IHEJIRIKA HEADS FOR DEFENCE, AS JONATHAN SHOPS FOR NEW COAS
With the impending shake up among the country's defence chiefs, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Azubuike Ihejirika may well be on his way to becoming the next Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) replacing Air Marshall Oluseyi Petirin who is on the verge of retirement.
President Goodluck Jonathan may have also pencilled down Maj.-Gen Kenneth Minimah, GOC 81 Division; Maj Gen M. D Isa; the Commandant of the Infantry Corps Centre in Jaji, Kaduna, Maj Gen Babagana Mongunu, the Chief of Logistics, Defence Headquaters and Maj.-Gen. Sarki-Yaki Bello, the national coordinator of Counter-Terrorism in the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), in a shortlist for his new Chief of Army Staff (COAS).
Other likely names are Maj- Gen Usman Abdulkadir, Chief of Army Standards and Evaluation, and Maj.-Gen. Lawrence Ngubane, the Chief of Army Training and Operations.
Security sources hinted to LEADERSHIP WEEKEND that the presidency may have even gone as far as inviting Maj.-Gen. Kenneth Minimah for an audience with President Goodluck Jonathan in anticipation of his appointment as the next COAS.
Indications are that the presidency has concluded arrangements to elevate the Chief of Army Staff, Azubuike Ihejirika, to the position of CDS, while the present Defence Chief, Air Marshal Oluseyi Petirin and other service chiefs are due for retirement after putting in over 35 years of service.
The headquarters of the Nigerian Army is, however, saying very little about the expected security shake-up with the head of Army Public Relations, Brig-Gen Bolaji Koleosho suggesting that he was unaware of any plans by the Jonathan administration to make any changes in the Army leadership.
He said, 'The president appoints service chiefs and he removes them whenever he feels it is time for them to go or when they are due for retirement. As I speak to LEADERSHIP WEEKEND, I have no idea about an impending shake-up. I am hearing it for the first time.'
The present Chief of Army Staff, Maj.-Gen Azubuike Ihejirika, will be heading to the defence position after about two years in the seat.He was, before his appointment as Army Chief, the Chief of Defence Logistics at Defence Headquarters. He was also the former GOC of 81 Division at Lagos, and a former Director of Engineering at Defence Headquarters.
Though Army officials have said whoever is eventually appointed is totally at the discretion of the president, there is the likelihood that rank would be a major factor in who the president picks. Of those listed, Maj Gen Isa is said to be the highest ranking officer and is presently heading the Infantry centre in Jaji, Kaduna.
While there is little public information about the likely replacements for the Army Chief, a number of them have been in the public eye due to the nature of assignments given to them. Maj Gen Minimah, before his appointment as GOC 81 Division, was the Brigade Commander, 1 Brigade , Sokoto and was also a Principal Staff Officer to a former Defence Minister.
Maj Gen Sarki-Yaki Bello became a public figure when he headed the Joint Task Force (JTF), Operation Flush III, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Bello's first appointment was as deputy defence adviser, Army, in the Nigeria Embassy in Washington DC, USA. He was later as a Colonel appointed Director, Peace Keeping in Army Headquarters, Abuja, before being made the Commander 2 Brigade in Port Hartcourt at which time he simultaneously served as the JTF commander.
From there, Bello served as the GOC, 82 Division in Enugu before he was appointed to his present position as the coordinator of the counter terrorism unit in the office of the National Security Adviser.