By Kolawole Anthony
The name Ambassador Tukur Yusufu Buratai, Lieutenant General (retd) sure rings a bell in the annals of the country. Take it or leave it, it would continue to resonate for a long time, especially at the mention of the Boko Haram insurgency in the country.
Ambassador TY Buratai is a former Chief of Army Staff. But one that redefined purpose and engagement. He is such a great thinker. I won’t be wrong if I regard him to one of the great military strategists in the modern-day era because his exploits were legendary, from Operation Lafiya Dole to Operation Crocodile Smile, through Operation Sahel Sanity and others too numerous to mention.
I recently encountered Ambassador TY Buratai, and he remains every inch himself, filled with wisdom and willing to contribute to the discourse on national security. Indeed, there was something fascinating about TY Buratai. He is a man of conviction. I recall when he was appointed Chief of Army Staff, he stated that peace must return to North-East Nigeria. That conviction begat the famous Operation Lafiya Dole that saw the decimation of the Boko Haram group and its dislodgment from Sambisa Forest.
The exploits of operation Lafiya Dole in the war against insurgency in North-East Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. It was also on record that TY Buratai, as Chief of Army Staff, sometimes led operations and slept in the trenches with troops. I recall that on several occasions, his convoys were ambushed. But he wasn’t deterred, and he carried on like the colossus that he is.
The TY Buratai era in the Nigerian Army remains remarkable. It would always serve as a reference point in leadership and patriotism. The establishment of the Nigerian Army University was also hailed as one of the highlights of the Buratai era. It was indeed a masterstroke that elicited commendation from wide and far. The Buratai era also saw to the introduction of numerous reforms in the operational strategies of the Nigerian Army that placed it in prime position to carry out its mandate in the preservation of the territorial integrity of the country.
TY Buratai was indeed loyal to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I recall some time in 2020, a well-respected former Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. Gen. Ipoola Alani Akinrinade, at the commissioning ceremony of the state-of-the-art Operations Room in Headquarters 2 Division, Adekunle Fajuyi Cantonment Ibadan, Oyo State., commended TY Buratai.
He was quoted as saying “that the events of recent weeks which went beyond the END SARS protest have portrayed the Chief of Army Staff as a “rare breed officer and an exemplary leader” who did not betray the trust and confidence of the Commander in Chief, noting that Buratai has on many occasions made it clear that the Nigerian Army is a professional army and that the era of military intervention in political governance was gone for good.”
I also recall an occasion where he was heaped with generous praises and referred to as Sun Tzu of Africa by his patriots and mentees within the military for religiously upholding soldiers’ welfare and comfort like a commandment.
It was stated that his adoption of this philosophy was responsible for the Army’s winning streaks in its counter-insurgency operations in North-East Nigeria and other internal security operations across the country. I agree with this because TY Buratai was the soldiers’ soldier who would join troops in a feast during festive seasons. He would visit wounded soldiers receiving treatment and many other instances where he displayed leadership at its finest.
I stand to be corrected; the likes of TY Buratai are in short supply in Nigeria. He is a combination of passion, diligence and hard work. He is also a great thinker and one whose operational strategies were always top-notch. It remains a statement that he left the Nigerian Army better than he met it. This much was acknowledged with the numerous awards and recognitions that came his way.
For example, he was conferred with the Brazilian Military Order of Merit Award, the highest military honour in the country and awarded to military officers who had distinguished themselves in various military endeavours. This is just one out of the numerous awards and recognitions that came his way during his remarkable stint as Chief of Army Staff.
And today, this legend and selfless Nigerian is still serving his country as Ambassador of Nigeria to Benin republic. It is also on record that he has been galvanizing the much-needed diplomatic support for the country in the fight against insurgency and other acts of criminality.
Most Nigerians might not know that TY Buratai, as Ambassador, is actively involved in the preservation of the country’s territorial integrity covertly. He may have dropped the uniform, but his contributions to national security are invaluable. This is a statement of fact, which those in the security space can attest to. Only recently, he paid a visit to the Chief of Defence Staff in what could be dubbed a strategy session and the results have been overwhelming. Indeed the master strategist has returned.
Kolawole PhD is a security expert and wrote this piece from Abuja.