By Chinelo Obogo; Chukwudi Nweje; Romanus Ugwu, Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Fred Itua, Abuja; Tony John, Port Harcourt; Noah Ebije, Kaduna; Geoffrey Anyanwu, Magnus Eze, Enugu and Eziomume Solomon, Nnewi
Reactions have continued to trail the appointment of new service chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari, with Afenifere, Middle Belt Forum and immediate past president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nina Nwodo, accusing him of sidelining the South East for the second time.
The president’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, yesterday, confirmed the resignation and immediate retirement of the former service chiefs and Buhari’s appointment of Major General Leo Irabor, Major-Gen. I. Attahiru, Rear Admiral A.Z.Gambo and Air Vice Marshal I.O. Amao as the new service chiefs in charge of Defence, Army, Navy and Air Forces.
Speaking to Daily Sun, yesterday, the spokesperson of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said that there was no reason to have kept the outgone service chiefs for such a long time in ‘total disregard’ to the rising insecurity in the country. He also pointed out that for the second time, the South East was sidelined in the appointments, saying it shows the presidency is treating some sections of the country in a condescending manner.
“There was no reason for him to keep the service chiefs for this length of time in the midst of the insecurity in the country. He should have ensured that the appointments reflect the diversity of the country. All of them should not just be from one section of the nation. He should run an inclusive government where all sections of the country are well represented..,” Odumakin said.
President of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, said: “The president is doing this now not because of the pressure, but because things are falling apart. The country is at the verge of civil war because many have decided that enough is enough of the nonsense. We saw what happened in South West states like Ondo and Oyo and we saw what happened in Orlu, Imo State, and even in Benin, where people have started saying that enough is enough of Fulani herdsmen crises. His action was forced on him. To me, he is doing it at a very late hour; he should have done it much earlier and shouldn’t have allowed things to degenerate to the level that it did.
“The second point is that it appears that there is no one from the South East there. To us, it still shows imbalance. A northerner should not have been appointed as Chief of Army staff because much of the complaints that people have is that Fulani herdsmen are being protected by the army, not the air force or the navy. With that kind of situation on ground, I thought he would be sensitive to say, okay, if they think that it is because a northerner is there, that is why they believe that the Fulani herdsmen are getting unnecessary protection, I will give it to someone from the South. But he didn’t see it that way,” Pogu said.
Also, the Middle Belt Leaders Forum (MBLF) and the Afenifere Renewal Group, yesterday, welcomed the new appointments, which they described as long overdue, and expressed optimism that the new heads of the army, navy and air force would inject fresh ideas into the war against terror in Nigeria.
The Afenifere, however, said the new appointments are uninspiring and unimpressive and that it did not expect anything different going by the lopsided way the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government runs the country.
National Publicity Secretary, MBLF, Dr. Dogo Isuwa, said: “The appointment of the new service chiefs is the most appropriate thing to do because it has long been overdue. We expect lots of changes from them because they must have their own agenda and they know exactly the feelings of the public regarding the security situation in the country. We expect them to tackle head-long the insecurity bedevilling the country.”
However, Publicity Secretary of the Afenifere Renewal Group, Mr Yinka Odumakin, said: “There are no cheers from us, the appointment of the service chiefs has not inspired any confidence in Nigerians. We cannot be jubilating now because the new appointments were done without patriotic zeal, especially with the lopsided way they are running the country.”
Nwodo in a terse message to Daily Sun, said: “General Buhari, thanks for making us in Igboland feel, once more, that we are not fit to head any of the security services.”
Northern Elders Forum (NEF) described the appointment of new service chiefs as no news.
“… For us, the appointment of the new service chiefs is no news because we have made our stand known over time. There is nothing I can say than this for now.”
Senators elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) called on the newly-appointed service chiefs to stem the tide of insecurity in the country.
Speaking on behalf of the caucus in the Senate, the Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, said in a one paragraph statement, said: “Better late than never. We had been calling for this for a long time now. Let’s hope this team would stem the tide of insecurity.”
The National Secretary Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), Peter Ameh, said: “The sack of the service chiefs is a great relief to the officers and men of the Nigerian Armed forces and Nigerians as a whole. This will aid the needed re-engineering of our weakened security architect.
