To say the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has come far in the last four years is an understatement. The NAF has truly earned its stripes under the President Buhari-led administration with much of the credit going to the man at its helm, Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), who has imbued the force with his discipline, readiness, administrative acumen and dexterity in strategic planning.
While it is great to note that the NAF was not bereft of its identity before his arrival and was not down in the dust, he has done more than a lot to take it up from the position where he found it and, when he finally throws in the towel, he will be remembered as one man who applied himself to his job and ensured the welfare of those under his command.
Like many who man the offices of the various sections of the Nigerian Military, he came through the ranks, but he has not lost touch with reality and the many challenges which the men under him face. He spent a lot of time in his corner, coming through the ranks, only to be exposed by his appointment as the helmsman. It is no surprise that he has set himself to address these challenges one after the other, setting things straight and ensuring that, as much as there is discipline, hardwork never goes without credit.
Upon his appointment in 2015, CAS Sadique revealed his desire: “To reposition the Nigerian Air Force into a highly professional and disciplined force through capacity building initiatives for effective, efficient and timely employment of air power in response to Nigeria’s national security imperatives.” He knew what it would take to achieve this: a revitalised, solid foundation built on everything right; manpower development, equipment purchase, right working environment, quality and quantity investment for the force etc. He is someone who believes the sky is the limit and will go above and beyond to make sure he gives 100% every single day, whether he is at meetings, supervising formations, being with his family and friends, or working on a new project.
Under CAS Abubakar’s leadership, in less than four years, the Federal Government acquired 23 new platforms (aircraft) to boost training and the combat readiness of the NAF. These include 12 Super Mushshak trainer aircraft, five Mi-35M helicopter gunships, two Agusta 101 helicopters (handed over from the Presidential Air Fleet in virtually new condition), two A109P helicopters as well as two Bell 412 helicopters, which have been retrofitted to perform light combat functions. This number is aside the additional 19 aircraft ordered by the Federal Government – which include 12 Super Tucano attack aircraft, as well as three other helicopters (2 A109P light attack helicopters and A139W utility helicopter) expected to be delivered from Italy. Others are three JF-17 Thunder Multi-role fighter aircraft and a special mission aircraft recently ordered to enhance surveillance of Nigeria’s maritime environment. Through robust logistics support and improved maintenance culture, the NAF has also reactivated 20 erstwhile abandoned aircraft.
Moreover, under CAS Sadique’s leadership, the NAF has made a great impact in local innovation – the Force’s R&D progress has spanned space and peoples of all interests and specialisations; creating employment, nurturing skills and competences, enhancing combat readiness and generally placing our economy on stronger footing. Through the re-invigorated R&D, NAF engineers, working in active collaboration with some Nigerian universities and local companies, have been able to produce some aircraft spares, rotables and associated equipment that could previously only be sourced from abroad. This move has, to no small extent, contributed greatly towards the successes recorded in the fight against insurgency, since the advent of the present Administration in 2015.
Another important score for the NAF under Sadique’s leadership is that, in the last four years, its Regiment Training Centre has trained over 4,500 Regiment and Special Forces personnel to perform a range of tasks including force protection, protection of critical national assets and special operations roles.
It is safe to say that, in the last four years and a few months, the NAF has made huge leaps towards the objectives, mission and vision behind its formation. The CAS has built a powerful network of airmen and airwomen who are willing, able and ready.
While the nation remains proud of her Air Force any day, the additions engineered by and under the leadership of Air Marshal Sadque Abubakar, will cause his name to be mentioned in the corridors of the NAF, long after he leaves the force and, much longer, even after he is no more; legacies outlive the men who breathe life into them. By making the NAF troops to be at the right place, at the right time, he has been able to contribute in strengthening the Nigerian military and has made the NAF a beacon of hope for a country that is yearning for a rapid success against insurgency.
Hats off to CAS Sadique, an iconic figure who will continue to inspire generations to come. This is a man of perpetual excellence, a man of gold standard, a man who is reinventing the way that things are done and making it exciting to work; the man who has overseen the re-energisation, re-vitalisation and re-invigoration of the Nigerian Air Force. Nigeria is blessed by his service and the wisdom he brings to the high office.
Pembi, a public affairs commentator, wrote in from Abuja.