Opinion: Buratai and his winning cards on counter-terrorism by Jacob Ochimana
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Editor's note: In this piece, Jacob Ochimana, an Adamawa-based civil rights activist writes on the fight against insurgency in the northeast by the Nigerian Army.
Ochimana suggests that the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai relocated to the northeast region of Nigeria to lead the counter-insurgency operations loaded like a volcano waiting to explode in the battle turf against terrorists.
“Terrorism isn't a crime against people or property. It's a crime against our minds, using the death of innocents and destruction of property to make us fearful. Terrorists use the media to magnify their actions and further spread fear. And when we react out of fear, when we change our policy to make our country less open, the terrorists succeed -- even if their attacks fail. But when we refuse to be terrorized, when we're indomitable in the face of terror, the terrorists fail -- even if their attacks succeed.”- Bruce Schneier
The Global War on terrorism is dazzling and mesmerizing warfare, full of tricks and excruciating pains across the globe. Terrorists stealthily strike their targets and disappear into a void, an act which keeps sentinels perpetually on guard.
The asymmetrical nature of terrorism wars has prolonged anti-terrorism combats throughout the world.
Notwithstanding, victory against terrorism has been possible despite the longevity of combats. In spite of the stealthy character of terrorism wars, an organized and strong Army resists and eventually sends terrorists to the gallows.
British author, Salman Rushdie gives a glimmer of assurance, as he asks; “How do you defeat terrorism? Don’t be terrorized.”
Nigeria embraced this destiny with the emergence of Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai as Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and leader of the counter-insurgency operations.
His colleagues in the Military celebrated his appointment, hence aware that he has earned the medal of an endowed, tough first-grade combatant soldier and leader of immense treasures.
They knew he had the nerve, courage and the capacity to give Boko Haram terrorists a bloody nose.
And General Buratai flaunts an enviable credential in such warfare. Sequel to his leadership of counter-insurgency operations, General Buratai had carved a niche for himself as Commander of various military operations in the dreadful days of the Niger Delta militants and elsewhere. He also piloted affairs of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF).
He came to lead the counter-insurgency operations loaded like a volcano waiting to explode in the battle turf against terrorists.
Quite sensibly, the Army Chief realized that he needed to raise a strong and professional Army from the decrepit soldiers he inherited. A philosopher, Confucius once cautioned that “To lead an untrained people to war is to throw them away.”
Therefore, General Buratai quickly reformed the Nigerian and adequately prepared them through special training for the arduous national assignment. Sooner than later, the Nigerian Army was as fit as a fiddle to chivalrously face terrorists in the war front.
In a fresh and renewed confrontation with Boko Haram terrorists in the northeast battlefields by last quarter of 2015, the Nigerian troops led by General Buratai rapidly began to demolish and consume Boko Haram insurgents.
Nigerian troops speedily gained grounds against terrorists through astounding military exploits.
It manifested in the sustained scampering of Boko Haram terrorists through unwinding labyrinths and bush paths in the face of the mightier Nigerian troops. The rough, unmotorable and almost inaccessible terrain of the Northeast was a natural defence bulwark for the scared and fleeing terrorists. Insurgents’ resorted to the use of motorcycles to escape the wrath of soldiers.
The astute strategist, General Buratai discovered that insurgents used motorcycles to shield themselves against a conclusive chase to their hideouts by Nigerian forces.
The Army Chief, therefore, countered the barrier, by introducing the squad by the name, “Motorbike Battalion.” He flooded the northeast region with troops on motorbikes and escaping insurgents were chased by troops to their remotest hideouts’ and neutralized.
It took the warmonger no time to decimate the formerly rampaging terrorists. Insurgents ostensibly became enfeebled by the strength and pressure mounted on them by Nigerian troops.
The leader of the counter-insurgency operations is an embodiment of innumerable war strategies and tactics. The nightmare of insurgents was further compounded with General Buratai’s launch of the Special Strike Teams.
He sometimes, joined his subordinate commanders to train them personally. The Army Chief again unleashed the Special Strike Teams in different parts of the northeast who were under strict orders to proactively assail insurgents.
Unrelenting, General Buratai started expanding military presence in the troubled Northeast region. He established a dozen Army Battalions and Forward Bases to make it easier for troops to respond to distress calls or emergencies in a flash.
And determined to make insurgents uncomfortable and protect the most vulnerable communities, the Army boss expediently established the 8 Division, Nigerian Army at Monguno to make coordination of smaller operational units of the “Operation Lafia Dole” more convenient and effective.
