Widely Read Magazine in Nigeria

Buratai, blackmail, and the burden of leadership in Nigeria  


Buratai, blackmail, and the burden of leadership in Nigeria


MS Abubakar, PhD, CAS

I must start by making it categorically clear that this piece is the only means I have to vent my frustration and anger with the way fellow Nigerians vilify and blackmail fellow Nigerians that have succeeded in earning a better reputation through meritorious service to the Fatherland, diligence, and hard work. Just a few days ago, I read an article published by an online newspaper, which they glorified as an exclusive report with a horrible sinister caption: “How Ex-Army Chief Buratai Used Nigerian Army Property Firm to Obtain Saudi Citizenship; Major General in Charge Secretly Detained for One Year to Cover Up His Money Laundering Schemes.” This notorious online newspaper is at the forefront when it comes to mudslinging, tarnishing the names and reputations of eminent Nigerians who distinguished themselves as husbands, fathers, grandfathers, and statesmen. In fact, this online newspaper had succeeded in carving a niche for itself in the area of blackmail and fake news. Not long ago, this online newspaper, and for those who don’t know it, I am referring to Sahara Reporters, wrote that some hard currencies recovered by the ICPC in Wuse 2 in the house of a contractor known as Kabiru Sallau must belong to Amb. T.Y. Buratai. As far as Sahara Reporters are concerned, anything that has to do with corruption must be linked to Amb Buratai simply because they just want to vilify him. The ICPC’s public exoneration of the retired army general was a significant development in the story, as it represented a clear and official statement that the allegations against him were unfounded.

However, it is worth noting that despite this exoneration, Sahara Reporters has continued to report on the story and has refused to drop it or apologise for their previous coverage. This response from Sahara Reporters is perhaps indicative of the challenges facing modern journalism, where news outlets must balance the pressure to report on breaking news with the need to verify and fact-check information before publishing a story. While it is important to be transparent and hold those in power accountable, it is equally important to be fair and accurate in our reporting.

In light of recent events, it comes as no surprise to me that another blackmail scheme has been concocted. While the idea of blackmailing others is morally reprehensible, it unfortunately remains a prevalent issue in society. I am disappointed that individuals still resort to such tactics in order to achieve their personal goals, and I believe that it is a disrespectful and manipulative way to interact with others. Personally, I do not see the need to engage with those who rely on such malicious tactics, as they lack the integrity and respect necessary to build genuine relationships. It is a sad truth that fake news is prevalent in today’s society, and innocent and gullible Nigerians are often the ones who fall prey to it. Such misinformation can have a negative impact on their perception of individuals who have dedicated their lives to protecting and securing the nation. It is important to remember that those who spread fake news often have their own agendas and biases, and therefore, it is crucial to verify news sources before forming an opinion. It is our responsibility as citizens to remain vigilant and not let false information cloud our judgement, especially when it comes to those who have worked tirelessly to safeguard our country. In recent years, the issue of misinformation, misrepresentation, mudslinging, and fake news has become a pervasive problem in society. The impact of these phenomena can no longer be ignored, as they have the power to sway public opinion, undermine democracy, and even cause harm to individuals and communities. It is because of this very issue that I am writing this piece—what can perhaps be called a “rejoin”—to challenge the spread of misinformation and falsehoods. As responsible members of society, it is our duty to take a stand against such practises and to promote accuracy and truth in our discourse. I hope that this piece can contribute to the ongoing efforts to combat fake news and foster a more informed and responsible society.

