President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday appointed the immediate past Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Tukur Buratai (rtd) and other former service chiefs as non-career ambassadors, subject to the confirmation of the Senate.
They are: Gen Abayomi G. Olonisakin (rtd ), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas (rtd), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar (rtd), and Air Vice Marshal Mohammed S. Usman (rtd).
Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, had, in a statement announced the appointments in a statement: “In accordance with section 171 (1), (2) (c) & sub-section (4) of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, I have the honour to forward for confirmation by the Senate, the under-listed five (5) names of nominees as Non-Career Ambassadors-Designate,” read a letter the President sent to Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, President of the Senate.
The president appointed the ex-service chiefs in 2015 and refused to bow to the pressure to relieve them of their duties until they “voluntarily resigned”.
Different stakeholders had asked the President to inject fresh hands into the war against insecurity due to the rising insecurity across the country.
The president had last week appointed new service chiefs: Major-General Lucky Irabor, Chief of Defence Staff; Major-General Ibrahim Attahiru, Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, Chief of Naval Staff and Air-Vice Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amao, Chief of Air Staff.
In a chat with Daily Trust on Thursday, Yinka Odumakin, the spokesman of the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, said the appointment of the ex-service chiefs as non-career ambassadors was a reward “for cooperating with his nepotistic agenda.”
“It is a reward for cooperating with his (Buhari’s) nepotistic agenda. We saw how our soldiers were accompanying herders to harass communities. Is that the work of our Armed forces?”
According to Afenifere, the implication of the president’s action is that “there is no agenda to keep the country as one entity by this administration.”
‘It’s president’s prerogative’
The Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Northern Elders’ Forum, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said the appointment of the former service chiefs as non-career ambassadors “is entirely the prerogative of the president.
“If he believes that they have served their nation well enough and they deserve to be appointed ambassadors, no one will quarrel with him.
“But they have to go through the legislative process of confirmation. That is what the law says.”
Diplomatic, security experts differ
The president, Association of Foreign Relations Professionals of Nigeria, Ambassador Gani Lawal, said: “Some African countries may accept as a result of solidarity with Nigeria.
“There may be some hesitations on the part of other countries to accept them.”
An international relations expert, Omo-Oba Abdulrasheed, said there was nothing wrong with their appointment, describing it as “a round peg in a round hole.”
He also disagreed that their military background would affect their acceptability.
A former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Bulus Lolo, said the constitution does not bar the president from appointing whomever he wills as ambassadors.
A retired diplomat, Ambassador Sani Saulawa Bala, said the relationship between Nigeria and host countries would determine whether they would give agreemo, saying though some might not be comfortable with individuals with a military background.
It is plot to shield former service chiefs from investigation — PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party said the appointment of the ex-service chiefs as ambassadors was a plot to shield them from the investigation over alleged killings of innocent Nigerians “and crimes against humanity under their inglorious watch.”
In a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP charged the Senate to eschew all partisan considerations and stand on the side of the people.
The party said: “ It’s indeed sacrilegious and a horrible assault on the sensibility of Nigerians that the APC government is seeking to use ambassadorial appointments as a desperate measure to secure diplomatic immunity for the former commanders and protect them from investigation, arrest and possible prosecution by the International Criminal Court for the atrocities committed against innocent Nigerians under their command.”
Also speaking, the spokesman of the Coalition of United Political Parties, Chukwudi Ezeobika, said: “We call on the Nigerian Senate to decline this unjustified request and dutifully decline such confirmation as requested”.
By Muideen Olaniyi, Abdullateef Salau, Hamisu Kabir Matazu, Abass Jimoh, Idowu Isamotu (Abuja), Lami Sadiq (Kaduna) & Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos)