By Emmanuel Ani
The recent appointment of the Chief of Army Staff has generated reactions in the polity regarding the suitability of Major General Farouk Yahaya for the plum but demanding job. The interesting part is that some that are ignorant of the dynamics involved in such appointments have taken centre stage with insinuations and illogical conclusions so much so that it defeats common sense.
I had initially refrained from commenting on this contentious issue. However, I had a change of mind when the mischief became heightened with the tendency to mislead members of the unsuspecting general public.
I recall that upon the death of the former Chief of Army Staff and ten others in the unfortunate air crash in Kaduna, some persons, instead of respecting the sensibilities of families and relatives of the deceased officers that died in the line of duty, elected to scorn and curse. This is most unfortunate. This is how bad things have turned in our dear country.
These individuals didn’t stop there. They took their diatribe further by whipping ethnic and religious sentiments on who the next Chief of Army Staff should be. They consequently pushed forward names along ethnic lines like they are the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
President Muhammadu Buhari eventually announced a new Chief of Army Staff. They went berserk, throwing all manner of diatribes on why the new man should have been from a particular part of the country. Even those that know nothing about the Nigerian Army suddenly became experts and analysts on how the President deliberately refused to appoint a certain officer as Chief of Army Staff. This is sad.
From all intents and purpose, the mischief gained traction in the public space because they succeeded in assuming that membership of the Security Council in Nigeria should be based on ethnicity and religion and not competence. I hate to do this, but I have to do it to put issues in proper perspective as someone knowledgeable in the security architecture in the country.
Before now, we have had instances where a former president appointed a certain officer to head the Nigerian Army. Suffice to add that the officer wasn’t from the infantry or armoured corps as the prerequisite for heading the Nigerian Army. Was hell let loose? The same former President made another appointment that also forced over 50 senior officers to proceed on retirement. Was hell let loose? The point I am trying to make here is that the President and Commander-in-Chief has the prerogative to choose whomever he deems suitable for the job. That is his constitutional duty, and I don’t see any reason why ethnic and religious sentiments should be put forward in the first instance.
Back to the crux of the matter, the present security challenges in the country require that utmost care is taken into consideration when sensitive appointments are made, especially in the Armed Forces. And the appointment of Major General Farouk Yahaya as the Chief of Army Staff is one instance where the President has demonstrated his uncommon neutrality and hunger for the best hand at all times.
I can only wish that these religious and ethnic agitators would take out time to read the profile of Major General Farouk Yahaya. I also hope they can also take out time to digest his exploits in the course of his illustrious carrier in the Nigerian Army. When that is done, would they realize that the President was not guided by ethnic or religious sentiments as mischievously propagated?
A fine officer and a gentleman, no doubt. A former Garrison Commander Headquarters Guards Brigade, former Directing Staff at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), a former Deputy Director Army Headquarters Department of Military Secretary, a former Deputy Director Army Research and Development and the Chief of Staff, Headquarters Joint Task Force Operation Pulo Shield. A former General Officer Commanding 1 Div of the Nigerian Army and former Commander Counter-Insurgency and Counter-Terrorism in North-East Nigeria, amongst others too numerous to mention.
Having all of this in mind, would it be appropriate to state that the President was not meticulous in choosing the Chief of Army Staff? Would the President have sacrificed competence on the altar of religion and ethnicity? I dare say that if only they knew who Major General Farouk Yahaya is, they would bury their heads in shame. Also, if only they are privy to the widespread jubilation across all army formations in the country with the appointment of Major General Farouk Yahaya as Chief of Army Staff.
What does this tell us? It tells us that President Muhammadu Buhari has once again displayed an uncommon commitment to addressing the security challenges in the country. And it would have been a topic for discussion if the new Chief of Army Staff does not possess the qualifications and experience to lead the charge against insurgency in North-East Nigeria and other acts of criminalities across Nigeria. But that is not the case and a reason why we must commend the President once again.
I must also emphasize that Major General Farouk Yahaya is not just from Sokoto State; he is one of the A list officers in the Nigerian Army that commands tremendous respect across the board for his work ethic and dedication in service to the country. He is a fine officer that serves as a role model to young officers and one that has left indelible marks in the sands of time in all task assigned to him.
Let me also add here for our reading pleasure that data obtained from the Council on Foreign Relations shows that from April 1, when he took charge of the war against Boko Haram, till when he was appointed as Chief of Army Staff, the number of civilians killed by insurgents dropped by 17 percent, while the number of Boko Haram terrorist killed shot up by 46 percent. What does this tell us? It simply tells us that here is an officer that understands what it means to lead. And his appointment to lead the prestigious Nigerian Army is a step in the right direction.
At this point, those trying to stain his lofty credentials because he is from a particular part of the country should have a rethink and give peace a chance. Needless I mention that he is one of the finest officers in the Nigerian Army, and his appointment is a challenge rather than filling a slot.
I have no doubt whatsoever that the new Chief of Army Staff would hit the ground running because he understands the enormity of the task at hand. And he will deliver in record time; I can bet. So, therefore, let us learn to call a spade a spade. I believe time shall tell, and Nigerians would be grateful to President Muhammadu Buhari for his choice of Major General Farouq Yahaya to lead the Nigerian Army.
My charge to the new kid on the block is to remain apolitical, strengthen institutions and lead with the fear of God.
Ani is a security analyst and wrote this piece from UNN, Enugu Campus