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TY Buratai: Why The Phones Are Still Ringing – By Philip Agbese

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Something interesting struck my mind having closely monitored events around the immediate past Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. TY Buratai (rtd). One is perplexed at the stream of human traffic to his residence or complimentary phone calls everyday.

It’s a seldom experience with past public office holders in Nigeria. Unlike Gen. Buratai, most former prominent high profile public holders are deserted by their friends, loyalists and acquaintances in less than a week after office. Forlornness is imposed on them even from the least expected quarters.

Gen. Buratai officially quitted office in retirement from active service as confirmed by the Presidency on January 26th 2021. But whether in his house or anywhere else, Gen. Buratai was surrendered by tons of guests or visitors seeking his attention. And virtually all the guests sought his attention to just simply say, “thank you,” sir or General. “Have a blissful retirement; you have tried for Nigerians.”

It was like a carnival very soothing compliments from known and unknown faces. Simultaneously, his phones also never stopped buzzing! Calls invaded his phone lines very engagingly. I placed myself in his shoes, and muttered inaudibly, truly, Gen. Buratai has an amazing energy.

The retired, but not tired Army General answered all calls or deferred others, he could not pick immediately, if in a serious discussion with someone else; but certainly, call back at a later time. I know, the life of a soldier is not an easy one. You are susceptible to death any day in the course of service to the nation or even retire as a physically challenged person, who got the physical deformity in the battlefront.

Pleasantly, Gen. Buratai has none of such misfortunes while serving in the Nigerian Army for over 35 years of meritorious service. Yet, by my rating, he was a warmonger to the core and the frontlines were his favorite abode. I look at him as the breed of soldiers, I prefer to call, “the Powellian breed,” after America’s Collin Powell. Gladly, Gen. Buratai retired hale and hearty; in good shape and form as athletes would always exalt themselves. All thanks to God Almighty for his life.

I recalled that sometime in July 2015, a few weeks after his exit from office, Dr. Reuben Abati, a seasoned journalist and former presidential spokesman to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan wrote a short opinion article titled, “My phones no longer ring.” He crafted the short piece narrating his experience, while he served the President in Aso Villa.

The piece says, Abati’s phones never stopped ringing every minute. All his social media platforms also suffered the same fate with tens of thousands of messages every day and from everywhere, official or unofficial. It was very tasking and distracting to a point, even his spouse complained.

But he could not afford to ignore anyone of it because something urgent concerning his office might come up, seeking his attention. Ironically though, he got used to the phone distractions. But the same blitzkrieg of phones calls and social media messages miraculously dissipated the first week of his departure from office.

The experience of Abati is a very normal in Nigeria for anyone who occupies a prestigious office such as a Media Chief to a serving President. This is more predominant in Nigeria especially for those who confines their duties whilst in office to sharing of the national cake to their friends and kinsmen. That’s when patriotic and selfless service is least on the cards.

But it does not surprise me that such office holders are forgotten faster than whirlwind by the same people the very minute they quit office. It is because the fortune seekers only attached artificial relevance to their person, the offices they occupied and the perks extracted from it.

But Gen. Buratai’s post-retirement experience with guests and visitors is a metaphor of Dr. Rueben Abati’s experience of phone calls desertion. The former Army Chief’s phones have never ceased ringing. Gen. Buratai’s phones are still ringing with visits from kinsmen, traditional rulers, colleagues, friends, associates and all Nigerians. I am sure, he switches them off, sometimes to have a short sleep.

I can decipher and clearly understands why Gen. Buratai is deluged with phone calls and visits even after his active service. Gen. Buratai offered selfless and patriotic service to all sections of Nigeria, without discrimination, while he served the nation. Every nook and cranny of the country felt a consolatory and comforting pinch of his leadership.

From Enugu, Nigerians are thanking Buratai for his selfless service and the water project which the Nigerian Army under his leadership made possible for people in Abakpa Nike and its environs to enjoy free of charge through the Army’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). I understand it’s the first time in centuries in the history that community, hygienic and portable water has flown to their doorsteps in homes.

The visitors and callers from Abakaliki, Ebonyi state are eternally grateful for the Nigerian Army Reference hospital located in the area. The services of this world class tertiary medical facility are also unrestrictedly open to members of public and quite affordable. Gen. Buratai’s stewardship ensured it.

And in tandem with the non-kinetic aspect of operations of the Nigerian Army, Nigerians in Oyo state have reached out to Gen. Buratai in appreciation for a hospital and the bailey bridge in communities of the state. Also, leaders of Kisi, Arepo LGA in the same state are celebrating Gen. Buratai for donating a student’s hostel facility at the School of Basic Midwifery, Kisi.

Those calling from Lagos are saying, without the intervention of soldiers, armed rogues, miscreants and hoodlums under the guise of #EndSARs protesters would have completely reduced Lagos state to debris. Lagos would have lost its famed status as the commercial nerve center in Nigeria.

Beneficiaries’ of the built and equipped 30-bed hospital at Tigi community in Plateau state, Riyom LGA have also joined the list of endless callers to thank Gen. Buratai. The classy hospital is servicing both the community and travelers on the federal road.

The leaders of thought and stakeholders from Borno state also enriched the list of multiple callers and visitors. Borno is one of the biggest beneficiaries of Gen. Buratai’s leadership of the Nigerian Army. The Nigerian Army is a major factor in re-opening, rehabilitation and construction of new roads in Sambisa forest and its environs alongside provision of other social amenities.

Still in Borno, the new Nigerian Army Reference Hospital in Maiduguri, which is also open to the public is what has excited the people infinitely. The sinking of boreholes in Mafa and Dikwa areas of the state, and distribution of tractors to farmers in Gudumbali are the numerous ways Gen. Buratai endeared himself to the people while in service.

The dais of excellent Military/Civil relations have also attracted buzzing phone calls from Imo state. The callers known and unknown to Gen. Buratai are grateful that the Nigerian Army under his guidance, built and donated five blocks of classrooms to Amakohia-Ubi Community Primary school and Local Government Education Authority (LEA) Primary school in same Amakohia-Ubi, in Owerre West LGA of the state as well as the renovation of a Central Primary School at Akpochiro and the renovation of medical centres in Mbaito in Imo State.

Some communities jubilated because the Nigerian Army under Gen. Buratai’ provided social amenities denied them by their respective state governments. So, personalities from Garkida, in Adamawa State who are beneficiaries of non-military projects in boreholes, initiated and completed by Gen. Buratai have been calling to extend appreciation. It is the same for the people of Fika in Yobe state, where modern boreholes have been dug by the Army to alleviate the age-long water problem of the people.

The people of Birnin Gwari in Kaduna State are similarly excited at the constructed road, linking the community with others; while the construction of a maternity ward at Ika in Delta State and construction of water project in Gelengu in Gombe State have intensified the busyness of Gen. Buratai guests and phones while in retirement.

And people from Benue state have also registered presence. The renovation of primary schools in Markudi, the Benue State and the renovation of health centres in Opoji in Edo State are the means through which Gen. Buratai’s won the hearts of the people throughout Nigeria. Its reason his phones have not stopped ringing and no one knows when the buzzing would halt.

Why the phones are still ringing may also not be far from the transformation of the Nigerian Army into a world class institution. What else can we say? With multiple new Army schools; revival of old moribund Army schools, innovations such as Nigerian Army Women Corps, Army Human Rights Desk and so forth are ineffaceable legacies which have etched the memory of Gen. Buratai’s service to the nation on the psyche of Nigerians.

I have relatively gathered that already, two universities in the US and another in Russia are calling on the immediate COAS to make himself available as a teacher in their Defence/War colleges. I know Gen. Buratai as an intellectual, philosopher, poet, brainy military strategist and tactician. It’s a thing of pride to me. I am excited that something good is coming to Africa and particularly from Nigeria.

This is why the phones are still ringing and will keep ringing. For anyone who discharges his duties with the best of intentions or perceives public office as an opportunity to serve his country, the phones will continue to keep ringing even after service. I do not intend to berate Dr. Rueben Abati, but I only used his case which is in public domain as an example. I beg his pardon if my expositions offended his sensibilities.

And I believe, for the amiable and enigmatic Gen. TY Buratai (rtd), his busy phones have entered another phase. He is poised to assume the position of an ambassador to one of the world powers to help Nigeria blight out the dark international connections of the Boko Haram terrorists sects.

Agbese wrote this piece from Abuja.

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Opinion

NYSC at 48: Giant and Commendable Feats of an Institution – By Atim Atedze

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The National Youth Service Corps ( NYSC) has come of age so much so that the institution’s gains cannot be quantified in the country’s socio-economic life. So much has been written and said about the scheme regarding its contribution to the country’s socio-economic development.

And this is where it stands in commemoration of the 48th anniversary of the existence of the NYSC and what it represents as an institution designed to promote national unity amongst the teeming youthful population in the country. The NYSC was created to reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country after the Nigerian Civil war. One of the objectives of the NYSC is to contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy.

After the Nigerian Civil War ended in 1970, as part of the “3R” program—reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation—the government created the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to bridge ethnic and religious divisions in Nigeria and foster the spirit of Nigerian nationalism. General Yakubu Gowon, the military head of state, created the NYSC as one of many ways to achieve national unity in Nigeria. The program is a mandatory one-year service to the country after completing a first degree for youths below the age of thirty. Participation is a prerequisite for admission into graduate schools and employment in Nigeria.

The question that thus arises is, has the NYSC been successful in achieving its primary objective of “developing common ties among the Nigerian youths and promoting national unity and integration?” For all its faults, the answer is still yes. By posting “corpers” to unfamiliar places to interact with people from different backgrounds, the NYSC brings together Nigerian youths from diverse socio-economic and ethno-religious backgrounds. This helps bridge the ethnic and religious divisions in the nation by providing exposure to other ethnic groups, which is a positive step towards building a stronger nation.

The scheme also aids social integration by providing opportunities for cross-cultural interaction that has led to inter-tribal marriages, helping to reduce inter-ethnic stereotypes and suspicions prevalent during the period after the war. The scheme further serves as an employment buffer by offering employment to recently graduated youths. Some places of deployments retain the “corpers,” thereby aiding economic integration in the country. Likewise, NYSC fosters a sense of patriotism among Nigerian youths; participation is regarded as obeying the clarion call to serve the fatherland. This position still stands and needed given the prevailing circumstances where the country has witnessed sentiments along ethnic and religious lines.

I know some would argue that the scheme has outlived its usefulness; some would also say that the scheme’s objectives ought to be rejigged to reflect the realities of the time in the country. These positions are valid and at the same time invalid because the proponents of the above stated have narrowly missed how the NYSC has evolved over the years to be that engine room for the socio-economic development of the country.

As an aside, the NYSC is what every young Nigerian graduate looks forward to yearly. I dare say that most parents and guardians also have a sense of fulfilment when they see their children and wards kitted in the NYSC khaki uniform. To say it brings joy and a sense of pride would be an understatement. The corps members themselves relish every moment during their participation in the scheme.

The NYSC of yesterday is not the same as the NYSC of today in the sense that a lot has changed. The NYSC of today has evolved into a skills and entrepreneurship development scheme where corps members are availed the unique opportunity to contribute their quota to the country’s development. For example, the NYSC has a Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) programme in place to facilitate access to requisite skills and resources necessary for successful entrepreneurship.

The SAED programme is targeted at young Nigerian graduates deployed for the one-year mandatory service and designed to be implemented during the required camping exercises (in–camp) and throughout the service year (post-camp). Corps members will be encouraged to learn in-demand industry skills, position themselves to become value creators, and leverage career and business start-up opportunities.

The SAED programme, in my opinion, supports the federal government’s aim to catalyze economic transformation through the promotion of entrepreneurship and self-reliance, particularly among youth. While corps members are encouraged to start a business in any field of their liking, SAED emphasizes twelve vocational skill sectors, including within the agri-food sector, tourism, construction, information and communications technology and education. This, we must admit, wasn’t the case many years back, and this tells us that the NYSC is evolving to meet the peculiarities of time.

Also, the welfare of corps members has been prioritized by successive administrations. If we do not know, the monthly allowance paid to corp members goes a long way for many families. This is where I commend the present Director-General of the NYSC, Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim, for his numerous innovations in the scheme over the years, which in my opinion, is a function of leadership.

Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim has redefined the concept of leadership through his sterling performance at the NYSC. And today, the NYSC is robust in its programmes and impactful in its contributions to national development.
A good example of his sterling leadership is signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI), Badeggi, Niger State, on the training of Corps Members and Staff on modern farming methods. This is indeed brilliant given the vast potentials for wealth creation in the agricultural sector.

The NYSC DG was also recently commended for ensuring the improvement of staff and corps welfare, involvement of Corps members in COVID-19 Interventions, active participation of corps members in National assignments, especially election duties, Skills Acquisition, resuscitation of NYSC Ventures and enhancement of security network for corps members among others. And many more innovations too numerous to mention.

As the NYSC clocks 48, all relevant stakeholders must continue to extend their support to the scheme for optimal performance. The peculiarities of time require this, and it consequently beholds on well-meaning Nigerians to make the NYSC impactful in the country’s socio-economic development. I say hurray to NYSC at 48.

Atedze wrote this piece from Lagos.

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Reflecting on Buratai Days and Nigerian Army’s Fiscal Policies on Troops Welfare -By Idoko Ainoko

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Wonders, as they say, shall never come to an end. I was taken aback when I stumbled on a news item on Sahara Reporters alleging that the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, during his time in office entitlements under the Uniform and Boots Allowance and Scarce Skills Allowance approved by President Muhammadu Buhari since November 2017 have not been paid by the army authorities, then under the former Chief of the Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai (retd.).

Initially, I struggled to make sense of the story, which forced me to read carefully until the end. But I could not get the import of the story. Instead, I was confronted with a poorly written story laced with mischief and intended for character assassination. And my conclusion was that there was no sense in the story.

However, I was constrained to pen this article because of the danger such bare-faced lies could have on the psyche of members of the unsuspecting general public. The story is absolute balderdash and a typical Sahara reporters style of maligning individuals and organizations in return for a plate of porridge.

This trend must stop as it is not in the interest of the generality of Nigerians but that of a select few who are bent on truncating our nascent democracy in fulfilment of their evil desire to set the country up in flames.

Having stated the above, it is essential to highlight the fact that in the annals of the Nigerian Army, never was there a time where the financial books of the Nigeria Army were subjected to rigorous scrutiny, than during the tenure of the former Chief of Army Staff. And he didn’t disappoint.

So, in my opinion, it is most despicable and an act of sheer wickedness for anyone or group to allege that monies and allowances meant for troops were not given to them under whatever guise. Just in case Sahara reporters and their promoters are not aware, under the Buratai leadership, it is on record that the Nigerian Army experienced tremendous infrastructural development that includes but not limited to the building of hospitals to cater for the medical needs of officers and soldiers, as well as their families, massive renovation of command secondary schools across the country, the establishment of the Nigerian Army University and also, the renovation of army barracks across the country.

I deliberately mentioned the above achievements to give us an idea of how the former Chief of Army Staff placed the welfare of officers and soldiers on a premium by undertaking projects that directly impact on their lives and that of their families. Since assumption of office, the former COAS on annual basis through his welfare programme evacuated over 70 personnel, spouses and retired personnel for medical treatment annually. He instituted a medical insurance for all category of officers and soldiers including treatment abroad.

The question thus is if a man with such foresight and disposition could embark on such projects, why would that same man cheat his troops? The narrative is not connecting, and it can only be misguided and meant for mischief purposes.

I also wish to state that with the successes recorded in the fight against insurgency, it would have been impossible for the troops to record such feats if their allowances are left unpaid for upward five years as alleged by Sahara reporters and their co-travellers. This new move by Sahara reporters is not only uncharitable; in my opinion, it is nothing but a distractive tool designed by the promoters of violence in Nigeria to cause a distraction so that they can have the time to regroup and wreak havoc in the country.

It is also a statement of fact that under the leadership of Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai, the Nigerian Army witnessed an enviable upliftment in its operational procedures and an emphasis on improved welfare for troops. So much so he was nicknamed the soldiers’ soldier. This same man would pass the night in the trenches with soldiers and eat from the same pot with them.

It is the same man that pays unscheduled visits to his troops on the battlefield. It is the same man that organizes feasts for soldiers during festive seasons in the theatre of operations and other parts of the country where operations are conducted. I can go on non-stop because here was a general that connected well with his troops at all times. And for the records, if the allegations peddled by Sahara reporters were true, there would have been no way the officers and soldiers would have kept quiet for that long.

I dare say it is not possible because the Tukur Buratai era in the Nigerian Army was characterized by transparency, accountability and improved fiscal policies that contributed mainly to the successes recorded in the prosecution of the war against terrorism and other acts of criminalities across the country. Under Tukur Buratai, the Nigerian Army opened its financial records for scrutiny under a Freedom of Information request by a group of civil society organizations. And as we all know, the outcome was a commendation for entrenching a fiscal discipline regime in the Nigerian Army.

At this point, I do not think I should go further because it’s unnecessary given the realization that this also is another campaign to discredit one of the best that has led the Nigerian Army to the best of his ability, and his records stand tall. Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai ( rtd) remains a legend. In the annals of the Nigerian Army, there has never been a time where the Chief of Army Staff connected effortlessly with his troops. And this is because he prioritized their welfare and not what Sahara reporters and their promoters want the unsuspecting members of the general public to believe.

At this point, I would advise those that are envious of the Tukur Buratai years in the Nigerian Army to do themselves well by coming to terms with the reality that Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai was an example in service to the country.

Ainoko wrote this piece from Kaduna.

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Pam’s Transformational Leadership at NCPC and Matters Arising – By Steven Onwu

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Purposeful leadership can do wonders. It can turn things around in a twinkle of an eye. And it can make tedious tasks seem simple. The aforementioned aptly describes the Yakubu Pam adventure in the Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission since he assumed leadership some months ago.

I have been a fan of Rev Yakubu Pam for his numerous contributions to the entrenchment of peaceful coexistence amongst Nigerians. This much he has diligently pursued in the past 30 years of his life, where he has been advocating for religious and ethnic harmony, especially in Northern Nigeria. Rev Yakubu Pam is not a stranger to leadership. Hence, he hit the ground running since his well-deserved appointment as Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission. It is sufficient to add that before his appointment; he was the Chairman of the Plateau State Christian Pilgrims Board, a position where he distinguished himself by introducing institutional reforms that placed the Board in good stead towards achieving its strategic mandate.

This much Rev Yakubu Pam has brought about in the NCPC. It is therefore not surprising that in less than one year at the helm of affairs, his impact has been felt, and the fortunes of the Commission have taken a turn for the best.

This is what I call the Yakubu Pam magic, which was not surprising to some of us that have followed his success story for several years. He is a man with many parts, and he is also a man filled with passion for service to humanity.
I recall that it was stated in some quarters that Yakubu Pam would reinvigorate the operations of the NCPC within a record time. Even though some quarters expressed reservations, he has proven all those that expressed reservations wrong with his sterling performance at the NCPC.
If not for anything, Rev Yakubu Pam has entrenched the regime of transparency and accountability at the Commission, which has been a challenge in the Commission’s operations for several years. That it has become possible within a short period indeed explains the leadership acumen of Rev Yakubu Pam and what it entails to be a leader with eyes on the ball.
Today, the NCPC is a success story. It results from the provision of sound leadership and a commitment to render service when it matters most, with the example of Rev Yakubu Pam, I dare say that Nigeria can overcome its challenges if those in leadership positions tend to lead with sincerity of heart and purpose.

The Yakubu Pam revolution at the NCPC was naturally expected because of his track record that speaks volume of integrity, accountability and transparency. His vast knowledge of diplomacy saw him excel in the position of Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) of Northern Nigeria (which includes the 19 Northern States and Abuja) from 2016 to date, Vice President, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, 2013 to date and District Superintendent, Jos mainland Assemblies of Nigeria, 2010 to date, including as Chairman, Plateau State Inter-Religious Council; and Chairman, Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Committee, Plateau State, were contributory of how he has been able to turn the fortunes of the NCPC around and in record time.
I cannot but commend President Muhammadu Buhari for identifying such a man as Rev. Yakubu Pam for a leadership position in the country. I do not doubt that he has not only reposed the confidence of Mr President, he has also set a standard for leadership in the country. This much has been stated in numerous forums by relevant stakeholders, whom have never been short of words for the transformation at the NCPC under Rev. Yakubu Pam.

Rev Yakubu Pam falls under the category of silent achievers whose impact doesn’t dot pages of newspapers. However, silently, they are making exploits and making life more meaningful through the provision of purposeful leadership, as with the case of the NCPC, whose fortunes has taken a turn for the better.
And the commendations have continued to pour in from home and abroad for the man nicknamed the Apostle of Transformation by stakeholders for obvious reasons associated with his stewardship at the NCPC. And one whose coming has redeemed the image of the Commission.
I can’t but charge Rev Yakubu Pam to continue to render selfless service to humanity in the light of the above. He should not rest on his oars and refuse every temptation to deviate from the lofty standards he has set in the areas of transparency and accountability.
I also want the relevant stakeholders to realize that the task at hand is a collective one. As such, it is worth extending their support to the reforms introduced by the Yakubu Pam led administration at the NCPC.
I can go on non-stop on Yakubu Pam’s transformational leadership at the NCPC. However, the lessons that should resonate are that in all that we do as a people and as a country, sound and purposeful leadership remain that magic wand needed to translate our hopes and aspirations into tangible realities. At this point, I would say well-done to Rev Yakubu Pam.

Onwu is a civil rights activist and wrote from Badagry.

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