A recent story published by Sahara Reporters which “authoritatively” broke the news that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. T. Y. Buratai owns what the “revelation” want to have general public believe is an expensive property in Dubai, UAE is one that would generate incredulous debate especially in Nigeria’s “e-rats” infested cyber jungle. No doubt, the story would be a convenient tool to hit back at Lt. Gen. Buratai for his clear ambition to sanitise and reform the army and restore professionalism into it.

If there was any gain in the story, it couldn’t be more than highlighting the serious issue of absolute lack of professionalism in journalism these days. The culture of investigative journalism seems to be past disappearing or so the story seems to suggest. The hurriedly put story, besides being hollow and disjointed left wondering many what was the motive of the incoherent and unprovoked attack on the fine gentleman. Still, that shouldn’t stop the public from digging a bit deeper to unearth the truth of the matter. First, let’s begin with the basics.

Assuming that truly Lt.Gen. Buratai owns a supposed “choice” property in Dubai, does owning property in Dubai make somebody is corrupt that the cyber highways would be agog and congested with a heavy traffic of “emergency judges” putting Lt. Gen Buratai on trial for what’s clearly a non existent offence? It’s about time Nigerians gather their acts together and begin to do things the right way. Let’s understand that the senseless behaviour of a mutant class of leaders who were privileged to lead Nigeria at different times and used the opportunity to feather their nests has twisted our sense of reasoning that otherwise clear issues always appear fuzzy to most of us. Why should owning a property by a public officer anywhere in the world be an affair that should be considered sinful without determining if the source of acquisition is immoral?

By alleging that Lt. Gen. Buratai owns a property in Dubai, Sahara Reporters only wanted to sensationalise a simple issue because of the person involved. There was no effort by the online magazine to explain the basics of real estate investment in UAE much less, the “crime” of the COAS for investing in it. This is a simple concept that could be understood by just about anybody. In UAE, real estate investment is tailored to operate on the same principles capital market operates. In simpler terms, one could buy shares of a given property and become a shareholder of the property in equal proportion with his investment. This is exactly the case with the much talked about Lt. Gen. Buratai’s Dubai property SR went to town misinforming the general public about.

The least SR should have done was to determine the nature of the investment that made Lt. Gen. Buratai a shareholder of the property they claimed he owns. The absurdity of SR’s story could best be understood when looked from the concept of Capital market. What SR did was akin to calling an investor in, say Zenith Bank, with a .0007% shareholding as the owner of the Bank if that makes sense. The fact of the case is, Lt. Gen. Buratai do not own any property in Dubai. What he have is a modest investment attached to a property for which he receives dividends/profits for the past 5 years. This works using the same principle of investment in the Capital market just that in this case it is attached to a landed property.

His investment in the property is quite normal in Dubai and anybody with enough exposure about Dubai’s real estate and those who make it their business to “break news” should know this. The investment doesn’t, in any way confer ownership of the property to him just as in the Zenith Bank scenario painted above. All he gets is dividends from the proceeds of his investment. The morality issue attached to the story would make people like know his source for the original investment. Lt. Gen. Buratai is a large scale farmer and he has been into it for the past 20 years. Farming is one of the businesses that any public official is allowed to engage in regardless of profession or status and, those from the Northern part of Nigeria should know what a money spinner farming is if done with the diligence it requires. A farming history spanning a period of 20 years would generate an excellent return for one to comfortably afford to invest anywhere in the world.

Beside this, Lt. Gen. Buratai along with his two wives have, for many years, been operating a quasi micro finance social intervention scheme called ‘SANA’ARMU’ (i.e. our collective enterprise). Though largely a social intervention scheme, the family had equally earned some serious money to afford the kind of modest lifestyle they live and invest into the investments they have. I challenge SR (or anybody at that) to disrepute this.

But for the desire to confuse the gullible, SR should have used its investigative skills and determine the cost of the Dubai property in which the COAS invested and his stake in it to, in turn, determine if his legitimate earnings from the mentioned sources above could justify his holdings. You don’t just go to town writing baseless stories that could not stand public scrutiny especially in this era when information is just a fingertip away. I expect a reputable media outfit like SR to be more professional and factual especially on issues that could potentially caused irreversible damages to innocent people by rubbishing their hard earned reputations.

What’s wrong with telling the public that this is an investment that one could get involved in without being the “super-billionaire” the story insinuated? As it is, most people were left with the impression of Lt.Gen. Buratai owning Burj Arab or Burj Khalif by the clumsiness of the author of the “Breaking news” (or was it “Breaking reputations”). To prove the clear intention of SR to harm the reputation of Lt. Gen. Buratai, even after a statement by the army spokesperson who cleared the air about the so called Dubai property, there is still neither retraction nor apology even when it’s obvious the “Breaking news” was factually incorrect or mischievous.

Investing in Dubai’s real estate is quite easy. Right from Dubai International airport, one could be in business with numerous property vendors promoting different types of property deals for different category of investors. Investing in real estate in Dubai is not the “Ihejerika /Badeh affair” it was painted to be by SR. Being an investor in Dubai real estate doesn’t mean owning “Burj Khalif” or Palm Jumeerah. There are thousands of “Burj you & me” that one could invest in and harvest good returns. Dubai is an investors paradise with a flexibility next to none on the planet. One needn’t be a “successful” government bandit from Nigeria to invest and benefit.
That Gen. Ihejerika (rtd) was corrupt and could keep N400m under his bed for household maintenance doesn’t mean any successive COAS or army General must be corrupt. That army Generals in Nigeria are always the owners of multibillion Naira plazas, shopping malls, posh hotels and classy housing estates right under our noses in Abuja and other highbrow locations doesn’t mean there are no honest officers who could invest wisely and modestly invest in places of their choices which their legitimate earnings could justify. To believe otherwise is symptomatic of the 16 years manual “panel beating” we suffered in the hands of PDP which left us with a twisted sense of reasoning and reverse logics.

According to the response of the Army spokesperson on the issue which was published by Premium Times, Lt. Gen. Buratai had always declared his stakes in the Dubai real estate whenever the need arise as required by law. SR had the tentacles and clout to fish for the COAS’s assets declaration forms and determine the correctness or otherwise of the statement made by the army spokesperson. Yet, there was no such effort leaving no one in doubt that the story was just a continuation of those before it – all tailored to attack the credibility of the COAS for obvious reasons.

Only recently there was another “Breaking news” some imaginary army officers planning to topple the regime of President Muhammadu Buhari. The suspicious story was packaged to set President Buhari against the COAS so as to cash on the potential “bad blood” and continue with the “owambe” halted by the duo of President Buhari and Gen. Burutai. Ordinarily, the prompt response of both the Army Headquarters and DHQ would have put the story to rest but, that was not the case. Elements that feels Nigeria could do better in an atmosphere of suspicion are still working to breathe life into the dead story by childishly believing words of the Joint Niger Delta Liberation Force (JNDLF) against the more reliable words of the army spokesperson, Col. Usman Kukasheka and DHQ spokesperson, Brigadier General, Rabe Abubakar. Quite absurd especially considering that coups do not fly these days.

Just as condemnable was another insidious attack on the COAS. This “Breaking news” was about a phantom disquiet in the army over unpaid allowances of officers on peace keeping missions and troops in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations, among others. The timely response of the army spokesperson who explained that the delayed payment was due to administrative hitches which was solved to the point that all outstanding peacekeeping operations have been paid. Yet, this counter-narrative was not accorded the prominence it deserved. Of course, why should it? “Breaking news” are mostly meant to break reputations in Nigeria. One even begin to get the idea that “Breaking news” are always tailored to dampen spirits and cancel gains.

