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To go or not to go: Service Chiefs divide retired military bigwigs

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…Generals IBM Haruna, Abbe, Dambazau, Ikponmwen, Nkanga, Bode George, Ewang, others advise Buhari

Dayo Johnson, Dapo Akinrefon, Henry Umoru, Ozioruva Aliu, Chioma Onuegbu, Bashir Bello, Ola Ajayi, & Rotimi Ojomoyela

Retired Army, Naval and Air Force officers have expressed divergent opinions over calls for the sack of service chiefs, with many urging President Muhammadu Buhari to show the military heads the exit door.

They all acknowledged that the rising insecurity in Nigeria questioned the capability of service chiefs, but added that their eventual sack may not lead to an improvement in security.

Majority, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard urged President Buhari to heed the growing calls for their sack, noting that people with fresh ideas should be appointed.

The four service chiefs include Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar and Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Marshal Ibok- Ete Ibas.

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The alarming rate of terrorist activities by Boko Haram, kidnapping, banditry and other forms of insecurity of lives and property, had informed the resolution for their replacement by the Senate and House of Representatives last month.

Libyan crisis

Similar calls by Nigerians across the country had preceded the stance of the National Assembly, NASS, but the Presidency repeatedly rebuffed them, blaming the Libyan crisis for the insecurity in Nigeria.

Less than a week ago, Secretary to the Federal Government, SGF, Boss Mustapha and Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the President, Mallam Garba Shehu, had separately defended the government’s position.

But a former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier-General Idada Ikponmwen,retd, differed, saying the voice of Nigerians calmourig for their removal represented the voice of God.

Their time is up —Gen Ikponmwen

He said: “My view is that the clamour for their sack is quite defendable. The major problem we are having is insecurity. Those who are at the helm of affairs should inject new blood. The system must be revamped and re-energised. There are several problems in the system, including dwindling morale and alleged corruption. Not too long ago we heard the orderlies to a particular GOC went away with N400 million. Before one GOC can have N400 million to play around with for his boys to steal, you can imagine how much must have passed through their hands. National Assembly members, who are representatives of the people, are saying they don’t want these people to continue. I think the voice of the people is the voice of God because we are in a democracy.”

‘Removal ’ll reduce grumbling’

On fears that removal of service chiefs in the middle of a war could be counter-productive, Ikponmwen said: “The military is a system. It is not an institution that does not entertain changes. It is a pyramidal system. Those at the top will go and there have to be replacements. We have always been told that if number one goes, number two takes over but I am not saying that all of them are bad. I am not saying that they have not been efficient, but it appears they have not successfully carried out their assignment.

”The President can even redeploy one of them to become the Chief of Defence Staff thereby retaining one that he thinks is the most efficient. He can exercise his discretionary powers. The military provides tenure based on age and years of service. It is only on exceptional cases that such conditions are not followed and the reasons must be glaring.

“They cannot discuss issues meaningfully where the gap is too much. There is dissatisfaction in the military. If they are removed the grumbling will reduce. To that extent, I think they should ask them to go.’’

They can’t be removed at will—Gen Abbe

A former Minister of Defence, Major-General Godwin Abbe, said: “Nigerians are expressing their fundamental human rights in an environment of democratic governance. They have the right to their views but the Commander-in-Chief was not prevailed upon when he appointed these Service Chiefs. I am sure he is doing a continuous assessment of the situation and when he thinks the situation is right, he will do the needful. He will either replace them or suspend their continuous command. The service chiefs are not ordinary persons that can just be replaced and be removed at will. You have got to take precautions and ensure that certain measures are put in place before you remove them so that you will not allow a command vacuum. But like I said, Nigerians are expressing their views and they have the right.”

Buhari should use his discretion—-Gen IBM Haruna

Making his stand known, former Chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Major-General IBM Haruna, said Buhari should use his discretion to do what he considers right for the country.

He said: “ I am of the view that the insurgency, criminal disposition of people and threatening instability to our democratic practices indeed confirm that things are generally bad. The government of the federation and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces should not be expected to act in a routine procedure. He has to respond cautiously in a manner that can hold the state of affairs equitably to enable a reasonable and rational solution to be worked out.

“The Nigerian stage is at a stage where the worst is conjectured but it will not happen. The best cannot be realised. Let the governments achieve their mandate. The C in- C should use some discretion in respect of the appointments of service chiefs

Changing them won’t win Boko Haram war—Navy Commodore Bode George

Commenting on the debate, Navy Commodore Bode Bode George, retd, said: “Insurgency wars are unconventional wars and nobody can win such wars. Even if you change the service chiefs and you appoint new ones every week, the tactics must change.

For instance, you cannot differentiate the insurgents from other people when they emerge from the bush, put on army uniform and speak the same language with the army.

