By ANTHONY KOLAWOLE
Sometimes, I feel highly ashamed being a Nigerian. In the recent past, some Nigerians have foisted on a noble, selfless and respected institution, like the Nigerian Army (NA) a repulsive status unjustifiably.
President Muhammadu Buhari took time to make his security appointments; particularly, the hierarchy of the Nigerian military. The emergence of Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) was influenced by merit, attested hard work and proven patriotic commitment to the security demands of Nigeria in previous assignments.
Gen. Buratai’s added responsibility as leader of the counter-insurgency operations in the country was not a mistake. It was ennobled by his positive antecedents from years of service to nationhood.
We must know that the rot that became the bane of Nigeria spared no sector or institution. From the outset, Gen. Buratai made it abundantly clear that he inherited an Army far below the standard of his ideal professional, disciplined and committed force.
The COAS assigned himself the burdensome duty of reforming and repositioning the Nigerian Army as a responsible, professionally responsive and disciplined Army. I can proclaim without reservations that he has significantly accomplished this mission.
That’s why, pleasantly today in Nigeria, erring Army personnel, especially, those who get immersed in avertable misconducts or disputes with civilians are appropriately disciplined militarily. Gen. Buratai attaches high premium on ethical compliance, respect for human rights of Nigerians and to civil authorities.
He has groomed an Army, which holds the Rules of Engagement (ROE) in any special assignment very sacrosanct. And troops function within the prisms of best international practices and earning accolades nationally and globally.
I am sure, Nigerians are pleasantly amazed that today, Nigerians aggrieved against any Army personnel and seek legal redress, walk unmolested into any Army formation to serve litigation papers. And the Army responds by appearing in court to defend itself. At least, we can confirm, this was an abomination in the recent past.
Under Gen. Buratai, soldiers have been subjected to investigative panels at various times and punished accordingly over official misconducts and acts of indiscipline. Some have even been dismissed from the NA; while others demoted, depending on recommendations of investigating panels.
The establishment of the Human Rights Desk at Army Headquarters by Gen. Buratai is the first of its kind in the history of Nigerian Army. It is a practical demonstration of a leader with a passion and zeal to protect the dignity of Nigerians from abuse by Army personnel.
The department of military/civil relations is at its best under the present Army leadership. And soldiers on special assignments anywhere in the country, consciously strike fraternal cords with members of host communities they are deployed in aid of civil security.
I now ask, what is the essence of the author’s desperate groping in the dark to find non-existent flaws to nail the NA? Is the agenda just to damage the good reputation the Army now savours in the perception of Nigerians?
Last year, the much discredited Amnesty International (AI) accused the Nigerian Army of human rights violations and other sundry crimes against humanity in the ongoing counter-insurgency operations in the Northeast particularly. Gen. Buratai swiftly responded by setting up a Special Military Board of Inquiry to probe the veracity or otherwise of the allegations. But it turned out to be a ruse, as AI itself shied away from proving the allegations, even after pleadings.
Without mincing words, I feel comfortable to assert that Gen. Buratai has conspicuously presented to Nigerians an Army, which is the pride of our nation. And judging by the volume of internal interventions’ of the Army in the country presently, I can peg complaints against official misconduct of soldiers to a near zero percent.
Therefore, I found it extremely nauseating and despicable, the contents of the article with the title, “ Buratai’s Labour of Love for Army,” authored by one Mr. Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) in Nigeria.
It is meaningless foliage into highly speculative faults, frisked on sentiments, as the author morphed into a soothsayer, generously predicting outcomes of official probe panels set up by the Nigerian Army. He again, bewilderingly replicated the same known hatchet jobs performed by some Nigerians.
All through the lengthy write-up, I sensed the author grappling with two difficult worlds- the frenzy of an influenced mindset maligning the great institution. I felt his pulsating fever of a pure conscience, freely pouring eulogies on the leadership of the Nigerian Army by Gen. Buratai, an indubitably, the finest gentleman, Army General in Nigeria today.
And presumably, the writer, obviously arrested by prejudice belaboured himself so hard to rubbish Gen. Buratai, the institution of the Nigerian Army and soldiers to assuage some pay masters. So, he questioned everything and anything, but disappointingly, from a very shallow perspective and discernment of the issues.
It never took him long to release his concealed sentiments and the mission for his latest outpouring of emotions, by re-dusting the saga of the proscribed aberrational sect, IPOB led by his kinsman Nnamdi Kanu. The excesses of IPOB have been checkmated and peace and security has dawned on the Southeast region.
But for Nigerians conversant with the facts, it is senseless and very farcical for anybody to hang the carcass of IPOB on the Nigerian Army. The forum of Southeast Governors proscribed IPOB; the FGN declared it a terrorist’s organization and the Operation Python Dance II observed the highest ethical adherence even in the face of provocations from miscreants and armed criminals through unprovoked attacks on soldiers.
