Let’s separate the war from warriors

On July 13, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari, who was about two monthsold as President and Commander-in-Chief, took a major step which
Nigerians were eagerly waiting for – the appointment of his own team
to replace the service chiefs he inherited from thew President Goodluck
Jonathan administration.

He appointed the Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd) to replace Col
Sambo Dasuki (rtd), as National Security Adviser; Major General AG
Olanisakin, then TRADOC Commander as Chief of Defence Staff (promoted 4-star Genera),
took over from Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh  ; Major General TY
Buratai, then Force Commander, Multi-National Joint Task Force, MNJTF
in Njamena, Chad (promoted to Lieutenant General),took charge of the
Nigerian Army from Lt General KTJ Minimah ; Rear Admiral EK
Ibas(promoted Vice Admiral) took command of the Nigerian Navy from ,
Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin; Air Vice Marshal SB Abubakar  (promoted Air
Marshal ) took over the Nigerian Air Force from Air Marshal Adesola

The president also appointed Air Vice Marshal Monday Riku Monrgan, as
the new Chief of DefenceIntelligence,CDI, Defence Intelligence Agency.

Despite pressure for replacement of the service chiefs, President
Buhari kept faith with his security team and took the decision when he
felt it was right to do so.

On January 26, the president, as expected, but still a surprising
jolt, announced the replacement of the service chiefs, bringing to an
end over five years of their tenure as heads of the armed forces. In
their stead, Major General LEO Irabor was appointed Chief of Defence Staff,  Major General Ibrahim Attahiru was appointed Chief of Army Staff, Rear Admiral AZ Gambo was appointed
Chief of Naval Staff and Air Vice Marshal IA Amao was appointed Chief
of Air Staff.  Also replaced was Chief of Defence Intelligence, Air
Vice Marshal MS Usman, with Major General Samuel Adebayo.
In line with established tradition, Chief of Defence was promoted to
4-star General, Chief of Army Staff  to 3-star, Lieutenant General,
Chief of Naval  Staff, 3-star,Vice Admiral  and Chief of Air
Staff,3-star,Air Marshal.

President Buhari’s choices were considered as worthy replacements for the
former service chiefs – battle-tested and good to go! They are
therefore not strangers to the current and emerging security
challenges facing Nigeria. Indeed, they know the grounds very well.

It is therefore not surprising that they hit the ground running. So
far, with their approach, they are clearly determined to improve on
the performance of the out-gone service chiefs using learnt lessons.
But there are challenges which they inherited from their predecessors
that still remain a cog in the wheel of progress.

It is important to note that the appointment of the new service chiefs
has not necessarily changed the attitude of many Nigerians towards the
armed forces and other security agencies. As it is today, the coming
of the security chiefs has not led to more public support and change
in negative public perception of the armed forces. Rather, the
criticism and condemnation of the out-gone chiefs is slowly being
transferred to their successors. Indeed, some Nigerians  on
traditional, new media, social media and through words of mouth are
still quick to condemn any mistake and not ready to celebrate success
achieved by the armed forces and its strategic commanders .

Besides, since the return of democracy in 1999, the Nigerian Armed
Forces have been the punching bags of the National Assembly with the
successive service chiefs being bullied by the upper and lower chambers. The attitude and
style of some members of the National Assembly (which has not
changed), always exemplifies lack of understanding of their roles on
the one hand, and lack of necessarily capacity and knowledge about the
workings of military institutions as a vital instrument of national

One other challenge inherited by the service chiefs is lack of synergy
and coordination among all security agencies and critical MDAs in
deployment of all assets in support of national objectives. Like I
have noted in previous write-ups “In a democracy, civilian control of
the military and indeed all security apparatus is a given. Whether
traditional or modern approach to national security, one vital
ingredient necessary for its realization by any nation is synergy
among all stakeholders. It entails ‘team spirit, team work,
cooperation, working together for a common goal in producing desired

While synergy is an important factor in having a peaceful and
prosperous nation, it is without doubt, one of the biggest challenges
in nation building. Even in advanced democracies like the United
States and United Kingdom where structures have existed for decades
and centuries, there still exist challenges of synergy among various
security agencies.

This is only achievable, if all the services and other security
agencies understand that all over the world, no service or security
agency can go it alone. They need to understand that what is at stake
is much more than the momentary victory of each service or agency, or
the ambition of any individual. The nation is the ultimate stake and
national interest should override all other contestations. This
demands synergy and cooperation.

Again, as I noted in in this space: “One of the key indicators of a
stable, virile and strong democracy is civilian control of the armed
forces…this places the responsibility of a country’s strategic
decision-making in the hands of civil political leadership, rather
than the military institution, which means that this control is
exercised by elected or appointed officials in a democracy.

While, oversight functions and power to summon service chiefs are
their constitutional duties, the National Assembly should avoid
needless ego and turf war that is capable of distracting strategic
military leaders in a very challenging period. No matter how good the
intention of summoning the service chiefs, when their inability to
attend such summons is followed with threats and ‘show of force’, it
is losses its potency and power of legislative legitimacy.

As the chief of defence staff and other service chiefs settle down, they
require the support of all Nigerians in order to carry out their
constitutional responsibilities on behalf of all Nigerians. While the
political will of President Buhari is not in doubt – it is
however, not enough. It is the responsibility of the executive arms of
government to unleash all asset at its disposal to galvanize national
support for the armed forces. In this wise, the Ministry of Defence,
Office of the National Security Adviser and the Federal Ministry of
Information and Culture should take the lead in the battle to win the
hearts and minds of Nigerians.

The legislative arm of government should also do its bits by avoiding
unnecessary distraction through incessant summons of service chiefs
and focus on efforts that would complement the executive arm of government to confront current and emerging security challenges.

Above all, Nigerians must see the armed forces as a national patrimony
– a national asset that they must own – Nigerians should be able to
separate war from the warriors.