The new General Officer Commanding 3 Armoured Division, Major General Jack Okechukwu Nwaogbo prior to assuming command of 3 Armoured Division, had served as the Commander of the Nigerian Army Armoured Corps, an assignment which he was saddled with late in 2011 after he had already been appointed to the command of the Joint Security Task Force.
It would be recalled that earlier on in July 2011, he had emerged as pioneer Commander of the Joint Security Task Force – Operation Restore Order which is saddled with the responsibility of combating the insurgency which has its hotbed in Northeastern Nigeria.
General Nwaogbo is the first Nigerian from the Southeast region to rise to the command to the division since its creation forty five years ago – first as the 3 Marine Commando Division in August 1967 and later, its redesignation as the 3 Armoured Division in 1976.
The 3 Armoured Division and some brigades under it have over the years produced a rich turnover of some remarkable battlefield commanders who include, but have not been limited to, Brigadier General Benjamin Adekunle(Black Scorpion) and General Olusegun Obasanjo, GOCs of the Nigerian Civil War era in that order; Lt. Gen Joshua Dogonyaro and Brigadier General Adetunji Olurin, ECOMOG Field Commanders in Liberia.
Lt. General Joseph Owonibi, another erstwhile GOC served as Force Commander of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Liberia(UNMIL) while Major General Saleh Maina, also a former GOC, commanded battalions in Somalia and in the Bakassi Peninsula in the 1990s.
Following in the foregoing tradition of remarkable operators was the erstwhile Commander, 21 Armoured Brigade of the 3 Armoured Division, who later emerged as an acclaimed crisis manager and a charismatic battlefield commander in Sierra Leone, Brigadier General Maxwell Khobe of blessed memory. Khobe had earlier served as Commanding Officer of armoured/tank battalions in neighbouring Liberia.
Today, the Headquarters Garrison of the 3 Armoured Division at Rukuba in Jos is officially designated as the Maxwell Khobe Cantonment, in honour and loving memory of the late general who, on account of his battlefield heroics, put a brilliant shine on the image of the Nigerian Army and Nigeria during the ECOMOG years which spanned the 1990-2000 epoch. Khobe was more or less a national hero in Sierra Leone and stemming from his tactical brilliance and commitment, he got appointed as Chief of Defence Staff of the Republic of Sierra Leone, a position which he occupied until the time of his death.
His death at a Lagos(Nigeria) hospital in April 2000 was greeted with a massive outpouring of grief in Sierra Leone, with reports of people wailing on the streets of Freetown on account of the death of the beloved General, aged 50, arising from complications related to an improperly nursed injury sustained in the battlefields of Sierra Leone.
A SIERRA LEONEAN journalist writing about the person and career of KHOBE had this to say:
“Sierra Leoneans should also not forget in a hurry the gallant role played by late Gen. Maxwell Khobe, the ECOMOG kingpin that put his life on the line for the restoration of democracy in Sierra Leone. He led from the front the ECOMOG troops that triumphantly marched into Freetown,thus breathing new life into Freetonians that were literarily dead from threats and harassments perpetuated by the murderous junta.
Maxwell Khobe of blessed memory was shot alongside some of his men while gallantly leading the intervening forces around the central district of the city. He bravely lived with the pain as a result of some fragments lodged into his body until he finally gave up the ghost; but only after leading and setting the stage for the restructuring of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF).
With the return of President Kabbah – and Khobe heading the Army – state security was entirely in the hands of the Nigerian-led ECOMOG.”
2 October 2010
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(For further reading, use the search window on this blog to pull up the thread “KHOBE THE BRAVE” from our archives)
General Khobe’s funeral in his native Numan, Adamawa State of Nigeria, was attended by the President and Vice President of Sierra Leone as a measure of the high esteem in which he was held by most Sierra Leoneans.
Another erstwhile Commander of 21 Armoured Brigade of that division, Brigadier General Olagunsoye Oyinlola was probably the most proactive Commanding Officer of any Nigerian battalion during the 1990s intervention in Somalia.Oyinlola later emerged as Military Administrator of Lagos State and in 2003, as the elected Governor of his native Osun State.
Other notable commanders who emerged therefrom include Major General Festus Okonkwo who led the ECOMIL intervention in Liberia in 2003, proceeding thereafter to command the AMIS peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Sudan.
* All ranks quoted refer to the highest ranks attained by the officers at the times of their exit from the Nigerian Army