By David Onmeje
Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and leader of the counter-insurgency operations, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai is an enigmatic soldier, admirable leader and astute administrator. He is a soldier who knows his direction in all circumstances. His leadership vision of the Nigerian Army is anchored chiefly on professionalism and he has effectively lived this dream these past few years in transforming the Army.
Every day, Gen. Buratai’s actions show tenacious pursuit of the vision and agenda of repositioning the Nigerian Army into one of the very best around the world. His uncommon reforms and innovations in the last few years have elevated the Nigerian Army to an enviable pedestal. Gen. Buratai is not a flippant leader; he blends his words with verifiable actions.
The Army Chief has promised Nigerians that he must finally terminate the reign of Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorism in the country. And he is sparing no effort in this direction. So, in another surprise outing, Gen. Buratai shocked his troops and Nigerians alike at the beginning of Year 2020 by personally leading troops for the anti-insurgency clearance operations in Nigeria’s Northeast for the umpteenth time.
The COAS led troops to climb the craggy Limankara hills in Borno as part of the COAS’ exceptional operational visits to Boko Haram hideouts in the state. It is one of the locations, encased by a rugged terrain where remnants of terrorists find fortress. He combed the place and thereafter, visited multiple other areas in the region to boost troops morale.
It is an apt indication that Gen. Buratai is not only providing good leadership to the Nigerian Army by routine office work, but he is also best in the trenches. He saunters on the field and into the trenches from time to time with troops.
A core plank of Gen. Buratai’s vision to make the Nigerian Army professionally responsible and responsive in the discharge of its constitutional roles is the welfare of troops and their families. So, he has berthed massive renovations, constructions of new offices and residential accommodation for soldiers and numerous other empowerments and developmental projects.
Almost every day, Gen. Buratai commissions a project somewhere in the country or lays the foundation for a development project in various parts of the country. The previously loud grumblings of soldiers over poor welfare have dissipated because Gen. Buratai has instituted and sustained the culture of enhanced comfort for Nigerian Army personnel.
And sometimes, he stretches into Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects for Army’s host communities. For instance, by the end of 2019, the Nigerian Army had reconstructed and commissioned the collapsed pedestrian metal bridge at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, which links students’ hostels and lecture halls. It’s a rare community service from an institution like the Nigerian Army.
Quite tragically, when the bridge collapsed as a result of a heavy downpour, it consumed the lives of three students and injured several others. Same day, the Army Chief also commissioned new accommodation blocks for soldiers at School of Armoury, Bauchi and another 10 new blocks of 8 apartments at Lt.-Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai Village in the Nigerian Army Armoured Corps, Obienu Barracks in same Bauchi.
At the Gibson Jalo cantonment in Adamawa, Gen. Buratai commissioned Entrepreneurship and Skill Acquisition Centre, Accident and Emergency Unit and also, performed the foundation laying of perimeter fence in the barracks. Similarly, at the Nigerian Army Ordnance Corps, Gen. Buratai has constructed the officers’ transit accommodation, with the nomenclature Col Nebo Hall and the headquarters main gate. It is fairly difficult to say, any Army formation in Nigeria or any section of the country has not felt the impact of Gen. Buratai’s leadership of the Army.
Gen. Buratai has built new schools; renovated and upgraded existing ones for the Nigerian Army like the Nigerian Army Aviation School. But the wonder of it all is the Nigerian Army University, Biu (NAUB). It is incredible to discern how Gen. Buratai conceived this laudable initiative. It is even more endearing how he has been able to aggressively build NAUB within a span of two years. NAUB commenced operations in 2018, but it is like a varsity in existence for more than three decades.
Today, the first Army university in Africa is expanding in physical structures, academic enrollment and staff strength with the speed of a tornado. A few days ago, Gen. Buratai inaugurated an ultra-modern and gigantic building complex for the Faculty of Natural and Applied Sciences of NAUB, co-funded by the Nigerian Army and the FGN.
The science faculty complex comprises of 47 offices, 24 classrooms, lecture halls and three laboratories. A sight of the commissioned marvelous architectural edifice would tempt a visitor to believe he has found himself in a foreign university. But certainly no! It is in Nigeria and in Borno, a state and community once ravaged by terrorism. It is really a magnificent sight to behold.
The beneficial impact of the university to the host and indeed, all Nigerians is unimaginably enormous. In fact, even its admission policy is skewed in favour of civilians, who have been allocated 75 percent of quota, while the military and para-military agencies collectively share the remaining 25 percent.
With this daily exhibition of positive results, Gen. Buratai has demonstrated his knack for leadership excellence as evidence in the massive infrastructural improvements at NAUB within the shortest time. This is a remarkable departure from established norms in Nigeria where it takes approved new higher institutions a dozen years to find their operational pulse.
But the COAS has effortlessly broken the jinx.
The Army boss is a realist to the core and a selfless leader. He believes in turning everything he touches into gold. Excellence in all assignments has been his guiding ideology. He hardly misses his targets. He leads for the benefit of the people, detached from his personal interests, a mark of true and committed leaders anywhere in the world.
Gen. Buratai believes in the consummation of splendor and hard work. The university in Biu is one of the numerous achievements of his administration. At its inception, Gen. Buratai promised Nigerians to make NAUB a world class university. And he has left nothing to chance, but is vigorously pursuing this ambition as evident in the results.
It explains why many Nigerians are puzzled with Gen. Buratai’s persona. People have continued to ask where Gen. Buratai derives his wisdom? Nigerians angle to know what inspires his exceptional vision, ideas and the strength of a workaholic?
So, aside his military career, Gen. Buratai is an uncommon farmer. Buratai owns a personal snake farm, a money- spinning venture only for the brave, like he indubitably typifies. Not many Nigerians are courageous enough to go close to a snake. But Gen. Buratai does not only keep them quarantined in a farm, but he plays with them as pets.
Though interested in agricultural investments, but as the COAS he avoids conflict of interest. Rather, he has launched the Nigerian Army farms for soldiers and their families. He is not into personal rice cultivation or any crop that would conflict with what the Nigerian Army has initiated for soldiers.
He has rather introduced and supported empowerment schemes such as the Barracks Investment Initiative Programme for the skills acquisition and empowerment of Nigerian Army personnel and their families. Gen. Buratai remains a great, reputable and archetypal leader of his generation and for many years to come in the history of our country.
Onmeje wrote this piece from the United Kingdom.