By David Onmeje
“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” -Gen. Douglas MacArthur, US Army.
The surge of anger in Nigeria’s numero uno soldier, Lt. Gen. TY Buratai against Boko Haram criminals and their buddies, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists is palpable and explosive. The Chief of Army Staff and leader of the counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria is smoldering and has gone for the broke against tormentors of the country in whatever configuration.
About mid-April 2020, Gen. Buratai surprised Nigerians when he suddenly announced his decision to relocate to the trenches in the Northeast, lead the anti-terrorism combats from the frontlines and remain rooted on the battlefield until terrorists are completely routed out of Nigeria.
It’s understandable that the Army Chief now goes ruthlessly tougher on the Boko Haram criminals and bastards. He has tried both military and peaceful options, or what others have known as “stick and carrot” approach. But the bloodcurdling bastards, still market themselves in fake bragging might.
Gen. Buratai believes, terrorists of whatever hue cannot repress the African totem of excellence in war-the Nigerian Army or turn Nigeria into a conquered territory insofar as he breathes life.
Like others of like minds, a veteran and dexterous war philosopher, Gen. George S. Patton believed that “Always do everything you ask of those you command.” Therefore, the vexatious Gen. Buratai laced his boot and hopped into the theatre of war, leading the offensives against terrorists himself. He has not taken the action merely for expletives. Its not the first time; but the difference now is his vow never to return to Abuja until Boko Haram dissipates completely out of Nigeria.
So, as a prelude to his current outing, Gen. Buratai embarked on operational tour of troops locations in the Northeast theatre of war, refreshed or updated his intelligence reports, met, interacted and patrolled together with troops in the warzone.
It was American war veteran and diplomat, Colin Powell who said, “The most important thing, I learned is that soldiers watch what their leaders do. You can give them classes and lecture them forever, but it is your personal example they will follow.” So, Gen. Buratai has elevated his style of leadership by example to a new realm.
To clairvoyant minds, Gen. Buratai had conquered terrorists some four years ago. That thrice, insurgents fruitlessly attempted to sniff life out of him in ambushes in the Northeast, where most of them perished in gun battles and his demystification of Sambisa forest, Boko Haram’s most dreaded enclave are ample evidence of the defeat of terrorists. Gen. Buratai and Nigerian troops are out now for the final interment ceremony of remnants of Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists, which will come easy and seamlessly soon.
So, he is personally in the frontlines to lead the funeral of terrorists, grasshopping from territory to territory with troops, coordinating, leading an avalanche of assaults and combing the vestiges of terrorists in all identified hideouts. The results in less than a week have been exceptionally marvelous and still counting. Gen. Buratai and troops have colonized all insurgents’ hideouts on the fringes of the three focal states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa Northeast. It has thrown terrorists in irrecoverable disarray.
In almost simultaneous operations against terrorists, Nigerian troops of Sector 2, Operation Lafiya Dole neutralized over 105 insurgents at Buni Gari village in Gujba LGA, Yobe state and their weapons confiscated.
With eyes still fixated on Yobe and on revenge, the terrorists again amassed to attack Geidam; but troops of 159 Battalion in Sector 2 in collaboration with the Air Task Force of OPLD met the criminals fire for fire. And it was another black day for terrorists as at least 13 of them were killed in the encounter and weapons seized, as the few lucky survivors, who lost the strength to battle hastened for escape and were hotly chased. Terrorists retrieved no weapon, but lost everything they brought to the battlefront.
Day and night, Gen. Buratai leads troops to engage Boko Haram insurgents in intensified onslaughts and fierce gun battles to ensure they are finally dislodged and ousted from Nigeria.
Gen. Buratai’s presence in the theatre of operation has ensured, no Boko Haram hideout is impenetrable to Nigerian troops or an adversity too strong to surmount by the Army. Former US Secretary of State & Secretary of Defense Gen. George C. Marshall, once opinionated that; “The truly great leader overcomes all difficulties, and campaigns and battles are nothing but a long series of difficulties to be overcome. The lack of equipment, the lack of food, the lack of this and that are only excuses; the real leader displays his quality in his triumphs over adversity, however great it may be.”
