Ex Service Chiefs: Turning screening to stewardship account 



The screening exercise conducted by the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs for the immediate past Service Chiefs as non – career ambassadorial nominees last week Thursday, was largely dominated by the problem of insecurity in the land, vis – a – vis,  efforts made by nominees in tackling it while in office. TAIYE ODEWALE reports. 

Since January this year, when President Muhammadu Buhari appointed the immediate past service chiefs along with former Chief of Defence Intelligence, Air Vice Marshall Mohammed  Sani Usman, as non – career ambassadorial nominees and requested for their appointments’ confirmation by the Senate, their actions and inactions while in office on the security challenges in the land have defined public commentaries.

For most commentators, appointing the immediate past service chiefs as non – career Ambassadors by President Muhammadu Buhari, was unacceptable, going by their alleged abysmal performances in office as service chiefs.

The nominees namely: the former Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin ( rtd), former Chief of Army Staff , Lt- General Yusuf Tukur Buratai ( rtd), former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Abubakar Sadique ( rtd) and former Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral  Ibok – Ete Ibas ( rtd), were in the eye of the storm for alleged shoddy performances as service chiefs.

The appointments, according to most of the commentators and some pressure groups in the country, were more of rewarding failures with new assignments than anything else.

They alleged that the spate of insecurity in the land worsened during the tenures of the service chiefs, now being undeservedly rewarded with ambassadorial positions.

Expectedly, during the separate  screening sessions they had with members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, questions fired at them, dwelt more on worsening state of insecurity in the country than required knowledge and competence for the new positions about to be given to them, as non – career Ambassadors of Nigeria in different countries of the world.

First to be confronted with such questions of stewardship by members of the committee, was the immediate past Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin ( rtd ), who  attributed the problem of festering  insecurity in the country to the inability of respective state governments
to properly manage and secure over 1,000 forest reserves in their states.

He said: “I  want to say that solutions  to the multi – facetted problems of  insecurity in the country are broader than what the nation has been doing in the past years .

“The warfare being faced now is not conventional, which can be easily confronted and defeated with required strategies but asymmetric and hybrid in nature.

“It is not about kinetics. Kinetics gives only a 35 per cent success rate in any war we are fighting. It is a national approach that must be properly galvanized for us to actually surmount the insecurity.

“I will say three years ago, I conducted research on the forests in the country. I realized we have over 1,000 forest reserves. I sent the team to Kenya. They went to Kenya and brought out a paper and I said then, three years ago that our next crisis will be in the forest. 

“Some governors were invited and we told them because most of the forests are the prerogative of states. The states took over all the forest reserves. I told them that we have to protect the forests. We have to send troops to protect the forests. 

“We did the research in 2018 for six months. I said that the next problem we are going to have is in the forests. But again, it is with us right now. It requires a multifaceted approach.

“Everyone has to come on board for us to be able to address the insecurity situation. You can never have enough weapons, personnel and so on but there are issues we must address and then it has to be all about the nation”.

Also giving reasons for the unabated problem of insecurity in the country, particularly, the Boko Haram Insurgency in the North East, Buratai while facing the committee reiterated that it may take the country 20 years to eliminate Boko Haram insurgency.

His words: “My state (Borno), is an epicentre, where this indoctrination has penetrated so deep. They (insurgents) have won the communities to their side. That is why they (communities) keep Boko Haram. So it is complex, it requires a whole of government approach to solve this, military action or activity is just one aspect.

“One mistake that we have been making is that only the military can solve this. It is not. There are political, social, economic aspects that need to be addressed.

“Development should be progressive, there should be roads everywhere, there should be employment, schools, hospitals all over. 

“Yesterday (Wednesday last week), I counted five Local Government Areas in Borno state that do not have good access roads to those places.

“In northwest, northcentral, there are so many ungovernable spaces, which the insurgents are penetrating. The places don’t have schools, hospitals and so on and education is very fundamental.

“Unless these things are done, this insecurity will continue because the  truth must be told. It may take another 20 years for the country to surmount the problem of insurgency and that is the truth.”

The story was not different when the former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Abubakar Sadique, former Chief of Naval Staff , Vice Admiral  Ibok – Ete Ibas and former Chief of Defence Intelligence,  Air Vice Marshal Mohammed Sani Usman, appeared before the Committee and confronted with the stewardship rendering questions .

Specifically, the former Intelligence Chief lamented over lack of synergy among the various security agencies, as one of the reasons for the lingering  security challenges the country is facing.

However, they all separately assured the committee members that they will do well in the new assignments about to be given to them as non – career Ambassadors, having been involved in military diplomacy with other countries  of the world while in service, particularly during the period they served as service chiefs.

Since no written petition was submitted by any person or group of persons against confirmation of their appointments by the Senate as requested for by President Muhammadu Buhari, the committee headed by Senator Adamu Muhammad Bulkachuwa (APC Bauchi North) , will definitely recommend for their confirmation in its report. 

But the question is , will such a report be easily approved on the floor of the Senate when tabled for consideration, going by antagonism already expressed against such by some Senators across party lines, while debating motion on general insecurity in Nigeria last week Tuesday?

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