By Okanga Agila
Leadership has many trappings. It attracts an irresistible allure and, at the same time ensnares dangerously. Those who fail to create impact in leadership are constrained in multiple ways. Impactful leadership entails much more than merely possessing the qualities or knowledge of leadership virtues, but the boldness and courage to exhibit and apply it.
In the more than two years of the leadership of the Nigerian Army, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai has demonstrated in actions and mien of his proper grasps of what it takes to excel in leadership. Saddled with the arduous task of leading the counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria, the Army Chief has not only reunited a once fractured house, but led troops to corner victory in the fight against Boko Haram terrorists on several fronts.
Gen. Buratai drapes with constant innovations and reforms. At every point, he enlivens the spirit of soldering in troops with something new and refreshing. A few days back, the Army Chief again broke new grounds in the decoration of promoted senior Army officers.
He decorated 43 out of the 45 newly promoted Majors-General in the Nigerian Army. But unlike in the past, when such grandeur ceremonies held in the chilly air-conditioned halls of the Army Headquarters (AHQs) Abuja, Lieutenant General Buratai relocated the venue for the decoration of promoted officers to Maiduguri.
Nigerians know Maiduguri has been the former epicenter of the extremists and lethal sect, Boko Haram insurgents. The event was strategic and fascinating in many perspectives, but was very profoundly in the sheer of number of Army Generals promoted in one swoop and the significance of their decoration outside the Army Headquarters, Abuja.
The Nigerian Army made it clear that the officers deserved the elevation, as effective and active forces in the battle against Boko Haram terrorists. Some of them have also proven to be the splendid drivers of the reforms and innovations in the Nigerian Army launched by Gen. Buratai which have repositioned the Nigerian Army as a professional, patriotic and disciplined force to the admiration of Nigerians and the world.
Every reason adduced for breaking the culture or tradition of decorating the promoted officers outside Army AHQs is important and a departure from what has been institutionalized even by the other arms of the Nigerian military. But analysts say, the Maiduguri twists to the 2017 ceremony, embodies and exudes relevance beyond the veneer.
The manifest wisdom of the COAS, Lieutenant General Buratai by this act is to expose Nigerians, without much ado, to the indisputable reality of the decimation and defeat of Boko Haram insurgency in the country. Its illogical that a defeated army would be decorating officers at the theatre of war.
Before December 2015, Maiduguri and like many other parts of the Northeast, were terrorists enclaves and territories they annexed forcefully from Nigeria. Terrorists scared and coldly murdered locals and dared, even troops. They gruesomely murdered and committed assorted atrocities against humanity. At the peak of terrorists war against Nigerians, they attempted thrice to capture Government Houses in Maiduguri and Damaturu.
But pleasurably, Gen. Buratai has ended the siege on Nigeria by terrorists. However, Boko Haram agents and sympathizers often deny this incontestable fact. So, they concoct fake news and hype the might of terrorists on social media, which sometimes mislead gullible Nigerians into believing the invented tales on supremacy by insurgents against Nigerian troops.
The decoration of the newly promoted officers in Maiduguri is self-explanatory and Buratai’s clever and loud statement to Nigeria and the world that Nigerian troops have undeniably and evidentially conquered terrorists. The Army boss is convinced that sustaining the military hold on the Northeast would define the security architecture of Nigeria and spares nothing to hit targets. Again, a defeated Army would not be decorating officers on the battlefield.
Gen. Buratai told excited officers and troops at the event that “We have won the ground war and the Boko Haram terrorists substantially degraded. We have secured Nigeria’s territorial integrity and equally maintained her sovereignty. We have carried out our tasks proudly and professionally. Therefore, the final defeat of the remnants of the Boko Haram terrorists and the stabilization efforts in conjunction with other security agencies must be uppermost in your minds.”
While the Nigerian Army under Gen. Buratai attaches utmost premium on merit, promotion of the 45 officers, selected based on impact and influence in winning the terrorism war and spearheading reforms in the Army, unconsciously reflected federal character. It is a profound expression that today’s Nigerian Army does not bow to the dictates of ethnicity, religion or sectionalism and other primordial interests in the discharge of professional duties.
It projects the Nigerian Army as a force united both at home and on the warfront. It presents soldiers, as winning the counter-terrorism war together as one big indissoluble family, bond by the determination to keep defending the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Nigeria.
Therefore, it is no surprise that a perusal of the list of the promoted and decorated Army Generals, indicates finesse, professionalism and patriotism in their various career profiles. It’s a loud statements about competence of the officers.
For instance, Major General JE Jakko brilliantly performed the onerous task of leading and supervising Gen. Buratai’s ongoing reforms in the Army on accountability and transparency. It is attested by the sanitization in the management of Army finances. Each of the promoted officer has proven his mettle as a battle- tested soldier and a signpost to the world why the Nigerian Army under Buratai is unbeatably, the best in Africa.
Nothing can be more edifying with the decoration of the officers in Maiduguri than the silent declaration that no part of Nigeria territory can ever be subjected to the dictates and power of terrorists or any evil sect anymore. The Nigerian territories seized by Boko Haram insurgents have not only been reclaimed, but special fortress of insurgents like Sambisa forest home of factional leader, Abubakar Shekau and the “Alagarno forest’’, reputed as the spiritual headquarters of the Boko Haram insurgents have assumed new status as military training fields and camps.
Also, the leadership of the Nigerian Army felt that for railroading the success of the counter-insurgency operations in the Northeast and other parts of the county, it is apparent the last solider in Nigeria endured exceptional pains and hardship, deserving of a reward.
Part of the lessons that can be gleaned from Gen. Buratai’s unique leadership style by this simple act is the advertisement of his commitment to the counter insurgency war in the Northeast. His ever willingness to use the slightest opportunity at his disposal to fraternally and rewardingly engage with the troops on multifaceted aspects of welfare.
Instructively too, the Army Chief rummaged the conscience of the civil authority to step up efforts in the collective desire to finally defeat terrorism. This message came up very strongly. The Army boss pleaded that the civil leadership should necessarily take on the “salient aspects of this war to the remaining ill-fated insurgents.’’ He canvassed the re-establishment of local administrations in councils; erection of enlightenment infrastructures by civil authorities’ to “… fight the ideological, social and propaganda wars,” of terrorists. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
Gen. Buratai thundered, “The issues of indoctrination and propaganda by the terrorists must be stopped. These are the surest way to finally defeat the insurgents.’’
But the Army Chief’s shift in the protocol of decorating promoted officers in Abuja to the Northeast, was better summed by Borno state Gov. Kashim Shettima, who spoke through the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Usman Jida. He qualified the action as “irrevocable commitment to wipe out the terrorists from the region.’’ Gen. Buratai has undoubtedly exposed one of his many leadership endowments with this simple, but unique act.
Okanga, a traditional warrior writes from Agila, Benue State.