At the time Lt Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai was appointed Chief of Army Staff (COAS) by President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2015, the image of the Army was not at its best as Nigerians were divided on its methods in the execution of the war on terror. There were several allegations of abuse by soldiers of the local populace, especially in the areas where the war against insurgency was ongoing.
Determined to change the narrative and secure the loyalty of the people in the communities mostly affected by acts of insurgency and, by extension, other parts of the country where the army has established presence, the COAS created a Department of Civil/ Military Affairs (DCMA).
Using this platform, the army, in the last five years, has embarked on projects across the country intended to appreciate the contributions of the people in the war against terror and other forms of criminality and smoothen relations between the two sections of the Nigerian society.
So far, the army has intervened in the provision of basic amenities across several communities in the country. One of such is the one million litre water treatment plant in Abakpa, Enugu State, South East of Nigeria which has helped in solving the perennial water challenge in the immediate community and several others close to it. This is one of the several water projects commissioned by the Army across the country.
There are other intervention projects like road constructions in Birnin Gwari, Kaduna state, renovation of primary schools in Akpochiro in Imo and Benue States, distribution of tractors to farmers in Gudumbali in Borno State and the renovation of several health centres across the six geo- political zones of the country.
The recent ground breaking ceremony for a world class Army reference hospital in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, is a testament to the innovative leadership style of the COAS. The hospital, when completed, will boost the delivery of quality healthcare to both the military personnel in that region and also the civilian populace there.
This strategy has, indeed, paid off as many communities especially in the North East are beginning to appreciate what the army is doing to improve and safeguard their lives and property. Same can also be said about the South eastern part of the country. Before this intervention by the army, agents of disunity were at work spreading narratives to promote discord and disharmony between the people in these areas and the soldiers. However, rather than engage the promoters of hate attitude, Gen Buratai focused on delivering projects and support programmes that will touch the lives of the local communities.
It is instructive to point out that in business circles, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a process of giving back to the community where the business is domiciled. But the army is not a business enterprise even as it believes so much in community relations. Within this period, the Army contracted INNOSON Motors to supply several vehicles to them and also contracted several shoe manufacturers in Aba, Abia State to produce boots for men and women of the Nigerian Army so as to improve on the local content of its logistics. The multiplier effect on the communities around the industry is huge. The effect on the economy of the region and the nation at large is also unquantifiable.
In the opinion of this newspaper, and going by these policy and projects, it stands to reason that Gen Buratai had mastered the art of nation building and peaceful coexistence amongst the people. The Nigeria Army through its various interventions has demonstrated that it is capable of going beyond its call of duty to apply the CSR as a military strategy with the aim of carrying everyone along in the effort to crush insurgency and eliminate banditry and other forms of threat to national security and cohesion.
We commend the Nigeria Army for these giant strides and urge it to continue on this path of ensuring that society benefits from the positive social fallouts of its combat operations. In our view, what the army is doing is even more laudable because it complements government’s effort at delivering the dividends of democracy to the people.
Considering the positive impact of this policy to use CSR to reach out to the people, we can, in the circumstance, only encourage Gen Buratai and his team to keep up the good work as it will also help boost public confidence in the activities of the army across the country. Suffice it to add that this policy makes it even more reassuring that the army is, indeed, a unifying force always ready to do what is appropriate to present itself as a people’s army out to serve the best interest of the nation and her citizens.