors located in the heart of Southeast region.

The intention of the Army is to domesticate the manufacture of its wares and the modification of its equipment, local production of armoured fighting vehicles and other military hardwares to further strengthen the capacity of equipment for the Nigerian troops in the counter-insurgency campaigns in the Northeast.

Last year, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari opted for the policy of Local Content or patronage of made-in-Nigeria goods and services. It is principally to reduce the extreme pressure exalted on the demand for scarce foreign exchange as well as make Nigerians proud of their endowments and cultural heritage.

The Executive Order No 3, signed by the then Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo prioritized local content to encourage patronage of locally manufactured goods and services in Nigeria by all Ministries Departments Agencies (MDAs). The adoption of the policy and the insistence on compliance has multiple advantages to Nigerians and the country.

Now, it is clear knowledge that majority of MDAs are hesitant in complying with the Executive Order No 3 on Local Content in procurement. To ensure compliance, as revealed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, at the flag-off of the Made-in-Nigeria campaign for the South-West geo-political zone in Lagos last year, the Federal Government is contemplating the legal institutionalization of this policy through a review of the Bureau of Public Procurement Act to make it compulsory for the MDAs to patronize local products.

But even before the Federal Government would adopt this stringent measure, the Nigerian Army under Lieutenant General TY Buratai is complying with the Executive Order No 3, with the formalization of the patronage deal with Innoson Motors. According to a statement by the Director, Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. SK Usman, it is “to conceptualize, design, modify and produce military hardwares.” This followed the sampled testing and satisfactory performance of three Innoson vehicles deployed for usage by “Operation Lafiya Dole,” troops fighting insurgency in the Northeast region, which were found to be fit, durable and effective in military combat operations.

Inside this lofty auto deal, Innoson Company is expected to supply to the Nigerian Army 100 vehicles, appropriate gears, engines and chassis required for immediate modifications and repairs of armoured fighting vehicles in the North East Theatre of Operations and several other areas of interest. Suffice it to say, the Nigerian Army and Innoson Motors patronage pact is big and hugely rewarding, especially to the company and the immediate community of South East Nigeria.

This partnership deal sealed with the auto dealer to manufacture Made-in-Nigeria vehicles for the military could not have come at a better time. It advertises the many insidious ways, Lieutenant General Buratai is projecting his patriotism and positive leadership of the Nigerian Army very uniquely to Nigerians. Everyone at the top has got a lesson to learn from the Army Chief by this venture intended to cement our love for one another.

One may not search far to unearth Gen. Buratai’s exceptionality. A peep into the history of Boko Haram terrorism, from the time Gen. Buratai was appointed as the ombudsman of the counter-insurgency operations, it is easy to notice several positive changes, based on his dynamism and initiatives. His sense of patriotism and commitment to the General good of our country is legendary and has no equal anywhere again in the country. In his actions we see the pictures of great Nigerian leaders like Sir, Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the Zik of Africa.

He led Nigerian troops to first debilitate the capacity of terrorists to recklessly strike Nigerians; he matched it with decimation and delivered the final onslaught to insurgents with the penetration of the dreaded Sambisa forest, to deliver the defeat of terrorists as his 2017 New Year gift to Nigerians.

These laudable and commendable feats in the anti-terror war were achieved by Lieutenant General Buratai, whilst the Nigerian Army never received any foreign assistance from any quarters. He treaded on grounds dreaded by angels to reclaim Nigeria from Boko Haram insurgents and to give Nigerians peace and security.

To assert that the Army Chief is determined to rout out the last residues of terrorists from the shores of Nigeria is to say the obvious. And he is leaving no stone unturned in planning and welfare of troops. Unlike others, Gen. Buratai is not just waiting for manna to fall from heaven, but consciously evolve strategies and plans to make his work easier and successful.

For instance, Nigerians are aware of the promise of America to sell A29 Super Tucano aircrafts to Nigeria. But after several months of this promise, the deal is still at the stage of signing agreements between the two countries. Imagine that had Gen. Buratai waited for the Super powers of the world to come to Nigeria’s aid before applying his local capacity to decimate and defeat terrorists or solve our nagging insecurity problem, only God knows what would have happened.

Undoubtedly, it would have been a long nightmarish period of anxiety and anguish. So, this 2018 New Year gift to Nigerians as reflected in the partnership deal with Innoson Motors to manufacture Made -in -Nigeria Motors for military use is specially commendable by its many benefits to Nigerians. Importing these military vehicles would have also been enmeshed or even stifled in long periods of official bureaucracies.

However, what immediately comes to mind with this business fraternity between the Nigerian Army and Innoson Motors located in the heart of the Southeast region is its manifest dispelling of the erroneous and false impression that the Nigerian Army is on a mission to destroy the Igbos. Commonsense suggests that you do not patronize an enemy or financially empower him to antagonize you.

Therefore, when any idle and purposeless IPOB member approaches any Southeasterner to preach antagonism to the Army, endeavor to find out from him how many Igbos have IPOB given gainful employment, as the Army vehicles deal with Innoson Motors is bound to indirectly influence in employment.

With such patronage by the Nigerian Army, Innoson is likely to expand its operational capacity and engage more hands, which will be sourced from the host community and beyond. There is no doubt that Nigerian Army under Gen. Buratai has good intentions for the betterment of Ndigbo than any other institution of the Federal Government and those pandering to destructive sentiments against the Army have been exposed by this business fraternity at last.

Thus, the alarmists and enemies of the Southeast; the troubleshooters and their agents should now lower their heads to consummate the multiple benefits the Army partnership with Innoson Motors would yield, such as boosting local production with a multiplier effect on the economy; job creation for the unemployed youths in the Southeast, probably, including repentant IPOB members, which will keep them busy and divert their mindsets from criminality and it will also, encourage entrepreneurship, in the chain of businesses that may sprout.

These possibilities palpably excited the Chairman of Innoson Motors, Dr. Innocent Chukwuma , who commended Gen. Buratai endearingly, in words coated as his “great sense of patriotism.” This is a good start for the New Year.

Surely, this is the best way to cement the relationship between the Nigerian military and the Southeast populace, which some political jobbers and detractors had earlier polluted with twisted and flawed tales. Gen. Buratai has proven again that the Nigerian Army is not just a friend to Ndi’gbo, but the entire Nigerians. It is worthy therefore, to encourage other institutions of government to emulate the Nigerian Army in the herculean task of rebuilding the bridges of development, understanding and friendship with Nigerians without guns and boots.

Okanga writes from Agila, Benue State