By Michele Aluor
The history of the Nigerian Army is replete with stories that should make every Nigerian proud. In its 157 years of existence, there has been a steady transformation of the Nigerian Army into a professional and formidable force to reckon with in the world.
These are indeed no mean feat; however, this is not to say the Nigerian Army hasn’t experienced its fair share of challenges, especially with the prosecution of the Boko Haram war in North-East Nigeria. In recent times, a lot has been said about the efforts of the Nigerian Army in the security architecture in Nigeria. While in some quarters accolades have poured in, there has also been an unimaginable level of criticisms which in my opinion was brought about as a result of ignorance on the constitutional mandate of the Nigerian Army.
To say that the Nigerian Army has not been overstretched would be an understatement given the fact that is aside carrying out its core mandate; it has been called to support the civil police in internal security operations. The deployment of the Army in Internal Security Operations dramatically increased since the return to democratic governance on May 29 1999.
This is mainly because the Nigeria Police Force that is constitutionally charged with the responsibility of tackling internal security challenges is constrained due to a couple of factors. As such, these factors have often made civilian authorities to heavily rely on the expertise of the Army and its sisters’ forces, the navy and air-force to manage internal security challenges. In effect, the regular engagements of its personnel have made the organization to assume the position of the first line of internal security defence which ordinarily is the role of the police.
The Nigerian Army involvement in the internal security operations is inevitable as the need for a higher level of aggression continues to reveal itself. Although, this has been the case ever since Nigeria was formed and it also continued throughout the colonial period, the recent occurrence of terrorism witnessed in the country has further justified the need for the army participation in internal security operations.
The year 2020 marked the 157 years of the existence of the Nigerian Army and as such the drums have rolled out in celebration of the Nigerian Army Day with the theme “Nigeria’s Territorial Defence and Sovereignty: Imperatives for Nigerian Army’s Sustained Training and Operations.”
This year’s celebration is unique in the sense that the Nigerian Army of today has witnessed quite substantial technological innovations that have positioned it as a professional fighting force courtesy of the leadership strides of its present Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai.
It is indeed a statement of the fact that the innovations in the Nigerian Army began to take shape from the year 2015 when the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came on board. This was followed with the appointments of Service Chiefs, a move that was hailed in many quarters as one of the best decisions by the President upon assumption of office. This fact was further buttressed with the way and manner the Service Chiefs hit the ground running, especially the Chief of Army Staff due to the strategic role of the Nigerian Army in the fight against terrorism in the country.
It suffices to say that the confidence reposed in Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai has been indeed justified with the level of technological innovations in the present day Nigerian Army. This much has been revealed with the display of homemade technological innovations in line with the requirements of modern warfare.
Technology changes warfare. Technology has been the primary source of military innovation throughout history. It drives changes in warfare more than any other factor. It is the clash of arms or the manoeuvre of armed forces in the field. It entails what military professionals call operations.
The Nigerian Army, today under Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, has witnessed tremendous rejigging to conform to the requirements of modern-day warfare. There has been the establishment of new units such as the Nigerian Army Aviation Corps and the Nigerian Army Women Corps to complement the operations of the Nigerian Army. This much was stated by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai during the maiden Nigerian Army Women Training Week. He said that “there is no gainsaying the fact that there are some military operations such as psychological operations, in which the female officers and soldiers by their gender excel over men.”
I agree in totality with his line of thought in line with historical evidence that suggests integrating women into combat roles would not impact effectiveness, and perhaps even increase it under certain circumstances. In recent years, multiple countries have altered their policies to allow women to serve in combat roles. In 2015, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter opened all military roles to women. In the same year, India allowed women to become fighter pilots. Famous for being the world’s only country with a mandatory draft for both men and women, Israel inaugurated its first mixed-gender combat unit, the Caracal Battalion, in 2000. And I am glad Nigeria is not left out of this modern-day thinking.
Under Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, the Nigerian Army has continued to look inwards in the production of small and light arms and other combat artilleries by the Nigerian Army Vehicle Manufacturing Company established in 2019. This is on the heels that since the 1960s, there had not been a serious effort at producing military equipment locally by the Nigerian Army.
This is indeed a milestone in the Nigerian Army’s march towards self-reliance in the production and maintenance of Armored Fighting Vehicles and other classes of vehicles as over the years the Nigerian Army has relied on the importation of such vehicles thereby spending substantial foreign exchange which in turn depletes capital allocations.
Another brilliant initiative is the establishment of the Nigerian Army Resource Centre which was established in 2015 as a service think tank which provides intellectual researches, promotes workshops, seminars and offers solutions to the Nigerian Army of proffering solutions to defence and security issues confronting the Nigerian Army (NA) in particular and the nation in general.
The list is indeed endless in the innovations that Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai has introduced in the Nigerian Army. We must admit that armies of the world have gone beyond the conventional to the advanced both in operations and policy formulations. This is the lot of the Nigerian Army today, and we must be indeed grateful to Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai whose foresight has led to all of the above mentioned.
Little wonder the war against Boko Haram terrorism has been successful regardless of what some false alarmist and people with ulterior motives wants the generality of Nigerians to believe. That the Boko Haram insurgents have been restricted to the fringes of the Lake Chad Basin region and not in occupation of any territory in Nigeria is worthy of mention.
We must also admit that indeed the Nigerian Army of today is not what it used to be five years ago. This is indeed the Nigerian Army of our dreams. An army that is proactive and alive to its responsibilities. An army that is compliant with the rules of engagement in warfare as evidenced in the establishment of the Directorate of Civil-Military Affairs and Human rights desks at all its formations.
Lest we forget that the Nigerian Army under Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai has successfully established two new divisions as part of a strategic plan to improve on the Nigerian Army’s operational capabilities in the face of emerging threats to national security, however, it is not yet Uhuru as there is a place for the cooperation of all Nigerians in making the Nigerian Army the Army of our dreams.
Those that have elected to be on the other side of the fence fanning the embers of war must have a rethink. Those that are consistent in their antagonism of the Chief of Army Staff must also have a rethink and be true to themselves and appreciate Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai for repositioning the Nigerian Army.
*Aluor is a public affairs analyst and independent writer based in Abuja.