Nigeria’s federal government on Friday defended its choice of Major General Farouk Yahaya as the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS), while also revealing plans to immortalise the former COAS, late General Ibrahim Attahiru and others that perished in a plane crash about a week ago in Kaduna State.
Defending its choice, the government insisted that contrary to public opinion, the appointment of Yahaya, who resumed duty on Friday, was based on national interest and not on ethnic and religious sentiments.
Also on Friday, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor, charged the new COAS to build on the legacy of his predecessor, Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, who died in a plane crash on Friday, May 21.
The appointment of the new COAS on Thursday had elicited fierce criticisms from a wide spectrum of Nigerians who alleged that other more qualified senior army generals were denied the position because they hailed from the south-eastern part of the country.
Critics also argued that the office of Army Chief had been restricted to Northerners in the six years Buhari has spent so far as President and that the President ought to have shifted a bit by picking the new Army Chief from among Southern Generals in the Army, so as to give the rest of the country a sense of belonging.
Apparently reacting to the criticisms friday, the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi said the appointment of Yahaya was strategic and was based on national interest and not on ethnic and religious sentiments.
The Minister, in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mohammad Abdulkadri, described the new Army Chief as “an organic infantry general who is tested and trusted to actualise the national aspirations to restore peace in the dark spots and areas of insurgency, kidnapping, and banditry, as well as other allied threats to the nation’s corporate existence.”
Magashi commended President Buhari “for the well thought-out strategic appointment of Yahaya as a replacement for the late Attahiru.
“With the appointment of General Yahaya, President Buhari has expediently put national interest above ethnic and religious chauvinism by fulfilling all requirements necessary. These include his unblemished track records of service, professional, command, and operational competencies among other yardsticks that culminated into his emergence as most suitably qualified new Army boss.”
The Defence Minister expressed optimism in the professional pedigree of General Yahaya, the former theatre Commander Operation “Hadin Kai”, in sustaining the trajectory of taking offensive and aggressive campaigns to the camps, corridors, and cells of the adversaries to obliterate them.
While pledging the support of the Ministry of Defence under his watch to the new Army boss in carrying out his mandate, the minister said plans were in the pipeline by the federal government to immortalise the late General Attahiru and others who died in the plane crash.
Yahaya is from Sokoto State and he was a member of the 37th Regular Course of the Nigerian Defence Academy.
The choice of Yahaya, according to independent analysis, means Nigeria would lose heavy investments made on about 60 army generals from the Army Regular Courses 35 and 36, who, by army tradition, have to proceed on summary retirement as a result of the choice of the new COAS, who belongs to the course 37 set.
Meanwhile, General Yahaya formally resumed duty as the nation’s Chief of Army Staff yesterday.
He took over during a ceremony held at the Army Headquarters in Abuja, where on arrival, he inspected a guard of honour at the sentry, thereafter, he proceeded to the conference room.
Before the commencement of the programme, he led others to observe a minute silence in honour of his late predecessor and 10 others, who died in the plane crash.
A statement by Army Spokesman, Brigadier-General Mohammed Yerima, said the newly appointed Chief of Army Staff was received at the Army Headquarters by the Chief of Policy and Plans (COPP) Army, Maj Gen BI Ahanotu and thereafter inspected a quarter guards mounted in his honour and the symbolic lowering and hoisting of command flag to signify the end and beginning of a new command in line with army traditions.
“General Yahaya later held a brief meeting with principal staff officers after observing a minute silence in honour of former COAS, late General Ibrahim Attahiru and 10 others. He requested maximum cooperation of the senior officers in order to achieve the mandate of safeguarding the country from the multifaceted security challenges facing the country”, the statement said.
The COAS further stressed “team work and synergy as the way forward for the Nigerian Army and the nation as no single individual or agency can make it alone”.
Making a point of what he expects, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, Friday charged the new COAS to build on the legacy of his predecessor, describing his appointment as well-deserved.
According to a statement by the Acting Director Defence Information, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, Irabor gave the charge when he hosted the new COAS at the Defence Headquarters (DHQ), Abuja on resumption of duty.
“I urge you to build on the legacy of your predecessor, particularly in the fight against insurgency and armed banditry,” declared the CDS.
The statement from the DHQ continues: “The CDS also wished him a successful tenure in office as he assumes command. General Irabor further urged the new COAS to build on the legacy of his predecessor, particularly in the fight against insurgency and banditry.” The COAS was accompanied on the visit by the Chief of Policy and Plans Headquarters Nigerian Army, Maj Gen Benjamin Ahanotu.
Highlight of the visit was the presentation of Nigerian Army flag to the new COAS by the CDS, Brigadier General Nwachukwu said in the statement.
President Buhari appointed Gen. Yahaya as the COAS on Thursday, May 27, 2021.
Charles Ajunwa in Lagos and Kingsley Nweze in Abuja