The failure of President Goodluck Jonathan to name new Service Chiefs or extend the tenures of the incumbents has led to sit tight drama in the top hierarchy of the nation’s military. Four Service Chiefs are holding onto office, almost a week after their tenures expired on September 8, this year, Peoples Daily learnt on good authority yesterday in Abuja.
They are Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Marshall Oluseyi Petinrin, Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Mohammed Umar and Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Ola Saad Ibrahim.
They were all appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan on September 8, 2010, for a two-year term, which is renewable by another two years.
However, as at yesterday, there had been no official statement from the Presidency, saying whether the four top defence chiefs have had their tenures extended or new ones appointed.
President Jonathan returned from a trip to Malawi over the weekend after an earlier one to the Caribbean.
A top source at Defence Headquarters, Abuja, yesterday confirmed to Peoples Daily that the tenures of the service chiefs have lapsed by few days.
However, he would not be drawn on detail, saying that only the “Presidency is in the position” to provide it.
On its part, the Presidency was unreachable last night. Presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, simply would not pick calls put through to his cell phone. We also failed to reach Dr. Doyin Okupe, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs.
On August 22, 2012, Peoples Daily reported exclusively that President Jonathan was having problem appointing a new COAS, and this, as a result, has delayed the naming of new heads for the other services.
We had reported that Jonathan’s dilemma stemmed from how he would make the expected changes without upsetting the country’s delicate geo-politics.
“Delicate geo-political balancing is believed to be the main reason why President Goodluck Jonathan has not named replacements for the nation’s Defence and Service Chiefs which have become necessary because the incumbent holder of the office of Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshall Oluseyi Petirin is due for retirement soon.
“Peoples Daily learnt authoritatively last night that the current Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika, is President Jonathan’s favourite to replace Petirin as CDS but he has not been named because getting his own replacement as COAS is proving a hard nut to crack for the President.
“This is because the position is very sensitive, a source said, because the Army is the largest of the three armed services – bigger than the other two (Navy and Air Force) combined.
“Peoples Daily learnt authoritatively last night at the heart of the matter is the very sensitive position of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), presently held by Lt.-General Azubuike Ihejirika. It is sensitive because it is the largest of the three services – Army, Navy and Air Force.
“For the position of COAS, we gathered there are three prospective candidates. These are Major General Kenneth K. J. Minimah, presently General Officer Commanding (GOC), 81 Division of the Nigeria Army; Maj. Gen. Babagana Mongunu, Chief of Logistics, Defence Headquarters; and Maj. Gen. Sarki-Yaki Bello, national Coordinator of Counter-terrorism in the Office of National Security Adviser (NSA).
However, picking the right man from this shortlist is the horn of dilemma President Jonathan sits on right now because any choice he makes is pregnant with political implications.
“Peoples Daily has learnt that Gen. Minimah’s candidacy for COAS was aggressively pushed by the former NSA, Gen. Andrew Owoeye Azazi because he wanted a fellow south-south officer in charge of an Army he feared the President had no control over.
“However, what may count against him is that he is a member of Regular Cadet Course 25 of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), commissioned on December 18, 1981, along with six others.
“An infantry officer, Minimah was promoted to Maj. Gen on January 3, 2010, and so were the others.
“The one big problem for the Presidency, according to our sources, is that if Minimal is named as COAS, it will mean all his superiors, 27 in number, will have to be retired as tradition demands.
“However, this mass retirement of Army Generals, over a dozen from the North, is something a President who suspects he does not enjoy the full confidence of the top Army hierarchy, can afford at this time.