By David Onmeje
In Nigeria, most leaders often present themselves as the Greek philosopher kings of ancient times. They brandish themselves as all-knowing, and untouchables. They are people who cannot be counseled, and most times elevate themselves in magisterial eminence, cast in the shades of the likes of King Pharaoh. Outside their personal interest, nothing else obsesses the mind.
Challenge for any deprivation, means a hounding path to doom. Such leaders are happier when those they lead grumble and wail. They display a puzzling detachment from the led and cast themselves in the shadows of Princes and Princesses. Nonetheless, genuine leaders place the ruled first and themselves last.
Nigeria’s biggest insecurity challenge since 2009 has been Boko Haram insurgency. There are pockets of other security challenges all over the country, but insurgency has remained the most daunting problem. True Nigerian leaders are committed to it as observable now.
Therefore, since the appointment of Lt. Gen. TY Buratai as the COAS and leader of the counter-insurgency operations, soldiers have sauntered on a new plane of leadership of the Army.
The welfare of troops has remained paramount in Buratai’s leadership of the Army. So, before his troops, the Army Chief de-robes himself of mastership and assumes the role of a loyal servant, in the mould of “Man Friday,” the character in Daniel Defoe’s novel, “Robinson Crusoe,” cast in the setting of an Island, usually lonely and forlorn.
Much like “Man Friday,” Gen. Buratai is not influenced by the language, ethnicity or habits of his troops. He places himself in a position of service at their disposal, by elevating their welfare above his personal interests. What affects his troops, shadows in him directly. He shares in their pains, joys and sorrows. And with each passing day, Gen. Buratai thinks of the comfort and pleasure of his troops in the battlefield.
If troops are facing hard tackles in the warfront from Boko Haram enemy forces, Gen. Buratai does not retreat into his shell in the comfort of his luxurious office in Army Headquarters, Abuja. He angrily steps out in laced boots to the battlefield, fighting the enemies together with his troops.
Since Buratai became the COAS, it’s difficult to remember which Sallah , Christmas or New Year celebration he has ever observed in the company of his lovely family. He spends it in the dark caves, and dreadful forests with the troops in the Northeast.
The Army Chief eats together, drink from the same pot and dance to the music of chirruping birds. Leaders of his ilk would mount a live music orchestra band erected in Abuja’s most secured environment. They will dance in stupor and wild celebrations, in pomp and pageantry to the pleasure of family and friends.
But in the Northeast, especially Sambisa Forest, where troops keep strict vigilance, Buratai and his troops, celebrates any of these festivities, in the line of duty. They know there is no reason to renege on the covenant with Nigerians to secure Nigeria from terrorists.
Like “Man Friday,” whose relationship with “Robinson Crusoe” the main character in Defoe’s novel is touted as the father-son type of intimacy and the former genuinely caring for the welfare of his circumstantial lad, “ Man Friday,” so also is Gen. Buratai to his troops.
Gen. Buratai , who is an ardent believer in the principles of the Chinese war veteran, Sun Tzu, he has adopted his wisdom of treating his troops in the same manner and passion of a personal family in his interactions with them.
So, though, Buratai is the overall master of the Nigerian Army today, but the Army Chief has reshuffled the roles and the aura surrounding his office upside down, to the favor of his troops to innately earn their loyalty for best results. A foresighted war leader knows, it is necessary to place yourself in the dungeon of your subordinates’ to solve any problem. And Buratai has mastery of it.
So, practical application, Buratai has reversed the roles and he thinks, the troops are his masters and he is not hesitant serving them faithfully and loyally at all times. he leaves no room for any barrier to affect interpersonal relationship just like “Man Friday” with his boss, Robinson Crusoe marooned on the Island off the coast of Venezuela, where “Boy Friday” as he is otherwise called by some literary analysts found a master, friend and companion.
Gen. Buratai remains the only Army Chief in Nigeria’s history who thinks the wives and children of troops in the warfront deserves special attention. He does not mind who is your spouse, but renders himself generously to their problems and dispensing instant solutions.
Consequently, Gen. Buratai has ensured salaries and allowances of troops are remitted to their accounts promptly. He has prioritized renovation of Army barracks, most of which were in dilapidated conditions, due to years of neglect. Almost every Army formation in Nigeria today wears a new look. The Army boss is not only concerned with residential quarters of soldiers, but also, the offices they sit to run administration of the Army.
Just last year, the Nigerian Army under the leadership of Gen. Buratai signed a N7.5 billion MOU for a housing estate in Otukpo and Ohimini LGAs of Benue state for both soldiers and civilians in partnership with Betonic West Limited.
Before it, the Maimalari Cantonment, Maiduguri, Borno state; Elele Army Barracks, Rivers State and headquarters of the 331 Artillery Tactical Forward Operation Base (FOB) at Buratai in Biu local government area of Borno State among others from an inexhaustible list have both residential and office accommodation reliefs.
There are also a Forward Operation Base, military barracks at Okene, in Kogi State; and in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, new army cantonment, named Muhammadu Buhari Cantonment, Giri; the Nigerian Army School of Artillery in Kachia, Kaduna State and Office of the Military Secretary at the Army Headquarters Abuja. Gen. Buratai’s transformative relics in Army welfarism are everywhere in Army formations in Nigeria.
In essence, Gen. Buratai strikes special attention and stands tall in the midst of some Nigerian leaders because having sworn the oath of allegiance to his country to discharge his professional duties faithfully and dedicatedly, he has not slacked a second of a minute.
The funds committed to the development of the Nigeria Army and the welfare of Army personnel as practically verifiable could have been diverted by an uncultured leader for personal gains. But Gen. Buratai has proved to be different by signifying exceptional enthusiasm for the welfare and development of the Nigerian Army, in loyal service like Defoe’s “Man Friday.”
Onmeje contributed this piece from the United Kingdom.