The Legend of Buratai Vol. 3, Sprezzatura, Abuja, 2022; Amb. Tukur Yusufu Buratai, pp. 238
This volume of Legend of Buratai that has 9 chapters and is 238 pages long was published in 2022. It was preceded by two volumes. However, it was observed that the previous volumes did not quite discuss Lt General Tukur Yusufu Buratai’s (Gen Buratai) military career and the basis of his successes. Although Gen Buratai had planned to discuss his military career in his memoir, he yielded to the desires of his readers and devoted volume 3 to a narrative of the thoughts and principles that guided him on his way to generalship. And so very early in the book Gen Buratai declared that: “In my attempt to take a critical look at generalship and the road to that exalted circle in the military, I shall expound my understanding of what is leadership, types of leadership and the best leadership style that has worked for me, leadership and generalship, steps or things I did that helped me on the road to generalship, and pitfalls to avoid on the road. This is a recollection of my personal experience from the field and also theories I learned in the class” (p.6).
In effect Gen Buratai’s military career begun in his boyhood days. According to him, he was a born soldier. His father was a World War II veteran and soldiering was his first choice as a profession even though it was providence that got him enlisted into the Nigerian Army.
A friend of his at the Teachers College Potiskum that he also attended had intimated him of an ongoing recruitment exercise into the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA). He quickly applied, sat for the examination, passed, received his father’s blessings and got enlisted into the Nigerian Army as a cadet in 1981. There, begun his military career in earnest although his Indian teacher at the Teachers College Potiskum had noticed something extraordinary in his personality even at that youthful age as he kept referring to him in the class as a ‘great man’ (p.18).
As the narration goes, Gen Buratai outlined in details step-by-step the process of his rise to generalship with the sole purpose of guiding his fellow cadets and junior officers what to do for those of them who aspire from their lowly positions to be generals and even to a higher opportunity of the rank of a 3-star general that he proudly attained and served for 66months as Chief of Army Staff before he bowed out of service after 41years of military career.
Gen Buratai went on to further explain the purpose of writing this volume thus: “It is not an easy feat to rise to the level of a three-star general and Chief of Army Staff in Nigeria. There are principles and disciplines that I developed and learned from others that helped me to succeed in the Army. It will be a great disservice to humanity to keep them to myself and not to share (it) with those coming up; those who want work hard and smartly to succeed in the military” (p.30).
In his prescriptions on the road to generalship, Gen Buratai laid emphasis on personal development as being very critical to any cadet or junior officer, male or female, who wants to become a military leader, more so, in the mould of general, adding that: “…the best thing to do for any officer on the road to generalship is to be a good follower, imbibe the principles of diligence, loyalty and excellence in all ramifications of one’s life. If you want to succeed as an officer and become a military leader, you must perform better in order to stand out from the crowd. Why? It is because good performance begets more and better opportunities” (p.31).
As a demonstration of his personal development, Gen Buratai recanted how after qualification as a teacher and graduation from NDA, he proceeded to acquire first Degree in History at University of Maiduguri and a Master of Philosophy in Security Studies from the Bangladash University of Professionals. These are in addition to subsequent professional courses he went through as a military officer. In all modesty, Gen Buratai stated that in all this, he performed excellently well. It is on that account that he emphasized the benefit of education and reading which he said allow one to learn from the experiences of people one never met and who were widely reputed to be successful as military officers and as civilians in other professions in Nigeria and other countries. Gen Buratai said: “What usually distinguishes leaders from their peers and their followers is personal development for when others are busy partying and sleeping, the prospective leader is busy burning the midnight oil, reading voraciously, drinking from the fountain of wisdom and knowledge like a thirsty camel in the desert’’ (p.95), stressing that “…reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body” (p.98).
One should read widely and in-depth, digest or process what one has read, reflect and make concerted effort to put into practice what one has read, he further advised.
The rest of the book and more especially Chapter 7, pp. 103 -154, are devoted to discussions on the leadership principles and citing numerous personalities worldwide who were successful based on critical success factors that include and most importantly the virtues of trust, honesty, influence, communication skill, loyalty, selflessness, diligence, determination, confidence, ambition, commitment, physical fitness, physical appearance, spirit of camaraderie, optimism, alertness, personal character, professional capacity, art of moderation, acquisition of multilingualism skills, style of leadership, leading by example, winning mentality, prayers and avoidance of pitfalls encountered by others. Gen Buratai cited numerous personal and other examples backed by several quotations on leadership of people who had been exceptionally successful in and out of this country and going back into history to include pronouncements by notable contemporary leaders and ancient philosophers of the likes of Confucious (551-479) and a famous military strategist Alexander the Great (356-324 BC).
It is noteworthy that to underline the importance of self-discipline Gen Buratai, quoting Plato, stated that: “… For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of victories” adding that “…the military officer needs to be disciplined in all ramifications of his life, the way he dresses, eats, periods of sleep, talks, walks, and relates with superiors and subordinates.
There is no way a military officer can rise to generalship without personal discipline” (p.118).
It is equally noteworthy that Gen Buratai being a qualified teacher, rendered the entire narration of the book in a style of an instructor addressing his students which in this case are military cadets and junior officers. It is also a credit to him that unlike books written by former fellow military officers, there is not much of the use of military terminologies which sometimes make it difficult for the non-military reader to understand. His was written in simple English all through.
There is no doubt that not only military officers but anyone else who reads the book stands to benefit immensely from the emphasis on self-discipline in everything one does as well as the imperatives and gains of persistence in development of the body and mind.
Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai who hails from Buratai Town in Biu Local Government of Borno State, North Eastern Nigeria, was born on November 24, 1960. He enlisted into the Nigerian Army in 1981 and retired in 2021. Post-military service, he served as Nigeria’s Ambassador to Benin Republic, 2021-2022.
Bukar Usman is the former permanent secretary in the presidency, Abuja.