A story is told of Oedipus the King, a play written by Sophocles, a great Greek writer. Oracle of Apollos prophesied that Oedipus would kill his father and marry his mother, and so it came to be that Oedipus actually killed a man he met in the wilderness, but the same man happened to be his father, the king, and went on to marry the King’s wife (his mother, Jocasta). The summary of the story is that, Oedipus became king by solving a riddle, which helped to save the land of Thebes from all kinds of plagues affecting the land. The new king gave the order that whoever that killed the king shall go on exile. At the end however, Oedipus was exiled from Thebes, because the man he once killed in the wilderness was the king. As he went on exile, the commoners watched in disbelief, and the commentary went that, “Behold the sons and daughters of Thebes. This was Oedipus, greatest of men; he held the key to the deepest mysteries; was envied by all his fellow men for his great prosperity. Behold, what a full tide of misfortune swept over his head.” This lay credence to the words of Professor Patrick Lumumba that, “none can be called successful until the day that he or she dies and carries his or her success to the grave in peace.”
Who would have believed that such a doom would befall King Oedipus? Nevertheless, he ended up becoming a stranger among those whom he presided as a King, and whom he loved, cherished and adored. Today, the searchlight is on the life and times of Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, who having served as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) for over five (5) years under President Buhari, may have recorded remarkable successes and made startling innovations in military tactics for national security. But like in the case of Oedipus, to say that he is successful is to be arrogant and misguided, because the rule is that one must die and carry his success together with him into the grave, to be considered a successful man.
While one may avoid any discussion on the success of Lt Gen TY Buratai, the fact remains that his life as COAS became a beacon of hope and practical demonstration of patriotism, loyalty and defender of the supreme document, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Many a times, patriotism is understood in a narrow sense to mean one’s loyalty and service to the fatherland, especially involving those serving in the army, risking their lives and defending their fatherland. More than that, patriotism also includes civilians who serve with honesty and commitment to the ideals of the land. This is not borne out of some frenzied outbursts of emotions, but as Adlai Stevenson puts it, “patriotism involves the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. It consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that the country shall be righteous as well as strong.”
Since patriotism entails a lifetime struggle for a righteous, formidable, strong and prosperous nation, needless to doubt the patriotism and constitutional loyalty of Gen TY Buratai (rtd) as COAS for over five years. Ever since he was commissioned into the infantry Corps of the Nigerian Army in 1983, he served in different administrative and operational units, moving through the ranks as Lieutenant (January 1985); Captain (January 1989); Major (January 1994); Brigadier General (January 2009); Major General (January 2012); and Lieutenant General (August 2015). He won several awards, including Forces Service Star (FSS), Meritorious Service Star (MSS), Field Command Medal, and others.
Lieutenant-General TY Buratai’s patriotism and loyalty was recognized when on July 13, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him as Chief of Army Staff, which made him the highest military officer of the Nigerian Army, with the statutory responsibility to formulate and execute policies towards the highest attainment of national security and operational competence of the force.
As a patriotic Nigerian and COAS, TY Buratai demonstrated loyalty and kept faith with the relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Section 217 (2) states that the federation shall, subject to an Act of the National Assembly made in that behalf, equip and maintain the armed forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of defending Nigeria from external aggression, maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sea or air.
In the past beginning with first military intervention in Nigeria on January 15, 1966, it was fashionable to hear and witness coups and counter coups, with reasons such as corruption, abuse of power, nepotism and insecurity. Military interventions became so frequent that Afro-pessimists would say that, “coups were as frequent as breakfast.” Even the recent events of military interventions in Zimbabwe, Mali and the Sudan, were enough to sway the COAS to grab power because of man’s insatiable quest for power after power. For TY Buratai however, the constitution as a grand norm that embodies the laws of the land is sacrosanct.
There is no gain saying that Nigeria was bleeding on all fronts, providing a fertile ground for conspiracy leading ultimately to military intervention to save the ugly trend. The economy was and still structured in favour of few privileged individuals who live in affluence to the detriment of the majority of the people who live in misery and excruciating poverty, laying credence to Roberto Michel’s “Iron Law of Oligarchy,” that played out to ensure a gulf gap between the rich and the poor in Nigeria. It is amazing that the institutions of higher learning in Nigeria, with their research centres in a state of moribund, and hardly provides findings that would address the myriad challenges affecting life across the spectrum. These institutions produce medical doctors, but whenever we are sick, especially those from the political class, embark on medical tourism in foreign countries because in Nigeria, people die of even avoidable disease. Life has lost its value in the country.
Poverty is worn like breastplate in Nigeria, and this inhibits the people from exercising their volition on issues affecting their lives as daily as they live. Nigeria became the official world headquarters of poverty in 2019 based on a report from the World Poverty Clock. The same report predicts that, by the year 2030, more Nigerians would join the league of extremely poor people, making the country a home to the world poorest people.
Nigeria, the most populace nation amongst the black race has been embroiled in brutal campaigns occasioned by Boko-Haram insurgents, and accentuated by the religious extremism of the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP). Banditry, kidnapping, and armed-robbery attacks have taken the centre stage. Climate change too, has threatened Nigeria’s food security with the consequence of increased forced migration, and rising tensions that trigger conflict, including presently herdsmen attacks nationwide.
For TY Buratai, an enduring solution to the above socioeconomic and political debacles could not be found in the desecration of Nigeria’s democracy, but through dialogue, collaboration and synergy of arms of government, tiers of government and other critical stakeholders. His stock in trade was not taking to ‘blame-game,’ casting aspersions on other institutions for poor budgetary allocation, corruption, complicity, conspiracies of some stakeholders and the likes. The task before TY Buratai as a patriot was the decimation of Boko-Haram terrorists and other elements of insecurity in Nigeria. On December 22, he led his men to the war front where they successfully took over Sambisa Forest, a ground zero for the terrorist group in Nigeria.
As a demonstration of practical patriotism, the COAS recognized the constitutional provision in 217 (2)(c) which empowers the military to act in aid of civil power. This is why he collaborated with the Civilian Joint Task Force, civil society organizations, traditional rulers and religious bodies in the fight against insecurity and terrorism in Nigeria. This disposition earned him the award of Millennium Hero conferred on him by a coalition of over 80 civil society organizations.
For TY Buratai, it must be recognized that the constitution is a supreme document that embodies the laws of the land—laws which must be respected—to midwife the enjoyment of the rights of the people and to deliver for the public good. As demonstrated in the scriptures ((Number 16:21) in the case of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, who rebelled against the laws of Moses, were consumed along with others, prompting Moses’ declaration that, “there is no freedom outside of the law, and those who do not live by the law, shall die by the law.”
For democracy-loving and public-spirited individuals, this is the story of a patriot, Lieutenant General TY Buratai (rtd) who once served as Chief of Army Staff for over five years under the President Buhari-led administration in Nigeria. Let it be known that TY Buratai was once here, and this is the legacy for which he would be remembered.
Oche wrote this piece from Enugu, Enugu State.