The venue seemed too small to accommodate guests even when the hall itself was sizable enough for the purpose. Shehu Musa Yar’adua Centre, Abuja, where the public presentation of three books written on Lt. Gen. Tukur Y. Buratai (rtd) took place last week was full of literary razzmatazz as friends, colleagues, officers and men of Nigerian military, serving and retired, politicians and traditional rulers, poured encomiums on Nigeria’s erstwhile Chief of Army Staff, and former High Commissioner to Benin Republic Lt. Gen. Buratai. The books were written by Jubrin Baba Ndace. Edozie Udeze was there.
It was the wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who put it in proper perspective. When asked about the lessons of World War II, soon after the war ended, he simply said “Yes, we have fought the war. History will be kind to me (us) for I intend to write the story myself”. This is exactly what Lt. Gen. Tukur Y. Buratai, erstwhile Chief of Army Staff and former High Commissioner to Benin Republic did through the embedded journalist. That embedded journalist is Jubrin Baba Ndace of the Blueprint Newspapers, Abuja.
Last week at the Shehu Musa Yaraudua Centre, Abuja dignitaries from all corners of Nigeria gathered to honour one man, and that man is General Buratai in whose honour three books done as a trilogy were presented to the public. The books written by Ndace are: Duty Call Under Buratai’s Command, Walking War Front with Lt. Gen. TY Buratai and The Lonely Grave and other poems. The books are a treatise on the military exploits of Gen. Buratai while in office. A dogged fighter, brave and tactical officer, Buratai’s appointment in 2015 by president Buhari as Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff came right on the dot of time. The Boko Haram insurgency was raging. It was fierce. Fear and trembling hovered all over the land, more so in the whole of North East of Nigeria.
It seemed Nigeria was on the precipice. But with his appointment, Buratai quickly and swiftly swung into action, confronting the hoodlums frontally. It was a grave and lonely moment for him and the military. But he never looked back; he quickly moved the army command to Bornu State in order to be close to the theatre of action. Known widely for his no nonsense mien and bearing, Buratai immediately rallied the army round him for an effective discharge of his responsibilities to the nation.
Thus, the role of this embedded reporter in the person of Ndace became pivotal to the actualization of these three wonderful and expository books. Indeed the trilogy is captivating, very stimulating. The personalities that graced the occasion, one and all, attested eloquently to the military prowess of the person of Gen. Burutai. Ever ready to listen to sound advice from his men, Buratai deemed it expedient also to gather defence reporters, well-versed in war terminologies and techniques to help him unearth events as they unfolded.
It was indeed moment of great service to motherland. The readiness of other army generals and combatants to assist him to succeed equally became necessary. In the end, like Churchill rightly noted, history is often written by the victors. History, like it is widely acknowledged as the core repository of human exploits, came in handy to record and present the real man that served the nation when the need became imperative. Seated there in front of the hall amidst deluge of encomiums and hilarious banters from friends, family members and associates, Buratai exhibited life and benignity. A little smile perched on his face, as people came around in clusters to greet and salute him. He beamed energy as he welcomed people with genial disposition and ambassadorial friendliness. As he listened to speaker after speaker pour eulogies on him, it became clear why the idea of books was indeed noble and remarkable. Since everyone can recognize history when it happens, the books have come to truly entrench his name eternally in the annals of warfare in Nigeria. Now it can safely be said that Burutai has recognized history when it has happened.
Whenever the history of military exploits to decimate and dislodge insurgents and bandits in Africa is told, his role quickly comes to the fore. Things that happened while he held sway in office did not escape the curious eyes and pen of Ndace. Buratai, in the process of the discharge of his duties influenced people. He inculcated ideas that helped the military immensely. The Managing Director of Blueprint, Alhaji Idris Malagi simply said it this way in his welcome address. “This is a great moment for us all. The author, Ndace, went through my tutelage. I seconded him to cover the military. It was tough and tasking. However, we can see that the results have proved the resilience and tenacity of purpose of Ndace as a journalist. Here today we are gathered to celebrate a comprehensive documentaries on the military success story of one man, all put into three books. Gen. Buratai made a lot of sacrifices for the nation. His role in fighting Boko Haram to a standstill cannot be forgotten. These books also appeal to different readers. Literature generally is good for human development, to the army, to us all”, he proffered.
He nonetheless recalled the moment Buratai relocated the army to the North East. Today, as he rightly noted Boko Haram has been totally neutralized and lots of Nigerians hitherto living in fear, can feel lots safer in their homes, in their journeys within the entire enclave. The books also depict Gen. Buratai as a consummate infantry general, someone who thoroughly changed the face of the force to be more result oriented. By this, he led by example; he typified dignity in simplicity.
