BURATAISM: THE TRANSFORMATIVE LEADERSHIP STYLE THAT STOPPED THE GATES OF HELL IN NIGERIA
Dr M.S Abubakar
Let me make it clear that I am not writing this article because of the smear campaign that Sahara Reporters and People’s Gazette ran against Ambassador TY Buratai. They wrote that some money in Naira and dollars was found and seized in the home of Kabiru Salam, but they assumed that it belonged to the retired General just because they thought it did. Still, I sympathize with the few gullible Nigerians who were deceived to believe that there was any substance of truth in the concocted and ill-conceived fabricated lies. Some politicians who are not happy with their jobs use the media to hurt the image and reputation of our modern heroes in order to score cheap political points. This should be a very grave matter of concern.
I am compelled to write this article because of recent developments in the land, especially in the security architecture of the country. The terrorists are now working together with the bandits in the northwest, and hostage-taking of innocent commuters and students is the order of the day. It seems like the enemies of the state are now launching so many and such big attacks against us that the military cannot keep up. There is a general apathy, which is fast corroding the morale of the soldiers. Officers are dying, the enemy is getting stronger, and it seems like military leaders are at the end of their rope.
Regardless of whether you like him or dislike him, the general did his best with the little resources at his disposal to keep the Army from succumbing to tiredness from combat and subdue the insurgents. All Nigerians now concur that the former service chiefs, particularly General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, the 20th Chief of Army Staff of the Nigerian Army, did their best to lead, direct, and command the Nigerian Army, which at the time was at the forefront of the country’s efforts to combat insurgency and civil unrest. General Buratai made the Nigerian Army a more effective and powerful fighting force, took back all the areas that the Boko Haram rebels had previously held, and introduced innovation by encouraging officers to use the Ezeugwu MRAP and cyber warfare command. He established a culture of financial responsibility inside the Army, made sure that soldiers received their pay when due directly into their bank accounts, and ensured that welfare concerns were addressed. However, his desire to take the chance to lead from the front is what set him apart from all other service chiefs. No, General Buratai is not a desk-bound general who commands from Abuja. He was present in both northeastern and northwestern theatres of operations. I can remember an incident that one of the brave officers who served in Baga had told me about. He said that the former COAS joined his soldiers in an operation against Boko Haram rebels and that the conflict became so tense that senior military leaders feared for General Buratai’s life. They were afraid that their commander may suffer an accident, and they did not want to take any chances, but no one dared to tell him the truth. He was eventually confronted by one of the generals, who said, “Sir, if we kill 10,000 insurgents today, it will never be a headline because the media has been underreporting our success, but if by mistake these criminals got a chance to shoot you and you got injured or killed, it will be a big disaster for the Army and Nigeria in general. He begged the Army Chief to evacuate the area of active battle. The Army Chief then turned to listen and walked off the stage. All the commanders got up and started working because of General Buratai’s exceptional abilities to lead the battle against the insurgents from the front. General Buratai, the then Army Chief, was everywhere; he was the protector of the government and actively carrying out the duties of the police by addressing every instance of low-level internal strife at its source as well as dealing with rebels and other oil thieves. That explains why he put in an average of seventeen hours each day’s work.
As Army Chief, General Buratai was unique due to his leadership style, which also enabled him to achieve great success. Better weaponry, bigger budgets, or anything else like that are not the issue. It was his manner of leadership. His management approach is referred to as the “Transformative Leadership Style.” A leadership style known as transformational leadership affects both social systems and individual behaviour. In its optimal state, it induces a significant and advantageous change in the followers with the ultimate objective of transforming followers into leaders. Giving our military the resources it needs to continue being a global leader is a good way to handle this challenge through transformational leadership.
The range of creative leadership includes many important components. For instance, Rosso has focused on the issue of time limits as a major factor. Rosso shows how the increase in creative thought that occurs when people are faced with task deadlines is correlated with time restraints
In comparison to other leadership theories, transformational leadership is seen to nurture and increase creativity and innovation with better success. It is best to think of “transformational leadership” as a multidimensional (creativity, innovation) idea. Transformational leaders using their “excellent vision, persuasive, and impression management skills” create strong emotional relationships with followers. Additionally, they “actively push followers to take new and inventive ways rather than conventional and established ones.”
The inclination of the leaders to “employ intellectual stimulation, foster examination of other ideas, and motivate collective action to promote group innovation” is another advantage of this leadership style. By serving as an example to garner respect, admiration, and devotion, [transformational] leader [s] inspire the innate thinking of followers with an “idealized influence,” which fosters a sense of community among the followers.”
Another benefit with this leadership style is that the leaders have a tendency to “use intellectual stimulation, promote consideration of different viewpoints, and inspire collective action to promote group creativity.” With an “idealize influence, [transformational] leader[s] inspires the inherent thoughts of followers by acting as a role model to gain respect, admiration and loyalty, which generates a sense of collectivity among the followers.”