Let me begin by saying that the former Army chief, Lt. General TY Buratai, is someone whom many people, including myself, see as a man of impeccable character. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to serving his country and protecting his fellow citizens. His leadership and determination have been instrumental in the fight against terrorism and insurgency in Nigeria. He has worked tirelessly to ensure that the Nigerian Army is well-equipped and well-trained to face any challenges that may arise. In addition, General Buratai has always been a strong advocate for human rights and the rule of law and has consistently demonstrated a deep sense of compassion and empathy towards the people he serves. His integrity, honesty, and dedication to his country are qualities that we should all aspire to emulate. With his good character, reputation, and diligence as a professional soldier, it is a given that Buratai is destined for leadership. “Character is fate,” according to Heraclitus. Buratai has been a man of impeccable character right from his days at Teachers’ College, Potiskum, and it is only natural that he will rise to greater positions of leadership. That does not mean that if we see something wrong, we will condone it simply because it involves Buratai. “If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud,” said Nicholas Nassim Taleb. Any news source’s credibility depends on its capacity to provide the general public with factual and accurate information. In the case of the Sahara Reporters, if what they write is the truth, it is imperative that we acknowledge and accept it. However, if we find their claims to be false, it is our duty to challenge them and bring to light any discrepancies in their reporting. To keep quiet and allow falsehoods to go unchallenged would not only compromise the credibility of the news source but also undermine the trust of the public in the media.

Let me make it clear that this article is in no way trying to comment on a matter that, as I have pointed out earlier, is sub-judice but is a point-blank rebuttal of the lies published by Sahara Reporters. “It is crucial to state clearly that it is inappropriate and amounts to unlawful interference with the administration of justice to peddle inaccurate reports and comments on a matter currently under judicial adjudication (sub-judice).”

It is imperative that we maintain the sanctity of the trial and its outcome by not commenting on certain statements made during the proceedings. It is well understood that any remarks made outside of the courtroom can potentially influence public opinion and therefore have an impact on the trial’s outcome. As such, it is important to preserve the integrity of the judicial proceedings by allowing the evidence to speak for itself without the interference of external factors. By not commenting on certain statements, we can ensure that justice is served and that the trial is conducted in a fair and impartial manner.

The Nigerian Army has issued a press release where it said that “it has noted yet another ill-conceived report by Sahara Reporters on a sub-judice and ongoing court martial process of Major General UM Mohammed, the erstwhile Group Managing Director (GMD) of Nigerian Army Properties Limited (NAPL), who was indicted by a military police investigation and recommended for trial. It is expedient to clear the air on the despicably false report and calculated attempt to cast aspersion on the ongoing Court Martial, which has already progressed to an advanced stage as the prosecution has put forward the evidence against General Mohammed and closed its case. The accused senior officer has opened his defence and is testifying as Defence Witness One (DW1). For the avoidance of doubt, without being sub-judicial, the former GMD of NAPL is facing trial in relation to alleged offences of theft of various sums of money belonging to NAPL and forgery. These are all acts declared as offences punishable under the provisions of various extant penal laws in Nigeria. To set the records straight, upon investigation and indictment of the accused senior officer by military police investigations, the Army Headquarters convened a Special Court Martial to try the senior officer as a procedure to legally recover the sums of money he allegedly fraudulently acquired from the coffers of NAPL during his tenure as GMD. The details of the outcome of the court martial will be provided at the end of the court martial proceedings.”

“It is instructive to point out that court martial trials are lawfully provided in the Armed Forces Act (AFA) as one of the disciplinary tools in the Armed Forces. The Court of Appeal and Supreme Court have in multiple instances validated the procedures, findings, and sentences of the court martial. Court martials, like all other criminal trials, are held in the open. The trial of Major General UM Mohammed is taking place at the Army Headquarters Command Officers’ Mess, Asokoro Abuja, and is not shrouded in secrecy as was wrongly insinuated,” said the Nigerian Army in the release, which was signed by Brigadier Onyeama Chukwu.

For the records, and for those who take joy in attacking the Nigerian Army and anything that is related to it, “The trial (of Major General Mohammed) has been open, and the defence (of Major General Mohammed) has presented adequate representation in court. The accused senior officer’s family members, friends, and associates attend and observe the court proceedings till date without hindrance.”

