By Philip Agbese
“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots;” – Marcus Garvey.
Everywhere in the globe, great nations, societies and communities have had their today elegantly defined by history. History is today’s teacher and tomorrow’s fortifier against the mistakes, pitfalls and inaccuracies of the past. History is kind to everyone and very silent, but speaks a thousand immutable words of wisdom to a whole generation.
But mischievous persons seek to destroy history and there are no limits of perpetrating this act. It’s easy for people with such mindsets to twist history and everything under the sun insofar as it serves the purpose of damaging a noble cause. It is to such debased minds Marcus Garvey; a famed Jamaican publisher is warning in the insightful caution.
In an article by Charles Ogbu, titled, “Re: The legend of Buratai; Memo to the Army Chief,” the author sought vainly to vilify and demean the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and remarkable ombudsman of the counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria.
Ogbu attempted so generously to amputate historically time-tested and incontrovertible facts about the current leadership of the Nigerian Army and the stout battles Nigerian troops have launched against Boko Haram Terrorism and insurgency in Nigeria in the past three years.
Unmistakably blinded by an inexplicable self-consuming anger, the author went on a senseless and apparently envious, but unrewarding voyage against the Army Chief. Freedom of expression in Nigeria is a Constitutional right; but it precludes the spewing of gibberish, spurred by a clannish or sectional anger or some personal grudge.
The author’s angst is instigated by the planned presentation of a published book on Gen. Buratai, titled “The Legend of Buratai,” to school children at the Federal Capital Territory library, Abuja. The contents of the book mainly about the exploits of the Nigerian Army over insurgency and insurrections in Nigeria under the leadership of Gen. Buratai in a fictional style narrative of children’s literature, authored by a renowned scholar, Dr. Abubakar Mohd Sani.
Ogbu faulted the book and its presentation to school children by seeking to falsely re-write the history of Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria under the previous regimes and what is obtainable now under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The namby-pamby article saw the author displaying a pathetic and eclipsed knowledge of the success story of the three-year counter-terrorism battles under the Buhari Presidency. He further sought to undermine Gen. Buratai’s leadership of the Nigerian Army and the successes Nigerian troops have recorded at the warfront against Boko Haram insurgents.
The obviously dazed, the article author gleefully forgot yesterday’s history on Boko Haram in Nigeria. He is experiencing the difference today, but lacks the competence to interpret or blend it with history. So, he decided on an easy escape by dissolving the cherished history of triumph and defeat of Boko Haram with his wayward idiosyncrasies’.
It is his type former American President, Dwight D. Eisenhower counsels that “Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.”
The author betrayed his mindset by crafting and peddling visible lies on this simple conviction of inappropriate timing. But facts are sacred and history cannot be obviated by a mere wish. First, the article author is devoid of procedural knowledge of the deployment of soldiers. So, he failed to understand that it is not the primary duty of the Army to jump into quelling insurrections; but that of civil security agencies.
The Army is only concerned when the proper approval has been granted by the President and Commander-In-Chief. Thereafter, soldiers launch specified operations in the areas concerned, but do not remain in such areas forever.
But irrefutable records have shown that across Nigeria where the Army were drafted to quell insurrections, they have posted positive results. The article author deliberately failed to understand that the Army tackled the armed banditry and cattle rustling in the Northwest region at different times with “Operation Sharan Daji” and “Operation Harbin Kunama I.”
These Army operations ended the reign of armed banditry in the region and it only resumed a long time after soldiers were withdrawn to other places and political leadership failed to sustain the peace and security. The Army has been re-ordered back to Northwest for a month’s battled tagged “Operation Harbin Kunama III” and results also speak for itself in pluses.
Soldiers also conducted “Operation Harbin Kunama II,” “Exercise Ayem Akpatema” and now, “Operation Whirl Stroke” to arrest the menace of herdsmen/farmers clashes in the Middle Belt region. Ogbu should research or investigate properly, Governors of Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa and Plateaus have made public statements in the media thanking Mr. President and the Army for the prevailing solace over herdsmen killers in their states.
There were similar problems in the South-South with bile militancy and the illegal/ armed secession struggles in the Southeast spearheaded by Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB. But the different operations of the Army in these regions have ended such “madness,” as peace and security have been restored courtesy of the Nigerian Army. Seeking to blight this history of the Army under the leadership of Gen. Buratai cannot annihilate the facts.
To use the wishy-washy contents of the article to berate and malign our soldiers over the nebulous and criminal activities of its assembled armed gangs under IPOB who embarked on extra-judicial killings of those opposed to their ideology is very uncharitable and a disservice to Nigeria. It is not surprising all together that Ogbu generously sided armed criminals masquerading as secession agitators, because it is innate with some Nigerians to support evil against their country.
