By Philip Agbese
Certainly, a big gulf has been created in the Directorate of Army Public Relations (DAPR) with the sudden voluntary retirement of its current Director, Brig.Gen. Sani Kukasheka Usman. This shining Army officer, communications expert and iconic image maker, who proceeded on terminal leave formally bowed out of the service of the Nigerian Army and our fatherland today, Friday, February 08, 2019.
Brig Gen Usman is one officer, the Nigerian Army and Nigerians would fondly remember his memorable service in countering Boko Haram Terrorism (BHT) disinformation and media hype for a long time. The devilish sect had mastery of propaganda, and circulated false, fabricated and concocted lies about their phantom triumphs and victories against Nigerians and the military in atrocious acts.
With SK on the saddle, insurgents’ propaganda suffered a big setback, when the COAS, Lt Gen TY Buratai who sighted his talents, decided to post him to retain him as the Army’s image maker. The Army Directorate of Public Relations is sensitive because it oversees the entire Army’s information management system.
Brig Gen Usman effectively dismantled terrorist’s propaganda and set new standards of disseminating information about the Army and counter-insurgency operations. To describe this humble officer and doyen of the media as endowed, efficient and proficient on the job is to state the least. But he validated his uncommon mastery of the rudiments and intricacies of managing wartime propaganda so amazingly.
Usman knew, wars are not won with arsenals alone. Propaganda plays an ostensible role. In fact, Nazi Germany wartime propagandist, Joseph Goebbels enunciated a guiding principle of war propaganda. He said, “The best propaganda is that which, as it were, works invisibly, penetrates the whole of life without the public having any knowledge of the propagandistic initiative.”
The retired Army image maker embodied this perfection throughout his service years, wherever he served. It was his efficiency that earned him elevation to the position of Director, DAPR, and the Chief Image Maker of the Nigerian Army.
And he served in this capacity for years before proceeding on a Senior Executive Course at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS). Upon completion of his studies end of 2018, he was re-appointed as the Army spokesman because of his efficacy in managing information and dismantling terrorists’ propaganda against the Nigerian state until his voluntary retirement today.
A communications expert and member of Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) Brig Gen Usman’s most striking legacy while in service was the spirited propaganda war he mounted against cyberspace terrorism. As soon as Gen. Buratai sensed decimated and defeated Boko Haram terrorists, including their agents had relapsed into cyberspace terrorism to create fright in Nigerians, he mandated Brig.Gen. Usman to lead the cyberspace assault.
He never disappointed. SK Usman preempted and expertly deflated terrorists’ propaganda timely. He was weeks ahead of insurgents and their sympathizers’ in deflating their fake propaganda, a step which rekindled the hope of Nigerians on the victory of the nation against insurgency.
Brig Gen Usman’s dexterous handling of cyberspace terrorism earned Nigeria, accolades, as former American Secretary of States, Mr. Rex Tillerson publicly commanded the Nigerian Army for its expert tackling of emerging cyberspace terrorism trend. Tillerson urged other nations under the spell of terrorism to emulate Nigeria’s confrontation of cyberspace terrorism.
Brig Gen SK Usman was born in 1965. He enlisted into the Nigerian Army as a Soldier in 1983. His first stint in military service was the posting to Headquarters of 82 Division, Nigerian Army, as Army Public Relations, Enugu. In 1987, SK Usman proceeded on studies at Bayero University, Kano (BUK) and by 1991 bagged his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mass Communication. Thereafter, by 1992, he was granted Direct Regular Commission (DRC) as a Lieutenant into the Directorate of Army Public Relations (DAPR),
It marked the turning point for a prosperous Public Relations career in the Nigerian Army. Brig Gen Usman, has projected himself as a star and national asset. After cadet training at the then Infantry Centre and School (ICS), Jaji, in 1993, SK Usman was deployed to the Headquarters of the DAPR, Lagos; shortly after, to the Depot Nigerian Army and Nigerian Military School. In both instances, he served in the capacity of Army Public Relations Officer (APRO). By mid-2002, Usman was posted to 20 Battalion Serti in Taraba State.
The communications guru became Military Public Relations Officer (MPIO) of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) as Nigerian Battalion 14 (NIBATT 14). He also served in acting capacity as MPIO to Nigerian Contingent/Sector West of the same mission.
