Honouring a Deserving General at Igbinedion University, Okada
By Dr MS Abubakar
Bestowed with every possible award while in service, Retired General Yusufu Tukur Buratai Rtd is getting more and more recognition even while out of the military. And they are coming from almost everywhere – reputable traditional and academic institutions across the length and breadth of Nigeria.
On Saturday 25 November 2023, the battle-scarred, well-decorated distinguished military officer who was Chief of Army Staff of Nigeria Army for six years from July 2015, was garlanded with yet another honour – a Doctorate Degree in International Relations and Strategic Studies by Igbinedion University Okada near Benin City in Edo state. The ceremony itself attracted pointy heads from the institution, including Vice Chancellor Professor Lawrence Ikechukwu Ezemonye.
There were also traditional rulers at the first ever private university in Nigeria, plus the business elite, high profile politicians, and students in a state with an inspiring motto “Heartbeat of the nation.”
How true! There was a celebratory mood at the campus of IU today, and the recipient himself was quite upbeat about the honour. “I am truly honored to be present here today at Igbinedion University Okada where I was just conferred with the prestigious Doctorate Degree in International Relations and Strategic Studies, honoris causa,” Buratai said in his acceptance speech. “This momentous occasion fills me with immense joy and gratitude. It is a testament to the years of hard work, dedication, and unwavering commitment that I have put into my academic pursuits, military career, and service to my fatherland.
The opportunity to be recognized for my contributions to the field of Political Science and Strategic Studies is a deeply cherished milestone in my journey as a professional soldier and now as a politician.”
Continuing, the retired Army general said he was “humbled by the esteemed faculty and distinguished individuals who have deemed me worthy of this honor,” insisting that the occasion itself “serves as a reminder of the value and significance of education in shaping individuals and societies.”
Buratai has had a longstanding, reciprocal relationship with IU, way back to 2019 when he delivered a lecture at the university’s Buratai Centre for Contemporary Security Affairs for his unwavering commitment and service to the field of security affairs. Describing BCCSA as “a testament to my lifelong commitment to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of individuals and communities alike,” he said “it is an honor to have my name associated with an institution that strives to advance the study and understanding of contemporary security challenges, fostering knowledge and expertise in this critical domain. With the establishment of Buratai Centre, we aim to provide a platform for comprehensive research, analysis, and discourse, contributing to the development of effective strategies and policies in tackling evolving security threats.”
For his numerous contributions to Nigeria, the Esama of Benin Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion rained encomiums on the recipient of the honoris causa of the institution named after him.
“History and posterity will always be kind to General Buratai, as a general, a diplomat and former COAS who is highly patriotic and who always put the interest of Nigeria above any other considerations,” the patriarch of the Igbinedions said, adding that the choice of the retired general could not have been more “apt and fundamental considering the various accomplishment of Ambassador Buratai both in Nigeria and in the international community.”
Along with Buratai to Edo state was the Emir of Biu Alhaji Mustafa Umar Mustafa II CON for the 21st convocation ceremonies of IU. In the Emir of Biu’s entourage were prominent Nigerians including Alhaji Ibrahim Shehu, Vice President of the Biu Emirate Council, Alhaji Adamu Madu, Alhaji Ibrahim Brima, Rear Admiral Adamu Biu OFR, Shettima of Biu, Regent of Oka Akoko in Ondo state Regent Adekanmi Omorinbola.
Others were Major General Joel Unigbe Rtd, Brigadier General SK Usman Rtd, The Brigade Commander 4TH Brigade, General Ndahi, Colonel Emmanuel Adegbola, Comrade Oladimeji Odeyemi and Mr Femi Oyewale Ambassador Buratai CFR thanked his hosts, especially the Esama of Benin, for his patriotism while Alhaji Shehu spoke glowingly of Chief Igbinedion, describing him as “a role model and highly detribalized elder statesman.”
