An essential quality of focused leadership is the ability to make adequate preparations for succession and the continuation of great visions and programmes.
To that extent, it might well be the case that the incumbent Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Onyeabo Ihejirika who has provided strong leadership for the Army’s ongoing incorporation of core counterinsurgency and counterterrorism skills as added-on comptencies, appears to have without prejudice to his own good work,commenced the grooming of a pool of officers from which a future Chief of Army Staff is almost certain to emerge.
The earliest indicators to the effect that a grooming process of some sort commenced shortly after Lieutenant General Ihejirika’s emergence as Chief of Army Staff when, in a departure from the post-1999 norm, two Brigadiers General of the Nigerian Defence Academy Regular Course 25 (hereinafter referred to as ‘RC 25’) got appointed as General Officers Commanding(GOCs) of the 2 Mechanised Division and the 82 Division in October 2010.
It represented a break from the norm which since 1999, has seen only substantive Major Generals getting appointed to the command of army divisions as is the norm internationally. The officers were eventually elevated to the rank of Major General in December 2010 but the significance of their emergence was not in doubt.
Most of the RC 25 officers belong to that pool of first-rate talent and most of whom had already held command positions at the levels of battalions, regiments and brigades and boast extensive experience in combat and peacekeeping missions from Liberia to Sierra Leone, Somalia to the Balkans, the Bakassi Peninsula to the Niger Delta and in the North.
Some of these RC 25 officers have since then moved on to the command of divisions, military/security task forces which are the size of two or more brigades and various corps of the Nigerian Army.
Some of these officers, in no particular order, include but are not limited to
* Major General MD Abubakar – GOC 2 Mechanised Division
* Major General Ebi Awala, Commander, Nigerian Army Armoured Corps
* Major General Jack Nwaogbo, GOC 3 Armoured Division, immediate past Commander of the Nigerian Army Armoured Corps and pioneer Commander of the Joint Security Task Force – OP RESTORE ORDER
* Major General Kenneth Minimah aka “Jumping General” – GOC 81 Division. As a 50 year old Brigadier General, Minimah was still leading officer cadets to jump from airplanes as part of their training regimen.
* Major General Ugo Buzugbe – Military Secretary(Army), who attained the rank of Major General at the age of 48 (a very rare feat in the post-1997 Nigerian Army) and after a 32-year stint in the Army. A first-rate and personable officer, he is said to have topped his graduating class.
Elsewhere, Beegeagle’s Blog had earlier pointed out the great disparity in seniority between officers on the rank of Major General which represents the upward limit in an Army where the ONLY Lieutenant General is by Nigerian convention, the holder of the office of the Chief of Army Staff.
Stemming from the fact of having enlisted at a time when there were two intakes annually(at intervals of six months), there are Major Generals who have 33 years of service under their boots and there are others who have been in service for 36-37 years.
Indeed, the most senior Major Generals such as the Force Commander, United Nations Mission in South Sudan(UNMISS) Moses Obi (RC 18) enlisted in June 1975 during the Gowon regime and is a coursemate of the Chief of Army Staff while the Commander, Training and Doctrine Command(TRADOC) JA Okunbor, is a highly cerebral Sandhurst-trained (RC 19) officer who enlisted in January 1976 during the regime of General Murtala Muhammed.
Standing in between these most senior Major Generals(of RC 18 and RC 19) and the officers of RC 25 who enlisted in December 1978, there are many other senior Major Generals who include MD Isah (Commander of the Corps of Infantry) and the well-respected duo of Emeka Onwuamaegbu(Commandant, Nigerian Defence Academy), Joseph Shoboiki who until February 2012, was GOC 1 Mechanised Division and Sarkin-Yaki Bello, the Coordinator of Counterterrorism in the Office of the National Security Adviser who previously served with distinction as JTF Commander in the Niger Delta and GOC 82 Division. There is also the duo of Army Heaquarters branch chiefs Lawrence Ngubane, Chief of Training and Operations(Army) and Edet Bassey, Chief of Administration(Army)
However, it is believed that the majority of Major Generals in the Regular Course 19-24 intakes are approaching their run-out dates, the reason why the RC 25 intake most of whom have between three and five years left to their run-out dates appear to have that major factor tipped in their favour. At the time of writing this article, four of the GOCs of the Army’s five divisions and two Corps Commanders of teeth arms – Armour and Artillery are officers of the RC 25 intake.
Be that as it may, it must be pointed out that eligibility for appointment to the post of Chief of Army Staff has not always been limited to officers with Regular Combatant Commissions. Indeed, during the pre-1999 military regimes, a turnover of officers who enlisted into the Nigerian Army with Short Service Combatant Commissions (albeit later regularised by conversion) was recorded. These included Major General MC Alli (SSC 2), Major General Alwali Kazir (SSC 3) and Lieutenant General Ishaya Rizi Bamaiyi (SSC 4).
To that extent, the incumbent General Officer Commanding, 1 Mechanised Infantry Division in the person of the Ilorin-born blueblood, Major General Garba Ayodele Wahab, a Short Service Course 22 officer who is about a year junior to the aforementioned RC 25 officers is considered to be a strong contender for the post of Chief of Army Staff at some point in the future.
Born on the 27th of August 1958,the well-respected Wahab is a graduate of Political Science from University of Lagos and an alumnus of the Royal College of Defence Studies.He holds two postgraduate degrees in Defence Studies and International Relations from Kings College,London.
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