|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.
See below for eyewitness testimonies and recollections of the massive 2002 armoury explosion in Lagos.
Over 1000 people were killed when a large stockpile of military explosives accidentally exploded on 27 January 2002. Many panic stricken residents thought the fireball and explosions were the start of a military coup or a military conflict. Many of those fleeing drowned after accidentally being stampeded into a canal.
These explosions were so powerful that windows shattered 15 km away and the blast could be felt more than 50 km inland.
The explosion threw up several other unexploded military munitions, which fell down in Lagos in a hail of exploding shells, grenades and bullets which caused further death and destructions.
Panic stricken civilians trying to flee were either killed by munitions, killed in a stampede, or struck while trying to cross busy roads.
Click any of the links above to listen an excellent BBC programme about the annulled June 12, 1993 election in Nigeria. It also shows Abiola’s travails as he went from being a confident philanthropist who would host and entertain several hundred guests a day to “losing his confidence” as he became increasingly isolated and no one would ring him for hours.
This programme also has an audio recording of the dramatic moment when he was arrested on live radio while on the phone with the BBC. He told the BBC reporter (live on worldwide radio) “Please leave me. I am delaying them.” (the dozens of police officers who came to arrest him after he declared himself President)
Nigerian leader Major-General Gowon Interviewed After the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970
Nigeria’s federal leader Major-General Gowon speaks after the end of the Nigerian war on his nemesis – Biafran leader Chukwuemeka. Gowon said: “He didn’t do a Hitler. Ojukwu ran away and left these poor people that he led into such suffering…just left them…I hope his conscience will allow him to rest. God knows.”
October 1, 1960 – Independence Celebrations
Northern Nigeria Prepares for Independence
Southern Nigeria Prepares for Independence
A Nation was Born 100 Years Ago
NIGERIA’S JOURNEY TO NATIONHOOD (VIDEO SERIES)
A video profile of the four most prominent men in early post-independence Nigeria: Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, and Ahmadu Bello.
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”.
My new book “Soldiers of Fortune: Nigerian Politics From Buhari to Babangida (1983-1993)” was released last week. The book is a sequel to my other book “Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture (1966-1976)”. It continues where Oil, Politics and Violence stopped, and chronicles the Buhari and Babangida years in Nigeria.
I gave an interview last week to Anthea Gordon of the Africa is a Country website. In the interview, I answered questions and talked emotively about my motivations for writing the book, the challenges I faced, and what the book seeks to achieve. You can read the full interview at: http://africasacountry.com/nigerias-soldiers-of-fortune/
KEY EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERVIEW
“I want to present Nigerian history as something more than a mechanical rendering of dates and facts.”
“My books have the feel of a fly on the wall reconstruction, or an action packed thriller. I do not just want the reader to know what happened. I also want to take the reader on a journey through the dizzying twists and turns, and cast of characters in Nigeria’s history: Ibrahim Babangida, Mamman Jiya Vatsa, Muhammedu Buhari, MKO Abiola, Dele Giwa, Gideon Orkar, Gani Fawehinmi, Ebitu Ukiwe, Sani Abacha etcetera. Many people also do not know the exploits of some of these familiar names before they entered the national limelight. There are also other people who are not as famous as them, but who the public do not realize made pivotal contributions to Nigeria’s history.
I want readers to feel as if they personally met these people, were physically present when crucial decisions and conversations took place, and experienced all of it.”
“Nigeria’s history reminds one of a Greek or Roman tragedy in multiple acts, with a revolving cast of characters. There is a lot of Caesar like back-stabbing.”
“The origins of, and answers to, many of Nigeria’s problems are buried in the graveyard of its past. Only by digging up those buried secrets can the country learn lessons from them, heal, and move on.”
“My intention is for Soldiers of Fortune to become a “one stop shop” compendium and ultimate reference point for Nigeria between 1984 and 1993. That is why I dotted the book with several tables and a massive “library” in the Appendices. For example, the Appendices contain an itemization of every single cabinet minister, military governor, and AFRC member that served in the Babangida government. I want Soldiers of Fortune to be the “go to” place for anyone that wants to check any prominent controversy, fact, event, person or date in Nigeria between 1984 and 1993.”
“Nigeria’s young generation did not create most of Nigeria’s problems, but they inherited them, and have to deal with them. “
“It is rare for Nigeria to go more than a few years without a “near death experience”. Most countries go through cliff-hanging and tense crises every decade or so. In contrast, Nigeria has cataclysmic hold your breath and close your eyes dramas every few years.”
“I am not sure that young Nigerians appreciate just how drama filled their history is. Hollywood script writers could not have written a more conspiratorial thriller with as many plot twists, friends turning on each other, corruption, gun battles in city centers, dazzling women, and rags to riches billionaires.”