The good thing about unjustifiable attacks on reputations is the “boomerang effect”. One stand he risk of losing his/her reputation when in blind pursuit to destroy another’s. It’s no nuclear science to understand that if there was any ambiguity about Gen. Burutai’s investment in Dubai there’s no way Lt. Gen. Buratai could pass the integrity test of President Muhammad Buhari. If declarations made by him concerning his financial status did not conform with reality he wouldn’t have been appointed by the President to carry out the onerous job of cleaning the mess left behind by the immediate past leadership of the Nigeria Army.
Just as much, if there’s any credibility in the coup story or any unjustifiable reason for the delayed payment of allowances of whatever type whatsoever, the narrative between the President and the COAS wouldn’t have remained the same and their relationship wouldn’t be waxing stronger as is the case. Thankfully no one is in doubt about the credibility and integrity of the President to suspect he will participate in any cover up for any person. He is meticulous when it comes to appointing people to position of trust and responsibility. The only thing that gets his stamp of approval is quality of character. A case in point was the recent appointment of the new IGP which impeccable process is still flying around in the social media for doubting Thomases.

Having said that, it’s pertinent to ask SR to substantiate its allegations against the COAS. Please note that the army spokesperson has already punctured the key allegations contained in SR’s report so much so that one need not use Newton’s reading glasses to read between the mischievously scripted lines. The army spokesperson have declared that Lt. Gen. Buratai have no account with Skye Bank to conduct the transactions alleged by SR. SR is yet to upload its responsibility of either proving the allegation by posting the account’s details or retract the story. Secondly, it was proven beyond reasonable doubt that not only was Lt. Gen. Buratai never the army’s Director of Procurement but it was him as COAS that established the Directorate for ease of procurement and probity. SR is still mute.

Ordinarily, these inaccuracies were enough to bury the story in the trash bin but for the serious war launched by some aggrieved forces bent on taking their pound of flesh from Lt. Gen. Buratai for upsetting their source of income and exposing them to the harsh reality of living under a social system with serious concern about sharing public funds equitably and without allowing some people to use their positions to take undue advantage of the system. One would only be naive to expect anything but the ongoing continuous resistance to the new order in any way imaginable by the cabal that were used to a free ride on public resources. Nigeria is still rebooting for the new “system upgrade” installed by President Buhari to take effect.

It is pertinent to note that halting the tradition of theft in Nigeria Army and being part of the crusade bent on redressing and punishing past wrongs is one of the sins of Lt. Gen. Buratai for which he must be punished according to the “scriptures” of followers of the cult of corruption. Ongoing trial of former NSA Dasuki is enough to say how far and how deadly corruption could fight back when cornered. Anybody close enough to Lt. Gen. Buratai could attest to his humility and modesty. A thoroughbred with an impeccable career that saw him climbing to the top of the army hierarchy almost unnoticed. His humility and modesty made him a very “junior officer” in the army going by the twisted “dollar based army assessment” that left many so called senior military officers fully pregnant with proceeds of corruption. Anything about the COAS smacks of professionalism and strict adherence to military norms and culture.

Of course, Lt. Gen. Buratai had stepped on many powerful toes for one to expect he would have a smooth sail building a professional Nigeria Army which, before his appointment was synonymous with corruption. He inherited an army that was bullied by Boko Haram on one end of the country while being harassed by MENDS on the other end all because some people were insensitive to line their pockets with funds appropriated by the Government to equip the military even minimally to match the ill-equipped street urchins that took full control of the country from two ends.

Lt. Gen. Buratai’s militarily maintained physique is enough to say how concerned he is about being the professional military man expected of him? Little hiccups like accusing him of being insincere in his affairs would neither deter him from pursuing the purposeful agenda of reinventing the Nigeria Army to fit into the larger agenda of “Change” being choreographed by President Buhari. Actually such allegations would only confirm to him that he’s on the right track. President Buhari himself was recently accused of owning an estate in Abuja. For every good thing, there’s a price tag attached to it. I guess this is the price tag attached to the dogged resolve of President Buhari and Lt. Gen. Buratai to rediscover and reinvent Nigeria. Corruption is never known to die sleeping.

It should be known that earning the confidence of President Buhari is not a tea party and for Lt. Gen. Buratai to survive previous assaults on his integrity each time he took corrective measures to better the Nigerian system says a lot about the trust and confidence the President have in him. With time people would get use to this fact and save themselves from the misery of wasting efforts to either pull or slow him down.