By 2003, SK Usman was appointed, Acting Public Relations Officer to the then Chief of Army Staff. In 2004, he became Acting General Staff Officer Grade One in charge of Training (GSO1Training) at the Headquarters of the DAPR, where he doubled as the Nigerian Army Website Master.
The Military communications czar was in September 2005, posted to the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea ( UNMEE), where he served as Operations Officer at the Civil-Military Cooperation Coordination (CIMIC) G5 Cell and later, set a record as the first Nigerian to be elevated to position Chief of CIMIC.
Back to Nigeria in September 2006, SK Usman served as College Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Army College of Logistics (NACOL), Lagos. From there another posting in 2007 catapulted him to the position of Public Relations Officer (PRO-COAS) of the Chief of Army Staff.
He was again retained in the Office of the Chief of Army Staff and appointed Public Relations Officer (PRO-COAS), to the newly appointed Chief of Army Staff in June 2007. He served two successive COAS until 2010, when Brig. Gen. Usman left for post graduate studies by October 2010.
Upon completion of the course, Usman was moved to the Headquarters of the DAPR and appointed Deputy Chief of Staff (DCOS). And in 2012, he was posted to 1 Division Nigerian Army and appointed Assistant Director, Army Public Relations. He was again posted to the 7 Division Nigerian Army, and appointed the Acting Director Army Public Relations and thereafter, appointed the Army’s spokesman.
Brig. Gen Usman has attended a legion of military and civil courses, much as seminars both in Nigeria and abroad. These include Basic Arabic Course at the Nigerian Army School of Education (NASE), Ilorin in 1994; a 2001 United States of America Department of Defence organised seminar on “Military Communications with the Public in a Democratic Government;” where he was awarded Certificate of Excellence. In 2002, he attended various Junior Staff Courses at the prestigious Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji .
At UNAMSIL in 2003, SK Usman attended the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Programme on “Peacekeeping and International Conflict Resolution;” Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, Accra, Ghana in 2005 for a “Media in Peace Operations Course.” He also attended Estimate Process/Risk Management seminar held at the Nigerian Army College of Logistics, Lagos in 2006.
SK Usman was also in South Africa 2010, for a course at African Business School Johannesburg, on “Professionalizing Protocol, Information and Press Duties for Efficient and Effective Administration.”
The retired Army image maker also attended the United States of America based Peacekeeping Operations Training Institute (POTI) on ” Global Terrorism”, “Civil-Military Coordination” as well as “Principles and Guidelines for United Nations Peacekeeping.” In 2011, he obtained a Masters of Arts Degree in Media, Peace and Conflicts Studies at the United Nations Mandated University for Peace, San Jose, Costa Rica.
Before his voluntary retirement Brig. Gen. S. K.Usman bagged several prestigious awards and honours for his hard work and excellence, among which include Silver Jubilee Medal, Forces Service Star (FSS), United Nations Medal for Peace at Freetown, Sierra Leone in 2003 and Certificate of Merit by Naeem Muslim Youth Organization in Sierra Leone.
The United Nations Training Assistance Team (UNTAT) New York also celebrated him with an award of a Certificate of Appreciation for his excellent contributions to the success of a novel Peacekeeping Course for Emerging Troops/ Police Contributing Countries to the United Nations in 2004.
He is recipient of the Chief of Army Staff’s Letter of Commendation 2004 and Force Commander’s Letter for outstanding performance as CIMIC officer at UNMEE and the United Nations Medal for Peace from the mission among others. He is also a recipient of General Operations Medal (GOM) and has been feted with the prestigious River Niger Star (RNS) award by the Army Council for his gallantry.
Brig. Gen SK Usman has retired home to the warm embrace of his beloved wife Hajiya Hadiza Sani Usman and his children. In his message to colleagues both in the Army and the media, SK Usman endearingly recalled the fond moments in these parting words;
“I am leaving highly fulfilled after contributing my best to national development, the Nigerian Army, gaining great wealth of knowledge, experience, and inestimable network of friends which I will treasure forever.”
He was most grateful to the incumbent COAS, Gen. Buratai under whose leadership of the Army a plank was raised for him to enrich his knowledge to the zenith of both his military and Public Relations careers.
Agbese is a public affairs commentator and publisher based in the United Kingdom.