The widely commendable restraint of soldiers by failing to retaliate only affirms the new face of our Army under Gen. Buratai. As a social activist, one expects the author to possess vast knowledge of the issues he is canvassing in public domain.
But he coldly disappointed me, when he made reference to the Army’s battles in the prevalent herders/farmers clashes in parts of the country, describing it as inefficient. Perhaps, the author does not know or prefers not to acknowledge that the scope of the herders/farmers is beyond Benue, Taraba, Nassarawa, Adamawa states and so forth.
Zamfara, Kebbi, Katsina states and many others are embroiled in the same crisis. And only the intervention of soldiers has saved the locals from the inferno. It is therefore, bemusing and myopic for anybody to adopt Taraba as yardstick in measuring the effectiveness of the Army in quelling these herders’ insurrections, simply because Gen. TY Danjuma has hyped fluid statements alleging that soldiers colluded with herdsmen against locals.
If soldiers came out clean in similar operations elsewhere before now, what could uniquely make them change overnight to prompt the allegations about Taraba?
It does not occur to the writer that the Nigerian Army is not peopled by saints straight from heaven. Deviants are found in every profession, including the organization he heads. And that Gen. Buratai has instituted steps to punish erring personnel and indeed, metes out these penalties should attract commendation and not vilification as uncharitably pontificated by him.
The task of recreating Nigeria is not the responsibility of one leader. I am of the verdict, as rightly observed by the writer that if Nigerians face some bottlenecks in reaching out to the Human Rights Desk and Military/Civil relations department to lodge complaints against the NA, civil societies and the National Human Rights commission could render some assistance. But posturing as though, the NA ignored such complaints, after they were lodged smacks of condemnable mischief from a supposed leader.
The allegations of Gen. Danjuma (rtd) bothering on collusion of the Army with herders’ militia and the rebuttal by Spokesperson of Defence Headquarters is another deliberate attempt to malign the institution of the NA and Gen. Buratai. None of them specifically, refuted the claims by Danjuma, which explains why Gen. Buratai has constituted an investigative panel to ascertain the truth.
Instead, a superior military hierarchy did and except, a man possessed by demonic influence, it is completely misplaced to pass the buck of blame to the NA. The author must know that the NA cannot function by the dictates of his prescribed time. And for the COAS who supervises Army operations in at least 32 states of the federation, such expectations of automatic response to issues Is humanly nearly impossible.
Yet dissatisfied that he has not done enough damage, the author pre-empted the outcome of the investigative panel and its composition. But the Investigative Board chaired by respected Major Gen. John Nimyel (rtd), also comprises, the NHRC and representatives of Civil Society Organizations’ (CSOs). The committee has just 10 days to submit its report based on the urgency of the assignment.
Are these not indications of a leader willing to unveil the truth? I am tempted to believe insinuations that the writer is piqued by his failure to make the list of members of the investigative board and had to vent his spleen as consolation.
The allegation which sounds very hollow is the conjecture of Gen. Buratai’s selected treatment of critically soldiers wounded in the counter-insurgency operations in the country for medical tourism abroad. He backed it with no verifiable evidence and, so deserves no attention.
But suffice it to say, the COAS is a leader who knows the art of leadership, treats issues of welfare with immediacy. He considers every soldier like his own personal child because he knows, they are his strength and fulcrum of successes in the counter-insurgency operations.
Agreed, “Nigeria is ripe enough to build, maintain and operate functional reference military medical hospitals in all zones of Nigeria,’ to critically wounded soldiers, instead of being flown abroad for medical treatment.
But the current Army leadership has not rested on its oars either. It has channeled part of its meagre resources to upgrade medical facilities to carter for such severe cases, as attested by the writer himself. He copiously cited examples in the remodeling and reconstruction of the 68 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital in Lagos and the 44 NARH in Kaduna.
Save for preconceptions, this is not how to appreciate a leader who is making determined efforts to improve on what he met on ground. I have not heard HURIWA, headed by the writer chip a word when the COAS complains of insufficient budgetary provisions in the face of Nigeria’s widespread and tedious tasks of extinguishing entrenched acts of terrorism in the country. Would the COAS pluck his eyes to fix the hospitals’?
That the author of this hollow piece preys into the promotions of the Army and forces it into a nexus on the manner the war on terror is prosecuted finally exposes his mindset and rubbishes the sponsored message he seeks to convey. Promotions are the internal administrative responsibilities of the NA, except he is angling for his consultation before such routine tasks are done too.
Gen. Buratai and the entire leadership of the Army have remained focused, determined and professionally committed to the best in the service of our fatherland. And the manifest results are in the favour of our security architecture and to the pleasure of all Nigerians. I know most CSOs are paid veiled agents of the forces of destabilization of Nigeria and I am afraid, the texture of this piece yawningly confirms such status.
Kolawole PhD, a University lecturer sent in this piece from Keffi, Nasarawa State.