In order to frighten terrorists, General Buratai personally led troops into the trenches fighting and howling out directives in the heat of battle. General Buratai believed like Cory Doctorow “It's our goddamned city! It's our goddamned country. No terrorist can take it from us for so long as we're free. Once we're not free, the terrorists win! Take it back! … Take it back!”
Buratai’s physical presence in the trenches and frontlines was a big blow on the psyche of terrorists whose plans were instantly dissolved at the frontlines during fierce battles with troops. It was a psychological wreck on insurgents and their warfare plans. But it boosted the morale of troops and all Nigerian territories seized and occupied by insurgents were reclaimed in a jiffy.
Having decimated and weakened terrorists incredibly, General Buratai further tightened the noose against insurgents. He identified the sources and routes of food, arms and ammunition supply to terrorists and blocked it.
He maintained an active vigilance on these sources. It led to hunger and starvation in terrorists’ camps. At this point, insurgents had no more strength and capacity to plot and strike Nigeria, or to raid markets and banks, where they stole cash and food items from their victims.
General Buratai applied the philosophy of T. R Wallace, who had the conviction that: “Is killing a known terrorist wrong? I ask this, did the terrorist allow any of his victims’ quarter? No, then allow him no quarter, and hoist the black flag.”
So, the noticeable impact of the Army’s Chief’s tight-fisted measures was evident when hunger hit wives and children of Boko Haram insurgents housed in their secret camps. The starving wives and children protested, pleading with their husbands to denounce terrorism and save them from hunger.
Thereafter, came the season of voluntary and massive surrendering of insurgents to the Nigerian Army. They massively renounced Boko Haram and were transited into “Demilitarization and De-radicalization” camp.
The fall of Sambisa forest in 2016, was a new dawn in the counter-insurgency operations. The remnants of terrorists rather became too scared of their shadows. They took to hiding to escape the viciousness of the Nigerian Army. It was daybreak for Boko Haram factional leader, Abubakar Shekau who had to disguise as a woman, dressed in black hijab to escape the northeast into Cameroun.
Boko Haram top commanders and foot soldiers lived in mortal fear of the Nigerian Army. And the terrorists resorted to using charmed teenage female bombers to terrorize the people by sneaking to detonate bombs in public places.
General Buratai again countered this strategy by introducing the first-ever Nigerian Army Female Corps. This fresh strategy terminated the reign of female bombers.
At different stages of the counter-terrorism combats, General Buratai assessed the character of the war, the impediments, and progression. He prepared and code-named several operations in the Northeast, charged with specific tasks. For instance, the “Operation Deep Punch” was designed to push the clearance operation into the hinterland in the region by clearing the remnants’ Boko Haram criminals.
An Army General, Ulysses S. Grant crusaded that: "One of my superstitions had always been when I started to go anywhere, or to do anything, not to turn back, or stop until the thing intended was accomplished."
Therefore, General Buratai ensured all of the initiated code-named military operations delivered on its targeted assignments, by posting fantastic results.
And the end of last year, General Buratai launched the “Super Camp Strategy,” with multiple operational layers. The concept of Super Camp permitted troops random patrols and also, bringing the war to the doorstep of the terrorists.
This strategy has been the latest encumbrance of Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists. Many Boko Haram criminals and ISWAP terrorists have met their waterloo through its unexpected strikes of enemies of Nigeria at the war front.
LTC William B. Travis echoed centuries back that "I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his honour and that of his country, Victory or death!”
General Buratai believes and prefers to die in the trenches if he cannot finally smother the fire of terrorism in his fatherland.
And true to his verifiably courageous spirit, a few days back, General Buratai deployed his leadership arsenals to the war front and berthed in Ngamdu, in Kalga LGA of Borno to again fight criminals alongside troops. He vowed not to return to Abuja until Boko Haram criminals are flushed out of Nigeria.
He bellowed while addressing troops at the community, “We must go all out to stop and eliminate these criminals. We must do it now. There is no better time than now! In this our honourable mission and endeavour, there is no room for the chicken-hearted… From now on it is forward ever; backwards never.”
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Celebrated British novelist, George Orwell has posited that: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
Therefore, General Buratai is a leader and soldier who is leading from the frontline’s night and day for Nigerians to sleep in peace. He has toed the footsteps of the rare breeds of Army Generals the world over, who leads their troops from the battlefields.
For General Buratai, the zeal to win the war on terror is unwavering; the determination is evergreen and his courage is undaunting. General Buratai has engraved his name on the sands of time as Africa’s most priced and prodigious soldier on counter-terrorism.
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