By Okanga Agila
I least knew the concept of the book “ The Legend of Buratai,” authored Dr. Abubakar Mohammed Sani would elicit excitingly robust attention. It is a fictional narrative of the daring escapades of Nigerian soldiers led by the irrepressible and craggy soldier, the incumbent Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai against the Islamic extremist sect, Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria.
To assert that the book is a fine fictional rendition of these military adventures is stating the obvious. It belongs to the category of children’s literature and slated for public presentation on May 17, 2019 to an audience of school children in Abuja. But some public commentators are having sleepless nights over a matter which has no correlation with their clearly poisoned minds. I am excited for one reason; in academics criticisms are an implicit expression of the strength of a piece of art work.
The article by one Abimbola Adelakun captioned, “the lie-gend of Buratai,” is one criticism which has compelled my deeper appreciation of the “The Legend of Buratai.” It fruitlessly attempted to parody the concept of the book and, Gen. Buratai its main character.
In this desperation, the critic blindfolds herself and pours out barefaced umbrage on Gen. Buratai and members of the academia who are celebrating Buratai’s heroic deeds in droves. She questions the elevation of Gen. Buratai to the mythical status of a legend. I perceive critic Adelakun as a commentator on a vengeful mission in a world she is thoroughly disenchanted and disillusioned, but does not know where to direct her anger.
In her state of mind, I saw a replica of what writer Jack Kerouac says; “If critics say your work stinks it’s because they want it to stink and they can make it stink by scaring you into conformity with their comfortable little standards. Standards so low that they can no longer be considered “dangerous” but set in place in their compartmental understandings.”
So, the determination to deconstruct a positive story, sees the critic twisting facts and even outrightly peddling lies to make the imagined reasons for the upbraid appear convincing . But her twists and crafted lies have fascinated me more and (I believe others) to the contents of the book.
It is not difficult to fetch the motive of the critic, as a hireling on a destructive voyage, who must demolish her target at all cost. This feeling assails with the opening paragraph. It says; “Since he became the Chief of Army Staff, a pattern of narcissism has followed the pronouncements and actions of Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai. Even the military under him comes up with funny ideas such as setting up zoos and parks in barracks, establishing cattle ranches, and producing military vehicles.”
What begs for understanding is why the critic feels the Army under Gen. Buratai should not be narcissistic. There is no sane reason for soldiers who are winning the war on Boko Haram to flaunt the egoistic aura about their exploits on the battlefront. We were in Nigeria when poorly armed soldiers flinched at the battlefield before insurgents. But the narrative has changed in favour of Nigeria with the winning streaks.
And to think that in the era of economic crunch, the Army should have no business with sourcing for other channels of revenue generation to enhance its incomes by frowning at why it dabbled into agricultural investments is absurd. It is also ludicrous to berate Buratai’s tinkering with the idea of partnership with automobile companies in Nigeria to manufacture military vehicles under a government, which sermonizes the policy of self-dependence and local content in patronage of goods and services.
Adelakun is wailing loudly about the obsession of the academic community with the Buratai phenomenon by authoring books about him or naming structures after him. But it goes to profess that truth cannot be repressed. And the intelligentsia have seen the glaring changes in Gen. Buratai’s leadership of the Army and the daring exploits of the troops he leads against terrorists these past three years.
The critic’s innuendo that Buratai is influencing these memorable gestures is infantile reasoning, unprovable and far from the reality. While people like her , perhaps, enviously holds back appreciation to the legacies of Gen. Buratai and the Nigerian soldiers, everyone must not toe her mindset.
Therefore, critic Adelakun describes the thematic thrust of the literary rendition of Gen. Buratai as a “monstrous lie,” because she knows it, but pained to recognize that the Army Chief has reclaimed all the 17 LGAs or captured territories in Nigeria. It was a herculean task with his two or three predecessors.
