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The Appointment Of New Service Chiefs: A Possible Security Breakthrough by Oluremi Daniel.



Nigeria, our dear country, has been through a lot of problems and issues as a nation. These issues range from corruption, economic and political instability as well as insecurity. The latter can be called the chief of all our problems as a country because a nation without peace and security will most likely suffer strain in its other sectors. Examples of our insecurity issues include multiple abductions and ritual killings, intertribal skirmish, herdsmen intrusions, bandit attacks, the ironic terrorism of citizens by the Nigerian Police and Armed Forces, and of course, the infamous Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast. The insurgency, in particular, has been raging for the past 11 years, has led to the death of at least 36,000 people, and has displaced another 2 million people [1]!

However, the “news” of our insecurity issues is no longer new. What is new, is the appointment of service chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, 26th of January after the sacking resignation and retirement of the previously existing service chiefs. As disclosed by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, “ President Buhari has accepted the immediate resignation of the Service Chiefs, and their retirement from service. Those involved are General Abayomi Olonisakin, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas, and Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar.” They were relieved of their duties by Major General Leo Irabor (as Chief of Defence Staff), Major General I. Attahiru (as Chief of Army Staff), Rear Admiral A.Z. Gambo (as Chief of Naval Staff) and Air Vice Marshall I.O. Amao (as Chief of Air Staff) respectively [2].

The changes were not unprecedented, as there has been a clamour for the President to replace the chiefs who he appointed almost 6 years ago in 2015 to inject fresh blood into the system [2]. More importantly, the former service chiefs were generally considered inefficient and incompetent by many Nigerians [3]. Why? Before analysing the new people in charge as well as the prospects and expectations of the country at large we must assess the performance of the replaced ones.

Buhari, was already a retired major general before he contested for and won the Presidential election in 2015. Among the numerous promises he put forth back then, a “change” in the insecurity in the country was thought to become the obvious forte of the Buhari administration, seeing his past profession. However, instead of shoving terrorism and insurgency out the door, which was Buhari’s unique and strongest selling point back in 2015, the situation worsened [3]. Every measure that was initiated only brought more problems, and the cancer of terrorism took new forms, metastasizing and mutating from terrorism to banditry, worsening insurgency, kidnapping, communal strife and open madness on the part of criminals [3]. The most annoying part of the whole matter is that, under the watch of these immediate past service chiefs, especially General Abayomi Olonisakin, there were over 40 military operations [3]! This translates to more military operations in the last 5 years than any other time in Nigerian history, including the Nigerian civil war [3]! Some of the nothing-to-show-for operations are Operations Lafiya Dole, Crocodile Smile I and II, Python Dance, Cat Race and Rattle Snake to name a few [3].

Maybe because they thought Nigerians were dumb, these chiefs, in partnership with government were just painting their failures in different milder colours to avoid too much backlash from society. For example, they made use of terms like “technically defeated”, “degraded” or “decimated” when addressing their fight against Boko Haram when we all know they haven’t made much progress in dissolving the 11-year contention [3]. This cover-up schemes inevitably led to, as Reuben Abati, a politician and former chairman of The Guardian newspaper brilliantly confirmed “no substantial progress, but amounted to nothing more than motion without movement, empty rhetoric and overt politicization of military strategy”. Also, in 5 years, many soldiers deserted the warfront and generals complained about the terrorists’ access to better equipment and motivation, unlike the Nigerian army [3]. All of a sudden, the military became very vocal on social media, especially Twitter [3]!

Hilariously, President Buhari thanked the outgoing service chiefs for what he calls their “overwhelming achievements in our efforts at bringing enduring peace to our dear country” [2]. This statement received criticism from people like Kabir Adamu, a security expert who had this to say, “ It would be a bit difficult really for Nigerians to be convinced that the immediate past service chiefs recorded overwhelming achievements”. Reuben also added, “The President talked about their “overwhelming achievements”. “Overwhelming” is a two-sided word; it can be positive or negative!”

