By David Onmeje
Sometimes, I prefer to allow certain media publications pass without the necessary reactions. But I have burdened myself by ardently believing in the axiom that silence, means consent or approval of an act which falls prostrate before reason, facts, truths and wisdom.
The penchant of some Nigerian media to celebrate negativity in sensationalism most times unsettles me. The Sun Newspaper is famed for this proclivity and often, twists facts, sensationalize and infuse extraneous embellishments into news stories to water the appetite of its vulnerable fans.
Let us guide ourselves properly! I know Nigeria is still battling with the scourge of Boko Haram resurgence in the Northeast and security challenges. And with the activated backing and increased funding in cash and weapons to insurgents by Iraqi’s Islamic State (ISIL), defeated Boko Haram, rechristened as Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) has bounced back around the Lake Chad enclave with an astounding strength against the Nigerian people.
But our troops in the frontline have not relented, but working round the clock to contain the menace. And if you ask me, I know that had troops relaxed, Boko Haram insurgents would have recaptured reclaimed territories in the Northeast and smoothly be expanding tentacles to other parts of the country.
However, it has been impossible and thumps up for Nigerian troops! Indubitably, the war is stiff and sustained on both sides. But I cannot concede to arguments that insurgents have repressed or overpowered the Nigerian troops to such weakening levels as bandied in the media or elsewhere, conscious of the high possibility of deaths in war.
I find it patriotic, the zeal to succeed at all cost by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and ombudsman of the counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria, Lt. Gen. TY Buratai. So, the avertable lapses on battlefield in the Northeast has understandably poked his anger. No boss of his ilk will take the frustrations with a smile.
His indignation came on the heels of what I may be permitted to describe as an “in-house,” interaction with his team over the renewed atrocities of Boko Haram in the Northeast.
Therefore, at a “Transformational leadership workshop”, organized by the Army through the Department of Transformation and Innovation at the Army Resource Centre, Asokoro, Abuja two days back, the Army Chief frowned at his officers and troops in the battlefield.
Let me replay a portion of what Gen. Buratai said at the workshop, which has become sensationally celebrated by some Nigerian media for reasons I can hardly discern. Some media houses even imputed their own interpretation of what the Army Chief voiced to his team, by claiming Nigerian troops are Ill-equipped and suffer neglected welfare.
Gen. Buratai stated; “It is unfortunate, but the truth is that almost every setback the Nigerian Army has had in our operations in recent times can be traced to insufficient willingness to perform assigned tasks or simply insufficient commitment to a common national/military course by those at the frontlines.”
He fumed further, “Many of those on whom the responsibility for physical actions against the adversary squarely falls are yet to fully take ownership of our common national or service cause.”
I have always known Gen. Buratai as an officer who is always blunt; stands by the truth at all times, but hates with a passion any act of professional indolence or negligence. So, did we expect him to remain silent in the face of the obvious sabotage of the ongoing counter-insurgency operations by his troops? Should this caution have translated into his “blame” or “accusation,” of his troops as reported by some media?
What has pained me more is that everyone of us is aware of Boko Haram agents everywhere, including the Military, who are playing the roles of sabs in the efforts to contain insurgency. Buratai has only reduced their number, but the remnants are still within the fold of troops.
I am not consternated at the reportage of what the COAS mouthed at the workshop. But I am certainly sad, at its promotion and elevation by some media outfits like The Sun Newspaper. It is not enough that the news qualified for The Sun’s cover story, but the embellishments and imputations were of extreme dimensions.
It told me clearly, that the gatekeepers failed patriotism by ignoring the protection and safeguard of national interest on security matters. It is barefaced lack of professional and ethical wisdom on the part of The Sun editorial team in appreciating national ethos on security.
And by the ownership and regional flavor traditionally aligned with the medium, it tells anyone in unambiguous terms that the newspaper is discreetly working for Nigeria to be declared a failed state.
The Sun celebrated what I think, they presumed a plus for themselves. But I rather mirrored Gen. Buratai, as a soldier and leader pained by the deliberate frustration of the counter-terrorism war now by a gang of conspirators, whose penetration in the Nigerian entities in unpredictable.
I asked myself why troops would suddenly develop cold feet or apathy in performing the same tasks; under same conditions which they previously excelled? Something is amiss!
And we all shall be damn wrong to think it is the psyche of Gen. Buratai alone that is being tormented by our reckless conduct; we shall be wrong to think only Buratai, officers and soldiers have a divine duty to battle terrorism. It is a task for all of us in our own minute ways.
And it is naïve to think abusing the chances of contributing to the complete routing out of Boko Haram from our shores is praiseworthy and might of journalism that would earn us a trophy in media excellence. It is an unpardonable mistake that may boomerang on all of us.
Today, our troops have compelled Gen. Buratai to remind them and indeed, Nigerians about what President Muhammadu Buhari, who is still the Commander-in-Chief echoed 35 years ago that “this generation and indeed, future generations of Nigerians have no other country but Nigeria, we must remain here and salvage it together”.
I believe absolutely that the Nigerian Military is not a lame duck anywhere in the world. It has always been trailed by successes’ and accolades anywhere it has served humanity in international, multinational operations and other military assignments.
Why is the case of their country different? I sense that they are being prodded by covert forces to disloyalty and unpatriotic acts, as manifest in the backslide in their professional performances on the battlefield now. It was Sun Tzu who said, If the mind is willing, the flesh could go on and on without many things.”
And Sun Tzu again says, “Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.” Precisely, no one needs a soothsayer to confirm that Gen. Buratai has not only imbibed this principle, but applies it meticulously on his officers and soldiers, especially his troops since he assumed the leadership of the Nigerian Army.
I see in Gen. Buratai an Army Chief who is extremely proud of his troops. He holds them in very high esteem and fetes them both home and abroad in glowing tributes.
In Gen. Buratai’s actions, I see a boss in a warm relationship with his officers/troops. He introduced the culture of constant visits to troops at the frontline and interactions with them to have firsthand knowledge of their personal problems. He stimulates their psyche by participating in victory camp carnivals in the Northeast, trainings, battles in the trenches and celebration of special festivities like Sallah, Christmas and New Year with troops in the battlefield even at the expense of spending such seasons with his family.
And Buratai also rewards troops who have recorded exceptional performances on the field; while promotions of deserving personnel are timely implemented. His concentration on the welfare of the Army is very uncommon.
Gen. Buratai ensures Army personnel’s prompt payment of salaries and allowances; renovation of Army barracks, investing in retirement housing schemes for personnel and personally interacting with spouses of troops at the warfront very frequently and solve their problems. How else could a leader dispense himself to get the targeted outcomes if sabotage is not involved?
So, although, several newspapers and online platforms published the news, but I consider, The Sun’s version very offensive and disheartening by its elevation and mischief contents. I have no doubt that the editorial team did a very unpatriotic job by undermining national security and infusing interpretations’ outside the intendment of the Army Chief when he thundered in admonishment of his team at the workshop.
Finally, a word of caution for the other herds of unprofessional practitioners in the media industry, too enthusiastic to promote the enemy against Nigeria to have a rethink. We shall only be doing a disservice to ourselves and our country by failing in our gatekeeping prescriptions with the neglect of due diligence on stories before going out to mislead the public or elevating terrorists exploits against our nation.
The conduct of The Sun newspaper to say the least, is nothing but a glaring attempt by the organization, which has obviously lost its credibility years back for its undisguised promotion of narrow-minded ethnic and sectional agenda in Nigeria to bounce back to reckoning. But the Nigerian Army is the wrong choice for this experiment.
*Onmeje wrote this piece from London, United Kingdom.