By Mustapha Aliyu
“The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war” Douglas MacArthur.
Nigeria is a great country. A country with high potentials and substantial economic resources that have somewhat translated into a considerable challenge for us as a people and as a nation. I recall that in numerous forums, I have always stated that Nigeria would have gone into extinct if President Muhammadu Buhari did not assume the helm of affairs in the country.
Some agreed with me, while some insulted and castigated me. Those that abused and castigated were not in tune with the reality on the ground before President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as president. They were possibly cozied in the comfort of the four walls of their rooms and also perhaps were part of the rot in the system, while the ordinary man and woman in the street were victims of their shenanigans.
The country was up in flames; there was so much bloodletting. From the Police Headquarters to the United Nations Headquarters, from Karu Motor Park to Emab Plaza in Abuja down to Chibok in Borno State. There was bloodletting everywhere. It got so bad that nowhere was safe, including the Federal Capital Territory.
The civil police were stretched beyond imagination. The government of the day was clueless on the way forward, and Nigeria was on the brink. Yes, on edge. The situation in North East Nigeria was not anywhere different. Boko Haram insurgents took control of over 16 local government areas, and plans were rife for the establishment of their caliphate in these territories.
Daily, the media was awash with tales of causalities, so much so it felt like that the media in Nigeria was part of the grand plot. It was such an emotional moment where day in day out, newspaper headlines would scream figures of casualties in different parts of the country.
The irony of the whole thing was that vast amounts of monies were daily devoted to security agencies to confront the security challenges in the country, but guess what? These monies ended up in private pockets, and the nation was bleeding profusely. The political authorities could not do anything because they were part of the heist that was engulfing the country at the time. Until God in his infinite mercies came to our rescue.
Enter May 2015. There was a radical change in the way things were done. In terms of accountability and the quality of appointments into critical sectors of the Nigerian security architecture. And that was the turning point in Nigeria. Worthy of mention is the way and manner the Nigerian Army took charge of the delicate security situation.
Two things happened. There was a reintroduction of professionalism and accountability. And the once elusive peace returned to Nigeria. But it didn’t come without great sacrifices on the part of the Nigerian Army. I say this because Nigeria was bequeathed with a Chief of Army Staff that hit the ground running like a wounded lion. In some quarters, it was stated that the Nigerian Army was able to make substantial gains because the Chief of Army Staff is from North East Nigeria. But I disagreed because what was happening in Nigerian was not a function of the state of origin; it was a battle for the soul of Nigeria. And as they say, the rest is history and Nigerians can now sigh relief.
The crux of this piece is primarily on how Nigeria has been able to overcome its security challenges in North East Nigeria, but it also goes beyond that to x-ray how the Nigerian Army was able to rise to the occasion when it mattered most in dealing with other security threats in other parts of the country, like the menace posed by the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, the Indigenous People of Biafra, as well as the Niger Delta Avengers. And most recently, the up rise in banditry, kidnappings and cattle rustling in North West Nigeria.
I stand to be corrected, what the Nigerian Army has achieved in the quest for peace in Nigeria under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai is unimaginable. I say this because, from all available analysis, there was a two-pronged approach that emphasized winning the war and restoring peace as against winning the war alone.
The recent initiative by the Nigerian Army to commence resettlement of IDPs back to their communities in North West Nigeria provides us with a vivid example of how to win the war and restore peace at the same time. This is indeed strategic and a testament to the promise by the Chief of Army Staff to Nigeria when he assumed leadership of the Nigerian Army.
If indeed this is not a masterstroke, I do not know what else to call it. We must learn to call a spade a spade in Nigeria and give credit to who is deserving of it. And I would like to dwell on the war against banditry and kidnappings in North West Nigeria, and how the Nigerian Army has been able to rise to the occasion.
The operations of the Nigerian Army in North West Nigeria has been commendable. They have strived to ensure relative peace so much so that those that were displaced as a result of banditry are returning to their communities with the efforts of the Nigerian Army. And if the other civil and political authorities can join hands with the Nigerian Army, Nigerian would indeed be a better place.
This is on the heels of the fact that recently the Executive Governor of Katsina State Aminu Bello Masari commended the Nigerian Army for restoring peace in Katsina state. In his words, the governor stated that “In recent times the state was seriously disturbed with the increased challenge of insecurity by bandits and kidnappers, who unleashed ruthless killing on innocent lives in parts of the state, but now respite has come through renewed vigour and commitment to duty of troops of the Nigerian Army.”
Governor Aminu Bello Masari also stated that that the renewed commitment of the Army and allied security agencies have accorded him a sigh of relief concerning the trend of kidnapping and banditry in the state. What more can be better than this?
The vigour and commitment of the Nigerian Army under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai has been tested and indeed trusted since he came on board in 2015. This much has been reflected in the operations of the Nigerian Army in ensuring that the territorial integrity of Nigeria is protected at all times and in all situations.
Religious and traditional leaders also have a role to play in their various domains because the country has been divided along with religion and ethnic lines due to the activities of some individuals who see the crisis as an avenue to exploit for monetary gains. The press also has a role to play as it has been suggested in some quarters that press coverage of terrorist activities gives the terrorists the psychological boost to continue to perpetuate evil.
I recall that in times past it seemed like the media was looking forward to the detonating of a bomb anywhere in the country so they can sell their papers with sensational headlines, not minding the psychological implication of such. But the good news is that in this era, the press has not enjoyed such leverage as it concerns reporting activities of terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and ISWAP because of the two-pronged approach employed by the Nigerian Army.
As stated earlier, the soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. Having this in mind, it, therefore, suffices to state that the Nigerian Army must be involved in all peace enforcement efforts in Nigeria.
The situation in North East Nigeria also suffices where Boko Haram/ISWAP have not been able to strike in Sambisa forest again. Today the Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorist carry out suicide bombings in their former stronghold to prove a point to their sponsors that they are still on the ground. But in truth, they are not.
It is therefore important to state that the war against banditry in North West Nigeria is indeed an example of how to win the war and restore peace at all times. I commend the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai for providing that leadership that is required that peace reigns supreme in Nigeria. This is indeed the winning formulae and also recommended for future purpose, for it must be noted that the soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. Nigeria shall be great again.
Aliyu wrote this piece from Gusau, Zamfara State.