As the trial of Major General Mohammed by the Nigerian Army continues, it is important to note that the current situation is in accordance with due process and the rule of law. The Nigerian Army has followed all necessary procedures in conducting the trial, ensuring that justice is served in a fair and impartial manner. As a highly respected institution, the Army is committed to upholding the highest standards of professionalism and accountability, and this trial is no exception.

The recent controversy surrounding the Sahara Reporters’ accusations against General Buratai has left many of us baffled. While it is important to hold individuals in positions of power accountable for their actions, it is unclear why the publication chose to single out General Buratai in this particular case. Moreover, the accusations of victimisation against him only add to the confusion. It is important to approach such situations with a level of objectivity and to consider all available evidence before making accusations that could potentially damage someone’s reputation.

It is important to clarify that Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, the former Chief of Army Staff of the Nigerian Army, has no affiliations with Major General Mohammed or any other military personnel, whether retired or serving, in the procurement of Saudi citizenship. Sahara Reporters’ so-called exclusive story claimed that Buratai was involved in the procurement of Saudi citizenship, but these allegations are entirely baseless and unfounded. There is nothing like a Saudi passport. And no money was given to Major General Mohammed to procure Saudi citizenship or that of any other country. The Saudi Embassy will be able to confirm this for the reader. There is no single proof that he constructed a home for the First Lady in Saudi Arabia or anywhere in the world. This is blackmail taken too far. In the same vein, I was reliably informed that no bakery was built in Biu or any such place as claimed by Sahara Reporters. I am aware that he had planned to construct a laboratory for information and communications technology at NAUB, but he retired without doing that. In any case, what wrong did General Buratai do that he needed to escape to Saudi Arabia to evade justice? When did counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations become crimes against humanity? By the way, General Buratai was in Saudi Arabia for Umrah a few weeks ago, and the whole world saw how the Saudis and other pilgrims received him. If General Buratai needs Saudi citizenship, I believe MBS and his father will graciously give it to him without any hassle.

It should be recognised that General Mohammed’s claim of procuring Saudi citizenship was a blatant lie, as Saudi citizenship is not something that anyone can just buy on the black market. Many people argue that General Mohammed speaks excessively and makes grandiose claims that are unsupported by reality. His tendency to boast and exaggerate has earned him a reputation for being excessively loud and self-aggrandizing.

As a former top-ranking military official, Buratai has upheld the level of professionalism and integrity expected of him throughout his career, and it is unfair to tarnish his reputation with baseless accusations. It is crucial that we strive for accuracy and accountability when reporting on matters of public interest. I challenged Sahara Reporters or any other platform or individual to provide proof of the fallacious dual citizenship of the retired Army general or shut up once and for all.

Regarding the allegation that General Buratai purchased a house for President Buhari, I find it inappropriate and lacking in evidence to comment on such baseless claims. As a responsible citizen and a professional, I believe in factual reporting and evidence-based analysis. It is important to avoid spreading rumours and unsubstantiated allegations that may harm the reputation of individuals or institutions. Therefore, I will not waste words on this matter unless there is a credible source of information that supports these accusations. As a society, we should uphold the principles of accountability and transparency, but we should also avoid jumping to conclusions without relevant facts and evidence.

The detention of Major General Mohammed by the Nigerian military has been a topic of controversy, especially after Sahara Reporters claimed that he was being victimised by the former Chief of Army Staff, General Buratai, who has since retired from the Army and is now a seasoned farmer, advisor, and politician. He has nothing to do with General Mohammed and his ordeals. It is important to note that General Buratai should not be held responsible for the actions of General Mohammed, whose corrupt practises have caught up with him. When he served as COAS, General Buratai always prioritised transparency, accountability, and adherence to the rule of law. He has, to the best of his ability as a human being, taken measures to ensure that the military operates with the highest standards of professionalism and ethical conduct. Gen. Mohammed’s actions were his own and should not reflect on the entire military organisation. It is important to separate the actions of one individual from the actions of a larger institution and to hold individuals accountable for their own conduct. General Buratai should continue to be seen as a leader who is committed to the integrity of the Nigerian military and whose actions are guided by the principles of transparency, accountability, and ethical behaviour. News platforms like Sahara Reporters should know that they do not have the credentials to discredit the excellent record of a man who put his life at risk on the frontlines to safeguard this country and see to it that they have a country where they can practise their journalism.

