He is one remarkable Nigerian soldier. Even his opponents agree that he has paid the proverbial dues in the service of the nation. No doubt, Nigeria is endowed with soldiers, who are famed in multiple ways. The United Nations amply attests to this by its uncommon extension of accolades and awards to Nigerian soldiers on international peace keeping missions.

But Gen. Tukur Buratai has remained a Nigerian soldier with a difference. His physique exudes the raw features of a typical African soldier, deeply dark and rugged. Very unassuming, but inside his tiny frame, lies abundant virtues of excellence and dogmatic adherence to military ethos. Born of parents from an obscure village in the border state of Borno, Buratai has redefined Nigeria on the map of the world, as one army officer who cannot only contain terrorism; but someone willing at all times to sacrifice his life for the peace and unity of his country and Africa.

Enlisted into the Nigerian Army decades ago, as an infantry senior officer, Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai’s 34-year career in the military advertises brilliance, both in administration and gallantry. The profile of his career in the military is richly coloured with dazzling professional accomplishments, which can inspire like minds any day.

Therefore, when the seven-member selection panel of Daily Trust Newspaper’s ‘African Man of the Year” 2016, received multiple nominations for this year’s award, Buratai’s credentials diminished equally other notable Africans personalities prodded for the award.

The selection panel chaired by an eminent African, Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, a former Prime Minister of Tanzania and Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity (now African Union), perused the contributions of the dignities, Buratai, Nigeria’s current Chief of Army Staff (COAS) was unmistakably, the first among equals.

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A member of the 29 Regular Combatant Course of the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, Buratai was commissioned a Second Lieutenant on December 17, 1983 into the Infantry Corps of the Nigerian Army.
He has served his nation and Africa in various capacities including a stint at 26 Amphibious Battalion, Port Harcourt, Military Observer at the United Nations Verification Mission II in Angola; 26 Guards Battalion, Lagos; Lagos Garrison Command Camp.

Now a Lieutenant General, Buratai worked as administrative officer at the State House, Abuja and later, 82 Motorized Battalion; 81 Battalion, Bakassi Peninsular; Army Headquarters Garrison, Abuja.
His excellent performance elevated him to the position of Directing Staff at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College Jaji and later, at the AHQ Department of Army Policy and Plans, Abuja; Assistant Chief of Staff Administrative Matters, HQ Infantry Centre Jaji. Buratai’s career exploits cannot be fully explored in this piece, but his service as Commander, 2 Brigade, Port Harcourt, where he doubled as Commander, Sector 2 JTF Operation PULO SHIELD in the restive Niger Delta brought him to limelight, as an exceptional soldier committed to the peace and unity of his fatherland.

From Director of Procurement DHQ, Buratai was appointed Force Commander of the newly reconstituted Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) under the auspices of the Lake Chad Basin Commission and Benin Republic. He remained in this capacity until President Muhammadu Buhari figured him from the rear to appoint him COAS. Unarguably, his appointment came at a very difficult period of Nigeria’s history with terrorism.

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The COAS’s professional deployments also include Military Observer at the United Nations Verification Mission II in Angola, Operation HARMONY IV in the Bakassi Peninsular, Operation MESA, Op PULO SHIELD, Op SAFE CONDUCT, MNJTF, Op ZAMAN LAFIYA and Op LAFIYA DOLE among others.
He remains one of the most decorated Nigerian soldier having bagged the Nigerian Army Medal, Forces Service Star, Meritorious Service Star, Distinguished Service Star and the Grand Service Star. Others include, Pass Staff Course Dagger (psc(+)), National Defence College (Bangladesh), Field Command Medal, Training Support Medal and the United Nations Medal for Angolan Verification Medal II.

His nomination as Daily Trust newspaper’s African Man of the Year, 2016, is apt expression of Buratai’s exemplary and significant service to Africa. The splendor of the award is better gleaned from the persona of Daily Trust itself, the initiator and sponsor of the awards. Its corporate integrity and editorial independence has placed it atop in the Nigerian media market. It is currently savouring a new medal and recognition as Nigeria’s number one newspaper as announced by Media Facts, based on the findings of a nation-wide All Media and Products Survey (AMPS) for the year 2015.

Initiated in 2008, Daily Trust’s African Man of the Year award had been serially won by Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynaecologist; Dr. Tajudeen Abdulraheem , Mr. Danny Jordan , Justice Mrs. Fatimata Bazeye , Mr. Thabo Mbeki; Dr. Donald Kaberuka and Mr. Gregoire Ahongbonon. By Buratai’s nomination for 2016, this brave Nigerian army officer has joined the rare league of distinguished Africans who have impacted positively on their continent.

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While Buratai, his family, colleagues and Africans saunter on stage with the euphoria of this award, no elation elsewhere can dwarf the feeling of fulfillment in Nigerians, who have felt the pulse of Buratai’s military service.

Appointed as COAS at a time Nigeria’s Northeast states and other parts of the country were threatened or ravaged by insurgency, Buratai led the army for the successful conquest of Boko Haram terrorists. Convinced of the indivisibility of Nigeria, Buratai, shunned the comfort of his office, and garbed his combatant attires to lead in the war front, a marked departure from disposition of his predecessors.
When he addressed displaced Nigerians at the border town of Gamboru, in 2015, Buratai’s speech restored hope for the afflicted, consoled the bereaved and tacitly reasserted that the, sovereignty, peace and unity of Nigeria cannot be compromised on the platform of anything.
He said, “Today we are hoisting our flag and we will never allow any bunch of criminals in the name of Boko Haram to come and take an inch of our territory again.”

But before eminent Africans noticed Buratai, the United States of America had spotted his commendable exploits in the fight against terrorism. America mouthed a strong worded letter to President Buhari and Nigerians for launching a successful battle against terrorists. It is therefore no surprise that Africa, his father land has rolled out drums to celebrate this unique, gallant soldier and an accomplished Nigerian. He remains the continent’s prized gift, which posterity would pleasantly remember eternally.

Okanga writes from the Agila Ad’Oba, Ado LGA, Benue State.

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