Buratai: Portrait Of A General

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The clock ticked 1am on a Tuesday. President Muhammadu Buhari still awake in his office shook his head. He wasn’t even feeling sleepy or tired.  Holding his forehead, clad in his two palms, he slowly suspended it atop his office table in deep contemplation. He was angered, evening of the previous day.
He came out of a midnight meeting with the top echelon of the ruling party-the All Peoples Congress (APC). When he got notice of the meeting, he felt some unusual heat and inexplicable indignation. He knew the agenda for the meeting, which first irritated him, and thinking of the expected weird lobbying by politicians, he got really weary.
And the hour and his fears came to pass when he attended the meeting. All what party men and women scrambled to mouth was what appointments they could get for their states or acolytes.
Ignoring the unnecessary attention, perpetual lobbyists, after the meeting, he ordered his driver to navigate his way back to the office. And instead of the residential wing of the palatial presidential Villa where his family was anxiously waiting for his warm greetings, he proceeded to the office.
Still in the office, seated on his swivel chair, and as he gazed at the marbled ceiling. “So, none of my comrades in politics has bothered about merit or national service,” an inner voice vibrated it in his mind so thunderously.
“But they should have known, I am taking my time, to select the best hands to pilot this change agenda.  ; ”
Truly, the President had not formed his cabinet nearly two months in office. And party members were worried. Phone calls, text messages and Facebook messages minutely flooded his GSM handset and the volume was enough to write a whole book. So, notice of the meeting with party members had the same agenda. And his spirit instantaneously became dull and hesitant.
He struggled so hard to resist the temptation of attending the meeting personally. But at long last, all of the reasons he contrived as excuse to hold himself back from the meeting failed to pass his own integrity test.  After the meeting, he was moody all through the night, as he sat in his office thinking of how best to please his party members, without displeasing the people of Nigeria who voted for change.
He performed ablution and offered a short prayer, invoking the spirit of Allah to show him the way.  Thereafter, he started fiddling with the files on his in-box folder on the large table. The first file he picked was labelled “Governor’s Forum” reminding him of inherited workers salary debts. He brushed it aside tenderly. He picked the next file, just labelled “secret.”
The President opened the first page and behold, a copy of the party’s manifesto stared him in the face. He grabbed it and looked at the contents and eventually paused at the security item of the manifesto and nodded severally. Memories of his campaign promises flashed back at him in torrents.
“ I promised the people of Nigeria to first tackle insecurity, end Boko Haram terrorism and fight corruption to a standstill. They were my priority promises and after it, I can take my leadership direction from there,” he muttered to himself.  This realization changed the gloomy mood that had arrested him all night.
He looked at the wooden plated, shining clock, hanging on the wall of his office. It was 3am dot. He called Sani, one of his aides to switch unto Al-Jazeera TV station for News flash. The station came up alive and the first news item was “Scores Killed in Another bomb explosion in Maiduguri, Nigeria’s North East.”
He screamed out aloud, “This must not continue. It must stop,” his emotions almost overwhelmed him to a tearful, nerve-breaking point.
The next day, he summoned a meeting of the Service Chiefs he inherited, thanked them for service to their country and bade them farewell in their future endeavours. Two days later, he announced their sack and the replacements.
Among the new appointees was a middle aged man, dark in complexion, who headed the Multi-National Joint Task Force against terrorism, Tukur Yusufu Buratai, a Major General. He scrutinized his file among the three recommendations sent to him for the position of Chief of the Army. And to his greatest amazement, the soldier was unblemished and had an excellent record of service, anywhere he served.
“This Army General can do this job. If Buratai heads the army,  he can bury terrorism. All he needs is logistics, support and encouragement,” he said to himself.
“You will henceforth not only head the Nigerian Army, but also lead the battle, with other service chiefs to end Boko Haram terrorism,” the President told Buratai. “From today, let Maiduguri be the temporary headquarters of the Nigerian Army until the war is over.”
“Yes Sir!!! I will do my best, to give you positive results, sir,” Buratai replied.
At office the second day, Buratai had already summoned all GOC’s and heads of military units to a meeting with him. The session was the briefest ever.  “Thank you my colleagues. Mr President has given a directive to us to end terrorism in the country,” he said.
“We are leaving here today with the conviction that terrorism will end in the next few months,” he said. “That is the promise I am making to my Commander-In-Chief and Nigerians. And we must work to fulfil it,” he added.
Issues of outstanding salaries and allowances will be cleared. You will have new weapons to fight on the battlefield. So, no one has cause to fear,” Buratai assured his commanders.
“ We shall fight the battle on the field together. I will be with you in the jungles and forests of the Northeast. I want to feel your pains, your hunger and frustrations. If terrorists attack you, it means they have attacked me and I will pull the trigger of my gun first. If I do not suffer any of these, none of you will suffer it. But we must win this war,” he said and declared the meeting closed.
The following weeks were really hectic for soldiers in the Northeast. The Army Chief appeared unannounced at various camps and gave field directives personally. Both at Baga and Gwoza, like elsewhere, he addressed troops and led the nocturnal battles against insurgents. Terrorists in a long convoy were headed for Gwoza that night to cause more atrocities. Gen. Buratai signalled adjoining commands and he led troops from the centre to confront them in a fierce battle.
Sensing the advancement of soldiers belatedly, insurgents attempted to retreat. But it was too late. They were massacred in the same measure they had been killing civilians. In that raid, and several others, arms and ammunitions of terrorists were recovered. Gwoza was reclaimed and insurgents’ flag pulled down. The operations were replicated everywhere in the Northeast. And six months into the battle, all the 16 local governments captured by terrorists under Nigeria’s territory were reclaimed.
Internally displaced persons, who ran to Cameroun or Niger for safety, felt the breathe of fresh air and relief from terror. They marched back to their abandoned homes in droves.
A little boy of 12 years, in the crowd, walked up to Buratai in appreciation. But at the feet of this General, words could hardly come out of his mouth. He was visibly famished. Instead, he knelt down and exploded in streams of tears of joy.  “Sanu Malam,” he uttered inaudibly.
Buratai raised him up, held his hand and chanted to the crowd, “This is the sign of your innocence. Never again would this fate befall you.”
Orinya wrote from the United Kingdom.

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