Paul Yovo reports on the mixed reactions trailing the recent appointment of service chiefs by Preisdent Buhari
Nigerians from all walks of life are reacting for different reasons to the sudden appointment of new service chiefs and a National Security Adviser by President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday. The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina contained the appointments of the new service chiefs in a statement. Buhari had earlier in the day sacked the service chiefs and the NSA he inherited from ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
The new appointees, according to Adesina’s statement, are, Chief of Defence Staff, Maj.Gen. Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin; Chief of Army Staff, Maj.Gen. T.Y. Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas; Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar; and Chief of Defence Intelligence, Air Vice Marshal Monday Riku Morgan. The new NSA is Maj.Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd.). He replaced Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.) They replaced former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh; former Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Kenneth Minimah; former Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin; and former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu, who were all removed unceremoniously while attending the Chief of Army Staff second quarter conference in Abuja.
While the President has told the new military helmsmen that their appointment is legal and would become constitutional when the Senate approves their appointment, Senate President, Bukola Saraki goofed when he replied to a twitter that the legislators have no need to approve the new appointments, thereby sparking a new controversy about the true nature of the appointment. Considering that an Abuja High Court had last year, in a case brought before it by Lagos Lawyer Festus Keyamo, ruled that service Chiefs must be cleared by the Senate for their appointments to be regarded as legal and constitutional. While the Senate president, who is away for the lesser Hajj in Saudi Arabia, has tweeted to correct the goof just as his media aides have cleared the air by saying he was misinterpreted, other Nigerians have made their opinions on the issue.
Labour Party, in a statement said President Buhari should have been more cautious, considering his appointment as hurried. In the statement, the National Chairman of LP, Abdulkadir Abdulsalam, said, “It is my candid opinion that Mr. President should have exercised a little restraint in sacking the service chiefs; he should not have taken that action in a hurry. He should have considered the totality of what is on ground. But the fact of the matter is that his action may have also been informed by the security report he had. We do not know what is available to him, which made him take that action hastily the way he did it. “But whatever the information in possession of the President, it is our candid opinion that the President should have waited for some time, to still try the service chiefs before they were bundled out of office. Buhari should have waited because he seems to be acting on the basis of trial and error.
Probably, they must have advised him regarding the removal of checkpoints. “Buhari made pronouncements and removed the checkpoints; no sooner had he removed the checkpoints, then insecurity escalated and Boko Haram started unleashing terror. The government had to eat its word and returned the checkpoints. It is not good enough for a government that has been advocating change.”
A pro-Democracy Non-governmental organisation – Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA) in a statement in reaction to the recent top security appointments said there was no justification for the consistent maltreatment of the South Eastern segment of the nation by almost all Federal government administrations in recent history including the immediate past Good luck Jonathan government which gave a minimally mid-level security position to an officer of South East extraction but reshuffled him out for no reason subsequently after only few months. Besides, the Rights group said the law of natural justice apart from even abundant constitutional principles and provisions frown at the singling out of one major ethnic group for systemic marginalisation in sensitive appointments such as excluding them in the membership of the Nigerian Military/Security Council constantly.
“Is it forbidden to name an Igbo-born Nigerian military officer as Chief of Defence Staff?” HURIWA urged President Buhari to right the wrongs perpetually perpetrated at the highest levels politically against the Igbo of South East Nigeria and give every facets of the Nigerian geopolitical a deep sense of belonging so no one tribe is stereotypically considered the endangered species in the Federation of Nigeria. National Coordinator of the association, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf also called on the current Federal government to redress the seeming imbalance in the top level appointments made so far skewed in favour of only one region which produced the occupant of the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The Rights group submitted that “logically from all the most strategic political cum security appointments made so far most observers all around the world who have sent us their reactions think Mr. President is increasingly abandoning his towering status of a nationalist and is building another image as the leader of the Conservative Northern Nigeria. “This regional toga must not stick”. “How do you justify the choices of persons with very high level ethnic and religious affiliations with the President to occupy the top most positions of Director General of Department of State Security; Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission and now sixty five percent of the most senior Security chiefs in the Federal Republic of Nigeria are all from one out of the six geopolitical zones and only one region which is always the fall guy the South East alienated once more. Why can’t President Buhari find someone out of the over 50 million Igbo speaking Nigerians to be entrusted with a serious security duty for fatherland?” HURIWA queried. HURIWA further stated thus: “We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to respect the constitutionally guaranteed principle of Federal Character in his top level appointments to give a sense of belonging to all segments of the Nigerian Society.
It is morally reprehensible and indeed a constitutional sin of monumental proportions for the current administration to not only continue with the systemic marginalisation of the South East but is trying to up the ante in this scheme of divide-andrule tendencies”. HURIWA said the exclusion of the South East in these very important defence appointments is not morally, politically and constitutionally justified or explainable because even by merit effective persons abound in all segments of the Nigeria society.
For a security analyst however, sentiments should not determine who occupies such a sensitive position as service chief and when. The security analyst, Ben Okezie, expressed support for the action of the President, saying it was the right thing to do and at the right time. Okezie said, “Sacking the service chiefs is the right thing any new Commander- in-Chief would do. Why it was delayed was because they were prosecuting an asymmetrical war and the President was understudying them so that he could know how to plan with the new security chiefs.
“I don’t know much about the new security chiefs until we study their antecedents and know their track records. Using the NSA to judge the others, one can say Buhari must have done his research well before appointing them. The appointment of the NSA shows that the President knows what he is doing.” In his own words, President Buhari explained how he appointed the service chiefs. He said: “All of you, including the National Security Adviser, were chosen on merit,” the President said. “Your records gave you the job. “Save for the new Chief of Army Staff whom I briefly met at his Command at the Multi-National Joint Task Force, in Chad, I don’t know any of you. Your records recommended you.” Until the Senate approves them, the position for and against may continue.