A little over a week after Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff endured a public humiliation at the hands of Stephen Sackur on the BBC’s Hardtalk programme, he decided to grant another TV interview – this time to the much friendlier Lagos-based Channels TV.
Brutal Buratai may have been advised that he needed to redeem himself after his shocking performance on Hardtalk. He should have also known that Channels TV’s Hard Copy host Maupe Ogun would probably not be brave enough to to question him about his corruption like Sackur did.
However, even in the less hostile surroundings, Buratai still bumbled, mumbled and fumbled.
Watch the programme below:
He started off contradicting himself with the claim that the military is yet to take action in dealing with secessionists like those agitating for Biafran separation from Nigeria, because this agitation was not in the form of an armed struggle. But Ogun reminded him that the army has already been involved in quelling pro-Biafran demonstrations. Buratai shifted to saying military involvement was in a supporting role to help the police keep order.
Ogun let him off the hook as she didn’t press him about the shooting of unarmed protesters in places like Aba in February last year.
Instead, she moved on to questioning Buratai about the army’s use of children in support roles in combating Boko Haram in the northeast and the army chief couldn’t seem to make up his mind on what the army was doing about the allegations.
He insisted that Boko Haram was “militarily defeated” and seemed disoriented when questioned about intelligence failures in tracking suicide bombers before they strike. He ended up blaming everybody for this.
Despite Ogun’s cautious questioning, Buratai dug his own grave with comments about the Shia Muslims massacred by his troops in Zaria in December 2015. He said the people involved were being prosecuted – but those were only members of the Shia Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) and their leader Ibrahim Zakzaky. These people were actually the victims of the army’s brutality. A Kaduna State government inquiry found that over 300 Shi’ites were killed by the army and buried in mass graves. The inquiry indicted Major-General Chris Olukolade, the army commander in the area for the deaths. But he is still in position while the Shia leader, whose compound was attacked is in detention.
Buratai rounded up the interview claiming he wanted Nigerians to see a “professional responsive army in discharge of its constitutional roles”. What viewers saw was an unresponsive, unprofessional, defensive so-called general with little regard for the human rights of fellow citizens, and who should be facing trial for crimes against humanity committed by troops under his command against Shi’ites and pro-Biafrans.