I thought deeply about a suitable caption to appropriately capture my elations when I reflected on the Nigerian army and the anti-terrorism campaigns in the last two years. After much thought, in the light of another heroic celebration of the Army boss, I was also careful enough to adopt a choice that would fairly represent the positive judgment of majority of Nigerians.
Nigerians again massively voted Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai for another decoration as Nigeria’s Man of the Year 2017. It is another seldom expression of Nigerians’ unreserved thankfulness to Gen. Buratai’s selflessness and patriotism to his country.
He is one of the several eminent and distinguished Nigerians to be so honoured by The Nigerian, an online news portal, based in London, but whose editorial focus is about Nigerians in any part of the world. The medium has positively and aggressively projected, promoted and defended the integrity, image and sovereignty of our dear country, Nigeria before the outside world.
Like hinted earlier, while contemplating a public appraisal and this open epistle specifically directed to Gen. Buratai on the pending grandeur event scheduled for August 2017, several options assailed my mind. But in order to satisfy myself and millions of Nigerians who are reaffirming their appreciation of Gen. Buratai, the thorough breed professional soldier and the pillar of excellence, I settled for the Italian originated, but English- adopted phrase “ Numero Uno,” which literally means “ number one” or fluidly put as “ the best one.”
A slight touch of modification or embellishment of the caption left me with an adorable version for this piece as – “Buratai: A Patriot Numero Uno.” When the different words are fused, and interpreted collectively in English, it leaves one with something phrased differently, but meaning the same thing and expressed as “ Buratai, the Number One Nigerian Patriot.”
This caption satisfies my inner feelings and most other Nigerians in the sense that patriotism is at the core of the success of every public assignment. Patriotism and loyalty are twin brothers, and unless these virtues are blended seamlessly, its difficult to make an impact in public leadership or any form of public assignment.
Unarguably, Gen. Buratai is a perfect embodiment of these virtues throughout the years of service to his fatherland. But the exhibition of these attributes became pronounced when President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him the COAS and the ombudsman of the counter-insurgency war in Nigeria.
In my large mind and towering knowledge of complex and delicate wars like counter-terrorism, creating the expected impact is a combination of several factors. It is beyond the sounds of boots and guns of soldiers; it is not only about the sophistry of armoury and it is not all about battlefield reinforcements of arms and ammunitions or even the resilience of troops. It is much about a commitment fired by the zeal of patriotism and loyalty to one’s country.
That Gen. Buratai made incredible impacts in the counter-terrorism war or even believed in the cause of defeating terrorists and terrorism in Nigeria required his patriotism and loyalty to the nation. He has imbibed and exuded enough of it in battling insurgents.
Many may not understand. But I do know that had Gen. Buratai purged himself of patriotism and loyalty to Nigeria, it was easy for him to have sabotaged the counter-insurgency war. The self-confessed sponsors of Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria, the Republic of Iran, which we all know are desperate to nourish terrorism in Nigeria would have bribed the leader of the counter-insurgency war with princely sums to allow it thrive.
An unpatriotic Gen. Buratai would have consequently also diverted federal government funds voted to battle insurgency. He would have reserved his numerous strategies and tactics for another day or battle. I suspect that the near assassination attempt on Gen. Buratai by the Sheik Ibraham El-Zakzaky led Shiites terrorists sect in Nigeria- The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) in Zaria, December 2015 stemmed from his refusal to compromise the counter-insurgency war.
It is only patriotism that compelled Gen. Buratai to endure the malicious attacks from internal detractors, agents and sympathizers of Boko Haram terrorism on his personality and Nigerian soldiers. That he ignored all of it and stayed afloat is evidence of his patriotism and loyalty to Nigeria.
Today, Gen. Buratai knows more than anyone else that a tree can only die when the taproot is cut down . And the final order for the capture of the factional Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau within 40 days is a decision propelled by patriotism instincts in the service of Nigeria.
And that Gen. Buratai personally led Nigerian troops to the trenches, caves and forests to smoke out terrorists was spurred by his conviction of patriotism. And that he never betrayed the cause of defeating terrorism is patriotic enough.
Therefore, many Nigerians like myself, who are dispassionate in assessing the terror war in the country are not oblivious of the silent motivating force of patriotism and loyalty in Buratai that has enabled him to decimate and defeat terrorism in Nigeria. Nigerians who today savour peace and respite from terrorism; the internally displaced persons who have returned back to their forlorn and ravaged villages and communities, are all reaping from Gen. Buratai’s patriotism and loyalty to his country.
The messiah-like sacrifices of all gradations that Gen. Buratai and Nigerian soldiers made to liberate Nigeria from the chains of the various acts of terrorism are their signposts of patriotism to the country. That’s why the 2017 Nigeria’s Man of the Year Award to Gen. Buratai is apt and germane.
I cannot end this piece without equally appreciating Gen. Buratai’s retinue of supporting Army Commanders. They were also very committed to their country and to the cause of defeating Boko Haram terrorists . They played very active roles as a team to free Nigeria from the claws of terrorism, whether by Boko Haram or humbled the violence-prone separatists or secessionists sects in the Southeast. They were handy to quell the emergent terrorism in the face of armed bandits and cattle rustlers in the Northwest and conquered the criminal militancy in the Niger Delta region to restore Nigeria’s economic base.
As The Nigerian confers on Gen. Buratai 2017 Man of the Year award in London, I encourage Gen. Buratai, the “People’s General” to grace the event personally. He is persuaded to add glamour to the ceremony by nominating some soldiers from all the regions where our troops are on special assignments and have restored peace and reclaimed lands formerly occupied by terrorists and armed bandits to attend the event. This will really confer a feeling of fulfillment on Nigerians.
The gesture would sufficiently convey to the people his open acknowledgement of their appreciation of his excellent performance as leader of the counter-insurgency war in Nigeria . We are with you in body and spirit, Gen. Buratai, Nigeria’s Numero Uno.
Uche John Madu writes from Badagry Leadership Institute, Lagos.