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‘Tenure extension for CDS, service chiefs stifles professionalism’

By Lawrence Njoku (Enugu), Seye Olumide (Lagos) and Segun Olaniyi (Abuja)
20 December 2017   |   4:30 am
The decision by President Muhammadu Buhari to extend the tenure of the chief of defence staff and service chiefs continues to draw diverse reactions...

President Muhammadu Buhari (left), Chief of Defence Staff, Major-General Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin, Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas and Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA

• Ohanaeze silent as Afenifere, Arewa youths differ
The decision by President Muhammadu Buhari to extend the tenure of the chief of defence staff and service chiefs continues to draw diverse reactions across the country amid allegations that the move has political undertones and could undermine the career of other military officers.

While the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, maintained silence, the Yoruba Afenifere flayed the decision.

The President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, told The Guardian: “Silence is golden,” stressing he would “prefer to watch things unfold as the administration continues in office.”

The former President General of the body, Chief Dozie Ikedife, was also restrained in his reaction. “I don’t think personally that I should start a battle until the full implication of his action is understood. We will wait and see what he has in mind,” he said.

Buhari had promised to address imbalances in appointments as well as other issues in the country following allegations of marginalisation by Ohanaeze Ndigbo and other Igbo groups, and clamour for secession by pro-Biafra groups, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).

But the Spokesman for Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said: “Mr. President himself being a retired military officer, who rose to the post of Major General and Head of State should have better understanding of the fact that other officers’ careers would be affected negatively with the decision he took, which of course is not fair and is professionally wrong.”

He also faulted the move on the ground that it was part of the administration’s ploy ahead of the 2019 elections to suppress the opposition with military might. “I don’t see the reason for extending the tenure of the current service chiefs except and unless he would prove there are no other competent officers to continue the battle against the Boko Haram insurgents in the country.”

According to him, “The present service chiefs are mere instruments in the hands of Mr. President to perpetrate himself and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in power in 2019.”

He noted: “It would also continue the current domination of the military environment by the Hausa/Fulani sections of the country,” adding: “If you take a critical look, the entire service chiefs, except one, are all from one northern section of the nation.

“Apart from these, there also about 17 other services chiefs in other paramilitary organisations across the country dominated by the northern section. It is therefore unreasonable and suspicious of Mr. President to have extended the tenure of the chiefs. ”

But the President, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shetima, said there was nothing extraordinary about the development. According to him, “Considering the great job the service chiefs have been doing in terms of containing insurgencies across the country, they need to be encouraged. Bringing in new people now would not help our situation, as a nation, because the new ones would have to start learning.” He said since the tenure of the Buhari government would soon end, there was no need to change a winning team.

However, Col. Tony Nyiam (rtd), a former member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue under the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, said Buhari might have taken the decision based on the trust he has in the chiefs, and “which to some extent, I would support, on the premise that when the country was in crises, they held the nation together.”

In a statement, pro-democracy and non-governmental organisation, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) criticised the extension.

It said: “The unprecedented third term extension of the tenure of offices of the current serving chiefs will inevitably create ethical issues of skewed reward system; it will create increasing levels of lack of professionalism and would ultimately lead to personalisation and politicisation of the constitutional offices of service chiefs.”

The rights group said the Boko Haram counter-terror war cited as an excuse did not justify the illegality because the terrorists increased the sophistication of their suicide bombing campaigns during the tenure of the chiefs.

It said: “We think the current third term extension for the military service chiefs by President Buhari is aimed at obtaining undue political leverage and partisan advantage towards the 2019 presidential polls, since the service chiefs would now view their continuous extra-legal stay in offices as special favours from the holder of the political office of president.

“These favours will inevitably put them in the unprofessional quagmire of serving the partisan interest of the incumbent president who is being railroaded to run for a second term, even when his ongoing chequered first tenure has seen over 100 million Nigerians becoming poverty stricken and the costs of living skyrocketing to an abysmal level, with pump prices of petroleum products reaching an all-time high beyond the affordability of millions of Nigerians.

“This undue favouritism will undermine professionalism in the military and will dissuade officers who are supposed to rise to their peak. This will lead to lack of motivation.”