The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai bellowed to the admiration of the cheering crowd, “The NA is indeed the only professional Army belonging to the Nigerian people and will never do anything to harm law abiding citizens of this great nation.” It was at the formal closing ceremony of “Operation Crocodile Smile II at the 6 Division Nigerian Army, Step-Up Headquarters, Igwurruta, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The assertion by the Army Chief was confirmation for the umpteenth time that the Nigerian Amy indeed belong to the people of Nigeria; it is a worthy asset and an indispensible tool for enthroning peace and security anywhere in Nigeria. The statement comes from a pure and humane heart, testifying to the readiness of Nigerian soldiers to bear the joys, pains and sorrows of Nigerians at their behest anytime and anywhere circumstances demand such imperative
Therefore, it was unthinkable and uncharitable to insinuate that the Nigerian Army could have set out on a mission of mass extermination of Nigerians, through poisoned vaccinations which some detractors, mischief makers and devious minds propagated against the Army. It was the most unconvincing lie ever told anywhere.
But beyond the innocence encapsulated in the endearing words, the three-week “Operation Crocodile Smile,” (OPCSII) launched in the South West, South-South and parts of Southeast regions proved its mettle and prowess as the savior of Nigerians from criminal elements who want to snatch our peace at all times.
Aside restoring security and sanity in troubled communities, OPCSII has demonstrated in words and action that it is a great benefactor of Nigerian masses. This is mirrored in the massive community projects soldiers executed under its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). It is pleasing that insecurity issues like armed robbery, kidnapping, assassination, pipeline vandalism, oil theft and other violent crimes have been shown the exit door by our gallant soldiers.
Africans often say, after darkness, comes the relieving dawn of light; it clears the fogginess of darkness to project irrepressible truth and reality. So, after the storm, masterminded by fake alarmists, the panics and the hysteria that accompanied the bile propaganda against the Nigerian Army’s Medical Outreach Programmes and the ensuing opposition, the dawn opened Nigerians to the stark reality. It speaks more in action that Nigerian soldiers today under Gen. Buratai have been professionalized, disciplined and re-orientated to approach professional duties with splendor and a velvet heart infinitely glued to empathy on humanity anywhere they are deployed on special assignments.
The conduct of soldiers of the OPCSII in mere three weeks has changed the negative perception against the Nigerian Army. It has converted its adversaries and antagonists into ardent adherents and preachers of the new gospel of confidence and admiration of the operations of the Nigerian Army. It has earned the Nigerian Army ceaseless accolades for cleansing the regions and states of criminals, wherever it operated.
OPCSII has attracted unsolicited pledges of infinite support from rare quarters and by the same forces which initially ganged up in opposition against the Nigerian Army. Nothing can be so relieving when truth vindicates an innocent man crucified unjustly.
It was amazing that Rivers state Governor Nyesom Wike who followed the herd mentality by lending credence to the fake and obnoxious news of the inoculation of school children with the deadly Monkey pox vaccines by the Nigerian Army led in eulogies for the security and humanitarian services rendered to his state and the region. He pleasantly assumed the toga of the informal spokesman and defender of the Nigerian Army when he featured at the closing ceremony.
Through Mr. Kenneth Kobani, the Secretary to the Rivers Government, Governor Wike could not conceal his excitement in applauding the success of the OPCSII; thus “The Nigerian Army has done a wonderful job, detractors have failed, ” as he pledged on behalf of Niger Delta states support to the Federal Government and the military to enthrone durable peace in the region.
So, work and action by soldiers of the OPCSII eclipsed the fury of hatred and the dirges of condemnation. The breathe of fresh air from criminal gangs and the songs of appreciation from a people unburdened by the Nigerian Army are eloquent testimonies that soldiers were maliciously persecuted through the campaigns of the Monkey pox disease.
And quite surprising, Ekiti state Governor Ayo Fayose who is baselessly obstinate in opposing the Nigerian Army could no longer conceal the truth. He knew the hour has come for him to free his conscience, as he reeled out endearing eulogies on the success and assistance rendered by OPCSII.
