Did Chief of Army Staff, Buratai, just say this?
THE military has its way. The same can be said of the long-lasting Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Tukur Yusuf. Anyone who saw the recent widely circulated media pictures of Buratai playing with a python will agree that there are unique things about the Borno-born general.
In his address on Monday to 6,000 recruits undergoing training in Kano, he told them that all of them would be posted to confront the insurgents who had taken over the Sambisa forest that sprawls through Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, and Yobe States, and other flash points.
Were his words as mild as I have put them, they would have been deemed part of the pep talk of the boss to future troops he would send to battle in Sambisa forest and border areas where Nigeria faces aggressors.
He praised the new recruitment process which he said was steeped in lessons drawn from experiences in the field. The aim was to avoid a faulty process that could lead to “faulty training and subsequently, faulty operations.” He was possibly explaining the choice of a forest for the screening of the recruits.
“You must make up your mind that you are ready to serve your country as a soldier and you should be ready, anywhere you are deployed, after your passing out,” he told the recruits in the depths of a Kano forest. We thought these were known to civilians.
“All of you will go to Sambisa at the end of your depot training. If you are not ready to move to Sambisa and other parts of the country, and of course, our border areas to defend our country from any act of aggression, then you have not started,” Buratai told them. There were no reports of the reactions of the recruits. They were not expected to have any when a four-star general was addressing them.
Their training regimes to instill discipline and unquestioning loyalty ensure they would utter no word, unless it was of concurrence, even if a lance corporal addressed them. Buratai was not done with them.
“It is not yet late, if you have any doubt, if you are not ready for discipline and loyalty at any point, then you can stand up and go. There is no room for laziness and indiscipline in the army and no room for malingering,” the army boss said.
Was the address intended to intimidate the recruits, embolden them, or let them spend the rest of their training brooding their fate? Is it possible that anyone joining the army today would not know that Sambisa was part of the calling? Would the address have been incomplete without disclosing where our recruits are trained?
Suppose all the recruits took Buratai’s advice and indicated their willingness to “stand up and go”, where would he get another 6,000 to fill the gap? Did he so speak knowing they had no choice but to stay?
There are several implications of the address outside the pictures it paints of a Buratai who brooks no nonsense. A missing part of the picture would have been Buratai appearing with his python, caressing it as he addressed his recruits.
It would have drilled home the seriousness of the matter faster than the frets of any forest.
The recruits can be impressed into the realisation of importance of seeking favourable postings away from the war forests. Their officers could exploit the situation aware that all the 6,000 recruits would not be sent to war.
Our military is over-burdened with engagements, internal, eternal, and within itself. Welfare of the military is discussed in hushed tunes, never in the bold voice with which military chiefs address their troops.
We would never miss celebrating the Army Day in comforts that belie the throes and woes of war. A reminder of the state of our unsung heroes is the pictures of retired soldiers on the streets of Abuja pressing for their entitlements.
It is unimaginable that the young recruits training in a forest of Kano, after surviving Sambisa and the hazards of their callings, could years after end up on the streets of Abuja agitating for pittance called their entitlements.
Buratai has loads of work to do. He also needs the appropriate timbre while at it.
Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues