EDITORIAL/Again, on Buratai’s brutality

The recent remorseless massacre, by Nigerian soldiers, of unarmed youths marching against police brutality in the country, under the hashtag #EndSARS, came as another very low point for the Nigerian army under Lt. General Tukur Buratai.

On Tuesday last week, at about 8pm, Nigerians were horrified to see soldiers open fire on a crowd of unarmed youths whose only weapons of retaliation were camera phones (with which some of them captured the bestiality) and loud voices echoing #EndSARS (that is, disband the brutal Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS) that had hitherto unleashed terror on young persons under the guise of fighting armed robbery in Nigeria.

The popular Lekki Tollgate was the place. Here, we were told, motorists hitherto shelled out N12m a day as toll on the road or N4.38b a year and, allegedly, into private pockets. But the protesters had not massed at the Tollgate to demand accountability from the operators of the Tollgate; they had gathered there simply to protest, apparently to take advantage of the maximum publicity that a protest at the high-end toll plaza clearly guaranteed the protest.

But as they sang, danced and munched at stuffs, the young, change-chasing patriots could never have imagined that agents of death and destruction lay by the corner in Nigerian army uniforms. Then, suddenly, someone or some people switched off the toll plaza lights (they had earlier reportedly disabled the CCT cameras) and in the confusion that ensued, many shots rang out. By the time the obviously high-calibre military guns went quiet, some 12 persons, according to Amnesty International, lay dead while many others sustained various degrees of injury from gunshots.

Suddenly, the shots rang out from these cowardly men who dared to shoot at unarmed, defenceless citizens
Photo: Courtesy Arise TV

Who did it? Attempts by the army to dissociate its men from the mayhem, in an age of twitter, Instagram and camera phone, have become as disingenuous as they are another telling sign of the weakness of the nation’s security architecture and its total lack of integrity under President Muhammadu Buhari and his security chiefs in the past five years.  We note with thanks to technology that despite such cover-up attempts, soldiers came glaringly into the picture as the dark angles of death that fell on and killed young Nigerian citizens waving the national flag, as they delivered their #EndSARS protests in singing and dancing, to show that their protest was not against country but against police brutality.

Ok, let’s even interrogate the argument. Assuming the army did not send its troops to the Tollgate, who did? If the Lagos State government invited the army, as the Acting Deputy Director, 81 Division Army Public Relations, Major Osoba Olaniyi claimed during the week, but soldiers did not attack the protesters, how exactly did 81 Division respond to the ‘invitation’? In any case, what law or provision of the constitution would a State Governor invoke to invite soldiers into civilian space for the purpose of crowd control in a part of the country?

Constitutionally, any internal military deployment or externally against an enemy, is at the behest of the President. Unlike the police whose state commands can deploy their officers and men at the order of State Governors, soldiers can only be deployed by defence chief(s) on the order of the President who is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. If the Governor of Lagos invited the army, it follows that he must have made that request to the President who subsequently ordered Buratai to deploy soldiers to Lekki, in response to Sanwo-Olu’s request. If Sanwo-Olu invited and the army simply responded on the strength of that invitation, it is another evidence of the abuse to which Buratai has subjected the army whose personnel now gleefully guard private businessmen, even if of questionable means.

But, be that as it may, we prefer to make the safe assumption that the President of the Federal Republic, through the brutal Tukur Buratai, actually deployed soldiers to attack unarmed young Nigerian protesters but wouldn’t even make an oblique reference to it in his #EndSARS national broadcast, which he took all of two weeks to get around to making.

If the foregoing is anything to go by, we in AbeyaNews, thus, find the attempts to make Sanwo-Olu take the rap for another of brutal Buratai’s perennial bloody incursions into civilian space with his bunch of unethical recruits, again, disingenuous. If the law does not provide for a Governor to deploy soldiers to do civilian or, better still, police work, it means that the decision to unleash those irascible, trigger-happy recruits on unarmed youths was entirely that of the President and Buratai whose rather incestuous relationship with each other Nigerians have cause to be wary of.

For, this is not the first time this stone-faced general has sent his genocidal military goons into civilian space to massacre unarmed citizens under the guise of maintaining national security. As a matter of fact, the Nigerian Army Chief likes to exert his military muscles mostly in civilian space.

According to an Amnesty International report, Nigerian soldiers under Buratai killed over 150 unarmed civilians, mostly members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) between 2015 and 2017. The killings happened during peaceful demonstrations by members of the non-violent group in several cities in the South East and South South parts of the country.

Similarly, between December 14 and 15, 2015, some 800-1000 unarmed Shiite Muslims were massacred in Zaria, Kaduna State, during their religious processions in the ancient city (government later admitted its agents had massacred ‘only’ 348).

The disheartening thing about these killings is that every one of them was perpetrated against unarmed civilians whose only offence was peaceful demonstration against government’s perceived abridgement of their democratic rights.  What the nation would appear to have witnessed in five years of Tukur Buratai’s headship of the army is a Nigerian army baying disproportionately more for the blood of innocent, law-abiding citizens than for that of the enemy, represented most poignantly by the Boko Haram that has all but sacked his home State of Borno. Just what is Buratai’s assignment as Chief of Army Staff?

Under this brutal but incompetent man, soldiers have practically taken over the civilian space from the police. In the South East and South South parts of the country, for instance, soldiers practically choke the very life out of citizens who are subjected to all forms of indignities at roadblocks on most major (and not so major) roads in the two zones where most citizens constitute no threat to national peace.

Every year, Buratai embarks on military war manoeuvers right inside civilian space. Whether he calls them Crocodile Smile or Python Dance or Egwu Eke, they are games during which thousands of soldiers are deployed in civilian space to intimidate and exhort citizens in peaceful parts of peacetime Nigeria. As a matter of fact, Buratai was just about to embark on his imponderable nationwide ‘Crocodile Smile’ war manoeuver when his goons’ inexplicable shooting of unarmed protesters temporarily set him back.

President Muhammadu Buhari making a broadcast on the current security situation in the country in Abuja on Thursday (22/10/2020)
Chief Of Army Staff(COAS), Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai

Yet, the same Buratai has been unable to inflict any dent on the operational capability of Boko Haram, the self-declared enemy of the state, which has been rampaging his part of the country for some nine years now. This same Buratai has had soldiers under him abandon their commissions in droves because he wouldn’t even provide them with adequate and modern hardware, talk less of motivating them well enough, to combat the insurgents, despite all the billions Buhari tells us the nation is spending to fight the insurgents.

This is a general who glories in the success of a civilian election, for which he claimed to have provided soldiers that provided “the needed” security, but has hardly announced any triumphant exploits of his soldiers in the battlefield. This is a general who would rather scramble for ‘logistics’ (it is always about the money) to enable him “ready the boys for the election in Ondo State” than provide security cover for his home State Governor on tour of some local government areas in Borno State reportedly under the control of Boko Haram, leading to two attempts on the Governor and lucky escapes!

We can go on and on about Lt. General Tukur Buratai’s questionable involvement of soldiers in civilian policing to the detriment of his professional assignment of deploying his officers and men to secure the territorial integrity of Nigeria, currently under threat from Boko Haram. And the question is, what sort of general is this?

Indeed, why does Buratai seem to take more interest in political matters than in professional soldiering? Recently, when he spoke about the #EndSARS protests, he had the nerve to say the protests were a ploy by some faceless sponsors to discredit the FG and the army! Pray, who told him that? What army Chief speaks like that? When did the army chief become the spokesman of the federal government? What business does an army chief have speaking about peaceful protests in civilian space by unarmed citizens asking their government to respect their fundamental human rights? What is the business of a national army in civilian matters? Just what is the focus and or goal of the Nigerian army under Tukur Buratai?

In our August 12, 2020 editorial under the headline ‘Time for this President to be decisive’, we had cause to wonder at Buhari’s seeming incestuous love for Buratai. “What is it about the security chiefs that makes them seemingly indispensable to President Muhhamdu Buhari’s national security strategy? Why is Buhari so attached to Tukur Buratai and Co (indeed, incestuously so) that he simply can’t afford to let them go even if their going may lead to a more pragmatic military and security strategy that could win us the war against insurgents, bandits, kidnappers and hired killers?” we had asked.

And we continue to ask those questions even now. The examples we have given of Buratai’s unprofessional, even unconstitutional, involvement in civilian space bespeak a national army that has become an effeminate wimp of an army, an army that delights more in drawing the blood of hapless citizens than in taking the battle to the enemy and securing a decisive victory. So, why should Tukur Buratai continue to head our army?

For us in AbeyaNews, the latest disastrous outing of the army was like the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back. We believe that Nigeria has had enough of Tukur Buratai. Thus, we demand again, as we had earlier demanded, that he be relieved of his post. The combination of President Buhari as Commander-in-Chief and Buratai as Chief of Army Staff has proved disastrous for the army and for the nation in the last five years. But while there is nothing we can do about Buhari for now, there is something we can do about Buratai: sack the bumbling general! That, in our view, is the least the nation can do to mollify the spirits of those gruesomely murdered by Buratai in an undeclared war in peacetime Nigeria over the years.

Sack Buratai now!

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