By David Onmeje
There is no scintilla of doubt that the Nigerian Army (NA) has been extra-ordinarily repositioned on all scores under Nigeria’s current democratic leader, President Muhammadu Buhari and Commander-In-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces in consonance with his earlier promise to reform the institution of the Nigerian Military for effective service delivery on its core mandate.
And since 2015 under the guidance and able leadership of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and ombudsman of counter-insurgency operations, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai, the transformation of the Nigerian Army has rapidly manifested like torrents of rain. Those still unconvinced by the impactfully exceptional transformational measures contrived in repositioning the Nigerian Army for effective counter-insurgency combats are certainly poor adherents of history or have a faulty retentive memory.
But the incontrovertible truth is that Gen. Buratai has been able to reform and reposition the NA into a professional, responsive and responsible force. Having raised the NA to that high pedestal, troops are discharging their core constitutional mandate marvelously on Internal Security (IS) and counter-terrorism operations.
To anyone focused on the progress of the NA, it will hardly escape notice that the Army had lost its glory and pride of place as an arm of the Nigerian military before its leadership by Gen. Buratai. Apart from the infiltration of the NA by politicians, who baptized soldiers with partisan badges and with the morale of troops dampened, soldiers deprived in multiple ways could not outstandingly prosecute insecurity threats assailing Nigeria. The NA was poorly equipped and most of their weapons in the armoury were outdated and obsolete.
Again, there was acute shortage of residential and office accommodation; soldiers and their families lived in tattered and dilapidated barracks, just like lack of adequate office accommodation was scandalous. And the NA’s military/ civil relations was at its lowest ebb and extremely frosty. It necessitated the perception of soldiers by Nigerians more as enemies than their sentinels and a lot of other aberrations.
But under the administration of President Buhari, which has persistently supported the leadership of the Nigerian Army, the COAS, Gen. Buratai, a pragmatist and workaholic has proved that indeed, Nigeria can possess an Army which would be one of the best in Africa and a proud national asset.
And in keeping faith with this national assignment, Gen. Buratai has strikingly changed the ugly narrative of the NA within a span of five years. Nigerian soldiers have not only become professionally inclined and reflective in their conduct, but they uphold the sanctity of Rules of Engagement (ROE) anywhere they deployed to serve their fatherland, with pride and dignity. That the Nigerian Army has been able to repress Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists and held them at the jugular consistently, unlike previous experiences of sloppy operations attests to a transformed Army.
Besides consistently ensuring the procurement of warfare weaponry which is a major backbone of the remarkable strings of victories against insurgents as recorded by Nigerian troops. And on the structural plank, provision of infrastructures, welfare of soldiers and redefined Military/civil relations, Gen. Buratai has performed amazingly superfluous as mandated by Mr. President.
Approved emoluments of soldiers are paid promptly every month. Promotions are carried out timely and no soldier now lobbies for his promotion. This is in addition to rewarding excellence in the field of battle to any soldier who deserves it with accelerated promotion, medals and awards as incentive. He has not abandoned training and retraining of soldiers through refresher courses; resuscitation of hitherto abandoned Army schools and building of new ones, such as the Nigerian Army University, Biu and the Nigerian Army Aviation School, Lagos.
Under Gen. Buratai’s leadership, the Nigerian Army has gone into partnership with private estate developers for the project of post-service housing scheme. And in order to boost the earning of the Army, the COAS has also ventured into agricultural investments for soldiers and their families, coupled with other economic investments in welfare schemes.
In the sphere of provision of fresh infrastructures, upgrade of old facilities to Army formations, and a new face of Military/civil relations, most Nigerians were in the dark until it was unveiled during the 2020 Nigerian Army Day Celebration. Each of the 8 Divisions of the Nigerian Army in the country had scores of projects courtesy of the Army leadership.
This year’s occasion was more like a celebration of Gen. Buratai’s outstanding wonders in project executions for soldiers which spanned across residential and office accommodations, clinics/hospitals, schools, constructed roads and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)/intervention schemes in many communities in Nigeria.
These projects were cumulatively inaugurated in grand style during the Army Day Celebration 2020. A peep into some of them revealed amazing milestones, which makes the appreciation of the leadership of Gen. Buratai very compelling and inevitable. At the 1 Division, Nigeria Army, Kaduna, Gen. Buratai commissioned 138 flats of accommodation sited at the Dalet Barracks and Ribadu Cantonment to provide a better shelter for Army personnel and their families among other projects. And at 81 Division Lagos, a newly reconstructed Nigerian Army Barracks Epe was equally commissioned.
Same feat was replicated at 3 Armoured Division Jos, where numerous projects, including a large Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society edifice, Rhino Officers’ Mess Charlets, Rhino Officers Mess Sit-Out Garden and NAOWA Admin Office were unveiled for the comfort of soldiers.
And also commissioned were the 585 Signal Regiment office accommodation, a Dental Clinic and Maternity Wards located at 8 Division Hospital; 26 Battalion Parade Ground, with a constructed Arms Store, Operations Room and Hall of Fame and Solar Energy Power Project. In in fulfilment of Corporate Society Responsibility (CSR), soldiers also marked this great day by conducting free medical assistance and Sanitation exercise in some areas in 8 Division Area of Responsibility (AoR).
Similarly, in 82 Division Area of Responsibility (AoR), free medical services were provided to hundreds of people in several communities. Among other CSR projects were located in the Umakohia Ubi Community in Owerri West LGA of Imo State where six newly constructed blocks of classrooms at the Local Education Authority schools for the community were also commissioned. Likewise, the foundation laying of Barracks Investment Initiative Programme (poultry farm) and a Community Civic Centre at Uhonmora-Ora Community in Owan West LGA of Edo State were also commissioned by the COAS.
Whilst in Ikeja Military Cantonment, the newly built Nigerian Army Aviation Pilots’ accommodation house, the renovated Corporal and Below Quarters and the re-modelled 9 Brigade Officers’ Mess and a disinfecting tunnel donated by hypo company were also commissioned. The 2 Division Area of Responsibility, also had its share of the goodies, as commissioned projects included, the newly built Headquarters of 32 Artillery Brigade Complex, Corporal and Below Quarters, Brigade’s Medical Centre and a Guard House.
The 6 Division, Nigerian Army Port Harcourt had the TY Buratai Subaltern Lodge, Transit Accommodation for Soldiers, Physical Cloak Room, 6 Division Garrison Kitchen and an Office Complex commissioned and ready for use; in addition to the Brigade Medical Centre, kitchen, a mosque and a chapel as well as K9 Kennel.
As part of CSR, troops of the 7 Division Maiduguri conducted sanitation exercise along Baga road market, Maiduguri town in Borno State as part of the activities marking the Nigerian Army Day Celebration 2020; while the newly built Camp Delta Force Quick Reaction Base was commissioned to enhance quick response of troops to terror activities in the communities.
Therefore, it is not empty bragging that since the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, no COAS has demonstrated this pragmatism in repositioning the Nigerian Army into a symbol of pride to Nigeria. Gen. Buratai has gone to great and admirable extents to restore the lost glory of Nigerian Army and soldiers. Posterity will remember him as a great soldier, patriot and leader of inestimable value.
Onmeje is a public affairs commentator and wrote this piece from the United Kingdom.