All eyes are now on Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, following his publicised relocation to the Northeast theatre of war, to physically and actively lead the war against Boko Haram. It remains to be seen how Lt Gen Buratai’s physical and active participation will give the Nigerian troops an advantage over Boko Haram.
The Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Colonel Sagir Musa, said in a statement that Lt Gen Buratai had “relocated fully to the Northeast where he is overseeing and directing the overall operation in the theatre and other Nigerian Army operations across the country.”
It is unclear why the army boss took the decision at this time, and why he did not do so earlier. It remains to be seen whether his move will make a difference.
Perhaps Lt Gen Buratai is haunted by his tough talk during the Nigerian Army Special Day at the 41st Kaduna International Trade Fair on March 7. The army boss, who spoke through the Chief of Policy, Nigerian Army, Lt Gen Lamidi Adeosun, was reported to have said that the army would crush Boko Haram in a matter of days.
That did not happen, and the war against the Boko Haram insurgents, which has gone on for more than 10 years now, is looking like a war without end.
Perhaps Lt Gen Buratai’s relocation is a face-saving reaction to the recent news of the exploits of Chadian troops in the anti-terror war. A report said: ”About 100 suspected Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) were… killed around the Lake Chad Basin and cache of arms recovered by Chadian troops in an operation led by President Idris Debby.
“The operation codenamed Wrath of Boma was launched by President Debby following the murder of about 92 Chadian soldiers by the terrorists in a recent ambush…According to video footage and information from the operation available on the internet, Debby, who said he would not accept defeat from the terrorists, led his armed forces to battle at Kelkoua bank and Magumeri… The troops were said to have also destroyed several BHTs bunkers, recovered cache of arms and arrested a top BHT commander.”
On Lt Gen Buratai’s relocation, according to the army spokesman, “While addressing troops of Special Super Camp Ngamdu in Kaga Local Government Area of Borno State on 9 April 2020, Gen. Buratai said that he will be with them to the nooks and crannies of the theatre.”
He recalled that “the COAS had been on operational tour to troops’ locations in the Northeast Theatre of Operation since Saturday the 4th of April, 2020.
During the tour, he was at the Army Super Camp 1 at Mulai and the Special Forces Super Camp 12 at Chabbol near Maiduguri on Wednesday 8 April 2020 where he interacted with the officers and addressed the troops respectively.
“COAS was also at the Forward Operations Base at Alau Dam, and also personally led the troops on patrol round Mairimari and Maigilari Forests.”
Lt Gen Buratai should know that talking tough is not enough to win a shooting war. He tried to boost the morale of the troops at Ngamdu Special Super Camp during a special Easter celebration, declaring that he would not leave the theatre of war until the Boko Haram insurgents had been defeated.
He told the troops: ”We are here; we will not leave this camp until we substantially degrade these criminals… we shall be there with you, no going back once we commence.
We will be with you in the valleys, on the hill, in the jungle, in the river and so on…. We are here and we will make sure that we get ourselves properly motivated, properly equipped…”
The first test came sooner than they expected; “barely 72 hours after,” according to a report. It was a signal that should awaken the army boss to the realities at the theatre of war.
“Boko Haram insurgents… launched an attack on the Army Special Super Camp at Ngamdu, a border town between Borno and Yobe where the Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Tukur Buratai relocated to launch a final onslaught on the terrorists, “the report said.
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“But the insurgents tested their confidence by launching the attack on the camp even as Buratai and his officers are apparently mapping out strategies on how to deal final blows on the terrorists.
“Sources at the camp, who are not authorised to speak with the press, revealed that the insurgents came in mortar gun trucks from the south-western side and opened fire.
“Other sources revealed that mortar guns where launched in the camp but no fatality was recorded. Some of the troops were said to have sustained minor injuries.”
By relocating to the theatre of war, Lt Gen Buratai has probably played his last card. He should know that if this move does not bring the desired result, which is the clear defeat of the terrorists, it would amount to nothing more than an elaborate stunt. In the event that the latest counter-insurgency effort under Lt Gen Buratai fails, such a failure should result in his exit.
Lt Gen Buratai should demonstrate that he has the capacity not only to lead the counter-insurgency effort but also win the war against Boko Haram. Appointed Chief of Army Staff in July 2015, Lt Gen Buratai, 59, was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in December 1983 into the Infantry Corps of the Nigerian Army, and has been in service for 36 years.
His operational deployments include Military Observer at the United Nations Verification Mission II in Angola, Op Harmony IV in the Bakassi Peninsular, Op Mesa, Op Pulo Shield, Op Safe Conduct, Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), in Chad, Op Zaman Lafiya, and Op Lafiya Dole.
It is interesting that Lt Gen Buratai, who attended Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, has a degree in History from University of Maiduguri, and a degree in Philosophy from Bangladesh University of Professionals, Dhaka. He is also a graduate of National Defence College, Mirpur, Bangladesh.
The combination of history and philosophy should motivate him to make history by defeating Boko Haram, and make him reflective enough to grasp the difference between success and failure.
Credit: THE NATION