By Olutunde Oladimeji
“They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep” Psalm 107:23-24 KJV
Great admirals are cherished forever by virtue of their ability to harness human, material, technical and logistical resources to navigate the great deeps and put their nations at great economic advantage. One of such admirals is Vice Admiral Patrick Seubo Koshoni who died on January 25, 2020.
What an irony that the relentless advocate of sea power for economic survival and well-being of Nigeria died in the first month of the target year of national Vision 2020? The vision, postulated some decades ago, envisaged that Nigeria, the so-called giant of Africa, would join the league of 20 top economies of the world.
We should bear in mind that these top economies, without exception, are maritime nations. They also parade credible naval power to protect their coastal and offshore economic assets. Look at the list of these 20 top economies. They are the United States, Japan, Germany, China, United Kingdom, France, Italy and Canada.
Others are Spain, Brazil, Russia, India, South Korea, Mexico, Australia and Netherlands. The other members of this exclusive club that Nigeria aspired to join by way of displacing some of them are Turkey, Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland.
It is not by accident that these international economic giants are industrial or industrialising nations. In addition, they are vibrant maritime nations, trading nations, shipping nations and nations with coherent national maritime strategy and appropriate naval forces to protect what they have.
Alas, when Admiral Koshoni took over as Chief of the Naval Staff, CNS, in October 1986, he found what he called “yawning gaps calling out for filling up in terms of the shape and size of our fleet and shore-based logistic support”. For about three and a quarter years, he worked assiduously to articulate and work towards appropriate sea power for the nation.
When he handed over command of the Navy on January 3, 1990, no one was in doubt that he had left a clearly articulated maritime security strategy for a nation struggling to find meaning in maritime milieu to make the nation great. However, what a naval strategist, Bernard Brodie in A Guide to Naval Strategy, describes as “innumerable distractions, conflicting political and security demands” had affected the building of appropriate sea power that Admiral Koshoni and others anticipated.
When the proverbial year 2020 dawned, Nigeria is yet to join the exclusive club of the 20 richest nations nor near the door of their club house. Also for many political, economic and leadership reasons, the Nigerian Navy is today ranked 33rd in global firepower. (https://www.globalfirepower.com/navy-ships.asp).
Notwithstanding the obstacles he and his team had to tackle to emplace a strong navy, Admiral Koshoni was an admiralty exemplar. He had the poise, enchanting carriage, scholastic bearing and gregariousness to weld a performing team together. We need a whole big book to discuss the activities and innovations of his period at the helm. Suffice to say that Admiral Koshoni added style, finesse and brilliance to the intellectual substance he brought into office.
Admiral Koshoni was born in Lagos on April 11, 1943. He joined the Navy on June 11, 1962 and the same year started his cadetship training at the National Defence Academy, India. His major appointments included Commanding Officer NNS OTOBO, NNS BEECROFT, NNS OBUMA, Naval Officer Commanding, Eastern Naval Command, Naval Officer Commanding Flotilla Command, Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command.
So versatile was he during the military government that he was three times minister in addition to several other governmental appointments: — Minister of Health, Minister of Transport and Aviation, Minister of Employment, Labour and Productivity, and Chairman, National Internal Security Reorganisation. In all these appointments, he left a rich legacy of thoroughness and proper procedure in carrying out government work.
So brilliant and yet so simple
So calm and yet so deep
So versed and yet so humble
So eloquent and yet so modest
So sociable and yet so private
So high up and yet so friendly
So good but now he’s gone!
*Olutunde Oladimeji, a retired commodore of the Nigerian Navy and prolific author, wrote from Lagos.