By David Onmeje
“Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.” – Mahatma Gandhi (former Indian Prime Minister)
The sudden re-engagement of Nigeria’s former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and leader of anti-insurgency operations, retired Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai for another national assignment was a pleasant shock to his friends and admirers. But it certainly angered his enemies and foes.
Gen. Buratai (rtd) morphed into the diplomatic scene as one of Nigeria’s non-career ambassadors barely weeks after his resignation from active military service. Surely, Gen. Buratai was also consternated with his nomination as non-career ambassador-designate. He least expected that Nigeria would reward his hard work and loyalty to the country with another appointment. His allegiance to Nigeria is unquestionably translucent.
Expectedly, life is a mixture of good and sad moments. Throughout Gen. Buratai’s military career, spanning decades, Gen. Buratai’s most difficult moments were the near six years he served as Nigeria’s number one soldier and chief armour bearer of the country’s war against organized and armed criminal gangs terrorizing the nation. Gen. Buratai fought battles; he wrestled relentlessly with Nigeria’s internal and external enemies every day of the last six years of his military service.
Gen. Buratai fought Boko Haram insurgents and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists in the plains, caves and mountains of the Nigeria’s Northeast region. He defiantly pulled the trigger against armed bandits and other criminal elements in the Northwest. He crippled violent and bloody secessionists in the Southeast and descended his military might on sabotaging militants in the creeks of the Niger Delta; and simultaneously, confronted ethnic warlords and armed militias elsewhere in the country.
Gen. Buratai dispensed himself as a soldier with the strength of a lion. He provided enviable leadership and direction. He was calm, focused and calculative while battling Nigeria’s enemies. Gen. Buratai maximally deployed his military intelligence and brilliance to murder sleep in the camps of Nigeria’s enemies. Every day, his life was at risk, but it never bothered him. He had only one ambition; to conquer the foes and enemies of Nigeria using his endowed military strategies and tactics. In spite of the difficulties, he posted commendable results in these assignments.
He patriotically and dedicatedly stood up for his fatherland, where others faltered. Fate confined Gen. Buratai to fighting other peoples battles so that his compatriots would live in peace and security. And he loved the job and performed his very best.
But warring in the trenches were not the only battles Gen. Buratai actively fought. He wrestled with many other forces. So, ironically, whilst he devoted his strength and life to a just cause of liberating humanity; some of the same persons he laboured to set free anointed themselves as his enemies.
The enemies attacked, disparaged and distracted Gen. Buratai. He was maligned and persecuted for no reasonable cause. Others secretly wished him death or even cursed him. They played every antic under the sun to humiliate and disgrace him. The enemies wished his progress should be guillotined. Gen. Buratai personally knew most, if not all of his enemies and adversaries. He could conveniently predict their next plot against him.
Nonetheless, the spirit of patriotism and nationalism in Gen. Buratai surpassed any other consideration. He had absolute conviction in the national assignment given to him by President Muhammadu Buhari. Therefore, Gen. Buratai was more obsessed with its success, than any contemplated failure, should he allow adversaries divert his attention. So, he never chased the shadows of his enemies, but concentrated on his job.
Gen. Buratai understood perfectly the philosophy that true success does not come on a platter of gold. There must hindrances and encumbrances on the path. It is no easy ride anywhere and anytime. Famed American novelist, director and producer Sidney Sheldon once wrote that “To be successful you need friends and to be very successful you need enemies.”
Therefore, Gen. Buratai courted and befriended his enemies to tap from their wisdom. As a devout Muslim, Gen. Buratai drew inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy, which said; “It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.”
Today Gen. Buratai’s story is aptly reflective of the narrative of “grace to grace.” His Excellency, Ambassador Tukur Yusuf Buratai conquered his enemies with love and affection. He wiped their tears each time the opportunity rendered itself, instead of scolding them. He comforted them when they wailed and taught them the principles of universal brotherhood. It has been his greatest weapon of conquering or overcoming his enemies at all times.
Ambassador Buratai has mastered the act of letting his adversaries see the other side of his personage. He has enough dosage of the virtues of humaneness, kindness and compassion. Buratai is detribalized, selfless and a team player. He believes in a world which should be free for all to consummate their full potentials in fraternity.
Thus, he made friends indiscriminately all over the universe. His military training and exposure laid a template which taught him the wisdom of the British author, George Orwell who exclaimed in one of his novels “1984” that “We do not merely destroy our enemies; we change them.”
Gen. Buratai has changed his perception many souls who have personally come in contact with him. He has built bridges across tribes and religion. He has contributed immensely in cementing relationships amongst nations. But above all, Gen. Buratai is passionate about a world insulated from troubles and wherever peace is shattered, he mends broken fences. His newest assignment as Nigeria’s ambassador might just be the beginning of his further rise to greater stardom.
That’s why his words at the dinner organized in his honour by members of 29th Regular Course Association are very instructive; “It’s an honourable retirement and also an honourable appointment. I’m not a politician, so, I have no word for the opposition. I have done well.”
But most importantly, Gen. Buratai believes that whatever he achieved in his military career, every Nigerian was with him in the frontlines and in the trenches. And so, he sent his gratitude to all without exception; “I must appreciate all Nigerians, my well-wishers, the youths, elders, men and women for their continuous prayers, goodwill and support to the Nigerian Army and me in the course of our duties to bring about peace and security in our country.”
Onmeje wrote this piece from the United Kingdom.