By Bashir Bello, Dennis Agbo, Nnamdi Ojiego, Marie-Theresa Nanlong & Egufe Yafugborhi
As the new Service Chiefs settle down to confront the worsening security challenges in the country, retired senior military have charged them to avoid the pitfalls of their predecessors.
The former security officers, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, on the appointment of the military heads, described the development as a welcome one.
President Muhammadu Buhari had, on Tuesday, January 26, 2021, appointed new Service Chiefs after accepting the resignation of former military heads.
According to a statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, Buhari accepted the immediate resignation of the Service Chiefs, and their retirement from service.
The Service Chiefs are the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Air Staff, AVM Abubakar Sadique; and Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok Ibas.
They were supposed to have retired over two years ago based on their years of service.
While Olonisakin and Abubakar spent about 40 years in service, Buratai and Ibas spent 38 years. The statutory retirement age is 35 years in service or 60 years of age (whichever comes first).
Subsequently, the President appointed as their replacements, Leo Irabor, Ibrahim Attahiru, A.Z. Gambo and Isiaka Amao as Chief of Defence, Army, Naval and Air Staff respectively.
The resignation of the former chiefs and their subsequent replacement ended years of agitations for the removal of the former appointees.
There had been calls for a change in military leadership following the increase in terror attacks, banditry, kidnapping and clashes between farmers and herders across the country, especially in the northeast and northwest regions.
The call for the sack of the Service Chiefs, which predated Buhari’s second term in office, became more strident not only because of the rising wave of insecurity but also because the Security Chiefs were overdue for retirement.
Also recall that the National Assembly had, on three different occasions, joined other Nigerians and groups in asking Buhari to relieve the Service Chiefs of their duties based on the worsening security situation. However, on each occasion, the President ignored the lawmakers and retained the Olonisakin-led military chiefs who were appointed on July 13, 2015, after Buhari assumed office.
The appointment of the new military heads has been applauded by many Nigerians irrespective of political, ethnic or religious standing.
Those who spoke to Sunday Vanguard proffered several solutions on how best to contain insecurity, even as they rallied supports for the new appointees.
Avoid predecessors’ pitfalls — Col. Ohwonda
Reacting, Col Chinedu Owhonda, retd., charged the new Service Chiefs to hit the ground running to make the desired difference.
“There are workable tactical approaches the new Service Chiefs can adopt, but it’s not to be said in the public domain. However, what can assist them in making the difference is very simple. They must build effective synergy among themselves. The Army, Navy and Air Chiefs should build effective synergy to see that the job is carried out in result-oriented appeal.
“They should also be in touch with the Inspector General of Police who should be told that, following #EndSARS protests, his men and officers have not been doing their job.
Alive to duty
“Police have abdicated their duties and left the responsibility to the military. So, if the new Service Chiefs must succeed, the police have to be alive to their core duty of keeping internal peace and security and not leaving the whole thing for the army.
“If the police were alive to their responsibility, they should tackle banditry, and let the military take charge of safeguarding the territorial integrity of the nation, which includes warfare, terrorism and insurgency.
“With the fresh hands, we expect them to hit the ground running and make sure they contend with excesses of these terrorists, herdsmen and so on.”
Change strategies -AIG Zarewa
Also speaking, a former Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG, Hadi Zarewa, urged the military leaders to change strategies to combat the insecurity bedevilling the country.
He said: “They should bring in new initiatives and change the strategies. You may be aware that female soldiers have been deployed to Kaduna-Abuja highway, that’s another good strategy. Let’s wait and see the outcome and I believe they will perform.
“They know what the complaints of Nigerians over insecurity are, so we expect that as they are given appointment, they would go and study the situation or system and come up with solutions to address the insecurity challenge at hand.”
Danbazau calls for a reorganisation
On his part, a retired Brigadier General, Idris Bello Danbazau, said, “They should re-organize their various services, deploy people who are capable to strategic positions that will assist to achieve the desired objective of defeating bandits and insurgents and secure the nation. That should be their priorities.”
Work to regain public confidence – Wuyep
In his submission, Air Marshall Jonah Wuyep (retd) encouraged the new Service Chiefs to take a critical look at the perception of the military and work hard to regain the public confidence.
“They must do something from what their predecessors did, and assure the people that at least, something is being done to solve our security problems.
“The most important thing is for them to reassess critically what is to be done that will be different to solve the security problems.”
They need support – Gen. Ugwuoke
Maj. Gen. Godwin Ugwuoke (retd) said the Service Chiefs needed all the public and institutional support to succeed and surpass their predecessors.
Ugwuoke, whose last service was at the Defense Intelligence Agency, DIA, of the Nigerian Army, opined that every change was welcome in the prevailing security situation in the country.
“In every management situation when something is not going the way you expected it, you look at three things – Is the cause that of the environment, personnel or equipment? It could be either of these or a combination of them and so, you might decide to change the entire situation”, he said.
“I pity them, but I wish them success hoping that the entire process will now be looked into thoroughly to let Nigerians breathe a sigh of relief in terms of security. So, everybody should ensure that these young men succeed. I am also pleading that the entire system, the country, the people in authority should listen to them and do what should be done.”