Senator Ibrahim Hadeja who represented the vice president-elect, Senator Kashim Shettima was full of smiles as he mounted the podium to speak. He admitted that his respect for Buratai came when he was the deputy governor and he visited them in Dutse. Then Buratai was on top of his game. “When I escorted him outside the office and saw the strength of his military convoy, I said no one in his right senses can confront this convoy on the road”. Yet on his way that day, Buratai and his men were attacked. Unfortunately, those who did it did not live to tell the story. He is a man of intimidating military profile properly trained and groomed to propel an era for the Nigerian military. Today he is still remains the most visible Chief of Army Staff. “Yes, the war is not over yet”, Hadeja quickly pointed out. “But it is being won. The author also has done well”.
Major-Gen Jubril (rtd) who trained and served with Buratai spoke well of their days in active service. “Yes, the books exhibit great qualities on the person of the former Chief of Army Staff”, he said glowingly. The subject-matter is one of Nigeria’s greatest generals, one of the best this nation has produced. It is good also that the media is involved since they have a right to report and educate the populace. It is not good if the media writes to incite or invoke hate. So far the media has not done badly but there is room for improvement”, he stated.
For Brigadier-Gen. Usman (rtd) who highlighted aspects of the books, it is good as well if journalists can find time to write books. “At this, the book Duty Call is totally on Buratai where he was in-charge of the army seeking plausible ways to torment Nigeria’s monstrous enemies called Boko Haram. And so we see the reporter telling the story beyond mere newspaper reportage. The book is history, full of anecdotes. The author has exposed what the soldiers do to defeat our enemies, not even when some people do not feel safe with a journalist… This shows that the book is well arranged in chapters in which all the details of the role of one man are examined. However, baring minor typographical errors, Gen. Usman decided, this is a book for all to read on the rudiments of the military, their exploits and more.
Dr Auwal Haruna who x-rayed The Lonely Grave praised the poetic powers and nuances inherent in them. As an academic, his love for words also helped to illumine the contours and the import of the lines as they relate to soldiering. “This is the sort of title no one wants to associate with”, he began. “But whether we like it or not, we will die one day. The soldier while on duty stands between life and grave. And the poems say so eloquently. There are issues on family, on hope, on faith, on love, on security, on education. Yes, on nationhood, all fascinating thematic poems that inspired and interrogate”.
For Ndace, the embedded journalist and author of the book, the issue of the career of Buratai was a story waiting to be written. He recalled with nostalgic feelings how his posting to the army necessitated his zeal to embark on this work. “I am privileged to be embedded”, he gasped while facing cross fire by a fellow reporter. “When Buratai was appointed in 2015, I was told to go to Maiduguri with him. That was how the relationship began and I started to cover the exploits of the military vis-à-vis its role to deal with terrorists. The moments were grave not only for the military, but for all of us involved in the exercise. Subsequently, the events crystallized into these three books on this great man of valour”.
In his response, Chief of Defence Staff and a close ally of Buratai, Gen. Lucky Irabor described him as a serious soldier, not given to easy smiles or laughter. Yet as the tallest in our set, he was often found to be highly committed and totally result oriented. He deserves this moment for his complete devotion to Nigerian army. “When we met in 1983 for the first time he wore no smiles on his face. He didn’t even laugh. But he has always been in the forefront to give encouragement to officers and men under his command. This was how he was able to penetrate the hold of Boko Haram so quickly, so decisively. He is also a man who can consult his subordinates so long as he gets results.
“Yes, as soon as he was appointed, he hit the ground running. He also relied on good and sound advice which was helpful to us all… Therefore we should encourage narratives that give credit to people no matter who that is concerned”, he concluded while the guests heralded him. Irabor came in company of his wife, Barrister Victoria Irabor.
Buratai was excited to welcome all the people that attended to show him love and solidarity. “This is a large crowd, with people standing outside for lack of space inside. Even the gallery is also overflowing with people”, he noted, grinning with delight. “I am shy. I don’t like talking. But in the battle front I mow down my enemies. While I was in office we were able to handle intelligence properly to be able to quell the enemy. Those moments were indeed dangerous and we hope they do not reoccur.
“When we came on board there was great fear all over. But we had to confront Boko Haram head-on. We took the battle to their doorsteps and then we were able to totally dislodge them… In fact while on my team, general Irabor was the first to take initiative to storm the Sambisa Forests, headquarters of Boko Haram. The literature he recovered there helped us to know more about Shekarau, the Boko Haram leader”. It was noted however that the periods of 2019 to 2020 were too tough for the military. While Covid19 raged on they were busy fighting and quelling the monsters. Today, we can look back with satisfaction.
The occasion witnessed who is who in the military. Most of the Service Chiefs who could not come in person sent representatives. Members of Buratai family as well as Iya Oloja of Nigeria and daughter of the president-elect, Ashiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and some traditional rulers from across the states, politicians, and well-wishers were on attendance.
The book launch proper saw many prominent Nigerians donating at the occasion. Millions of naira was realized and it was disclosed that part of the money would go to charity. The fact that Gen. Buratai has been able to tell the world about the sacrifices he and his team made to safeguard Nigerians, is indeed a clear testimony that the internal security of Nigeria can always be guaranteed. For the sake most doubting Thomases about the ability of the military, the books can be referred to for further studies on how security forces unleash terror against terrorists. All these can be glimpsed by reading the books and assimilating the information.