Buratai has demystified Sambisa forest. And Nigerians know, it is not a “monstrous lie,” that insurgents’ operations have been confined to the obscure parts of Borno state and the Lake Chad Basin, stretching into the Niger and Chadian Republics.
Nigerians know it is not deception that the capacity of insurgents to strike recklessly and freely, visiting horrendous atrocities on every part of Northern Nigeria, including Abuja has been severely weakened by the troops led by Gen. Buratai. It is indubitable that over 17, 000 Nigerians, including Chibok and Dapchi school girls have regained their freedom from Boko Haram captivity and reunited with families under his leadership of the Army.
Anyone is free to hate Buratai, but it cannot obviate these historical facts. Evidentially, poorly equipped troops cannot achieve such milestones in the combat against terrorists. The critic is free to guess the armoury strength of the Nigerian Army as poor. But what is certain is that the army cannot publicly disclose or display the sophistry of its arsenal to please critics as nicely bargained from time to time. Its not done anywhere and they can howl till the end of the world, but nothing would reverse this policy.
But truth is powerful. It triumphs over falsehood and it influences the mind into subconscious ululations in acknowledgment. And moved by this potent force, the critic who remonstratively doubted the legend in Gen. Buratai, still confessed that “Yes, indeed, the man has been at the helm of affairs in the fight against Boko Haram. While there has been some victory against Boko Haram (and part of it preceded Buratai in office anyway), the battle is far from over.”
Even in this natural flow of acknowledgement, the critic still incurably anguishes in conceding all the deserved accolades to Gen. Buratai and the Nigerian troops. But it does not escape notice and no one is begging his appreciation.
I find the critic’s allusion to Gen. Buratai as a politician very revolting and uncharitable. Buratai is not a politician by any nuance, but the critic adamantly stated; “ Ideally, the university is where the antics of a politician desperate to write himself into history as a legend should have met the stiffest resistance.”
It all betrays the critic’s cloudiness in the ideas she has penciled down or expressed. How does Gen. Buratai qualify as a politician? It is spurred by the feeling that the affection Buratai enjoys from the academic community across regions of Nigeria is sponsored. And of course, it is true, only politicians have the financial muscle to embark or fund such projects. But Buratai is feted naturally.
Adelakun should know there is nothing abnormal for soldiers to die in war. American troops battling terrorism in the Middle East are killed every day by terrorists, but the American government does not make funfare of their burials. But Gen. Buratai has always accorded a befitting burial to slain gallant soldiers in the course of battling insurgency.
And to blame Gen. Buratai for the bandits killings in some states or kidnappings is stretching the argument beyond tolerable limits. The critic should know, the first constitutional responsibility of the Army is not for internal security. They only intervene through the instrumentality of a Presidential Order and in all instances, they have performed impressively and deserve no such vilification.
The critic revealed her mask identity when she delved into the controversial attack on the convoy of the COAS in Zaria and his backing of the lawless Iranian-sponsored members of Shiites in Nigeria. Similarly, he expressed fondness for the aberrational Nnamdi Kanu-led armed criminal gangs assembled under IPOB. No sane or patriotic citizen of a country backs enemies of the state to torment and terrorize the people.
Only in Nigeria, one finds critics like Adelakun, devoting pen and time defending the foreign-backed agents of destabilization against their own country. When such incensed sects mow down innocent people in unprovoked attacks, critics like Adelakun do not raise a voice in condemnation or lament the violation of the human rights of the victims. No one is cowed by such empty and patronizing criticisms.
Gen. Buratai has done enough for his country, Nigeria and deserves every adoration. Those who have embarked on baseless criticisms of his stewardship are only blinded by an illogicality, propelled by selfishness, which bows to the detects of covert paymasters. But to the contrary, he is not denigrated by it.
The Army Chiefs uncountable admirers will always console themselves with the wisdom of novelist Kurt Vonnegut who says; “As for literary criticism in general: I have long felt that any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel or a play or a poem is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae or a banana split.”
Okanga writes from Agila, Benue State.