Coming from the North-east to meet his counterpart in the South-south in a first of its kind in recent memory, Emir Mustafa was magnanimous enough to come with gifts, a gesture that was duly reciprocated by Esama of Benin. The two monarchs exchanging gifts were also the highpoint of the visit, eliciting spontaneous applause from the distinguished guests at the event.
The latest honoris causa would not be the first such recognition from a respectable institution of higher learning for the eminent scholar, author, military officer, and ambassador.
The authorities of Kaduna State Polytechnic honoured Buratai long ago with a doctorate in Leadership when he was still COAS. And just last month, the Nigerian Army University in Biu honored him with a doctorate degree as a man of Letters and justifiably so because Buratai also has a number of publications to his credit namely, The Legend of Buratai Vol 1&2 co-authored with my humble self.
Like academia, traditional institutions in Nigeria have also been trying to outdo themselves in acknowledging and recognizing Buratai’s invaluable contribution to the wellbeing of the respective communities in particular and Nigeria in general Barely a year after serving as COAS, the ruling house in Ibadan Oyo state put up a solid case in defence of making Buratai a chief in one of the largest kingdoms in the entire South-west.
The Olubadan himself, the late Oba Lekan Balogun, let it be known that making Buratai the Aare Akinrogun of Ibadan land was not a mistake. It was a decision supported by the palace chiefs and senior citizens of the ancient city.
The conferment of the chieftaincy title on Buratai, brother to the Olu of Ibadan Senator Kola Balogun averred, was in recognition of his dedication and loyal Army general as COAS.
Therefore, in that capacity as Aare Akinrogun, Buratai could attend the periodic meetings of the Ibadan royals, wine, and dine with them such that the relationship among the chiefs “will be kept alive and active.”
At the time of his investiture in Ibadan, Buratai was still a serving ambassador to the Republic of Benin, appointed by erstwhile President Muhammadu Buhari. Thanking the Ibadan monarch for his magnanimity, Buratai described him “as a person whose name and personality preceded his enthronement as Olubadan owing to his philanthropic gestures, detribalised posture, politics and activism.” He also promised to respond to his duties as “Aare Akinrogun of the ancient metropolis anytime the need arises.”
Another royal house in the South West has also conferred a highly respected traditional title on the retired general. From the capital of Oyo state last year, Buratai was sometime this year in another state capital – this time Akure in Ondo state. In traditional regalia of his new designation – a flowing Agbada woven with Asoke fabric complete with cap and flywhisk, the Deji of Akure Oba Aladetoyinbo Ogunlada Aladelusi Odundun II made Buratai Baakore of Akure kingdom.Translated into English, Baakore means promoter of harvest.
What’s more, the monarch chose a very important festival in the state Ulefunta to confer the honour on the retired military officer. Writing of the investiture, a commentator observed that Buratai “was honoured with this great traditional title as a mark of recognition to his contribution towards the security architectural development of the military, for the purpose of saving the lives and properties of the people in the society, as well as defending the territorial integrity of the country and his other immense contribution to the economy and human capital development in the society.”
Besides that, a native of Akure had his own testimonial about the general, who he pointedly noted altered his life for good while he was in the Army. Dr. Olumuyiwa Sylvester Adu, aka Cubana, was over the moon about the training he “got from the leadership of the General while he was at the Defence Academy as a Cadet Officer.” That training, Adu admitted, was the one that made him strong and agile till today.
General Buratai, Adu crowed, deserved the honour as he had contributed his own quota to the human capital development and the economy of the country in one way or the other.
Equally grateful for the honor done him, Buratai thanked the paramount ruler of Akure and other eminent personalities that thought it wise enough to honour him with the title.
A close source to the general said he has more than 27 traditional titles spanning north to south, east and west, including Betara of Biu where he was born. As a detribalized Nigerian with the welfare of citizens of the country at heart like the original soldier/ statesman/ dipolmat that he is, it is more than certain more traditional titles will come his way in due time.
So far, Buratai remains the most decorated and acknowledged former COAS dead or alive. That, in itself, is a record, an unmatchable record at that.