BY EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO
“Leadership is the ability to establish standards and manage a creative climate where people are self-motivated towards the mastery of long term constructive goals, in a participatory environment of mutual respect, compatible with personal values.Mike Vance.
Dzarma Kennedy Zirkusu was a Brigadier General in the Nigerian Army up until he became the most high profile casualty of the ten year- old war on terror when he was bombed to death reportedly alongside other four other lesser ranking Soldiers when they headed to beef up the battle fronts in Borno State.
The Senior Special Assistant on media to President Muhammadu Buhari Alhaji Garba Shehu has just revealed that Brigadier General Dzarma Kennedy Zikushu hailed from the same Adamawa village like the secretary to the Government of the Federation Mr. Boss Mustapha.
Boss Mustapha is one of the most trusted political affiliates of President Buhari and he is the most Senior Christian Northerner holding the highest political office under the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. Apparently, the late Brigadier General is from a minority tribe in the North just as the former Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai. Buratai is reported to come from Buratai village in Biu town of Borno State.
I will return to talk more about the death of the highest ranking Army officer from Nigeria killed by terrorists in the North East of Nigeria, Brigadier General Zikushu.
But first, what this reflection has set out to do is to emphatically affirm that the circumstances surrounding the killing of this heroic General and four other lower ranked soldiers has demonstrated the fact that military heroism and leadership charisma is not totally absent in the Nigeria Army of our contemporary times contrary to what naysayers may want unlearned audience to think.
Military leadership was precisely the reason the then Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai twice narrowly escaped death in the hands of the Boko haram terrorists when he went to lead the battles from the front in the North East, almost in the same situation that this brave Brigadier General Zikushu found himself but did not escape death.
As someone who both in theory and practice excelled in military leadership, the former Army Chief was recently quoted in the media to have delivered a public lecture around the thematic area of military leadership.
Nigeria’s Ambassador to Benin Republic, Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai (Rtd), and a former Chief of Army Staff (COAS), has identified effective leadership in the military as key to a successful command.
Buratai stated this in a lecture he delivered at an Infantry annual leadership lecture series and biennial reunion held at the Infantry Corps Centre, Jaji Military Cantonment, on Thursday.
The theme of his lecture was ”Command and leadership in the Nigerian Army: My style and experience’.
Buratai stated that effective leadership was an essential skill that shaped organizational culture and affected outcomes, as well as performance of units, formation or establishments.
He noted that regardless of the quality of training, equipment and resources, optimal performance still
depended largely on the style of leadership at various levels.
“The contemporary security environment is volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous and the current operating environment in Nigeria is not different.
“We are now confronted with multi-dimensional complexities and challenges that require focused military leadership as part of an all-encompassing strategy for ensuring national security”, he said.
Buratai further stated that strategic military leadership required in-depth knowledge of political, economic, informational, and military elements of national power, as well as their interrelationships.
“Cooperative learning, mentoring, case studies, role playing and simulations are also key and geared towards
producing leaders who know intuitively how to think and make high-quality informed decisions”.
He urged leaders of the Nigerian Army to develop themselves sufficiently and prepare adequately to function effectively, so as to shape outcomes at both the operational and strategic levels.
“The need to train and prepare the future leaders of the Nigerian Army to take certain decisions as they Increasingly carry out complex missions in a considerably broader sphere of influence is very crucial.
“This will necessitate changes in the focus and methods of training to incorporate innovative instructional approaches centred on analytical and critical thinking”, he said.
Earlier, in his address, the Commander, Infantry Corps, Maj-Gen Victor Ezugwu, said the biennial reunion was introduced in 2012 while the leadership lectures series was established in 2019, primarily to celebrate the Infantry Corps.
He explained that the events were formally included in the Nigerian Army (NA) forecast of events by the former Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai, for institutionalising mentorship and career development of younger Infantry officers.
“In terms of preponderance, the Infantry Corps accounts for over 65 per cent of the personnel of the NA and out of a total of 21 indigenous COAS that commanded the NA since independence, the Infantry had produced 16.
“Also, with the last three and the incumbent COAS coming from the Infantry Corps, it is now becoming a norm that the Infantry Corps may permanently command the NA”, he said. The entire event centred around the theory of military leadership.
Incidentally, this Iconic lecture delivered by General Buratai happened exactly few days before the brave Brigadier General Kennedy Zikursu made the supreme sacrifice and by that left the legacy of distinguished military leadership virtues.
General Buratai could then be said to continue to preach and he lives out the excellent leadership qualities that every Soldier should internalize. The Brigadier General Dzarma Kennedy Zikushu did just that and died as a hero and this was highlighted by many Nigerians beginning from the President who has paid glowing tributes to these military heroes.
The media which reported the tributes by President Muhammadu Buhari also reported how the Nigerian Army general, a major, a lieutenant and nine other soldiers were on Saturday killed in an attack by Islamic State West Africa Province fighters in Askira town, in the Askira Uba Local Government Area of Borno State.
The military officers were said to have been killed in an ambush while trying to provide reinforcement for the troops.
The attack, which began in the early hours of Saturday, was said to have lasted for several hours, leaving many civilians dead.
According to sources, the ISWAP terrorists attacked the town, which is the hometown of Borno State House of Assembly deputy speaker, with 12 gun trucks, four of which were burnt down by troops of the Nigerian military.
“They came to the town in 12 gun trucks and mounted them at strategic locations to give them an edge over the Nigerian forces,” a source in Uba told to Sunday PUNCH.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army has confirmed the killing of Brigadier-General Dzarma Zirkushu in a fierce battle with terrorists of the Islamic State of West African Province ISWAP on Saturday.
Zirkushu was the commander of 28 Task Force Brigade, Chibok.
In a statement by the Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, it said Zirkusu and the three soldiers paid the “supreme sacrifice in a very rare display of gallantry” in a counteroffensive against the terrorists.
It, however, said the troops killed many members of ISWAP during the encounter in Askira, which borders Sambisa Forest.
ISWAP has been fighting against the Nigerian armed forces since it split from Boko Haram five years ago and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
The insurgents attacked Askira on Saturday morning with at least 12 gun trucks, setting houses and shops on fire and forcing some residents to scamper to safety, AFP reported.
In April, the army said a senior ISWAP commander, Bukar Gana Fitchmeram (aka Abu Aisha), and scores of his fighters, who were on a revenge mission at Damasak were killed as they attempted a reprisal following the killing of 12 high-value ISWAP commanders in the Mobbar Local Government Area of the state in a week-long air and ground operations by its troops.
In September, it said its troops neutralised two ISWAP/Boko Haram insurgents during a counter-attack against the terrorists who attempted to gain access into Babangida community in the Tarmuwa Local Government Area of Yobe State to loot to restock.
In October, it said troops of Joint Task Force North East Operation Hadin Kai deployed alongside Cameroonian Defence Force foiled an infiltration by terrorists on its camp at the Forward Operating Base, Wulgo, Borno, killing four members of ISWAP.
However, the statement by the army read in part, “Sadly, a gallant senior officer Brigadier General Dzarma Zirkusu, his 2IC and eight other soldiers were killed in a very rare display of gallantry as they provided reinforcement in a counter offensive against the terrorists, and successfully defended the location.
Troops of Joint Task Force, North East Operation HADIN KAI have neutralized several Islamic State West Africa Province terrorists during a recent encounter in Askira Uba Local Government Area of Borno State.
“In the fierce encounter which is still raging as at the time of filing this report, troops supported by the Air Component of OPHK have destroyed five A-Jet, two A-29, two Dragon combat vehicles and nine gun trucks.”
“Sadly, a gallant senior officer, Brigadier General Dzarma Zirkusu, and three soldiers paid the supreme sacrifice in a very rare display of gallantry as they provided reinforcement in a counteroffensive against the terrorists, and successfully defended the location. The family of the senior officer and soldiers have been contacted,” the statement titled, ‘Operation Hadin Kai: Troops neutralise several ISWAP terrorists, destroy equipment in Uba encounter,’ added.
Nwachukwu said the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Faruk Yahaya, commiserated with the families and relations of the deceased soldiers.
He added that he had directed the troops to continue in the ferocious counteroffensive and hot pursuit to eliminate the remnant of the fleeing terrorists.
Meanwhile, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and the Borno State Governor, Prof Babagana Zulum, have condoled with the military over the death of the soldiers
Buhari has said he was saddened to hear about the death of the general and three soldiers who paid the supreme sacrifice in a rare display of gallantry as they tried to help their compatriots in the war against terrorists.
The President, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, titled ‘President Buhari, nation mourn martyred general,’ said, “Nigeria has lost brave soldiers. I salute their courage. May their souls rest In peace. General Zirkusu leaves us sad and devastated. The soldier in him will remain immortal. I pray to the Almighty to give you and the bereaved families the strength and courage to bear this irreparable loss.”
On his part, Zulum commended the Nigerian military for its resilience in a battle with the terrorist group.
In a statement by his spokesman, Malam Isa Gusau, the governor while commiserating with with the military over the loss of some military officers, thanked the fallen heroes for what he called “their supreme sacrifices to the Nigerian Nation,” adding that “the people of Borno will remain forever grateful to them and all fallen heroes, and will remain fully supported of gallant troops currently operating in front lines”.
The governor also commiserated with the residents affected by the attack.
“Today’s unfortunate incident in Askira Uba Local Government Area reminds us that while our military, other armed forces, volunteers and all stakeholders make combined severe efforts towards peace-building; while many insurgents surrender their arms to toe the path of peace and while reclaimed communities witness return of peace and access to livelihoods, some insurgents are hell-bent on ensuring we do not fully regain peace.
“The goal of these categories of insurgents should challenge us to remain focused and ceaselessly commit ourselves to support our troops in many ways, particularly with logistics on the part of the government, and with credible information and prayers on the part of all of us as people of Borno State.”
Although the killing of this fine gentleman General Dzarma Kennedy Zikushu and four others marked a turning point in the war on terror, however what is remarkable is the fact that the Nigeria Army as it were has continued to manifest rare leadership charisma that is exceptional and this calls for our overwhelming moral, spiritual and material support for our men, women and officers who are putting their lives at risks to defeat the satanic terrorists who are bent on destroying Nigeria and constitutional democracy. Military leadership is key to defeating these terrorists and the key points made by Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai are noteworthy.
EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and was federal commissioner of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.