By Oluyemi Fasipe
The sudden death on Friday of the Chief of Army Staff, Ibrahim Attahiru, has thrown up controversy over who becomes the next army chief. Mr Attahiru and 10 other military officers died in a military plane mishap in Kaduna.
Going by history, the appointment of the chief of army staff is influenced by both political and military considerations. However, It is the prerogative of the president to decide using the information at his disposal.
Information has it that the ability to fight bandits, insurgency and terrorism effectively would be a key political and military consideration of the president.
Since the incident of air mishap, expectations have been high on the need for new army chief. Sources are of the view, that the efforts of the late chief have started yielding positive results. The fear is that these efforts might not be sustained without a quick and component replacement.
Several senior generals have been touted to be the next Army Chief. Among the most touted for the job are: Major General Ali-Keffi, Major General Ahanotu, Major General AM Aliyu, Major General IM Yusuf
The Army’s Chief of Operation, Maj.-Gen. Yusuf is said to be highly regarded for his past exploits as Force Commander, Multinational Joint Taskforce (MNJTF) and General Officer Commanding 7 Division.
But a major hurdle against his choice, according to sources, is his coming from Yobe, the state as the acting Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba.
Likewise, Maj.-Gen. Sirham who is a credentialed military officer and responsible for many successes recorded by the army has the disadvantage of coming from the same state (Kano) as the Minister of Defence, Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd), and the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo.
Maj-Generals Ahanotu Chief of Policy and Plans (COPP) is also being considered for his experience and seniority in the service. There are indications, however, that the president may not pick any of him due to his age the rank requiring him to retire end of this year. Aso Villa sources indicate that the President may opt for a junior officer to remove the need for extension of his service or appointment of another army chief within the election year 2022.
There are however calls on President to look beyond the eligible officer’s ethnic and religious backgrounds in settling in for a new head for the army.
Maj.-Gen. Ali-Keffi, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 1 Division, Kaduna, is said to be highly considered for the position. The high consideration largely relates to his depth of experience and recent achievements against banditry and insurgency. Particularly, his routing of bandits in Niger and Kaduna alongside his success against terrorism. He is however said to be constrained by the number of senior officers ahead of him, with some persons arguing that it may not be worth the while for the country to lose so many experienced hands in the process.
A source however argued that the seniority should not be a yardstick as many major generals were retired to pave way for the favoured candidate to emerge as COAS in the past.
“When Dambazau was appointed army chief over 30 major-generals were retired. When Ihejirika, Minima and even Buratai were appointed, the army retired about 30 generals or more each time,” he said, pleading not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.
He added that most of these his seniors would have served 35years by the end of the year implying they will retire irrespective of the choice of the army chief.