…Minimah calls for global action against terrorism
The immediate past chief of army staff (COAS), Lt-Gen Kenneth Minimah (retd), was yesterday pulled out of the military without the presence of the current chief of defence staff, Major General Abayomi Olonishakin.
While Minimah’s successor, Maj-Gen. Tukur Buratai, was physically present, the chief of naval staff, Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, sent Rear Admiral Samuel Alade to represent him. The chief of air staff, Air Vice-Marshal Sadique Abubakar, and the chief of defence intelligence, Air Vice-Marshal Monday Morgan, were also absent contrary to military tradition.
This denied the former COAS the usual camaraderie and fanfare that senior military officers share when their colleagues pull out of service.
The new CDS, Olonishakin, was Minimah’s course mate at the 26th Regular Course at the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, between 1979 and 1981.
Olonishakin, from Ekiti State, topped the class at the NDA but the former COAS was promoted ahead of him by former President Goodluck Jonathan in January 2014.
Olonishakin was, until his appointment, the head of the Nigerian Army Training and Doctrine Command in Minna, Niger state. He is also the most senior general in the armed forces following the retirement of the former service chiefs.
Beside the absence of the CDS, some of the senior military officers, who could not afford to be absent, were lukewarm to the pulling out parade and many did not shake hands with Gen. Minimah at the Mogadishu Cantonment, Abuja, where the event took place.
In the place of these boisterous military officers were politicians including Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike and the representative of Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State, former Governor of Abia, now Senator Theodore Orji, and others.
Also at the otherwise military event were ethnic leaders, former service chiefs and traditional rulers who came to show solidarity with the Ijaw-born retired general.
Minimah spent time at the occasion to lament the poor state of affairs in the army he commanded since 2014, and called on the federal government to invest heavily in the armed forces because, according to him, the strength and the capacity of the military is the strength of the country in the comity of nations.
Minimah, the 19th army chief and 25th head of the army was relieved of his post by President Muhammadu Buhari and was replaced by Major General Tukur Buratai on July 13.
While he held sway as the COAS, LEADERSHIP learnt that he used his privileged position to undermine the current CDS and also attempted to force him out of service through early retirement.
A top military officer said: “He (Minimah) unsuccessfully tried to compulsorily retire Olonishakin under the ‘Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service for Nigeria Armed Forces Officers 2007 (Revised)’, based on which major generals have to go at age 56, brigadier generals at age 54 and colonels 52.
Olonishakin only escaped being retired following his posting as commander of the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Minna.
To appoint Minimah as chief of army staff, former President Goodluck Jonathan had to skip 31 generals who were his seniors in the Nigerian Army.
In his valedictory speech, Minimah chronicled his military career, saying: “A nation is as strong as its armed forces and the strength of the armed forces is in the quality of the individual soldier and his fighting spirit.
“Fighting spirit imbues him with confidence to stand up to the adversary rather than flee – like we witnessed in the recent past – while adequate attention to his welfare demonstrates his nation’s commitment to his wellbeing and motivates him to sacrifice everything, including his life, discipline and sanctions confines him within the military laws.”
Minimah emphasised the need for improved funding of the nation’s armed forces by the present administration.
The ex-service chief, who decried the long years of neglect of the armed forces, blamed it for the setback initially encountered in the fight against Boko Haram.
“For long, our nation has toyed with the health and vitality of its military,’’ he said, asserting that the ongoing counter-insurgency operation had been an `eye opener’, and stressed that the nation could no longer afford to relegate military affairs to the background as it did in the past.
He also urged all segments of the society to support the armed forces to enable it regain its lost confidence and glory.
“This is the time for our country to reinvigorate the armed forces by investing in it. Government must provide the necessary resources and the right political environment to recruit, train, equip, kit and remunerate our service.
“We all have a role to play to make our armed forces great again. Never again should we allow ourselves to walk this path, never again,’’ Minimah said.
Nonetheless, Minimah paid glowing tributes to the men and officers of the armed forces for their role in stabilising the polity in spite of the `doomsday’ prediction of the country’s disintegration.
The retired general said despite the funding gaps, he was bequeathing a military that was battle ready and could effectively defend the nation’s territories against both external and internal aggression.
He solicited the support of the media, different arms of government at all levels and other critical segments of society to the nation’s armed forces.
Minimah recalled the situation when he was appointed army chief.
“Indeed the nation was going through one of the worst crises in our history. The level of violence and insecurity unleashed on innocent citizens by Boko Haram terrorists had reached unprecedented heights.
“There was a spate of bombings across the country…The armed forces and security agencies appeared helpless to address the situation and, sadly, the nation began to lose confidence in its army and military,” he noted.