The article author continued with the historical distortions and falsehood when he exhumed the treated and buried attacks on the convoy of the COAS by armed Shiites in Nigeria in December 2015 in Zaria, Kaduna state. It is completely standing against logic and somewhat silly for quoting isolated accounts of submissions during Public hearings of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry(JCI) set up by the Kaduna State Government, instead of the official report or its White Paper. It implies this armchair analyst is merely scouting for dark spots to blame Gen. Buratai and the Army.
Likewise, the author feels defaming the personality of Gen. Buratai or tainting the image of the Nigerian Army as an institution would be believable by forcing the stale belief that whatever Amnesty International (AI) reels out is gospel truth. But AI is suspected to be foreign agents supporting terror sects or groups to destabilize the country and cause its disintegration. Year after year, AI has been unable to substantiate or provide evidence against numerous allegations it keeps levelling against the Nigerian Army at lawful probe panels.
The author of the worthless article dabbled into the Boko Haram insurgency, which by all ramifications of his accounts are strange to him. He disgraced himself as someone who is ignorant of the intensity of insurgency in 2015 and the impacts the Gen. Buratai led troops have brought to bear through the counter-insurgency operations.
But where were his likes who feign ignorance now when Gen. Buratai stepped into the trenches with troops to know Boko Haram had full control and foisted their Jihadi flags in 17 LGAs and had partial control of another seven LGAs in the Northeast? Under Buratai’s leadership of counter-terrorism operations, all the LGAs have been reclaimed. The feared Sambisa forest has been demystified and has assumed the status of an international tourists attraction site. Can this history be distorted or countenanced by Ogbu too?
Aside the 276 Chibok Schoolgirls in Boko Haram captivity, over 20, 000 Nigerians, comprising the young, the old, women and children were under Boko Haram hostage in various insidious camps in the Northeast. They were subjected to forced labour, sexual abuse and other dehumanizing treatments. Under Gen. Buratai’s leadership of the Army, over 105 Chibok schoolgirls; 107 Dapchi schoolgirls and over 16,000 Nigerians formerly under terrorist’s captivity have been rescued. Is this fact too controvertible?
To advertise the author’s ignorance, he convicted himself by claiming Nigerian troops are poorly equipped yet, they have been able to reclaim all Boko Haram seized territories, confine their activities to remotest parts of Lake Chad Basin and halted terrorists’ atrocities in other parts of Northern Nigeria.
And about two weeks ago, troops successfully repelled the insurgents attempted attacks on Damaturu, at Maiduguri, where scores of insurgents met their waterloo and weapons confiscated by Nigerian troops? It means this sort of “poor” equipment of Nigerian troops as hyped by the article author is best for Nigeria.
Perhaps, to Ogbu and his co-travellers, it is important to know Nigerian Army or troops have never protested over unpaid salaries and allowances under the Buhari Presidency or Gen. Buratai’s leadership. The only time soldiers attempted a protest at Maiduguri airport some two years back was spurred by the incitement and hesitation to redeployment to other areas by some soldiers. May be, the article writer should wait, when he becomes the COAS, he can allow his troops dictate to him preferences in posting locations for official assignments.
It’s understandable that in Nigeria, everybody is an expert in every field, but master of none! The writer misplaced his thoughts with the claim that Gen. Buratai “…has continued to grant suspicious pardon to “repentant” Boko Haram terrorists amidst reports of secret recruitment of these so called “repentant” terrorists into the Army.”
This is thoughtless propaganda. From the outset, Gen. Buratai made it public his adoption of the “stick and carrot,” approach in dismantling Boko Haram. It has seen the voluntary surrender of hundreds of Boko Haram foot soldiers and top commanders, who are de-militarized and de-radicalized over a period of time in designated military camps.
It is some of these repentant and de-radicalized insurgents that are absorbed into the Army and it is done openly, with the media buzzing with the news. A popular axiom says, sometimes, you use a thief to catch a thief. Why would this split anybody’s head?
No matter how hard the efforts to unfairly excoriate Gen. Buratai , the records will exonerate him. Its senseless to claim a COAS who probed and dismissed soldiers on election duty for professional misconduct and compromise of the electoral process will turn around to promote same. In the 2019 general elections, soldiers on election duty in some parts of the country rather resisted the temptation of financial inducement by politicians.
Gen. Buratai, a leader who has made these priceless sacrifices and accomplishments for his country is not qualified to be dubbed a Legend, who else on his present seat, stretched this far in the past? Unknown to the likes of Ogbu, a prophet has no honour in his village, but Gen. Buratai is celebrated both at home and abroad, as he has bagged the Brazilian highest military award for his daring punches on terrorism in Nigeria.
Another former American President, Harry S. Truman, reminds the likes of the bewitched critic the embodiment of history in Gen. Buratai thus; “Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better”.
Agbese is a researcher in international humanitarian laws and wrote this piece from the United Kingdom.