For the first time, both Governors Wike and Fayose saw the wisdom in the deployment of soldiers on special assignment to assist civil security to curb the weird and armed criminality assailing parts of Nigeria. The Governors pleaded for the extension of same to tackle the menace of Fulani herdsmen killings. OPCSII had no reports of deaths, injuries, torture or any human rights violations.
The Army’s medical Outreach exercise which became weapon disingenuously and irreligiously deployed to tarnish the integrity and stain the reputation of the Nigerian Army was outstandingly the most courted of its CSR projects, even unto the last day OPCSII officially terminated. On the final day, OPCSII conducted yet another Medical Outreach anchored by 6 Division Nigerian Army at the Palace of His Royal Majesty Eze Jonathan O.G. Amadi, JP, Nye-Nwe Ali Elele Alimi, Kelga, Rivers State.
The attendance was marvelous and the testimonies by beneficiaries reflected in many ways the disgust of the people with the subtle plots to discourage medical assistance to the poor and the sick by miscreants and their pay masters. And to discover that despite the opposition against the Nigerian Army, over 4, 539 people benefited from the medical outreach, as disclosed by the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division Nigerian Army, Maj.-Gen. Eniobong Udoh is most commendable. The Army touched another 8, 000 school children by donating free educational materials.
But where the Nigerian Army displayed uncommon passion for the development and prosperity of humanity was in Bayelsa state. The 16 Brigade of Nigerian Army renovated the Oloibiri Oil Well I, the location where Nigeria first discovered its crude oil commercial potentials in 1958, in Ogbia Local Government, as part of the CSR of the OPCSII. It remodeled and conferred on Oloibiri Oil Well a tourists status and the anticipated revenue it would rake to government will also assist in funding public projects.
An overwhelmed and elated Bayelsa state’s Deputy Governor, Retired Rear Admiral John Jonah unrestrainedly said, “We commend the Army for the wisdom to renovate the oil well in Otuabagi town because it will greatly promote tourism.”
Elsewhere in the South-South, like Akwa Ibom State , OPCSII destroyed the hideouts of criminal gangs in the creeks and humbled dozens of them through arrests. “We have arrested cultists, kidnappers, armed robbers, economic saboteurs, vandals and those people that carried out nefarious activities. We have arrested so many of them with incriminating weapons,” Col. Aminu Iliyasu, the Deputy Director Army Public Relations of the 6 Division, Nigerian Army recounted.
The phobia which engulfed the Minister of Defence Mr. Dan Ali over the vile and unfounded propaganda against the Nigerian Army by unscrupulous elements paved way into relief. He was excited that the same Nigerians, who anchored the opposition retracted their words, after the splendid performance of the OPCSII. He joined the league of leaders and the masses in eulogizing the Nigerian Army for the brilliance, the exhibition of high professional standards and adroitness in managing a delicate campaign against their integrity.
In essence, those who were in doubt and impugned all manner of negative ideas into the operations of the Nigerian Army wished it failed, so that they could nod their heads in laughter and ridicule Gen. Buratai. But the plots have failed. It is one incident that has again portrayed the Nigerian Army under Gen. Buratai as peopled by soldiers re-baptized in professionalism, discipline and respect for humanity.
In the battlefield, they are excellent, in civil/military relations; today’s Nigerian soldiers are superb. It explains why despite the initial hiccups over the OPCSII, the Army boss has been able to calmly navigate the terrain, astutely managing soldiers and civilians to come out unscathed from a consuming confusion.
The COAS knows exactly what it takes to lead the Army to victory; he knows what to do to sustain this victory. And he knows the exact remedies and soothing balm to apply in the best interest of the public and Nigeria when trouble shooters stoke unnecessarily conflagrations, like the instance of the success of the OPCSII has demonstrated . Opposition to it was bile and stiff to the extent that the embellished fake stories could even sink a hardened heart, but Gen. Buratai emerged victoriously.
He is not just building a legacy by grooming the best professional Army in the 21st century for Nigeria; he wants to also give Nigeria and the world an Army that would be unbowed by conventional threats or assailed by integrity test anytime. The anti-Buhari campaigners can fault President Muhammedu Buhari on everything; but the choice of Lt. Gen Buratai as commander of the Nigerian Army is unequalled and flawless.
Odoma writes from Asokoro, Abuja.