President Goodluck Jonathan once again pulled off another dramatic change of guard in the nation’s secutity set-up, when he reshuffled the top echelon of the Nigerian defence structure on Thursday, October 4, 2012.
The former Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim, was elevated to the position of Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, replacing Air Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, who has retired, while Rear Admiral Dele Ezeoba from Delta State was appointed as the new Chief of Naval Staff.
President Jonathan also appointed Air Vice Marshal Alex Sabundu Badeh from Adamawa State as the new Chief of Air Staff to replace Air Marshal Mohammed Dikko Umar, while Major General Onyeabor Azubuike Ihejirika retained his position as Chief of Army staff.
Before their appointments, Dele Ezeoba was the Chief of Administration at the Defence Headquarters, while Alex Badeh was the Air Officer Commanding, AOC, Training Command, Kaduna.
It was reported that the former service chiefs Petirin, Ihejirika, Ibrahim and Umar had been summoned to a meeting by Jonathan, who was said to have thanked them for their meritorious and commendable service to the country and wished them well in their future endeavours.
The meeting was subsequently followed by the removal of three of the service chiefs, via an announcement conveyed through a statement issued by Presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati.
The replaced service chiefs Oluseyi Peterin and Mohammed Dikko Umar were appointed in September 2010 alongside Azubuike Ihejirika, Vice Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim, following the retirement of the then Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshall Paul Dike. A new Inspector General of Police Mr. Hafiz Ringim and a new Director General of the State Security Services (SSS) Mr. Ita Ekpeyong were also appointed on the same day.
This recent reshuffle follows the dramatic sacking of former Poilce IG Hafiz Ringim in January 2012 who was replaced by M.D Abubakar and the appointment of Ibrahim Larmorde first in an acting capacity and then in February 2012, as the substantive Chairman of the SSS, after Farida Waziri was dramatically removed in November 2011.
The delay in the appointment of the new service chiefs, which was supposed to have been done in September 2012, and is now coming a month after the expiration of their tenures, is speculated to have been caused by the fact that President Jonathan was bent on choosing trusted officers with good track records to serve in such sensitive positions.
However, ethnic politics coupled with intensive lobbying by some influential groups putting pressure on the Presidency may also have played a part in the delay as the appointment of service chiefs usually reflects consideration for professionalism and geo-political zones for balance.
The delay in the announcement was also said to have caused some disquiet within the military constituency as it was learnt that President Jonathan had quietly extended the tenures of the old service chiefs by one month to October 4, 2012, but it was later suggested that the President may have acted with this magnanimity to enable them to celebrate the 52nd independence anniversary in active service as a way of showing his appreciation to the service chiefs for their noble service to the country.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s retention of Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika as chief of army staff has also been described in some quarters as a “tactical move” to manage tension within the armed forces, as he had been strongly tipped as one of the topmost contenders to replace Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, as Chief of Defence Staff following the retirement of Peterin.
A very reliable source in the Presidency had hinted that President Jonathan had actually decided to elevate Lt Gen Ihejirika to Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), replacing Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, who was eventually retired ON Thursday October 4, 2012, and had already penciled in Maj.-Gen Kenneth Minimah, GOC 81 Division, to take upthe position as the new chief of army staff.
However, it was gathered that the president had to change his mind at the eleventh hour when he discovered that there were still many army generals who were senior to General Minimah in hierarchy and rank and for the president to appoint General Kenneth Minimah as new chief of army staff, would have meant that many senior officers in the army would have had to be retired prematurely.
Among those suggested to have been in contention for the post of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) were Major-General Lawrence Ngubane, Major-General JA Okunbor, Major-General MD Abubakar and Major-General Sarkin Yaki Bello, Head of Counter Terrorism, office of the National Security Adviser (NSA).
Maj Gen Minimah was, before his appointment as GOC 81 Division, the brigade commander, 1 Brigade, Sokoto, and was also a principal staff officer to a former defence minister and if the President had succeded with the appointment it would have been similar to what happened in 1985, when the then military Head of State General Ibrahim Babangida appointed Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe as the Chief of General Staff and his second-in-command ahead of several other senior officers in the Navy and Armed forces; a move which was greeted with deep anger and seething amongst the high ranking cadre of the Navy, including the late Admiral Augustus Aikhomu who eventually replaced him.
It was however hinted that Lt. General Ihejirika would occupy his present position as Chief of Army Staff for the next one year before General Mininah could be considered for the position, to allow other senior military officers to attain their retirement age or years in service.
Vice Admiral Ibrahim’s appointment as the new Chief of Defence was also greatly influenced by the fact that he is the most senior of other three service Chiefs, following the retirement of Air Marshall Oluseyi Peterin. President was said to have been guided in appointing the CDS, by certain factors such as seniority and an unwritten principle of rotation in the Armed Forces. Peterin was from the Air Force just like his predecessor Air Chief Marshall Paul Dike. Ibrahim is from the Navy, The last CDS from the Army was Gen. Owoye Azazi (May 25,2007 –Aug 20, 2008).
Nigeria has had six Chiefs of Defence Staff since the advent of this democratic dispensation from 1999 to 2012. Only one out of the six, Admiral Ibrahim Ogohi (1999-2003) has come from the Navy. Vice Admiral Ibrahim is only the second.
PROFILES OF THE NEW SERVICE CHIEFS
Born on 15 June 1955 and graduate of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna and the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, where he trained with the Royal and Indian navies. As a Navigation and Direction Specialist, he holds a Bachelor of Laws Degree from Ahmadu Bello University. He was at the Royal College of Defence Studies, UK as a member in 2002, where he, in addition obtained a Master’s Degree from the Department of War Studies and Public Policy at the Kings College, University of London.
