The multi-dimensional reforms he introduced and implemented in the service have been the redeeming grace. The emphasis is on professionalism, discipline, transparency, accountability, subservience to democratic ethos and patriotism.
Sequel to Buratai’s emergence as Army Chief, Nigerian soldiers were notorious for indulgence in stupefying public malfeasances, proudly denigrating their uniforms by sheer ego and bravado, without a recourse to the consequences of their actions.
We observed an army which regaled in irritating brutish and fastidious inclinations. Soldiers usurped even the civic responsibilities within the lawful jurisdiction of the Nigerian Police, like illegally acting as agents of debt recovery from civilians. And while on special assignments, soldiers could condescend and indeed stoop so low to earn the epitaph of rapists, murderers, outlaws, traffic violators, armed robbers and all manner of social vices under the protection of the “Khaki,” of tax payers money.
But there is no gainsaying that under the command of Buratai, the Army has reinvented itself. He embarked on moral and psychological cleansing of the personnel. He refreshed their memories on professional ethics through courses and seminars.
Nigeria today parades a level-headed, disciplined and morally upright breed of professional soldiers even in social gatherings. We were encouraged when Buratai divulged while defending the Army’s 2017 budget before the National Assembly (NASS) that internal insecurity in Nigeria has caused the deployment of soldiers on special assignments in 32 out of the 36 states of the federation. That is much task.
If we should decode Buratai’s message correctly, it translates into over- sapping the energy of Nigerian soldiers for insurrectional duties outside the army’s primary mandate of protecting the sovereign and territorial integrity of Nigeria. Even with this spread, Buratai’s soldiers have proven absolute obedience to professional ethics, even in the face of public provocation.
We are aware that before now, away without leave (AWOL) soldiers were Lords of the Manor once outside the barracks. Always brimming in the peculiarly military hard training none bothered about social tables or association. Soldiers could not just ignite fire on civil population at the slightest pinch of anger, but brag or boastfully say, nothing would happen. And even court summons never assuaged the pains of the aggrieved.
But we noticed that Gen. Buratai arrested all these excesses in soldiers by his preachments on submission to the democratic culture and veneration of “bloody civilians.” To prove his sincerity, he initiated and launched the Human Rights Desk at Army Headquarters’, Abuja. We applaud him because it is the first of its kind in Nigeria’s independence age and maturity of the Nigerian Army.
For the first time, we have seen a service that punishes its aberrant officers upon receipt of complaints of public misconduct. It justifies the functionality of the Human Rights Desk at Army HQTs. We are seeing a Nigerian Army deployed on special assignments to quell internal insurrections, whether in the creeks of the Niger Delta, or the plains of the deserts in the Northeast or the dreadful forests of the Northwest of armed bandits or the internally disrobed secessionists in the Southeast of Nigeria, coming out clean. We are enthralled that under Buratai, each time soldiers move into communities for such special assignments, they socialise with the host communities instantly, make them friends and even offer varying assistances, including free medicare. And it has resulted into the strings of successes recorded under Buratai.
While we accept that any congregation of humanity could nature deviants, including the church or mosque, Buratai envisaged it by officially launching the Human Rights Desk at Army HQTs. He is the 26th COAS, but the first to think that the colour and might of soldiers’ uniform should not impinge on the civil and democratic liberties of Nigerians.
We, therefore, canvass that Nigerians should also complement Buratai’s efforts in helping their country by resisting the temptation to drag soldiers into settlement of personal civilian disputes or issues within the purview of the Police or the DSS.