Retirement is dangling on 30 Army Generals who are members of courses 35 and 36 of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) following the appointment of Major-General Farouk Yahaya, who is of course 37 as the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS).
In the military tradition, if a junior General is appointed as the army chief, Generals who are his seniors are retired.
President Muhammadu Buhari, Thursday, named Yahaya, who hails from Sokoto State as the replacement for the late Army Chief, Lt.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru.
Attahiru and 10 other military officers died last Friday in a plane crash, while on an official trip to Kaduna. The victims had since been buried in line with military tradition.
The Acting Director, Defence Information, Brig.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, while announcing the appointment in a statement made available to newsmen in Abuja said the President named Yahaya to pilot the affairs of the Nigerian Army.
“The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari has appointed Major General Farouk Yahaya as the new Chief of Army Staff.
“Prior to his appointment, Major General Yahaya was the General Officer Commanding 1 Division of the Nigerian Army and the incumbent Theatre Commander of the Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Insurgency military outfit in the North East, code-named Operation HADIN KAI,” the statement read.
Shortly after the announcement of Yahaya’s appointment, sources in the Nigerian Army told Daily Trust that the appointment might force not less than 30 Generals in regiment Course 35 and 36 to retire.
The announcement put to rest, the speculations that Buhari might appoint the incumbent Army Chief of Policy and Plans, Major General Benjamin Ahanotu, from Anambra State as Attahiru’s successor.
While late Attahiru was a member of Course 35 alongside Major General Ahanotu and one other officer, not less than 28 members of Course 36 including Maj.-Gen. Sagir Yaro, who was recently appointed as the Commandant of the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA), may also be affected.
Speaking to Daily Trust, a military source explained that the new COAS was senior to eight officers of Course 36 having been promoted to the rank of Major General in September 2017.
‘Some generals might be retained’
It was gathered that although many of the senior officers might retire, the new COAS might assemble some of them considering the need to tap on their experiences in the ongoing counter-insurgency campaign in the North-East.
“Course 34 has gone; the late COAS was course 35. Thirty generals may be retired; two of them are of course 35 while 28 of them are of course 36. But the new COAS may retain some of them. He would use his discretion. He would want his coursemates to be around him. Some may be posted to the defence headquarters,” the source stated.
Who is Major-General Yahaya?
The new COAS, Major General Yahaya was born on 5 January 1966 in Sifawa, Bodinga LGA of Sokoto State.
Major General Yahaya who is a member of the 37 Regular Course of the prestigious Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), started his cadet training on 27 September 1985 and was commissioned into the Nigerian Army Infantry Corps on 22 September 1990.
He had held several appointments including Staff, Instructional and Command.
Notable among the appointments held by the new COAS are Garrison Commander Headquarters Guards Brigade, Directing Staff at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Deputy Director Army Headquarters Department of Military Secretary, Deputy Director Army Research and Development and the Chief of Staff, Headquarters Joint Task Force Operation Pulo Shield.
He also served as the Principal General Staff Officer (PGSO) to the Honourable Minister of Defence, the Commander, Headquarters 4 Brigade and 29 Task Force Brigade (Operation Zaman Lafiya), Director Manpower at the Army Headquarters, Military Secretary, Army Headquarters and General Officer Commanding (GOC) Headquarters 1 Division of the Nigerian Army.
Until his appointment as the COAS, he was the Theatre Commander Operation HADIN KAI responsible for Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Insurgency operations in North-East Nigeria.
Take fight to insurgents, expert charges Yahaya
Reacting to the appointment in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, a retired military officer and security expert, Major Bashir Galma (rtd), urged the new COAS to show the same zeal his predecessor showed in tackling insurgency in the Northeast.
He said, “Late Ibrahim Attahiru showed that he came with the zeal to perform well by getting rid of these elements around the Borno area. May his soul rest in peace. What I am going to say is that the new chief is not different from the other chiefs, they were all in that very theatre together.
“If you see him doing anything differently from what all the other chiefs have been doing, it is a matter of flexibility, not that he has anything different to come out with.”
Major Galma also urged Nigerians to jettison sentiments over the appointment, saying it is expedient that Nigerians put national interest above ethnicity or religion.
He won’t disappoint Nigerians – Kinsmen
Meanwhile, the emergence of the new COAS was greeted with high expectations among Nigerians, particularly in his home State, Sokoto which has been experiencing banditry for years.
Commenting on his appointment, the Chief Imam of Sifawa, Dr Ibrahim Liman said the General had recorded great performance during his school days as he was always leading in his class.
He described him as humble and philanthropic, adding that he is the type who is always open to advice.
“He recently supported over 500 orphans and elderly in the area and has been supportive to community services,” he said.
Liman, who is the cousin to the new army chief, added that people have confidence in his ability to restore peace in the country and “we will fervently pray for him.”
Similarly, the Commissioner of Land and Housing, Alhaji Aminu Bala Bodinga, who is a friend to the new chief of army staff, said his friend has the experience and all that it takes to end insecurity in Nigeria.
APC sets agenda for new COAS
On its part, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) said it welcomed President Muhammadu Buhari’s choice and appointment of Major General Farouk Yahaya as the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS).
The APC in a statement yesterday by Secretary of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, John James Akpanudoedehe, urged the new Chief of Army Staff to consolidate on the successes recorded by the military in tackling all security threats in the country.
The party said it was satisfied that the President Buhari-led administration had “prioritised” the provision of more and advanced equipment for the armed forces to fight insecurity.
“On behalf of the National Chairman of the Party’s Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), H.E. Governor Mai Mala Buni, we urge the new Chief of Army Staff to consolidate on the successes recorded by the military in tackling all security threats in the country.
“This could be achieved and deepened sustainably through increased collaboration among the security services and communities. More vigilance and increased cooperation and support through sharing information can pave the way for faster mopping up the remnants of the insurgents and ending banditry and kidnapping in parts of the country.
“A battlefield commander with considerable experience, Major General Farouk Yahaya will, as Chief of Army Staff, lead a thoroughly professional, adequately equipped and highly motivated officers and troops in their duty of protecting the territorial integrity of our country.
“We are confident that the new Chief of Army Staff will repose the President’s confidence in him by doing everything to stem the tide of insecurity. The success of the military is our collective success as a party and nation,” the party said.
By Idowu Isamotu, Saawua Terzungwe (Abuja) & Abubakar Auwal (Sokoto)