With insecurity breeding ultra- insurgency, the Federal Gov- ernment must change tactics in this perennial fight that continues to depopulate and diminish the nation. One sure way to make headway is to engage the services of virile, retired generals who dot our space. Due to no fault of theirs, some generals were retired in order to pave the way for their juniors to assume higher office. Many also had to go when subordinate officers were promoted ahead of seniors by the political class represented by the president.
The fight against terrorism requires the services of the best, whether in or out of service. In the past, this country boasted of some of the best commanders in international peacekeeping operations. The United Nations celebrated Nigerian officers, the African Union looked towards Nigeria and ECOWAS and its Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) were all about ‘Big Brother Nigeria’. The story has changed. The once reliable country cannot effectively check bands of terrorists operating from all parts.
The same military that sent Maxwell Khobe to Sierra Leone to reinstate President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah now cannot even save itself from ambushes at home. General Johnson Aguiyi- Ironsi was found worthy by the United Nations and appointed Peace Forces Commander in the Congo in 1964. He was honoured with a medal by Austria for rescuing its citizens. Conrad Nwawo and Adekunle Fajuyi received the Military Cross for Bravery. Nigeria’s performance in the Congo informed Tanzania’s invitation to quell a mutiny in 1964. Samuel Ademulegun led the bat- talion that included young officers like Yakubu Pam and subalterns, among them Chris Anuforo.
Between 1962 and 1963, George Kurubo was with UN troops in Papua New Guinea. Our soldiers were sent to India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Somalia, Israel, Chad, Iran, Namibia and Cambodia. They were in Mozambique, Angola, Yugoslavia, Western Sahara, Rwanda and Sudan. They were so good that Luka Yusuf and Suraj Abdurrahman even headed the Armed Forces of Liberia. In these countries, names like Joshua Dogonyaro, Rufus Kupolati, Ishaya Bakut, Tunji Olurin, John Inienger, Victor Malu, Timothy Shelpi- di, Ekundayo Opaleye and Gabriel Kpamber still ring bells. Before them, Muhammadu Magoro, Geoffrey Ejiga, Edward Unimna and Chris Garba were called upon.
Some foreign nations, who relied on Nigerian support for stability in the past, will be disappointed at our present security mess. Martin Luther Agwai was found so competent that he combined the command of the joint United Nations and African Union forces in Darfur. Isaac Obiakor spent 40 years in the Army because the UN appointed him as its first As- sistant Secretary General in charge of Peacekeeping Operations. While serving at the Nigerian Mission to the UN, Lincoln Ogunewe became the first African to be elected Dean, Military and Police Advisers Community in New York.
Some of these fine officers are still very active and should be engaged as consultants in the fight against insurgency. Gen. Magoro even once suggested that all retired officers from the rank of colonel should be recalled. Felix Mujakperuo, who also commanded ECOMOG troops in Liberia, is now a traditional ruler in Delta State. Not much is heard of Joe Omonibi, Festus Okonkwo, S. Ilya and Collins Ihekire. They could offer much more because of their exposure. Air Vice Marshall Christian Chukwu is all over the place, ready to impart knowledge.
He retired as a fighter pilot, at 56, in 2016. He fought in Liberia and saw action in Angola where the UN awarded him a Campaign Medal. AVM Chukwu fits into this narrative of engaging our best. His elder brother, Squadron Leader John Chukwu, was extraordinary in the air for Biafra. At the end of the Civil War, Gen. Yakubu Gowon did not dismiss him for fighting against the Federal Government. The Squadron Leader rejoined the Nigeria Air Force and was one of Gowon’s favourite pilots. Gen. Murtala Mohammed also believed in the former Biafran fighter. One account said the Nigerian leader sent him to Angola during that country’s war of Independence.
Gowon’s younger brother, Squadron Leader Moses Go- won was also a pilot. He was retired after the February 1976 coup. Gen. Ibrahim Ba- bangida, who led the assault on the coup plotters, went for Gowon as a leading pilot of the Presidential Fleet in 1986. We cannot be losing ground to terrorism when there are hundreds of experienced officers walking around as retired generals. The Federal Government must find a way to accommodate them in whatever capacity – after all former leaders, Gowon and Babangida valued such experience.