According to reports, Mohammed has been in detention since last year, and the exact reasons for his detention have not been made public. Cases of prolonged detention without trial are concerning, but I know that the Army knows that it is essential for military authorities to provide transparency and accountability in the way they handle the matter. As a highly regarded member of the military, Major General Mohammed deserves fair treatment as he awaits due process. Too many cases of corruption have been brought against him. Before Gen. Buratai became COAS, Maj. Gen. Mohammed was in command of all military properties, including land, for more than fifteen years. It was alleged that he used the position to misappropriate funds and violate his oath of office. The final straw came when allegations surfaced that he had used the Nigerian Army Property Limited (NAPL) to collect millions of naira from military officials to develop an estate adjacent to Abacha Barracks. However, the funds cannot be accounted for, and the estate cannot be located. This action was not only unethical but also posed a security risk as it potentially compromised the integrity of the military. The use of his position to personally benefit from the resources of the government institution he served was a gross abuse of power and a clear violation of the trust placed in him. Such actions undermine the credibility of public officials and jeopardise the public’s trust in the government’s ability to serve their best interests. This incident must be thoroughly investigated and appropriate measures taken to ensure that such abuses of power do not occur again. This is what made the current Army Chief of Staff decide to court-martial him. All of his acquaintances have retired, but since he is currently in court, he is unable to retire until the verdict is rendered.

On the falsehood that the late COAS, Lt. General Ibrahim, was trying to meet and hear credible information that would implicate General Buratai from Major General Mohammed, reliable sources from the Army Headquarters said that the late COAS refused to see him before he died. Major General Mohammed is referred to as “the evil spirit” by his colleague because of his diabolical nature, which has caused so many people to avoid him. It is important to clarify that the narrative surrounding the detention of General Mohammed is inaccurate. On the contrary, Major General Mohammed’s dishonesty and shady deals were what made the Army authorities detain him. I also believe he has competent legal representation defending him. Therefore, it is crucial to approach these situations with a fair and objective perspective and refrain from spreading unfounded rumours or assumptions. It is imperative that we respect the privacy and rights of individuals and conduct ourselves with integrity and professionalism in all circumstances.

When he served the Army as COAS, General Buratai carried everybody along and made sure that every officer under his command was given enough resources to execute assigned tasks. Therefore, it is not surprising to hear that General Mohammed was close to the former COAS at some point. So many officers, including the present COAS and the CDS, worked under General Buratai, and these officers who served as commanders and principal officers under him helped to make his tenure successful. It is a fact that no single general can achieve his objective except if he assembles a team of formidable lieutenants, and this is what General Buratai did. That doesn’t mean there will be no Judas within his circle or that he must know the weaknesses of everyone in his team. For the sixty months that General Buratai served the Army as COAS, there was no instance where he asked any commander or principal officer who served under him to give him kickbacks from impresses or resources allocated to such a person. If there is, let us know who it is.

Major General Mohammed is being detained because he cannot account for the billions of naira collected as proceeds from the sale of NA properties and lands across the country. To cover his evil machinations, he is claiming the funds were spent based on General Buratai’s directives. But he had worked with several other Army chiefs. In fact, what Sahara Reporters don’t know is that several emirs and political businessmen had pleaded with General Buratai to intervene and stop the court martial, but he refused and said that justice must be done.

