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Why Buhari Sacked Service Chiefs Before US Trip

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It was a sack signed and sealed by Boko Haram. President Muhammadu Buhari merely delivered it. Months before they were relieved of their appointments, last week, even the worst analysts of the Nigerian military had seen it coming.

The Boko Haram insurgency, which has become a sore thumb in our national life, vis-a-vis the killings in the North-East, apparently played some key role in the axing of Air Marshall Alex Badeh as the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS); Major General Kenneth Jacob Minimah as the Chief of the Army Staff; Rear Admiral Usman O. Jibrin as the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) and Air Vice Marshal Adesola Amosu as the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS).

Badeh, Minimah, Jibrin and Amosu were appointed into the military top posts in January 2014, by former President Goodluck Jonathan.

That was at the heat of the Boko Haram insurgency and the expectation from government and Nigerians was that the Service Chiefs would give a breather on the insecurity challenge.

But for the last one and a half years of the Jonathan administration, it was a ding-dong affair between the Boko Haram insurgents and the military, with the former taking territories, especially in Borno and Yobe states while bombings and killings of innocent people were the order of the day. The kidnapping of the more than 200 Chibok school girls in April 2014 compounded the situation.

The intensity of the insurgency also caused a shift in the dates of the 2015 general elections. And it was not until that point that the military added some bite to the war against Boko Haram in the course of which some territories lost to the terrorists were recovered.

The President, on assumption of office on May 29, put the war against the insurgents on top of the list of his priorities. One of his first actions in office was the relocation of the military command to Borno State, the epicentre of the insurgency. Meanwhile, it was clear that the days of Badeh, Minimah, Jibrin and Amosu as Service Chiefs were numbered simply on account of what was generally viewed as the military’s poor response to the Boko Haram insurgency. The day of reckoning for the Service Chiefs came late week when Buhari fired them.

Even if the President had wanted to retain them in office beyond last week, Sunday Vanguard learnt that Buhari’s visit to the United States (US) from today, rendered it a nullity.

The Nigerian government is banking on the US help to contain the Boko Haram insurgents. The calculation, it was learnt, is that should the President make a good case for such help from the Americans during the visit, he must be seen to be serious about repositioning the Nigerian military for the war against Boko Haram. “The firing of the Service Chiefs is the beginning of the repositioning”, a source said.

“The calculation is that the Americans may ask President Buhari why military commanders (sacked Service Chiefs) were still in place when, after several months of being in control and getting huge financial support from the Jonathan administration, Boko Haram continued to bite hard.

“The likelihood is also that they will present Buhari with figures and ask how this huge amount of money voted to combat terror was spent? Why is the result not showing? The thinking is that any American aid to come will be on the grounds that you have a new team with new thinking faculty, a team that is tested and will spare no effort in ending the Boko Haram mayhem”.

The source said President Buhari will now be able to look at US President Obama in the face and say he has a new team in place, and that the team is trusted, has integrity, and primed to actualize his mission of ending Boko Haram insurgency.

Continuing, the source said, “Buhari will tell the Americans that he has set machinery in motion to investigate how the huge amount of money so far released to fight insurgency was spent and why, after such releases to the security agencies, many of the equipment promised to deal with Boko Haram are nowhere to be seen.

“President Buhari will also show the Americans a blueprint detailing how he intends to employ new resources, improve and equip the armed forces, putting in mind accountability, to ensure that any suspected corrupt tendencies are nipped in the bud”.

On the day Minimah handed over to his successor, Major General Tukur Buratai, this is what he said as an aside, “To senior officers and other members of the armed forces, I want to say you guys are better off because in your own case, due process is followed before you are retired.

“You are given six months’ notice; you proceed in pre-retirement holiday and plan your next movement. But as Service Chiefs, we don’t have that luxury. It is either you hear it just on the radio or television. So if you aspire to be a Service Chief, you also know that you have that price to pay. But, above all, being the Chief of the Army Staff has been fulfilling” Sunday Vanguard learnt that the former COAS was briefed by the Presidency ahead of the sack, last week.

Presiding over the 2nd annual quarterly conference of the Chief of the Army Staff to review the Army’s performance in the war on terrorism and other forms of violence, including cattle rustling, kidnapping, bombings, criminality, etc, which commenced on Monday, July 13, the COAS was said to have been called to the Presidential Villa.

On his return, he told the gathering of officers, including GOCs, Principal Staff Officers, Corps Commanders, and Commandants of training institutions, to go and watch television for breaking news. However, nobody could fathom what was going on as the normal practice is that everybody, apart from the COAS, will keep his phone outside the conference room.

It was much later, during lunch break, that calls started coming in and it became known that the old Service Chiefs had been dropped.

Badeh, Minimah, Jibrin and Amosu were not the only Service Chiefs who fell on account of the Boko Haram insurgency. Their predecessors had to go to give impetus to the anti-terror war.

They are Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike (CDS), Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika (COAS); and Vice Admiral Iko Ibrahim (CNS) under whom the military fought to restrict the Boko Haram crisis to Borno and Yobe states, and end it there.

Ihejirika succeeded Lt. General Abdulrahman Bello Bambazzau under whose tenure the Islamist group gained ground in 2008 when its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was arrested and killed in controversial circumstances.

In the meantime, there are high hopes that the new Service Chiefs: Major General Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin (CDS), Buratai (CoAS), Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas (CNS) and Air Vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar (CAS), given their robust backgrounds, and working in collaboration with the President, himself a retired Army general, the end of the Boko Haram insurgency may be near. Analysts are also not overlooking the appointments of a new National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd), and Air Vice Marshal Monday Riku Morgan as Chief of Defence Intelligence as crucial steps to stopping the Islamist group.

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