Leo Irabor

By Tony Eluemunor

Surprisingly, the Nigerian Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) is often seen as an officer who has been  merely kicked upstairs to make way for, sayan Army, Air or Naval Chief of Staff. In fact, there were murmurs of disaffection when former President Shehu Shagari appointed Nigeria’s first Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. General Alani Akinrinade, in 1981, during the Second Republic, from Army Chief, to be the apex military coordinator, and appointed Gen. Inua Wushishi as his successor.

The recently dropped Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Yusuf Buratai, for all his failures, was decidedly more than a decorative flower vase, while he occupied that office. He forgot one important thing; that he was not the Chief of Defence Staff; General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin was.

Please, dear Gen. Leo Eluonye Onyenuchea Irabor, as CDS, there is a terrible sore that your predecessors have allowed to fester; reforming the character of the average military man or woman for the concept of honour; a keen sense of ethical conduct: INTEGRITY, to take root.

In the US, it is easy to guess who is a soldier; because of their behaviour, punctuality, sense of duty towards others, their readiness to defend the underdog, respect for the rule of law and those in authority over them, esprit de corps (a feeling of pride and mutual loyalty shared by the members of a group) and elevated sense of integrity. Here esprit de corps is exhibited only in a mob attack against a civilian.

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Dear General, the military and paramilitary academies destroy the morale of youths because the average soldier or policeman is worse than the worst civilian in cutting corners, in making the quick buck, in telling lies, in smoking ganja, in disobeying traffic lights, in lawlessness, what lesson has the military learnt from the losses suffered in the hands of Boko Haram? When USA, after fighting brilliantly against Britain in the American War of Independence, suffered disgraceful

losses in the War of 2012, it was time to rejig its military. So, Captain Sylvanus Thayer approached the Secretary of War, James Monroe, in 1815, with his plan. After touring Europe for two years, Thayer took charge at West Point. The late American journalism legend, Jenkin Lloyd Jones in an article titled a MAN OF HONOUR, said that Thayer “had been thinking about those intangibles that separate merely clever fighters from great leaders. He had been wondering why military history was full of fools for whom men would gladly die while abler men couldn’t get a following. And he concluded that perhaps the difference was honour and truth and devotion to duty”.

From that day, the training at West Point changed to bring about “Honour without Supervision,” Thayer’s motto. Soon, all other military academies copied the change at West Point. Yet, we have soldiers who suspect that their own commanders, at all levels, have short-changed them. So, their loyalty and devotion are shallow.  Today in American military academies, barracks and parade grounds “honesty is raised almost to a fetish” wrote Jenkins. And Thayer used to say: “A cadet does not lie, cheat or steal”. Not in Nigeria; here, even Service Chiefs have been found guilty of embezzlement. Soldiers sell arms to terrorists and betray fellow soldiers.  Troops suspect officers of creaming off their rations or ammo.

The second reform is that you must provide command. You must be a conductor of the Nigerian military orchestra. The bombing runs of the Air Force must be coordinated with the actions of the ground forces to cut off and decimate escaping terrorists. The intelligence units must become fruitful. In a symphony, the rising volume of the brass, the increased speed of the guitars and violins, the heightening kpam kpam dim dim of the drums, the crashing of the cymbals, the wailing of the trumpets, and the baritone or soprano voice or voices are all coordinated to give a predetermined effect. So you must coordinate, yes, provide command.

Esprit de corps is one of Henri Fayol’s 14 administrative principles. The principle states that an organisation must make every effort to maintain group cohesion in the organisation. It notes that dividing your competition is a clever tactic, but dividing your own team is a serious error. But dear Gen Irabor, there appears to be a terrible competition and mutual suspicion between the different military arms.

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You may have often read about what the Air Force has done to nuetralise bandits or Boko Haram insurgents, or what the Army itself has done, but have seen relating to a heightened collaboration among the various services? Also, there appears to be little input from the intelligence arms of the military, so insurgents abduct school children and receive ransom before they release them. This is a cause for shame for often, we read or hear about instances or accusations of collaborations between soldiers and insurgents. Even military and political leaders complain about villagers giving real time

intelligence to vandals to successfully ambush troops. But those heartless criminals move from their bases, carry out a campaign without the police or the military getting any hint. If the criminals could recruit and maintain informants, why can’t the military?

In the 1991 Operation Desert Shield, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, was the actual Commander-in-Chief, United States Central Command, in the Middle East war theater. But everyone knew who coordinated all operations; sea, air and land; General Colin L. Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – though his job was really to advise the US President. Today the world still talks about the Powel Doctrine of war. Give us the Irabor Doctrine, and may it consign Boko Haram and banditry into history! You were Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya four years ago. So, you know you have an urgent job to conclude.

God’s speed!

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