It is not surprising that the recent sacking of the service chiefs inherited by President Muhammadu Buhari and their immediate replacement by new appointees has earned for the President commendation in many elite circles and across political party divide. The speed at which the new appointees were named after their predecessors were shown the way out was particularly remarkable. It did something remarkably positive to the image of President Buhari which was being gradually bruised on account of the very slow pace at which he was taking decisions.
The timing of the action was also apt. It came at a time the image of the Nigerian military was again plummeting badly on account of the renewed Boko Haram attacks and the apparent helplessness of the armed forces to respond appropriately. There was a groundswell of public opinion that poor leadership in the various arms of the Nigerian security forces involved in the war against Boko Haram was the reason the country had suffered unremitting casualties recently in the hands of the insurgents. The removal of those believed to be responsible for this leadership failure, that is, the service chiefs, certainly assuaged the anger of most Nigerians against them.
The new appointees to the key leadership positions in the military include Major General Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin as Chief of Defence Staff, Major General T.Y Buratai, Chief of Army Staff, Rear Admiral Ibok- Ete Ekwe Ibas, Chief of Naval Staff, and Air Vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar, Chief of Air Staff. Major General Babagana Monguno (Retd) was also appointed as chief security adviser. They have all assumed duties in acting capacities pending the time their appointments will be confirmed by the Senate.
At his maiden meeting with the new service chiefs, President Buhari charged them to help him restore professionalism to the military. Insurgency, the most desperate security problem facing the country today, was the point of emphasis at the meeting with President Buhari who urged them to show courage and patriotism in the effort to find a lasting solution to it.
President Buhari’s address to the new military helmsmen captured the feeling of disappointment by most Nigerians towards the Nigerian military under the leadership of the sacked commanding officers, especially their apparent lack of commitment to the war on insurgency. Their poor attitude to the war is the reason that Boko Haram that started out as ragtag group of fighters had the opportunity to develop itself into a large and well equipped attacking forces that won several ground battles against Nigerian soldiers. To say that these defeats have gravely hurt our pride as a country and the international image of the Nigerian military is an understatement. The situation calls for urgent and radical steps to win back the confidence of Nigerians and the international community for their military once more.
To the new appointees, our advice is that they should not lose sight of the fact that the problem of insecurity in Nigeria is now a national emergency. Their attitude and strategy for tackling the problem must be built upon and around that perception. Apart from poor and inadequate weapons of war, low morale has also been the bane of our military. Welfare issues are obviously at the root of the problem of low morale. Allowances duly earned but frequently denied or slashed illegally by paying officers has been part of the complaints of our soldiers who go on special international and local assignments. The new service chiefs must examine these complaints under this new dispensation and address them.
There is also the issue of inadequate military hardware to prosecute the war against insurgency. The complaint, often, is that the enemies are better equipped than our own soldiers, which is the reason they often overwhelm our forces on the battlefield, with heavy and devastating military and civilian casualties. The new service chiefs should begin their assignment with a comprehensive review of the state of equipment at the disposal of our soldiers for the huge task of fighting Boko Haram and safeguarding the territorial integrity of our country. In addition, they should work out attractive welfare packages that could encourage those who lay down their lives for the peace, stability and survival of the country to do so with greater dedication. Such welfare packages should be generous enough to cater for the immediate members of the families of soldiers who die in action, including the education of their children from primary to the university level.
The UNION also urges the administration of President Buhari to demonstrate a lot more commitment than its predecessors did towards strengthening the country’s military to not only win the war against Boko Haram but be also in a position to defend the territorial integrity of the country always. What is required of the administration is the investment of adequate resources in programmes and projects that will facilitate a quick turn round in the fortunes and performance of the Nigerian military.