BENJAMIN SAMSON in this report looks at the efforts of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) in uniting and securing the nation against the backdrop of the sacrifices of military personnel in tackling the country’s security challenges.
Over the years the Nigerian military has been an instrument of national unity, integration and development, despite security challenges in the last decades. For instance, they fought the Nigerian civil war to keep the country united, in which many soldiers paid the supreme price.
Also, many military personnel have paid the supreme price in the war against Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa province (ISWAP) terrorists in the North-east and armed bandits in the North-west.
Speaking on the sacrifices of the Nigerian military, Unity Advocacy Group (UAG) convener, Ifeanyi Aigbedion, said, “No matter what its critic may want to say, the Nigerian military has been an important stakeholder and critical institution that has played a very significant and fundamental role in the continued sustenance of national unity,
“’Indeed, beyond the array of political parties that bestride Nigeria’s political landscape today, or the various religious organisation, civil society groups and other professional associations and groups, a force that continues to be crucial, playing a stabilising role in Nigerian democratic journey and national cohesion, remains the military, especially since the return of democracy in 1999.”
Irabor’s drive for unity
When he was appointed as the 17th Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Lucky Irabor promised to ensure that Nigeria “remains one united country.”
Gen. Irabor, during the handing and taking over ceremony said he will offer the right leadership that would inspire the Nigerian Armed Force with the support of Nigerians to tackle the current security challenges bedeviling the country.
He said he, along the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Zubairu Gambo, Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, “will in no time, take actions that would significantly add value to the security disposition across the country.”
Irabor said “we are all aware of the security landscape and should join hands to take security to all the nooks of the country.”
Since assuming office as CDS, Gen. Irabor has worked tirelessly in ensuring that the three Services (Army, Navy and Air force) are united in the fight against insecurity.
This was evidenced by the decision of the three services to subordinate themselves to the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) under the leadership of Gen. Irabor.
The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, made this known in Makurdi while on his maiden tour of Tactical Air Command (TAC) recently.
According to him, this is the new line the service chiefs have all agreed to tow as efforts are on to bring the various security challenges to an end.
“Just as it is obtainable in military organisations worldwide, the DHQ is responsible for the command and control of the entire Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) which also means that all ongoing joint operations and Joint Task Forces are directly subordinated to the DHQ, and their commanders’ report directly to the CDS.
“When we say we are members of the AFN, we mean the 3 Services represent a single entity. When we accept the fact that we the members of the AFN constitute a united entity, the need for rivalry will not arise,” he said.
Gen. Irabor has on several occasions led the service chiefs on operational tours to battle grounds in the North-east and North-west for on the spot assessments of security situation and troops’ welfare. This has in no small measure boosted the morale of troops.
He also led service chiefs to attend town hall meetings with state governors, traditional and religious leaders, members of the Legislature, non-governmental, youth and women organisations in different geo-political zones organized by the office of the National Security Adviser, Maj.-Gen. Babagana Mungono.
Speaking on the benefits of the town hall meeting held in Kaduna, Mungono said, the meetings are expected to provide a direct assessment of the security situation, generate local feedback and recommendations, encourage geopolitical synchronisation of effort among states, as well as create a pathway to lasting peace and security.
In his remarks, Gen. Irabor said the meeting was to intimate the governors and other leaders that the security situation in the North-west was of great concern to the federal government.
While in Ibadan, Gen. Irabor gave the assurance that the Nigeria Armed Forces was working assiduously to end all issues of insecurity in the country.
Clinging onto President Muhammadu Buhari’s charge upon appointing them service chiefs, Irabor, in his remarks, assured collaboration with other security agencies to address all issues of insecurity.
“The leadership hierarchy of the Nigeria Armed Forces changed very recently and we considered it expedient to go round to see our troops, officers to familiarise ourselves with them and beyond that to equally bring the charge of Mr President to them having being charged to take all measures necessary to address the various security challenges across the country in partnership with other security agencies.
“We have had specific interaction with our troops and we felt it necessary to let you know that we are working assiduously to address all issues that have to do with insecurity, of course, in partnership with other security agencies.
“We know that the military stands ready to give support to the authority and see that cases of insecurity are addressed holistically. We know that the police remain the first tier of internal security and where the police need the intervention of the Army, we stand very ready to give support to the police,” he said.
Also, in search of peace and national cohesion, the DHQ under General Irabor’s watch, recently organised a National Defence and Security Summit with the theme, “Promoting Kinetic Operations as a Major Plank for Counter Terrorism and Counter Insurgency in Nigeria” in Abuja recently.
The summit was attended by governors, ministers, military officers both retired and serving, and security experts. At the summit, different speakers noted that the security challenges were threatening the corporate existence of the country.
Welcoming the summit, the convener of Unity Advocacy Group (UAG), Ifeanyi Aigbedion, said it reflects determination by the present leadership of the Armed Forces of Nigeria under Gen. LEO Irabor to aggregate ideas from every section of the country to provide solution to the crisis in the country.
He said, “The summit is in line with the leadership philosophy of Gen. LEO Irabor, which is “To foster a professional Armed Force capable of effectively meeting constitutional imperatives.
“Bringing together the military and other relevant stakeholders, key players, departments, agencies etc by the DHQ is a welcome development.”
Support for military
Similarly, a security expert, Mr. Prince Effiong, has urged Nigerians to bury religious, ethnic and political differences and come together to establish a common front against forces threatening peaceful coexistence amongst the people.
He said it was time for men and women of good conscience to rise to the occasion and proffer solutions to the lingering insecurity in the country, and called on politicians to stop playing politics with security issues and refrain from making comments that could further degenerate the security situation in the country.
He added that unguarded comments by politicians could jeopardise the efforts of the military and morale of troops who stake their lives daily in the battlefield to ensure that Nigeria remains united.
“Nigerians can no longer deny the current level of insecurity and disharmony tearing the country apart. Although our troops have made decent gains recently in the fight against insurgency and bandits, we cannot shy away from the fact that the present insecurity and disharmony is capable of threatening the very foundation of our country.
“It is important for all of us to come together regardless of party affiliations and fashion out a workable and equitable solution to end this menace.”