It should be a grave matter of concern to us as citizens that whenever we hear the names of certain individuals, especially our competitors, mentioned for political office, we resort to blackmail instead of trusting in God, who gives power to whomsoever He wills. Sahara Reporters is being used by sinister individuals, whom I see as cowards, to tarnish the name and image of General Buratai simply because they hear that he might be considered for high office in the next government. The recent trend of using Sahara Reporters as a platform to tarnish the name and image of General Buratai is both unjust and cowardly. It is evident that sinister individuals with a personal agenda are behind this campaign, fueled by their own ill intentions. General Buratai, a highly respected military leader, has dedicated his life to serving his country with honour and valour. To use baseless accusations and false information to discredit his reputation is a disservice to all that he has accomplished. These individuals should have the courage to come forward and present their claims with evidence rather than resorting to such cowardly tactics. The actions of these individuals only serve to cause chaos and undermine the trust that the people have in their military leaders. It is all politics, but I want to make it clear to those behind this nefarious activity that the President-Elect, Bola Tinubu, is a clever man and a sound politician. After all, the same Sahara Reporters have been dragging President-Elect Bola Tinubu over allegations of drug use and financial embezzlement.

This strategy of blackmailing General Buratai is dead on arrival, and even though I know that the statesman will just say “Allah ya isa” (I leave this matter to God to vindicate me and punish those behind it), we will not keep quiet and allow some sinister individuals to tarnish his name and reputation. This is because people like the writer and many others look up to General Buratai as a mentor and an inspiration. His life as a family man and a God-fearing Muslim, his empathy, sense of humour, and justice, his detribalized disposition, and his embrace of all Nigerians across the divides of the country made him stand out as a leader we want to emulate. For Sahara Reporters to think they can just use their online platform to vilify him is an attack on all of us.

I need to make it clear to some people, especially those who are propelling Sahara Reporters to tarnish the name and image of people like General Buratai, that as far as leadership and the future of Nigeria are concerned, General Buratai will always be a factor to be reckoned with. This is because of the following reasons: 1.) He has paid his dues as far as nation-building is concerned; he distinguished himself as a wartime general and provided visionary leadership. 2.) He has followed and obeyed those who are ahead of him. General Buratai is one leader who knows how to follow his superiors in the military, and now that he is retired, he is doing the same as a civilian. 3.) Leaders like Generals Obasanjo,Danjuma,IBB, Abdulsalami, Buhari, and a few others of the 1930s–1940s are already in the twilight of their lives. They are a dying breed, and sooner rather than later, people like Nasirl el Rufai, Akinwunmi Adesina, Kashim Shettima, Raji Fashola, and General Buratai will fill the vacuum. Therefore, Sahara Reporters and those cowards encouraging them to do what they are doing should know that what they are doing is an exercise in futility.

Throughout his distinguished career in the Nigerian Army, Buratai exhibited unwavering dedication, professionalism, and a deep sense of patriotism. He was known for his outstanding leadership qualities, which have earned him accolades both within and outside the country. His meticulous attention to detail, strategic thinking, and ability to motivate his troops to achieve set objectives are qualities that are highly admired. Buratai’s commitment to the welfare of his officers and men, as well as his unwavering stance against corruption, are values that have endeared him to many. His legacy in the Nigerian Army will surely be remembered for generations to come.

Journalists play a pivotal role in society by reporting the news and holding those in power accountable. However, it is crucial that they do so in an ethical and responsible manner. It is unacceptable for journalists to resort to blackmail to obtain information or to publish stories that tarnish an individual’s reputation without sufficient evidence. While freedom of the press is a fundamental right in many countries, it is important for journalists to remember that they have a responsibility to uphold journalistic ethics and standards. Therefore, it is vital for journalists to understand that they do not have the licence to blackmail people or tarnish their image without proper justification. Such actions not only violate the principles of journalism but also erode the public’s trust in the media. Therefore, “Sahara Reporters is enjoined to practise responsible journalism and refrain from subjective, inaccurate, and inappropriate reporting of matters currently under judicial review.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

one × one =

%d bloggers like this: