November 27, 2016, was a special day in the life of an emancipator. Fifty-six years in the life of a soldier who is still waxing stronger and scoring the shots in the war front in the active service of his country is not just enviable, but quite admirable. Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai is today celebrating the year God Almighty breathe life into him at a town called Buratai in Biu LGA area of Borno state.
Gen. Buratai comes from the lineage of soldiering. His father, the elder Yusuf Buratai who served as a non-commissioned officer of the colonial army, the Royal West African Frontier Force, equally made impressive footprints during World War II.
With an innate passion for military service, at a tender age, Buratai enlisted into the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) Kaduna as member of the 29 Regular Combatant Course on January 3rd, 1981. He was commissioned as Second Lieutenant on December 17th, 1983 into the Infantry Corps of the Nigerian Army. Since then, Buratai has grown in leaps and bounds in a profession many regard as too hazardous to embrace.
Buratai rose to the pinnacle of his military career, when President Muhammedu Buhari (PMB) identified his professional charisma and appointed him as Nigeria’s 20th Chief of Army Staff (COAS) on July 17, 2015 to spearhead the anti-terrorism campaigns in the country. This was after PMB sighted in him rare qualities as a soldier, the undeniable fact attested by records of excellence from the numerous command positions he held in Nigeria and abroad.
He vaunts a nearly an unbeatable record as Nigeria’s most decorated senior army officer, holding among others the Nigerian Army Medal, Forces Service Star; Meritorious Service Star; Distinguished Service Star; the Grand Service Star; Pass Staff Course Dagger (psc(+) National Defence College (Bangladesh), Field Command Medal, Training Support Medal and the United Nations Medal for Angolan Verification Medal II.
Tukur is versed in soldiering much as in academics, having netted the Nigerian Defence Academy’s Certification of Education and a degree in History, the Army boss also boasts of two Master’s degree, one in History and another in Philosophy on Security Studies.
As Buratai celebrates 56 years of life on earth and a fulfilling military career, the Army General has presented to his country and Nigerians a unique birthday gift in this year’s commemoration of his day of birth. The priceless gift to his country men and women is the extrication of Nigeria, once held to ransom by Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) in the Northeast and other nuances of terrorism acts that plagued the country.
No doubt, Buratai has gallantly approached his assignments with an uncommon vigor which has ensured that the war against terror enters its final phase known as “Operation Rescue Finale”. His record of service has enlivened fond memories in Nigerians who cast their minds back to the precarious state of peace and insecurity in the country prior to Buratai’s elevation to lead the Nigerian Army.
Nigerians nauseatingly remember the daily sounds of terrorists bomb blasts in Abuja, the three Northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, much as in other locations in the North such as Gombe, Bauchi, Kogi, Kano, Plateau, Niger or Kaduna among many other places.
The country still remember the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by Boko Haram insurgency and caged in camps; they recollect pungently the graphic portraits of wailing mothers, wives and children as well as friends and associates who lost their beloved ones to the conflagrations of terrorists.
Nigerians bear painful memories of closed schools, sealed public markets; blocked roads, 24 hours curfew imposed on towns and cities, in the desperation to curtail movement of law-abiding citizens to confront terrorists. The people have not forgotten the thousands abducted by terrorists and insurgents free raid of communities, commercial centers and banks.
Nigerians profoundly cast their minds back to when BHTs attempted unsuccessfully to bruise Buratai’s gallantly by the attack on Biu, his home local government and the onslaught on security formations. They know him as an Army General who physically confronted and defeated terrorists who ambushed his path at various times. He is an Army boss, in the office, much as on the field to lead operations.
Indeed, 16 months ago before the appointment of Buratai as COAS, it only recycled heart-rending tales of Nigerians in the hands of insurgents that rented the air. But Buratai has wept the tears of Nigerians by changing the face of counter-insurgency war in Nigeria, beginning with the decimation of the wild terrorists and their eventual defeat by the army he leads.
That Nigeria that enjoys a global recognition among countries of the world, which have overcome insecurity threats have combined to make up the signification of Buratai’s birthday.
While the day for celebrations such as birthdays and festivities are marked with a lot of fanfare and pageantry, Buratai has chosen to be on the other side especially when duty beckons. He spent the last Sallah celebration in the battlefield with his troops. He equally spent his birthday (this year) in the field in Sokoto. This has rarely happened in Nigeria. From all indications, it appears Buratai is shrewdly encouraging Nigerians not to necessarily rejoice with him but the Nigerian soldiers in the light of the shades of freedom they (soldiers) have brought to country.
Celebrating a radiant life as a courageous and valiant soldier at 56, Buratai wants Nigerians to rejoice with him and Equally remember the Nigerian soldiers in the light of the shades of freedom they now enjoy from the grip of terrorists. The Army boss has enjoined Nigerians to seize the opportunity of his birthday to explore avenues of appreciating Nigerian soldiers in the theatre of war, dead or alive, as no birthday gift to him as a person would electrify his mood better than the resolve of Nigerians to demonstrate gratitude to soldiers, who are the incontestable heroes having brought terrorism to an abrupt halt.
It appears the birthday came at a time he would be tempted to look at it as a distraction from the call of duty.
But having come thus far, with Buratai and Nigerian soldiers’ ultimate devotion to the cause of an ideal Nigerian state and peaceful existence of all citizens, excited Nigerians as the unbiased umpires, in the prosecution of the anti-terrorism campaigns, were caught unawares at knowledge of his birthday. But the exceeding joy converted to expected awe as Nigerians watched the outpouring of exaltations on the People’s General within Nigeria and around the globe. Buratai’s philosophy of “Excellence in everything; all the glory to God”, would remain for all men of goodwill, a virtue to emulate.
So, as Buratai, crowned by Nigerians with the princely title of the “Peoples General” is graciously added another year by the creator, it is expected that, family members, well-wishers, friends and associates, will pray to the almighty God to shower him with more blessings, longer life and protection to bring back home safely the troops he has led out for the terrorism battles, with more resounding sounds of victory for Nigerians and humanity in general. Happy birthday and many more returns, The Peoples General!
****Odoma is Chairperson, Africa Arise for Change Network and contributed this piece from Abuja.