“A situation where government and individuals now pay ransom to bandits to secure freedom of our fellow citizens is the most unfortunate situation.
“The new Service Chiefs must now go to work to make sure that Nigeria is secured for our people to travel across the across the country to do business without the fear of being kidnapped.”
Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), lamented that president Buhari made changes to the offices of service Chiefs without accommodating the South East of Nigeria even after five years of his systematic marginalisation of the region in the scheme of top security architecture.
The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, yesterday, refused to comment on the sack of service chiefs and appointment of new ones by president Buhari.
President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof George Obiozor, said: “We are still studying the development and will make our position known on a later date.”
Chairman of Anambra State Chapter of CAN, Rev. Dr. Ndubisi John, who said said: “What we are advocating in Nigeria is fairness. That is the essence of good leadership. If after these years of yearning by Nigerians to change the service chiefs and the expectation of the masses are dashed by appointing people from almost the same ethnic nationality, this is not fairness. There is no equity and sense of justice. It does not reflect national character principle.”
Executive Director of Enugu-based Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network (CRRAN); Olu omotayo, said: “Lack of intelligence gathering has, on many occasions, caused loss of large number of troops in the fight against insurgency. We expect that the incoming service should, immediately, on assuming duty, be able to present a master plan on how to salvage the security system of the country which is in tatters,” Omotayo said.
For the Board Chairman of Intersociety, Emeka Umeagbalasi, he received the new appointments with mixed feelings.
He said: “Intersociety is half happy and half sad. Happy because of their removal even though it is grossly belated and unhappy because of the new Army chief is atrocity perpetrator and ethnic cleanser, who supervised the massacre of no less than 180 Igbo citizens between December 2015 and May 30, 2016, in Onitsha, Nkpor and Asaba and Awka. The massacre took place when he held sway as GOC 82 Division, Enugu.
“They must rejig the military and remove it from being tagged ‘jihadist’ or herdsmen military or Army of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Uchenna Madu, described the appointment of service chiefs by president Buhari without the Igbo as “a clear confirmation of the Nigerian leader’s hatred for Ndigbo.
“Though MASSOB is not surprised at his usual Islamist fundamentalism against the Igbo Christians, this should be an eye opener to Igbo political leaders who are worshipping President Muhammadu Buhari.”
Chairman of Board of Trustees (BoT), World Igbo Peoples Assembly (WIPA), Mazi Chuks Ibegbu, said: “It is disappointing that more than five years after he (Buhari) took over power, he has continued to show that he is not a national leader and has continued to tell a part of the country that they don’t belong.
“My view is that in a country where there should be equity and justice in all that we do, in a country where the constitution stipulates that every section of the country has to be given a sense of belonging, in a country where a major arm of the society has been denied its political and structural rights over the years and had been lamenting the inequity in the system, one would have expected that Buhari would have taken cognisance of that fact and reflected that in this new appointment.”
Don’t politicise security, Wike charges new service chiefs
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has commended president Buhari for appointing new service chiefs for the country even though the appointments came late.
The governor, in a statement from the State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Paulinus Nsirim, charged the new appointees to see their appointments as an opportunity to re-engineer the nation’s security architecture which has suffered tremendous setback in the last five years.
He said: “The new service chiefs should not politicise security by aligning with politicians.
“What the country needs now is competence and professionalism that will reduce insecurity to the barest minimum.
“This is an opportunity to serve the nation and I believe that the service chiefs will be focused and dedicated.”
Consolidate on your predecessors’ achievements- APC
The All Progressives Congress (APC) charged the newly appointed service chiefs to consolidate on the remarkable achievements of their predecessors.
In a statement issued by the National Secretary Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Sen. John J. Akpan Udoedeghe, the ruling party said: “The party calls for public support for the new service chiefs as they perform their constitutional roles of protecting our country’s territorial integrity and tackle emerging security threats. We also urge increased synergy among the armed forces in achieving these tasks.
“Recent incidents in the country has triggered quite divisive rhetoric in some quarters. It is counterproductive and dangerous to national security when we put ethnic spins to issues affecting us. In tackling security threats, we should criminalise crime, not ethnicity.
“As a nation, our strength remains in our diversity and we should continue to forge unity in that diversity…”