So, the warmonger does not romance any obstacle; no bulwark mounted against Nigeria troops in the warfront is too difficult to break; the rough terrain of the Northeast has rather become an added booster of strength to Nigerian forces. The leader of the counter-insurgency operation’s only obsession now is the ruthless burying of the final ghost of Boko Haram and its allies in Nigeria.
And the bells are resonating loudly in this direction and terrorists’ camps, together with their sponsors are shuddering endlessly. The phobia of the last day of doom for terrorists’ honchos and top commanders’ inches nearer with each passing day. It is scary and dreary to the bloodsuckers, who have decoded Gen. Buratai’s lucid language of “no retreat, no surrender.”
Scared to his pants, the formerly “invincible” factional leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau is pleading for a chance to ceasefire reticently. He is pleading to chicken out of the battle for a soft-landing now that it is irremediably raining bullets and his camp are suffering casualties on the frontlines. Shekau’s only fortress, the Timbuktu triangle in Borno is assailed by Nigerian troops.
Shekau is prepared and so desperate to surrender. He has been making frantic efforts through proxies who have mounted pressures on some International Non-Governmental Organisations to anchor an armistice deal with the Nigerian Government towards granting him amnesty.
Some Nigerians who are perpetual doubting Thomases may think the news reports are a ruse and mere propaganda stunts. But they have missed the gist. Since Gen. Buratai assumed leadership of the counter-operations in Nigeria, the previously haughty, vicious and audacious Abubakar Shekau has never found his operations of festering the evil against Nigerian smooth any longer.
Not only that the momentum and frequency of Shekau’s videos of boastful and horrendous killings of Nigerians as the people grieved have scaled down almost to zero, but he has also lost the nerve and energy to partake in gruesome operations, preferring to use foot soldiers who have consistently and generously met their waterloo in the hands of Nigerian Army on the battle turf. Nigerians; Shekau has lost incredible top commanders, foot soldiers to the Nigerian military these past years.
Today is not the first time Shekau would wail loudly about his declining fortunes in the extremist war he wedged against Nigeria. For instance, in one of Shekau’s released videos’ in 2017, after Nigerian troops gave him hard kicks on the ankles by serial defeats, he publicly lamented his frustrations about the inevitable possibility of defeat in the war, as he became a loner in the war.
In another February 2018 video, Shekau who became a fugitive and remained in the cooler for nearly a year, feebly threatened Nigeria by pleading with his foot soldiers to unleash attacks on infidels in major cities of the country like Abuja and Lagos among others. Neither himself nor adherents have been able to execute this threat.
Not long ago, Shekau again bemoaned publicly how Gen. Buratai was killing them (terrorists), who are Muslims; but claims to be a Muslim. His latest clandestine attempts to surrender the war and himself to the Nigerian authorities is just one of his several preceding signs of death as echoed by Shakespeare that “a coward dies many times before his death.”
But unfortunately, Nigerians are thinking that Abubakar Shekau’s contemplation of truce and surrender to the Nigerian Government for a possible amnesty is a little bit belated. And having abused earlier gestures of truce and reconciliation, Gen. Buratai appears to be too angry now beyond appeasement and mulling ceasefire now is unwise. An opportunity once lost, most times, is never regained.
Besides, the COAS has renewed his order that Abubakar Shekau be captured alive at the cost of anything. And the Army Chief looks poised to prove a point to Nigerians. It seems the fear of Buratai, the “Peoples General,” as he is feted, is the beginning of wisdom. The situation looks very grim for Shekau.
If gleaned from the mindset of the Nigerian Military, Abubakar Shekau is welcomed to surrender after defeat and exhaustion in the years of internecine war he unleashed against his compatriots. But he must not forget that he will not be welcomed with pomp and pageantry into the communal life of Nigerians.
But he is assured that only the volley of wailings of the innocent souls he initiated, participated and supervised their gruesome mass deaths will be waiting for him at Eagle Square, Abuja to tear him into shreds. No one is scaring him not to surrender; but it is also nice for him to know the fate which awaits him from Nigerians in the event he surrenders.
Like Capt. Bill Murphy said at end of every briefing to soldiers deployed to fight in 2003 Iraqi war; “Good luck, Godspeed, and come home safe;” Gen. Buratai and Nigerian troops, good luck and come home safe with the terrorists’ honcho, Abubakar Shekau. Nigerians awaits him!
Onmeje wrote this piece from the United Kingdom.