By: Nkechi Odoma
It was the world acclaimed 5th century Chinese military strategist and tactician, Sun Tzu who centuries back hinted lucidly about the many secrets of success in a war. He wittingly scolded the world thus; “All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.”
The art of war is no easy task. War has multifarious angles of prosecution. It is fought in the battlefield; in the office, on the intelligence plank and on the welfare front. Indeed, it is a wide range of sensitive engagements, which are observed religiously before victory hovers in the air. A novice in war who neglects any of the aspects is imperiled by his own insensitivity.
But very often and to the ordinary eyes, what is conspicuous about success in war is the sophistry of the sound of marching boots, guns and other lethal weapons deployed. But it’s far beyond these peripheral calculations, as revealed by war strategist, Tzu.
Understandably, hardly do people get to know that before the salient aspects, there are a dozen hidden, but very sensitive strategies in war, which ensures and fortifies the potency of victory outside the force of artillery. Commanders of war are saddled with this herculean task. And until these disparate aspects to a war are conscientiously adopted, the best soldiers, with the best weaponry may fall prostrate before the enemy.
This has been the delicate assignment Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. General Tukur Yusufu Buratai has handled splendidly, upon his appointment to lead the anti-terrorism campaigns in Nigeria. And for the nearly two years, Buratai has held sway and many do not know that the victory he has earned against terrorism in Nigeria is a consequence of a painstaking invocation and application of the different nuances of warfare. Today, Buratai is celebrated and cherished, but none gives a thought to how he prepared himself and his troops to serve Nigerians this precious victory.
Therefore, when a man attains the height of greatness, it must have been efforts tied to exemplary and dedicated leadership. To manage human beings and particularly, subordinates to get them give you the result you expect is no easy task. To apply scarce resources prudently to get the desired results is almost an impossible task, especially in a country like Nigeria. But Buratai has proven that he is an excellent manager of men and resources, through his infectious self-discipline, diligence, uprightness, wisdom and focus.
Lt. Gen. Buratai is in many ways indescribable. But no one is in doubt about his uniqueness as an army officer. His breed is rare; his brand scarce. Verily, army officers are dreaded, feared and even avoided like a plaque. But Buratai is a different stuff. In spite of his high office and the paraphernalia which clads him, you hardly see the traditional brutish or savagious soldier in his countenance and actions.
He is most times soft and more civic than some civilians. Always amiable, charming and fascinating to both colleagues and civilians. He walks into a public hospital in Abuja and conducts his personal medical check-up and no aura of importance clads him. Hardly do other patients around notice him as Buratai, Nigeria’s COAS.
This diplomacy open doors for him, where others who are his direct opposite may not be favoured this much even with the force of guns. It has been the secret of the army boss’ streaks of successes in his military career and the resounding success he has recorded in the anti-terrorism campaigns, an assignment, many Army officers less endowed with his mien failed to register any impact.
So, with this disposition, soldiers in the battlefield, who revolted against their bosses, suddenly found a friend in Buratai; those who had no courage to fight the Boko Haram insurgency war became courageous; troops that bade retreat at the warfront, became brave warriors of the war, who imbued themselves with a passion of life or death, until victory is secured.
It is the character and leadership content of Buratai. He places others first before himself. A couple of days ago, and despite the economic recession, the army chief paid the entitlements of 197 families of fallen heroes under the Life Assurance policy of the Nigerian Army. This is a rarity. Buratai is adored as a leader who does not pretend about the welfare of soldiers. He knows a psychologically balanced soldier goes to war with his whole heart and soul.
The premium Buratai attaches to the welfare of soldiers is disarming. In less than two years and with meagre resources, the Army Chief has undertaken the repairs of several dilapidated Army Barracks across the country to give soldiers a befitting residential and office accommodation. He turned the eyesore status of the barracks to shinning sights. Since he became the COAS, the salaries and allowances of soldiers, whether in the battlefront or officers undertaking official duties in the offices or other assignments are not just paid monthly, but promptly.
The Army boss promised that any soldier who fought the insurgency war will retire into his personal house as a mark of government’s appreciation of their sacrifices. And he has initiated action on this laudable housing scheme.
What’s more? Buratai pays exceptional attention to families of soldiers on battlefield or special assignments. Any problem affecting them becomes Buratai personal problem and he won’t relent until a solution is applied to the satisfaction of the families.
Buratai’s empowerment of wives of soldiers though the cattle ranching initiative adds to his profile in welfarism. Already some military officers have been sent to Argentina to learn cattle rearing and plans are in top gear to set up cattle ranches in all the divisions and brigades to give wives of soldiers economic stability.
Thus, it became easy for soldiers to pledge their unalloyed loyalty to Buratai unpretentiously because he interacts with them more like a father with his children, than a boss lording it over subordinates. In the battlefield, Buratai trudge the swamps, the deserts and forests with his troops. He feels their pains and joys. At festive periods, the Army Chief leaves his cosy office in Abuja to celebrate with his troops on the battlefield. Whether it is Sallah, Christmas or New Year celebrations, Buratai abandons his family and heads to the fields to celebrate it with troops. Thus, soldiers see in the Army Chief a man who richly deserves their confidence and loyalty, which they have extended abundantly.
Therefore, Buratai’s belief and adoption of the philosophy of the military strategist and tactician, Sun Tzu in his leadership of the Nigerian Army has paid him and Nigeria handsomely. Sun Tzu believes that “The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.”
Buratai has neatly ploughed his graph and made several concealed calculations in his temple and implemented them before leading his troops to war. Thus fortified, Buratai went to the insurgency war with troops that had no emotional or psychology trauma; he presided over soldiers who willingly gave him loyalty and extended patriotism to their country; he was in the midst of soldiers who perceived him more as a father and felt infinitely protected under his bosom. So, when they blew the trumpet of war and raged towards terrorists, it was determination lubricated by fatherly love and care. And terrorists might and pride was reduced to ashes by soldiers.
Therefore, Buratai’s humaneness and affection is worthy of emulation by everyone who aspires to get positive results from his leadership of people. No matter where you are appointed to lead or your profession, you need the humane disposition of Lt. General Buratai to get the job done. Flaunting haughty bossy shadows, as others delight in doing is injurious and rather destroys, than build.
Odoma is a Columnist at the Nigerian Online Newspapers and contributed this piece from Abuja.