Economist article on the latest government and army proposals to fight Boko Haram. The government seems to be trying everything: military force, negotiations with Boko Haram, an amnesty, and finally – a long overdue campaign to provide counselling to Boko Haram members and get Imams to give them non-violent interpretations of the Koran.
Nigeria’s National Security Advisor Sambo Dasuki outlines the government’s new ideas for combating Boko Haram. The plan focuses on economic development and job creation, as a means of drying up poverty and recruits for Boko Haram.
|Chief of Defence Staff||Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim||Air Marshal Alex Badeh|
|Chief of Army Staff||Lt-General Azubike Ihejirika||Major-General Kenneth Tobiah Jacob Minimah|
|Chief of Air Staff||Air Marshal Alex Badeh||Air Vice Marshal Adesola Nunayon Amosu|
|Chief of Naval Staff||Vice-Admiral Dele Ezeoba||Rear-Admiral Usman Jibrin|
There has been a lot of “noise” in the Nigerian media about President Goodluck Jonathan’s supposedly controversial appointment of new military service chiefs for the army, air force, and navy.
To cut a long story short the main talking points are:
- The new heads of the army, air force, and navy appointed by President Jonathan are (respectively): Major-General Kenneth Minimah, Air-Vice Marshal Adesola Amosu, and Rear-Admiral Usman Jibrin. They replaced Lt-General Azubuike Ihejirika, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, and Vice-Admiral Dele Ezeoba (respectively). Badeh is actually still employed though. Although he was replaced as Chief of Air Staff, he was promoted to replace Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim who was also retired. Net effect = one promotion and three retirements.
- Expect the following rank promotions shortly: Badeh to Air Chief Marshal, Minimah to Lt-General, Amosu to Air Marshal, and Jibrin to Vice-Admiral. Promotions at this level of the armed forces usually require the heads of the army, air force, and navy to be three star generals (or equivalent), and the chief of defence staff to be a four star general (or equivalent). Badeh is currently equivalent to a three star general, and Minimah, Amosu, and Jibrin have two stars. Those ranks will probably change shortly.
Prior to the current appointments, the new men held the following posts:
Air Vice-Marshal Badeh – Chief of Air Staff
Major-General Minimah – Commander of the Nigerian Army Infantry Corps, Jaji.
Rear-Admiral Jibrin – Director of Training at Defence Headquarters.
Air Vice Marshal Amosu – Air Officer Commanding Tactical Air Command, Makurdi.*
*The statement announcing the new appointments by President Jonathan’s spokesman Reuben Abati actually messed up Amosu’s post by simultaneously claiming he was the head of the presidential air fleet, AND Air Officer Commanding, Tactical Air Command of the air force! Obviously Amosu could not have been in two different posts simultaneously.
People are literally foaming at the mouth with rage for a number of reasons. Namely:
- The new Chief of Army Staff Major-General Minimah is from the Niger Delta, like President Jonathan. Minimah is from Rivers State – right “next door” to the President’s home state of Bayelsa. The President is being accused of ethnic favouritism.
- Apparently over 30 (or 50 depending on who you believe) senior officers were bypassed in order to appoint Minimah. These officers will now be retired as they cannot serve under Minimah, who is junior to them.
Minimah graduated from the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) in 1981 as a member of the NDA’s 25th regular combatant course. Amosu is also a graduate of course 25, while Jibrin is slightly senior to Minimah and Amosu, and is a graduate of course 24. The new Chief of Defence Staff Badeh was a graduate of course 21.
What do all these references to various courses mean? The military is a hierarchical institution. It is not a hospital or manufacturing plant. When people get promoted, life does not just go on as normal. In a country like Nigeria which was under military rule for 28 years, military promotions have national security AND political implications. Heads of state have been assassinated and coups staged as a result of the mismanagement of military promotions. Therefore there is a well-established tradition that when a military officer is promoted to head any of the armed services, any officers who are senior to him are retired or removed from his operational command. This nips potential disaffection (and political crises) in the bud. It has been happening for several decades.
We do not know why President Jonathan appointed Minimah (maybe because he is a star, the best, he’s comfortable with him, he trusts him, because he’s from the Delta…). Whatever the reason, once Minimah (an officer from NDA regular course 25) got appointed to replace Ihejirika (an officer from course 18) – lots of officers from courses 19-24 had to go.
This has happened lots of times before. Several senior officers were retired to make way for Minimah’s predecessor Ihejirika! When former President Obasanjo retired Chief of Army Staff Lt-General Victor Malu (a course 3 graduate) in 2001, Obasanjo retired a lot of officers to make way for Major-General Alexander Ogomudia (also from the Delta – and four intakes below Malu) to become the new chief of army Staff. As far back as 1990 President Babangida also ignored lots of senior officers like Major-Generals Nasko, Duba, Useni, Nwachukwu, Haladu etc in order to make way for Salihu Ibrahim (who was junior to all of them) as the new chief of army staff. Lots of fine officers had to retire to make way for Ibrahim.
