Superintending over men and materials in a highly charged environment of a military nature is certainly not a tea party. As intricate as it is, managing affairs of that kind can even get more complicated especially in an asymmetric war the type the country is entangled with in the last decade or so.
For most, it is a thankless job that demands toil, sweat and blood. The man at the helm is expected to perform miracles in the manner of waving a magic wand and the enemies will disappear. And when that does not happen, the uninitiated begin to question the competence, if not the effectiveness, of the commander who is doing his utmost, as a well-grounded professional, to handle matters as he perceives them based on his years of combat experience.
It stands to reason from the experiences of world military powers like the United States of America that such wars can be endless. It is only those in the battlefield, the officers and soldiers, who are actually involved, in a manner of speaking, that can acknowledge that it takes direct contact to understand and appreciate the nature and complexity of the task of bringing under control a band of rifle-wielding urchins consumed by an evil ideology that thrives on inflicting maximum pain.
That is the situation the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai and his comrades – in – arms are striving to bring under control since his appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari more than five years ago. He came on board at a time the Boko Haram terrorists were having a field day in their misguided campaign against Nigeria. As it is often said that tough times define the man, Buratai took up the gauntlet thrown at him with an extraordinary push that has become the hallmark of his command.
Has he being able to firmly stamp his personality and authority in the management of the crisis that has acquired an amoebic property, lacking a form or structure, as banditry, kidnapping and other forms of criminality are thrown into the mix? To an objective observer, like this newspaper, that is obvious as he leads by example joining his men in the trenches and taking fire like everyone else.
Undoubtedly, in our opinion, it has been a successful experiment that offers him an opportunity to appraise, first hand, the challenges his men and women in battle are facing which in turn will inform policies that undergird his approach to finding solutions to them regardless of the limitations posed by scarce resources and the delicate side show that entails managing the civilian population as part of confidence building between the Army and the locals while at the same time reducing, to the barest minimum, any collateral damage.
Furthermore, we are particularly impressed by the priority he accords human resource development which has influenced his zeal to equip the soldiers under his command with the requisite knowledge they need to fight terrorists who are out to cause mayhem. It is pertinent to point out, in our view, that constant training and retraining is essential in the effort to confront and defeat a band of thugs who do not understand the rules of engagement. These criminals had taken the North East as their base of operation until the army’s superior fire power drove them to the North West and North Central which Buratai is making even hotter for them with the deployment of Special Forces who give as much as they can take, if not more.
This capacity building is beginning to bear fruits in other areas such as hardware production. The Nigerian Army now boasts of locally made Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) that are designed by the soldiers themselves, influenced by the peculiar terrain of the country. These locally produced machines of war are manifestations of the Army chief’s determination to, as much as possible, reduce dependence on foreign armament, help in the acquisition of local technology and, at the same time save scarce foreign exchange. Some of these armament, looking rugged in their fabrication and exceedingly maneuverable, were commissioned recently.
It is important to note that in battle, any battle, morale is key. An element that sustains this is welfare of the foot soldiers who, when motivated, become like crushing machines, bulls tamed by discipline carefully instilled. We commend Buratai for placing priority on this all- important factor that can make or mar the ability of soldiers in the front line to do the daring in order to achieve set objectives. We note that even among the rank and file, there is a realisation of a positive difference in the handling of issues that affect their upkeep while in the field of battle, a clear departure from what used to be that unfortunately created problems that encouraged the terrorists to attempt to poke their fingers at Nigeria.
In our considered opinion, what is required at the moment is for the Army to sustain the tempo of the onslaught against the terrorists and other criminal elements till they are completely annihilated. It is a task that must be done with the cooperation of all Nigerians.