In a lecture General Buratai recently delivered at the Nigerian Army War College, Abuja to military officers in the rank of colonel and their equivalent in the Navy and the Airforce titled Military Leadership, General Buratai explained his style of leadership to the young officers and I think it will be needful I quote part of that lecture here:
“I want to state that my approach to military leadership, which the NCO Journal claims is the finest approach, is transformational leadership style. The NCO Journal stated in an article titled Mastering the art of dynamic leadership, published in its August 2018 Edition that Transformational leadership is leadership by example. In a dynamic atmosphere where ideas are encouraged to flow freely and employees are motivated to offer solutions, this leadership style excels. It does not function when there is little to no structure to support the team during an ad hoc or early development decision-making phase. Because of this, transformative leaders frequently have a technical background, care about their surroundings, and are aware of the roles that their Soldiers play. They operate effectively in an environment where they can affect change by collaborating with their subordinates. They motivate their subordinates through rapport, inspiration, and empathy.”
The concluding part of the lecture deals with what the retired Infantry General described as challenges of military leadership in a VUCA (VUCA is an acronym that stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity — qualities that make a situation or condition difficult to analyze, respond to or plan for) world. He said, “The timing and execution of decisions are crucial, as I also discovered while studying military leadership. I have also learned that poor decision-making is one of the main causes of failure for most commanders. It is a wonderful thing that so many of us prefer to follow the policies and procedures of our businesses. We do however, live in a VUCA dispensation, as I noted in The Legend of Buratai Volume III. In order to describe the more volatile, unpredictable, complex, and ambiguous multilateral environment thought to follow the end of the Cold War, the U.S. Army War College developed the term VUCA. In my opinion, a thorough understanding of the VUCA environment in which we find ourselves will help military leaders develop the skills and abilities necessary to foresee the problems that will shape events, comprehend the repercussions of decisions and actions, recognize the interdependence of variables, get ready for alternative realities and challenges, and interpret and take advantage of pertinent opportunities. As you can all see, the entire world—not just Nigeria—is currently experiencing what I called the VUCA turbulence.”
What is the secret behind the success of General Buratai’s tenure as Chief of Staff? I do not think it is just the successful application of the Transformational Leadership Style. From what I have been able to deduce, a leadership philosophy can rightly be termed Burataism. Burataim is the combination of proportionate degrees of transactional and transformational leadership styles to assemble a team that can successfully plan and execute missions. The goal of Burataism is to add tangible value and make a positive difference. If I should breakdown or simply Burataism for today’s military leaders and future generations, I will make the following submission:
As Chief of Army Staff, General Buratai cultivated and established a Command Presence for his troops and officers. It might be because he has a strong charismatic presence or some other factors but the Command presence was there. Officers and men who worked with him even before he became COAS testified that the retired General always has a Command Presence.
He also tried to delegate assignments and tasks to subordinates. If he noticed that you have excellence and that you know how to execute missions with diligence, General Buratai will delegate sensitive and important tasks to you regardless of where you came from. An associate of mine told that General Buratai told him that you do not just pick excellence on the street or by chance; it is something that takes time to develop so whenever he sees someone who is excellent, he brings the person closer and use him to achieve set objectives for the army.
After that, he requires accountability once he delegates to you. You must be ready to make impromptu reports of how you are implementing your mission and tasks.
As Army Chief, General Buratai was always on the alert for trouble. He tries to think like the enemy and anticipate whatever evil the enemy is planning.
As Army Chief, General placed high premium on intelligence and so he made considerable investment into the Nigerian Army Intelligence Corps by way of training and procurement of equipment and gadgets. He did not stop there; he cultivated his own human intelligence (HUMINT) source in the northeast and as well as the northwest. Because he speaks Kanuri very fluently and maintains an open-door policy, locals found it easy to approach him and provide credible intelligence.
Another element of Burataism is getting input from your people and working with it. It was this idea of working with the input of your people that enable the Nigerian Army to initiate and develop the MRAP vehicles and even the Cyberwarfare command. General Buratai encourages his commanders to think outside the box and come up with innovative ideas to transform the Army. I should also like to say that what encouraged his commanders to initiate good ideas is because he allows them to take the credit. This the reason why the MRAP was named after Major General Victor Ezeugwu.
Furthermore, he moves around the theatre of operation t see things for himself. He made it clear that restoring order and normalcy in the northeast was his top priority and he kept clear lines of communication with officers and men to help him achieve this objective.
I have also discovered that as Chief of Staff, General Buratai selected his commanders based on their accomplishments and not because of affection or sentimental attachments. He also maintained a strong Code of honour, high integrity, positive mindset, strong determination and a perpetual attitude of optimism.
Burataism is a military leadership philosophy that was developed after studying past and contemporary military leaders like Generals George Patton, Colin Powell, Zakariya Maimalari, Murtala Mohammed, Sani Abacha, Habu Ahmadu, Victor Malu and others. Like General Patton who said, “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan executed next week,” and “Do everything you ask of those you command,” General Buratai knew that in a VUCA world, timing is critical in the execution of missions and also it is critical to lead from the front, by example. He served Nigeria as its 20th Chief of Army Staff with courage, bravado and patriotism. He put his life on the line to carry out the orders of his Commander in Chief.