By Yusuf Goni
The clock started ticking right from the onset. And aware of the enormous responsibilities foisted on him, he knows, much better, that there is simply no way he can afford to fail or disappoint.
Already, he has hit the ground running, in a manner faster than Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest jet in the world. As the 17th Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Eluonye Onyenuchea Irabor, had his work cut out for him. But amazingly, he is proving his mettle.
As CDS of the Nigerian Armed Forces, he has so far been providing the right leadership and environment to enable officers and men of the armed forces, efficiently perform their constitutional responsibility of defending the nation against external aggression, together with internal security challenges.
When he was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in January, to replace General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, the country was already facing monumental security challenges, threatening its corporate entity.
But at the Defence Headquarters (DHQ), while taking over from his predecessor, General Irabor, promised to ensure that Nigeria remains one ‘indivisible’ and united nation.
He vowed to improve the deteriorating security situation, within a short time.
Irabor, promised to offer the right leadership that would inspire the Nigerian armed forces. Hence, he solicited the support of all Nigerians to enable the military tackle the current security challenges, bedeviling the nation.
He said he, along with his colleagues Service Chiefs, “will in no time, take actions that would significantly add value to the security disposition across the country”.
The (then new) CDS, who acknowledged that there were enormous security challenges currently facing the country, disclosed that “himself and the rest Service Chiefs, will in no distant time, take actions that will significantly add value to tackle the security challenges across the country.”
He then commended officers and men of the Nigerian military for being part and parcel of the efforts and gains made thus far, in the fight against insurgency, militancy, banditry and other sundry crimes, noting that he looks forward to their ‘greater’ contributions.
What can Nigerians offer the military? Gen. Irabor, urged them to support the armed forces and other security agencies in their bid to tackle contemporary security challenges.
According to him, collective efforts of the security agencies and citizenry are invaluable.
He pledged his loyalty to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, while also assuring that he will carry out his duties with utmost sense of commitment.
Born on October 5, 1965, at Aliokpu Agbor community, in Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State, Gen. Irabor, gained admission into the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) in Kaduna State, as a member of the 34 Regular Course in 1983. He was commissioned Second Lieutenant on 28, June 1986, into the Signals Corps of the Nigerian Army.
Irabor attended several military and civil courses both locally and abroad. He also attended Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC) for his Junior Staff Course in 1995 and Ghana Armed Forces Staff College Teshi, in Accra, Ghana, for Senior Staff Course between 2000 and 2001, amongst other several military courses.
The CDS, equally attended the National Defence College in Bangladesh in 2010, and Harvard Kennedy Schools of Government and Executive Education, in the United States in 2012 and 2017, respectively.
Others include, United Nations and African Union Peace Keeping Courses and Conferences, as well as a seminar on ‘Combatting Weapons of Mass Destruction and Terrorism’ at the European Centre for Security Studies in Garmish, Germany.
It is interesting to note that General Irabor is a trained Engineer from the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, and also holds two Masters degree from the University of Ghana, Accra, and Bangladesh University of Professionals, Dhaka.
Prior to his recent appointment as CDS, he was the Commander, Nigerian Army Training and Doctrine Command, (TRADOC), in Minna. Irabor, previously served in numerous capacities, which include Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Force Commander, Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) and the Chief of Defence Training and Operations.
He is a recipient of ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) peacekeeping medals for operations in Sierra Leone and Liberia, as well as the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF).
Within just three months after taking over as the Defence Chief, Irabor has led other Service Chiefs to Maiduguri, the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency, in Borno State. The operational visits to the Theatre Command, indeed, were geared towards finding solutions and designing effective strategies to deal with terrorists.
Gen. Irabor, during the Service Chiefs’ maiden visit to Maiduguri, assured that military operations would be stepped up to flush out insurgents. He however, pleaded for understanding by the civilian population in the fight against terrorism.
“What I need to let you know is that we have a mandate from him (president) and that mandate must be achieved. So, this is the reason why we are working assiduously. All issues of violence and insecurity, especially within the area of Operation Lafiya Dole, must come to an end,” was his message for troops in the frontline, that he addressed during the trip.
And while responding, Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj. Gen. Farouq Yahaya, lauded the CDS and Service Chiefs for the visit, saying that it would boost the morale of troops.
“We are encouraged by this effort of the CDS and service chiefs who have been in touch every hour,” Yahaya said.
To galvanize the support of stakeholders and the general public in addressing insecurity, Gen. Irabor approved the convening of a one-day ‘National Defence and Security Summit’, at the DHQ, in Abuja, last month.
It was at the event that he said the military would enhance its kinetic operations to deal with prevailing security challenges, confronting the nation.
At the defence and security summit themed: “Promoting Kinetic Operations as a major Plank for Counter Terrorism and Counter Insurgency in Nigeria”, the CDS, said the armed forces is committed to ensuring the return of peace to different parts of the country confronted by insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and other forms of security challenge.
He said the security threats pose a great danger to the corporate existence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, stability and sustainable development of the nation.
According to him, the auspicious summit would seek to discuss how to promote kinetic operations by leaders and eminent personalities in the society, who would contribute their narratives towards addressing the security challenges.
“Our strategic objectives are manifold and imbued to neutralise non-state-actors and other agents of violence in our communities, forests and countryside to stabilise the security situation across the nation, to facilitate law and order; and lastly to provide the enabling environment for peace and development,” Gen. Irabor stated.
Optimism is sky high that Gen. Irabor will actualize his visions for the Nigerian armed forces, whose Service Chiefs have since pledged to subordinate themselves to DHQ, under the abled leadership of the Delta State-born CDS.
The Service Chiefs took the decision in order to strengthen efforts to curb insecurity, a statement by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) spokesperson, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, explained.
According to them, just as it is obtainable in military organisations worldwide, the DHQ is responsible for the command and control of the entire Armed Forces of Nigeria. Which also means that all ongoing joint operations and Joint Task Forces are directly subordinated to the DHQ, and their Commanders report directly to the CDS.
Now that Gen. Irabor has gotten the back of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru; Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao; and the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Rear Admiral Awwal Gambo; Nigerians are eagerly waiting to see how he will speedily map out, review and then enforce combat strategies that will address the changing nature of security threats. But for now, they are wishing him GOODLUCK as he marches on.
Yusuf Goni, a Security expert wrote in from Minna