He had tours of duty on Nigerian Naval Ships in various capacities and is decorated with the Command of Sea Badge for successful command at Sea on various Nigerian Naval Ships. He was a Directing Staff and a Chief Instructor at the Department of Maritime Warfare, Armed forces Command and Staff College, Jaji. He was Secretary to the Chief of the Naval Staff before being appointed to command the naval operations base, Nigerian Naval Ship BEECROFT in 2001.
In 2003, Admiral Ibrahim served as Commander Naval Task Group. Operation HARMONY in the Eastern Naval command, Calabar before he went to the National Defence College Nigeria as a Directing Staff later same year. He left the National Defence College for the Naval Headquarters as Navy Secretary in August 2005. He returned to the College as Director Curriculum and Programmes Development in May 2006. It was from this appointment that he headed back to the Naval Headquarters as Chief of Administration and subsequently Chief of Training and Operations.
In February 2009, he was appointed Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, the appointment he held till his elevation as the Chief of the Naval Staff on 8 September 2010. He was subsequently elevated to the position of Chief of Defence Staff on 4 Oct 12.
Vice Admiral Ibrahim is decorated with the Distinguished Service Star (DSS) and the Golden Jubilee Medal. He is happily married with children and his hobbies include jogging, reading, photography and dialectics.
Rear Admiral Dele Joseph Ezeoba:
Born on 25 July 1958 in Jos, Plateau State although he hails from Ibusa in Oshimili- North Local Government Area of Delta State. A graduate of the Nigerian Defence Academy Kaduna Regular Course 22 and the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, he trained at various times with the United States, Royal and Indian navies. Rear Admiral Dele Joseph is a Navigation and Direction Specialist and holds a Master of Science Degree in Strategic Studies from the University of Ibadan.
He has had tours of duty on-board several Nigerian Naval Ships in various capacities and successfully commanded different classes of Nigerian Naval Ships including the nation’s flagship, Nigerian Naval Ship ARADU. He was a Directing Staff at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji and the National Defence College, Abuja. He would later return to the Defence College as Director Curriculum and Programmes Development.
He also served as the Director of Operations and later as the Chief of Training and Operations at the Naval Headquarters. It was from this appointment that he was appointed as the Deputy Commandant of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji. Thereafter, he was appointed as the Chief of Administration at the Defence Headquarters, the appointment he held till his elevation to the present appointment of the Chief of the Naval Staff on 4 October 2012.
He is a member Royal Institute of Navigation and the US Naval Institute. He is decorated with the Distinguished Service Star (DSS) and the Golden Jubilee Medal. He is happily married to Vivian Ifeyinwa Ezeoba and the family is blessed with children. His hobbies include reading, golf and football.
Born in Vimtim, Mubi North Local Government Area, Adamawa State on 10 January 1957. He attended the Villanova Secondary School, Numan, Adamawa State, where he obtained School Certificate in June 1976. He was admitted into the Nigerian Defence Academy as a member of the 21 Regular Course on 3 January 1977, and was commissioned pilot officer on on 3 July 1979. He was promoted Air Vice Marshal on 3 January 2008.
He started his flying career at the 301 Flying Training School on the Bulldog Primary Trainer aircraft in 1979. Between 1981 and 82, he attended the Undergraduate Pilot Training at Vance Air Force Base in the United States Air Force.
He attended the Junior Division course at Armed Forces Command and Staff College in 1988, and the senior division course at same institution between 1995 and 1996. He attended the National War College Nigeria as a member of Course 14 and graduated in August 2006. He was at the University of Ibadan for MSc in Strategic Studies.
He has held several appointments, among which are Staff Officer 2 Operations at Training Command, CO Administration, Operations Support and Operations Wings, and then the office of Fleet Operations Officer all in the Presidential Air Fleet and then Commander Presidential Air Fleet from June 2002 to 25 October 2004. He also held the offices of Command Training officer at Training Command, Deputy Director Training and Director of Research at the Defence HQ. AVM Badeh was a Directing Staff and Director National Military Strategy at the National Defence College. The senior officer is a Qualified Flying Instructor and has accumulated over 6000 flying hours on the Bulldog 123, Do 128-6, Do 228, Hawker 125, Hawker 1000, Falcon 900 and Gulfstream 5 airplanes.
He has extensive International Flight Operations experience. Until his appointment as Chief of the Air Staff, he was the Air Officer Commanding Training Command, Kaduna. His decorations are DSS, psc, fdc (+), MSc.
AVM Badeh is happily married to Mary Iyah and they are blessed with 3 children: two boys and a girl. His hobbies are watching and playing Golf.
Onyeabo Azubuike Ihejirika was born on February 13, 1956 in Ovim, Isuikwuato Local Government Area, Abia State. He commissioned into the army on December 17, 1977 as a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy 18th regular combatant course. Prior to being appointed COAS, he was the Chief of Defence Logistics at Defence Headquarters. He was also the former GOC of 81 Division at Lagos, and a former Director of Engineering at Defence Headquarters.
A hoodoo of sorts was broken by the appointment of Azubuike Ihejirika as the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS) IN 2010. He is the first Igbo COAS since 1966, when Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi was the GOC of the Nigerian army.
Lt General Ihejirika had been strongly tipped as the new Chief of Defence staff to replace Air Marshall Oluseyi Peterin, but the appointment had been temporarily shelved because President Jonathan’s favoured candidate to replace him as Chief of Army Staff, Maj. General Kenneth Minimah still had several higher ranking officers ahead of him and the appointment would have been greeted with great discontent in the military, which would have been a very dangerous proposition especially with the present fragile security situtuation in the country today.