For those who know the antecedents of Nigeria’s immediate past Chief of Army Staff, his ambassadorial nomination might have been aimed at maximising his experiences to the benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians nationally and internationally.
Tukur Buratai’s ambassadorial nomination followed his list of achievements while in office as Chief of Army Staff. The relative peace the North-east enjoys today, and by extension Nigeria is owed to his insightful leadership capacity.
Units and departments under the Nigerian Army have been transformed by Buratai’s leadership. His reforms and strategies transfigured the Nigerian Army as evident in the optimal improvement recorded in the fight against Boko Haram insurgents.
One of the legacies of Buratai’s leadership is in the area of Human Rights. Upon assuming office, Buratai knew that the image of the Nigerian Army has not been balanced in the area of human rights. Detractors of the army have always depicted it as a lawless entity with no atom of respect for basic human rights.
In a bid to address this and make sure such labels are detached from the Nigerian Army, the former Chief of Army Staff made sure that Human Rights Desks were present in all units and formations of the Nigerian Army. Under his leadership, Nigeria was rated high in human rights compliance.
His tenure as Chief of Army Staff decimated Boko Haram insurgents who are now limited to the fringes of Lake Chad and parts of Sambisa and Alagarno Forests. Various strategies introduced by Buratai facilitated the recapturing of key towns held by Boko Haram. This has brought about the return of many displaced persons to their ancestral homesteads.
In the Niger Delta, it has been peace without much military fire. The incessant clashes between the military and communities in the region that up until now dominated the media space have become a thing of the past. With the application of effective human relations strategies, the army under Gen. Buratai’s leadership was able to build bridges of friendship, confidence and healthy relationships across communities in the region.
Apart from acting as the eye and ear of the Nigerian people anywhere he would be posted, Buratai’s foray into diplomacy will help in building, sustaining and strengthening multilateral ties with other countries. The underlining however would be to galvanize international support in the fight against insurgency.
Being an ex-military personnel, President Buhari recognizes that winning the war goes beyond asymmetrical warfare. The importance of diplomacy cannot be played down as it has the potential to change the overall narrative.
Weapons have been deployed. The government has been doing a lot in seeking ways in which it can effectively put an end to the war. This is why it incorporated the Operation Sixth Door rehabilitation strategy targeted at Boko Haram members who were conscripted against their will and those who are looking for avenues to exit the group.
The FG perhaps feels it is time to take the fight against Boko Haram a nudge further by revving up the involvement of the international community in the war against insurgency. That is “weaponising” diplomacy to the country’s advantage. Appointing individuals who are conversant with what Nigeria needs in this area, in gathering support from the international community is, no doubt the best way to bring this to fruition.
Buratai who possesses a wealth of experience on the war efforts, particularly as a recently retired army general, would be a valuable export to this course. He should be able to help in changing the narratives spread by third-party sources; concocted in line with certain interests. When this is achieved, cases of denying or delaying Nigeria’s access to hi-tech weaponry should be a thing of the past.
Buratai is not totally new to the field of diplomacy. He has been involved and has equally undertaken several projects internationally.
Inspired by his desire to leave a lasting mark, he undertook numerous diplomatic missions to at least six foreign countries as Chief of Army Staff. The choice of these countries was informed by the need to use military diplomacy to explore their experience in combating terrorism and other security threats.
Buratai, at different times, has visited Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Columbia, Bangladesh, Chad and the USA among others.
When he led a high-powered delegations of the Nigerian army to Colombia for instance, Buratai targeted a country that was bedevilled by terrorism for years much longer than that of Nigeria. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and other insurgent groups had constantly terrorized Colombia for nearly 50 years before they were wiped out.
Gen. Albert Jose Mejia, the Colombian COAS, intimated the Nigerian army delegation on different categories and dimensions of operations by the Columbian army, including the various strategies adopted. The visit climaxed into the inspection of Colombia’s vital military formations and institutions of its Armed Forces.
In the same vein, Bangladesh’s President Abdul Hamid Bangabhaban received Buratai during his diplomatic visit to the country. The Bangladesh president offered the Nigerian army training in his country’s military institutions well known for proficiency and excellence.
Upon Buratai’s meeting with Major General Pereira Junior, the Deputy Chief of Army Staff for International and Special Affairs, Brazilian Army, the Brazilian Army stated its commitment in assisting Nigeria with training billets for its army personnel, especially, in the area of jungle warfare.
Gen. Buratai’s tour to the United States saw him meet with high-profile retired and serving military officers. He recounted the success story of the fight against insurgency in Nigeria and the respect for human rights. He further revealed his determination to further consolidate on the gains by developing the capacity of the Nigerian army through local training and international collaboration in a range of military specializations.
The encounter ended with his request for mutual support, understanding and cooperation among agencies and international partners for a collective action against terrorists in Nigeria. Buratai has undertook many diplomatic tours, but everywhere he went he did what he could to bring back something to improve the capacity of Nigerian soldiers to tackle terrorism.
Apart from understanding the strategies for peace, Buratai knows how to deploy them. According to religious leader, Paul Chappell, he stated that “to replace the old paradigm of war with a new paradigm of waging peace, we must be pioneers who can push the boundaries of human understanding.”
For Buratai, this appointment is a continuation of service to the country against the backdrop of his optimal delivery in office as Chief of Army Staff. Like a messenger of peace, the president has empowered him to find a lasting solution to Nigeria’s security challenges through diplomacy. It is hoped that he will deliver at his new post.