IN appreciating the status of soldiers in a nation, the American Allen Boyd lauded sacrifices, laced in very strategic thoughts about the Army of his country. The visionary intellectual posited that; “America’s fighting men and women sacrifice much to ensure that our great nation stays free. We owe a debt of gratitude to the soldiers who have paid the ultimate price for this cause, as well as for those who are blessed enough to return from the battlefield unscathed.” It is a passionate plea to humanity to stare beyond the veneer in order to discern the rare contributions of soldiers to the freedom of nations. Elsewhere, the celebrated French war veteran, Napoleon Bonaparte, gave credence to the place of the Army in history of every country by asserting that “The Army is the true nobility of our country.” These great men of history have replayed reality in the most fascinatingly grandeur terms. Muhammadu Buhari, President and Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the Nigerian Armed Forces is one unique retired Army General. In military uniform, he spared no personal treasure to ensure freedom for Nigerians and the protection of the nation’s sovereignty. And as democratic leader, President Buhari has replicated same posture in the face of Nigeria’s confounding insecurities, especially Boko Haram insurgency.
President Buhari, the Nigerian Army and the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai all deserve a place of pride in Nigeria’s history. They have dutifully deployed their ingenuity, perseverance and courage to exculpate Nigeria from the claws of a consuming siege by terrorists. Sequel to the Buhari presidency, Nigeria went through hell in the hands of Boko Haram insurgents who wielded so much power of valour. Boko Haram registered its strong presence in Nigeria in 2009, under the leadership of its founder and first leader, Mohammed Yusuf. Its successive leaders such as Abubakar Shekau; Musab al Barnewi and numerous other splinter sects became more vicious in their blood campaigns to conquer Nigeria. The exploits of insurgents prior to 2015 left trails of large-scale bloodbath in multiple horrendous acts. For years, Boko Haram insurgents committed countless atrocities against the people of Nigeria. It precipitated national agonies, pains, killings, wanton destructions, abductions, displacements and annexations of territories of Nigeria. These afflictions morphed into the synonymity with the name, “Nigeria” and wailings became the national anthem in the country.
But President Buhari and the Nigerian Army under his watch have changed the tales of lamentations of Nigerians over terrorism. They have consoled the nation with very daring exploits against terrorists. The country has sighted final freedom of the torments and devilry of terrorists. Before now, the phobia of Boko Haram was pervasive and deep in the psyche of Nigerians. Reminisces of the horrendous atrocities of Boko Haram invokes unforgettable gory images to date. What else could have plunged any nation into worse sorrow than the reality that in just three days- July 26-29, 2009, Boko Haram’s signature uprising killed more than 1,000 people in four locations namely, Bauchi, Maiduguri, Potiskum and at Wudil in Kano State. It jolted a sleepy nation into wakefulness. Thereafter, the attacks became very daring, intensified and rampant. Boko Haram penetrated all parts of the North. They had completely overpowered the Nigerian Military and other security agencies and overran the Northern part of the country, whimsically visiting atrocities very recklessly.
When Boko Haram descended its full weight on Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and hell was let loose, the United Nation’s (UN) country office, the Louis Edet House, headquarters of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), Eagle Square, the nation’s public square, shopping malls, markets, bus stations, media houses and every conceivable spot in Abuja tested the bitter pills of terrorists. Bombs exploded constantly. Abuja’s nearby vicinities, especially in the neignbouring Niger state were not spared the havoc. Worship places, markets and villages bowed to the fury of Boko Haram. Plateau and Kogi states frequently smouldered with smokes from exploded terrorists’ bombs. Boko Haram militants broke into prisons in different parts of the country, Lagos, Kogi, Ondo and freed inmates; some of them, their foot soldiers held in captivity by Nigerian security forces. In the Northeast states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, where the Boko Haram concentrated enormous energy on this conquest mission, virtually every part of these states was crippled. Markets, worship places, schools, Government offices, hospitals, banks and communities came under the strong grip of Boko Haram terrorists.
Abductions of women and children, as well as students, more boldly illustrated by the kidnapping of the 276 Chibok schoolgirls; the aged and the coercive recruitment and indoctrination of youths into the Boko Haram sect threw the nation into a stream of endless agonies and wailings. The heat was so massive and it reached a crescendo where survivors could no longer bury the dead. Corpses littered everywhere in the Northeast region. Agriculturalists could no longer ply their trade. Farms were deserted, traditional and religious leaders were displaced from their thrones, while others killed, like the assassination of the Emir of Gwoza, Idrissa Timta during a Boko Haram ambush. Boko Haram captured and occupied 17 local government areas in the Northeast. They hoisted their jihadi flags and made Gwoza their administrative headquarters. They appointed their own emirs and established Jihadi courts, where captives were put under trial and extra-judicially executed. It was Boko Haram’s loudest statement of success in the actualization of their mission of total conquest of Nigeria
Having established this supremacy over Nigeria and her people, the insurgents came close to capturing Government House Maiduguri. Nigerians lived with these torments and psychological traumas from Boko Haram for over seven years before the Buhari presidency. The worse national challenge was the powerlessness of the military in countering the insurgents. However, and luckily for Nigerians, they consented to enthroning President Buhari as their democratic leader in 2015. And together, the trio of Buhari, Buratai and the Nigerian Army have wept off the tears of Nigerians on Boko Haram scourge. They came for a rescue mission and have lived up to expectations. The reign of Boko Haram and their additional variant, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists have ceased to bellow the chants of might or triumph against the Nigerian troops and Nigerian people. With Gen. Buratai leading the counter-insurgency battles in the trenches, the formerly invincible insurgents have been reduced to effeminate beings, gasping for breath. The Army has made us proud and excited as citizens of a nation, as their conquests of terrorists has generously triggered nation-wide euphoria. And in the last phase of the anti-terrorism operations, the Nigerian Army has asserted itself in the frontlines as an indomitable force. It has challenged Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists to again display its supremacy. The Boko Haram criminals are wailing, lamenting and boiling in their own stew pathetically. The drama at the theatre of war in the Northeast is captivating and at the same time, dreary to insurgents: voices from battlefields expose Boko Haram factional leader, Abubakar Shekau wailing and pleading for a truce, and or his top commanders who can no longer bear the heat of the battle have deserted their leader and surrendered to the Nigerian Army.
With the braggadocio Shekau and his foot soldiers flaunted and held Nigerians captive under the spell of terrorism, no Nigerian ever thought this moment would ever be possible. Pleasantly, insurgents are now kissing the dust in every encounter with Nigerian troops. What else can be more frustrating to Boko Haram criminals than the hard reality that within the six weeks of Gen. Buratai’s invasion of the Northeast, over 1,000 insurgents have been killed in the exchange of fierce gunfire with Nigerian troops. Needless to repeat the obvious that Nigerians are proud of the President, the COAS and the gallant and courageously determined Nigerian troops who have restored the lost pride of the nation. Nigerian troops have elevated the dignity of Nigeria in the international community. President Buhari and Gen. Buratai have done well for Nigeria with the multifarious insecurities that threatened national coherence and unity. Like the America George S. Patton stated; “The soldier is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country.”
- Onmeje writes in from the United Kingdom
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