The much anticipated change of guards at the military high command took place eventually when President Muhammadu Buhari removed the service chiefs he inherited from the Jonathan administration. The new military top brass include the chief of defence staff, Major General Gabriel Olonishakin; chief of army staff, Major General Yakubu Buratai; chief of naval staff, Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas; chief of air staff, Air Vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar; chief of defence intelligence, Air Vice Marshal Monday Morgan, and national security adviser (NSA) Major General Babagana Monguno (retd.).
In making the appointments, the president revealed that merit was the only consideration in the selection of the new military and intelligence chiefs. According to him, the only one among them that he had met once before his appointment was the new army chief, Major General Buratai, who was then the commander of the Multinational Joint Military Task Force headquartered in Ndjamena, Chad Republic.
Will these changes bring about the much needed transformation in doctrines, command, strategy and discipline in the total structure of the military and intelligence apparatuses in Nigeria? This is the question on the lips of most Nigerians who have been tormented in the last six years by the atrocities of the terrorist group, Boko Haram. Much is, therefore, expected of the new team as the effort to push back the bandits gathers momentum.
Over the years, there has been marked erosion of discipline and professionalism in the military. This became apparent as the war against Boko Haram intensified in the North East. At some point, more than one-third of that area was occupied by a ragtag army of religious extremists who have the misguided belief that they are fighting in the name of Islam. Towns after towns fell into their hands as Nigerian soldiers fled from the battlefield in disarray, leaving behind sophisticated arms and ammunition in the hands of the terrorists and abandoning the terrified civilians at the mercy of the terrorists – the same civilians they had sworn to defend with their lives. Allegations of conspiracy and collusion with the insurgents were levelled against some of the troops.
Some of these soldiers were court-martialled, sentenced to death and are awaiting execution, while others are still on trial.
However, some the soldiers complained that they were hopelessly ill-equipped for an efficient and effective military campaign. The first acid test of the new service chiefs will be how to deal with this issue.
We, therefore, urge the new military high command to ensure that the troops are well armed and tactically supported so that they can uproot the terrorist cells, nullify their ability to cause mayhem and ultimately bring their bloody campaign to a close.