Anywhere in the world, in guerrilla warfare, nobody wins. The two warring parties always end up at the drawing board after which, an independent body mediates in the crisis. The United States of America had to negotiate with the Talibans when they invaded Afghanistan. There is a need for a third party in Africa to mediate in this kind of war. That is the truth.’’

Sacking them’ll reduce grumbling—Air Commodore Nkanga

Differing, former Military Administrator of Akwa Ibom State and President of Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga,retd, said the service chiefs should go having concluded their tenure.

He said: “Sacking the service chiefs would reduce grumbling in the military. The seniority gap between the service chiefs and the next level of officers is too wide.

“They cannot discuss issues meaningfully where the gap is too much. There is dissatisfaction in the military. If they are removed, the grumbling would reduce. To that extent, I think they should ask them to go’’

Defence policy

Nkanga, however, added that the continued stay of the service chiefs in office was not responsible for the failure to tackle insecurity, saying that to curb insecurity there was a need to go back to the basics.

His words: “A country must have national interest and you must also have a clear defence policy. Defence policy is derivable from national interest. Let Nigerians ask President Buhari and his Defence Minister what our national interest is as far as insecurity is concerned.

“It is from there that we will know why or what we are fighting. You cannot just go to war and win when the people in the field don’t know what they are fighting, why or what they are fighting. If we must win this war, we must go back to the basics else people will continue to die.’’

Nature of insecurity does not suggest removal—Group Capt. Ewang

Also speaking, ex-Military Administrator of Ondo and Rivers states, Group Capt. Sam Ewang ,retd, explained that the situation on the ground may not permit the replacement of service chiefs.

He said there was need to look at the nature of insecurity in the country.

“We should be talking about the problem on the ground and not tenure expiration of service chiefs. The problem is not with the service chiefs,’’ he added.

Retaining them is unnecessary—Col Falayi

A retired Colonel in Ondo State, Col Christopher Falayi, said: “The service chiefs have all overstayed.

In developed countries when things are going this bad, they don’t need to wait to be sack they resign.

“The integrity of our service chiefs has been questioned. They ought to have left a long time ago. Their integrity is being questioned on all fronts. Even the National Assembly has asked the President to sack them. What are they waiting for? They have all overstayed their usefulness.

“ lt is better for them to resign honourably. Their juniors are looking up to them. Other capable hands are ready to take over from them. They should allow new hands to bring in fresh ideas.’’

Don’t blame them for overstaying— Col Agbede

Another retired Colonel in Oyo State, Col Samuel Ade Agbede, who is a former National President of Yoruba Council of Elders, said he would not join the people calling for their sack.

He said: “It is very difficult to start clamouring for the sack of security chiefs. I can’t blame them for saying what they are saying. Calls for their sack have advantages but the disadvantages are enormous because you don’t know who is coming to fill the positions.

“It is unfortunate that everything has been turned into politics. The security chiefs know where the shoe pinches. The unfortunate sentiments being expressed by the people are not helping the matter.”

Retention is against military principle—Major Awe

A retired Major in Ekiti State, Major Tajudeen Awe, explained that the service chiefs are overdue for a change.

According to him, keeping the service chiefs in office is against military rule and principle. No top official of the military is expected to spend more than two years in a particular position.

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“When you stay put in a seat, definitely you will compromise and the law of diminishing return would set in.

It is just like a football match, no matter how good a player is, the moment a coach observes that the player is not doing well he would substitute the player.’’

‘They are not performing’

On his part, a retired senior army officer of the South-South extraction, who pleaded anonymity, said: “What I can say about the refusal of the President to sack the service chiefs is that he may have his reasons which Nigerians may not know. I support the idea that he should replace them because they are not performing.

“There is grumbling in the Army. Keeping them would not solve the insecurity ravaging the country”

Sacking service chiefs not solution to insecurity—Dambazau

On his part, General Idris Dambazau ,retd, said calls for the sack of  service chiefs would not provide an immediate solution to insecurity.

He urged government to address the issues of obsolete equipment, poor intelligence gathering, and shortage of manpower. He also demanded an improvement in security agencies’ synergy with neighbouring countries.

He said: “Constitutionally, it is the responsibility of the President to appoint and remove the service chiefs. Normally, the servicing chiefs are supposed to serve for two years before they are changed. The present serving chiefs have served longer. But we have security challenges – insurgency, banditry, and kidnapping among others. There are many security challenges and it is not a situation whereby the service chiefs and other heads of security agencies will be removed. The President was in the service and is experienced.

“There are many factors responsible for the present security challenges, I am sure you also heard the call or complains by the security agencies, particularly the Army that they are operating with obsolete equipment.

“Lastly, the number of security personnel we have in this nation is not enough. We are about 200 million and our security personnel are not up to half a million. I think there should massive recruitment of unemployed youths into the security agencies to be able to curtail the situation.

“These four points are factors that are part of the problem, not just the retention of service chiefs. The service chiefs want to succeed but if the factors that are supposed to make them succeed are not provided, definitely there would be a problem.’’

Vanguard

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