Military appointments in the General ranks are effectively political appointments because of the visibility and political sensitivity of such appointments. President Jonathan is currently embattled and is facing attacks on multiple fronts from his political opponents. Senior members of his political party are defecting and next year he is facing a mammoth presidential election against an opposition that is resolutely determined to get rid of him. However these overarching political events should not overstate the significance of what in most other countries would be routine military postings.
Are we really surprised that the President retired men who have been in service for over 35 years, some of whom are close to 60 years old? They had already passed the mandatory service limit of 35 years for military officers and were due for retirement any day. Their continued presence in service was at the prerogative of the President (AKA the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces). What President Jonathan has done with these military appointments is not remarkable and is no different to what his predecessors have been doing for four decades.
Many of you have been posting images of yourselves with your copy of my book Soldiers of Fortune. To say thanks to you, I will be posting “shout outs” to say thanks to you for buying and reading the book.
The sixth shout out goes to Pat Okwy Ucheagwu. See him above with his copy of Soldiers of Fortune which he bought from Patabah Bookshop, in Surulere, Lagos.
The Nigerian army has created a new army division to continue its offensive against Boko Haram in Borno State. The new division is codenamed BOYONA, and will be commanded by a Major General. It will be based in Borno State, will take over anti-Boko Haram duties from the military’s Joint Task Force (JTF).
Click the link below to listen to a BBC radio 4 report summarising the latest news regarding the army’s fight with Boko Haram. Residents of Borno state have created vigilante groups to apprehend Boko Haram members. However the recent Mosque attack that killed 44 people suggests that Boko Haram may be retaliating against those that cooperate with the security forces.
This is a very good visual showing political affiliations in Nigeria on a map. This colour coded map shows which states are governed by Governors of the ruling PDP, and which are governed by opposition Governors.
Rivers State Govenor is a man in the news at the moment. He undergoes the rigour of the BBC Hardtalk interview and talks about many issues including the PIB, insecurity, agriculture, the oil industry, the 2015 elections, his prospects of running as Vice-President in the 2015 elections, his expulsion from the PDP, his disputes with the President Goodluck Jonathan, and improving education in the north.
He humorously referred to Nigerian state Governors as “commanders-in-chief without troops”.
The Nigerian army has intensified its offensive against Boko Haram. The latest reports are that the security forces suspended mobile telephone networks, to allow them to attack with stealth and hinder Boko Haram’s communications.
The army raids have destroyed lots of Boko Haram’s equipment, and revealed the sophistication of Boko Haram’s weapon inventory – such as vehicles mounted with machine guns, rocket propelled grenades, and anti-aircraft artillery.
After President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the north-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe, army troop reinforcements have begun arriving in northern cities such as Maiduguri and Yola.
It is a long overdue move and I am surprised it took the President this long to declare a state of emergency. The state of emergency means that the army can take greater responsibility for security in those three states. Troops can occupy city centers, take over buildings, and arrest and detain suspects without trial. Two incidents seemed to have tipped the balance in favour of the state of emergency:
1) Boko Haram nonchalantly dismissed the President’s offer of an amnesty. By doing so, Boko Haram seemed to declare its intention to settle its scores with the government on the battlefield, rather than via dialogue. It seems that President dialogue is now ready to meet them on a battlefield rather than in a conference room.
2) The recent Baga attacks which left hundreds of people dead marked a new deadly escalation in the conflict with Boko Haram.
Although Boko Haram has launched attacks across the north and as far south as the capital in Abuja, the three north-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe in the Kanuri heartland, represent Boko Haram’s support base. It has taken over at least one-third of the local government areas in Borno state. Losing control of its own territory to a terrorist organisation seems to have been the last straw for the government. President Jonathan accused Boko Haram of declaring war against Nigeria.
Excerpts from the President’s national broadcast announcing the state of emergency:
Innocent civilians are likely to be caught in the inevitable shoot-outs between the army and Boko Haram. There are reports that Boko Haram has been forcefully conscripting new members, and threatening them with death if they do not kill in the group’s name within weeks of joining.
Nonetheless the state of emergency will be popular among the general Nigerian population. Many have accused the President of being weak and of treating Boko Haram with kid gloves. This state of emergency will boost his security credentials and demonstrate a willingness to forcefully confront Boko Haram.
Even if the troop surge proves successful, it would offer only temporary respite. Boko Haram can easily slip across the border into neighbouring countries, regroup, and return. Only a long term political and economic solution can permanently end Boko Haram’s violent insurgency.