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Saturday, 1 October 2016

Endless Gains of Buratai’s Diplomatic Shuttles

By: Okanga Agila

Terrorism bites! It angers, it kills gruesomely and places humanity on the cusp of hopelessness and despair. It causes social upheavals of a terrifying magnitude. When terrorists squeal, man is reduced to ashes. Its venomous global outreach has thrown humanity in turmoil for decades in parts of the world. With Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) freely prowling, Nigeria was tormented for years.

But Nigeria has not only impressively recovered from its grip. In the Northeast where BHTs held the country in suffocating grip, displaced persons are  now returning home, farmers have started cropping, fishermen are back to their trade, markets are back in activity, herdsmen are shepherding cattle in the fields,  and roads closed for years have been reopened. It’s the mirror of Nigeria’s success of the war on terror.

But achieving these milestones is beyond fictional ecstasies. Only a man conversant with the rudiments of a given assignment delivers it to specifications or desired results. Soldering is certainly not everybody’s job. It’s heavier when combined with administrative management or leadership of the army.

Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai is unarguably an army officer who fits both descriptions. He is a soldier in the trenches or battlefront, much as he is an emperor in military administration and leadership.

It is the deployment of these brilliant endowments to soldering that Nigeria is today experiencing a near zero level of terrorism in the Northeast and elsewhere in the country. Armed banditry in the Northwest and militancy in the Niger Delta are gradually being tamed with the application of strategies and fresh ideas, initiated to contain the various nuances of insecurity challenges.

To many eyes, these seemed very impossible tasks to accomplish before now. But in military counter engagements, like in any other profession, effective utilization of experience and innovative ideas are the incontestable pillars upon which success rests. Buratai’s deployment of these skills and tactics in leading the Nigerian army in its counter-terrorism war is responsible for the rewarding outcomes.

Pushed by the desire to leave indelible marks, in appreciation of his choice by Nigerians to serve fatherland in the capacity of COAS last year,   Buratai undertook numerous diplomatic shuttles to at least six foreign countries. The choice of these countries was informed by the need to use military diplomacy to explore their experience in combating terrorism and other security threats.

He led high-powered delegations of Nigerian army to understudy the secrets, proven conventions and the best practices these nations adopted to successfully prosecute the battle against terrorism and irresponsible violence against humanity.

Buratai variously visited   Brazil , Saudi Arabia, Columbia, Bangladesh, Chad and the USA among others. These are countries plagued by terrorism and jungle war, but have proven that nations have the potency to overcome their violent tormentors disguised or clothed with any nomenclature, such as terrorists, armed bandits or militants.

When he led top echelon of the Nigerian army to Colombia for instance, Buratai targeted a country that had battled acts of terrorism for far greater years than Nigeria. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and other insurgent groups held the country to ransom for nearly 50 years before they were extinguished.

The trip was hugely rewarding as it delivered at his doorstep priceless and useful information to apply in military engagement with terrorists back home.  The Colombian COAS, Gen. Albert Jose Mejia intimated the Nigerian army delegation on different categories and dimensions of operations by  the Columbian army, including the various strategies adopted. The visit climaxed into the inspection of Colombia’s vital military formations and institutions of its Armed Forces.

Similarly, Buratai’s diplomatic shuttle to Bangladesh was designed to curry support for improvement in professional skills of soldiers for performance enhancement. Bangladesh’s President Abdul Hamid  Bangabhaban graciously offered Nigerian army  training in his country’s military institutions, reputed for proficiency and  excellence. Alternatively, Bangladesh’s President also indicated his army’s willingness to sojourn to Nigeria to teach soldiers courses bordering on counter- terrorism and jungle warfare.

When Buratai met with the Deputy Chief of Army Staff for International and Special Affairs, Brazilian Army, Major General Pereira Junior ,   Nigeria’s army chief  extracted the commitment of the Brazilian army   to assist the country with  training billets  for  its  army personnel, especially,    in executing jungle warfare. We are all living witnesses to the recent past when embassies and high commissions in Nigeria issue seasonal alerts to their nationals not to leave their homes for fear of attacks. This singular visit of Buratai's counterpart to Nigeria reaffirmed to the rest of the world that Nigeria and not just the capital territory is safe for all kinds of business.

During his tour of the United States, the Nigerian Army Chief confronted high-profile retired and serving military officers and eminent personalities with the success story of the counter-terrorism war in Nigeria and the respect for human rights. He laid bare his determination to further consolidate on the gains by developing the capacity of Nigerian army through local training and international collaboration in a range of military specializations’.

The encounter ended with his request for mutual support, understanding and cooperation among agencies and international partners for a collective action against terrorists in Nigeria. The list is in exhaustive, but everywhere the wheels of Buratai’s military diplomatic shuttles screened to a halt, he came back home with something to improve the capacity of Nigerian soldiers to tackle terrorism.

These military diplomatic shuttles and varying engagements of world class military experts and the knowledge Buratai sourced has cumulatively enthroned the success Nigeria has experienced in the war against BHTs and other extremists’ sects.  Today, Nigeria’s image abroad has not only improved, but the country is widely adored in the comity of nations as an immaculate star in combating terrorism.

It’s on this score that an elated President Buhari proudly informed the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) that; “Nigeria has made remarkable progress in our resolve to defeat Boko Haram whose capacity to launch orchestrated attacks as a formed group has been severely degraded. In the last few months, their operations have been limited to sporadic use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) against soft targets. Nigeria has continued to combat terrorism based on the established rules of engagement and in conformity with international best practices.”

But still determined to explore new grounds to sustain the war on terror groups, President Buhari scheduled a meeting with the Columbian President during the United Nations’ General Assembly in New York to explore fresh areas of Nigeria/Columbia military relations.

Thus, Nigeria has become the beacon light in combating internal terrorism and its global nexus with the defeat of BHTs partly because of Buratai’s focus and consistency, with the engagement of reputable military experts around the world.

Nigeria has now transformed from a country sorrowing over terror to a jubilant nation, which now urges other nation plagued by terrorism to learn from its experience.   President Buhari confidently invited nations of the world still troubled by terrorism to be optimistic that the Nigerian   “… experience today is evidence that with determined international collaboration, terrorism can be defeated.

Okanga writes from Agila, Benue State

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