Well, out with the old and in with the new! The fresh cycle of chiefs seems to raise the hopes of Nigerians. The appointments have been received positive reactions from the likes of Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State, Ayodele Fayose, former governor of Ekiti State and even the Igbo sociocultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo [4]. Also, their profiles are interesting and encouraging at least. The most impressive of them is Major General Leo Irabor. The Chief of Defence Staff is well educated with a degree in Engineering from the Obafemi Awolowo University and 2 Masters degrees from outside the country. He also studied in different Military Colleges including the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Executive Programme in the United States [5].

Since they are still new and we are yet to see any changes, there have been efforts taken by them to help the country. When they met Buhari last week, Irabor was reported as having said that he and his team are determined to “add value” [3]. In fact, on Sunday 31st of January, Irabor and his team went on a visit to Borno State and they engaged with stakeholder communities [3]. These chiefs also seem close to each other and this is very important in ensuring synchronization of the Armed Forces. Apart from the tenacious Boko Haram menace, they are also expected to face and tackle threats of growing banditry, kidnappings and clashes between herders and farmers [5]. Importantly, the Armed Forces are to be checked and screened well to remove the bad eggs and restore respect for the military among the citizens.

While the initiative of the president is praiseworthy, Adamu Kabir says any serious change won’t be immediate . As he explained, “If you look at the entire security subsector, there are 27 ministries, departments and agencies and these new service chiefs are only 4 out of those 27! So even if they’re superheroes, they’re not likely to achieve any major improvement if the other 23 are not playing their roles” [5]. In short, it all comes down to revisiting and restructuring of the systems that have held down our security subsector. Moving forward would also involve reviewing and investigating the actions and inactions of the outgoing chiefs. Human Rights Lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), however, faulted the appointment of the new service chiefs for lacking due process, as the chiefs need the approval of the National Assembly [5]. This should also be addressed to ensure that the constitution is obeyed and followed to the letter.

I feel that these appointments are a step in the right direction. Even though such changes may look inconsequential at the moment, they might be just what Nigeria needs for stable governance and economy. The replacement should make sure plans are made, executed, and fruitful! Also, the Nigerian situation right now has raised the bar for them and so Nigerians expect nothing but the best from them and as soon as possible.

It is important to note that their actions and inactions may decide if there is a Nigeria to contest for in the next elections.


[1] “Nigeria: Boko Haram killed 76 farmers in Borno State”, Deutsche Well, Published 02.12.2020, www.google.com/amp/s/amp.dw.com/en/nigeria-boko-haram-killed-76-farmers-in-borno-state/a-55792576, Retrieved 04.02.2021.

[2] Adetayo Olalekan, “UPDATED: At last, Buhari appoints new service chiefs”, The Punch, Published 26.01.2021, www.google.com/amp/s/punchng.com/updated-at-last-buhari-appoints-new-service-chiefs/%3famp=1, Retrieved 04.02.2021.

[3] Abati Reuben, “Buhari and The New Service Chiefs – Beyond the Handover of Flags”, Proshare, Published 02.02.2021, www.proshareng.com/news/Politics/Buhari-and-The-New-Service-Chiefs—Beyond-the-Handover-of-Flags/55534, Retrieved 04.02.2021.

[4] “New Service Chiefs: Ibrahim Attahiru, Irabor, Gambo and Amao appointment by Buhari make Wike, Fayose, Dino Melaye to react – See wetin dem tok”, BBC NEWS, Published 27.01.2021, www.google.com/amp/s/www.bbc.com/pidgin/media-55822286.amp, Retrieved 04.02.2021.

[5] Ukpe William, “Who are the new Service Chiefs?”, Nairametrics, Published 27.01.2021, nairametrics.com/2021/01/27/who-are-the-new-service-chiefs/, Retrieved 04.02.2021.


Oluremi Daniel Ayanfeoluwa from Abeokuta in Ogun state is a young student, a classical musician in training, a Christian and a science enthusiast. He also loves dogs, fashion, photography and intellectual stuff. Hr can be reached via dabrainbox2@gmail.com



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