By Philip Agbese
The appointment of the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Major General Farouk Yahaya on May 27, 2021, has generally elicited loud endorsements from Nigerians. His appointment followed the sudden demise of his predecessor, Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, who died in a plane crash, along with 10 other Army personnel in Kaduna a week ago. (May their souls rest in perfect peace).
Gen. Yahaya, one of Nigeria’s finest breed of trained infantry combatants has a rich profile and experience in counter-terrorism combats. A member of the 37 Regular Course of the prestigious Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Gen. Yahaya was commissioned into the Nigerian Army Infantry Corps on September 22nd 1990. Over the decades, Gen. Yahaya has held numerous Staff, Instructional and Command appointments in the Nigerian Army.
But briefly, Gen. Yahaya was a Garrison Commander, Headquarters Guards Brigade, Deputy Director Army Research and Development, Military Secretary, the Chief of Staff, Headquarters of Joint Task Force Operation Pulo Shield, and the General Officer Commanding, (GoC), 1 Division of the Nigerian Army among multiple others.
Until his elevation in appointment as COAS, Gen. Yahaya’s service records were synonymous with military excellence globally. He was deep into the forests of the theatre of war in the Northeast, functioning in the capacity of Theatre Commander of the renamed Counterterrorism and Counter-Insurgency military outfit code-named “Operation Hadin Kai” (OPHK), literally meaning “cooperation” in Hausa vernacular.
It is indubitable that in the last six years, the Nigerian Army has dealt a fatal blow on incensed Boko Haram insurgents, ISWAP terrorists, armed bandits and other allied cross border armed criminal gangs who have delighted in terrorising parts of the country. And with the confusion and infighting in the camps of Boko Haram and ISWAP, coupled with the assured sustained pressures mounted on these terrorists by troops, the coming of Gen. Yahaya as the new COAS holds every significance in finally blighting the menace of all forms of terrorism in the country.
Gen. Yahaya parades many meritorious service medals and awards. He is definitely a shining Army star in warfare. Farouk Yahaya is an Army General generally honed and polished by the finest of senior Military officers, home and abroad, who are experts in anti-terrorism warfares. Prominently, Gen. Yahaya is an ardent adherent of the leadership school of thought of His Excellency, Ambassador TY Buratai, the retired Army General, who served Nigeria as COAS and leader of the counter-insurgency operations from 2015-2021.
Nigerians have recognized Gen. Buratai as a courageous, fearless, determined, patriotic and loyal professional soldier, who broke the many jinks of terrorists when he served the country. He made them breathless at all times and even military experts have seen his fearless shadows in Gen. Yahaya. There is no gain contradicting the reality that the new COAS is a tested hand in the theatre of war.
President Buhari is famed for the knack of going for the best brains in appointments, especially in sensitive areas. The choice of Gen. Farouk Yahaya as the COAS has also confirmed the President’s principle and doctrine of impeccable credentials, merit and excellent performance above any other consideration.
Apparently, there is no disputation that Gen. Yahaya would not only excel in his new assignment, as an officer who has been part and parcel of the anti-insurgency campaigns in Nigeria. But also, security experts have vouched on his competence to surpass the excellence of his mentor, Gen. Buratai by breaking new records in the prosecution of Nigeria’s renamed counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations.
However, and observably, the appointment of Gen. Yahaya means many things to different Nigerians and spurted varying dimensions of national discourse. But the dormant and inescapable feature of these perceptions in the public psyche is the trust and convictions in the professional competence and dexterity of the new COAS to finally blight the fires of terrorism in Nigeria.
However, there are a few leftists in Nigeria, who have never failed in the “patriotic” duty to themselves of rubbishing any policy or decision pronounced by the Buhari Presidency. These minority discordant voices are habituated to faulting every decision and at every time, not necessarily based on sound reasons, but from selfish, unpatriotic and self-satisfying prisms. But again, it is the beauty of democracy. So, this clan of Nigerians are blindfolded to the anticipated leadership impacts of Gen. Yahaya in Nigeria’s anti-insurgency campaigns.
To these ethnoreligious bigots and naked campaigners of regionalism, President Buhari has not pleased them in the choice of Gen. Yahaya simply because the tested Army General is not from their part of the country. The expressed sentiment is that Buhari would have attracted their eulogies had he appointed someone from their part of the country, even if he is glaringly incompetent or unqualified.
So, the sabs are massively wailing, lamenting and mouthing foolishly. But it is the normal hypocritic trait in most Nigerians, which has held back the progress of the country for decades. Those wailing loudest and feeling alienated from Buhari’s choice of Gen. Yahaya as COAS on such simplistic grounds of regionality do not respect the same posture when hiring personal security guards. Why do almost all of these ethnic bigots outrightly shirk from hiring personal security guards who are people from their villages?
Many of the bigoted ethnic campaigners who are on a deliberate smear campaign to stain the credentials of excellence of Gen. Farouq Yahaya are laughably questioning President Buhari on why he again failed to appoint an Igbo man into the National Security Council. But the competence of Gen. Yahaya was the compelling reasons Mr. President considered choosing Gen. Yahaya.
Let the truth be told! The National Security Council is neither an arena for ethnic groups nor campaigners, but a serious national security platform for tested and trusted senior Military officers. It is easy to notice the confusion in the camps of these disguised saboteurs. It’s not surprising that none of them is faulting the appointment of Gen. Yahaya based on competence or previously poor service records, but they are rather concerned that he would have been an Igbo, Yoruba or Ijaw Army General. So, they are free to lick their wounds and trumpet louder, the ethnic sentiments against merit and competence.
For those versatile in security issues, Gen. Yahaya’s emergence is one of the best appointments that Mr. President has made since the beginning of the year. Anyone who thinks otherwise should contest this assertion. As someone who has served as GoC and later, Theatre Commander in the Northeast, mandating Gen. Yahaya now to lead the war against the insurgents in Nigeria justifies and fills any imagined vacuum in the anti-terrorism combats.
Nigerians, particularly, troops in the frontlines are expecting Gen. Yahaya to immediately restore the suspended Army core values, which sustained counter-insurgency operations. These include the return of all quarterly exercises, development of a versatile Intelligence gathering network/ instruments, sustenance of the apolitical posturing of soldiers and a tough deal and decisive warfare expeditions against all armed criminal elements across the country.
Nigerians are assured that with the known records of professional competence identified with Gen. Yahaya Farouq, the country is on the sure path of the final defeat of terrorists. The Army warmonger would certainly make Nigeria proud because he is sure prepared to deliver on the task which Nigerians have elected him to do. Nigerians wish him and his team good luck, as they anxiously await the victory and trophy of triumph against terrorists.
Agbese is a publisher and human rights law researcher based in the United Kingdom.