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Jubilations In Maiduguri As Yahaya Emerges New Army Chief

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Farouk Yahaya

The announcement of Maj. Gen. Faruk Yahaya as the new chief of army staff (COAS) yesterday drew pulsating jubilations at the headquarters of Operations Hadin Kai in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.

Troops of the theatre command of the war against the insurgency in the North-east jumped for joy as they were told of the rise of their commander to the top job of the service.
“The excitement is not surprising,” a top military officer told THISDAY last night, explaining: “Yahaya has a reputation for taking care of his troops.”

But for several senior officers, particularly Yahaya’s superiors, they have approached the end of the road; and it’s not a laughing matter as they might have to abruptly retire.
The Defence Headquarters (DHQ), had in a statement by its spokesman, Brig. Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, said: “The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, has appointed Maj. Gen. Farouk Yahaya as the new Chief of Army Staff.

“Prior to his appointment, Maj. Gen. Yahaya was the General Officer Commanding 1 Division of the Nigerian Army and the incumbent Theatre Commander of the Counter-Terrorism Counter Insurgency military outfit in the North-east, code-named Operation Hadin Kai.”
The appointment THISDAY gathered has left several senior officers facing an imminent retirement from service.

Yahaya, a member of the 37th Regular Course of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), succeeded Lt. Gen, Ibrahim Attahiru of Course 35, who died along with 10 other military officers and personnel in a plane crash in Kaduna last Friday.

Sources told THISDAY yesterday that should Yahaya decide to strictly follow military tradition, members of Course 35 and Course 36, who are his senior by date of commission, would have to go.

Investigation revealed that the army’s Chief of Policy and Plans, Maj. Gen. Ben Ahanotu, and Commander Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Minna, Maj. Gen. Abubakar Maikobi, who were course mates of the late army chief, are certain to go.
There is also the possibility that some members of Course 36, who are also senior to Yahaya, may be retired.

But sources said that their career could be saved through redeployment to the tri-service section of the military or to the Defence Headquarters, under the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor, who is of Course 34.

However, their possible redeployment depends on the decision of the Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen Bashir Salihi Magashi (rtd), who chairs the Armed Forces Council, and Yahaya.
According to military officers, familiar with the tradition of the armed forces, they may also be posted to the Armed Forces Resettlement Centre in Oshodi, Lagos, the Command and Staff College, Jaji and other such military formations.

A top military officer who spoke to THISDAY said: “There are three ways to look at it. The officers at the same level with the current army chief that has just been appointed can be posted to tri-service institutions with those that are ahead of him.
“The Chief of Defence Staff is in 34th Course. You can get members of the 36 course to go and work there. It does not affect anything. “There is only one member of the 35 Course in the army (Maj. Gen. Ahanotu). He can go home.

“The ones that you should be worried about are members of the 36 Course but you can take them to head military formations in Jaji, Oshodi; you can bring them to Defence Headquarters or Defence Research and Development Bureau.
“He (new Army Chief) can also decide to retire them. He can retire them; they have spent about 35 years in service. No big deal about that. He can work with his course mates (37). The late army chief worked with his course mates. He was the one that insisted that they should not retire.”

On how some of the top contenders were eliminated and the considerations that led to the emergence of the Yahaya, another senior officer, who spoke anonymously, said the elimination of Ahanotu, the second-in-command to the late Attahiru, was hinged on the fact that he was due for retirement. He was supposed to retire when Attahiru was appointed.

“Maj. Gen. Maikobi, from Kano, is of Course 36; defence minister and chief of naval staff are from Kano. I. M. Yusuf is also of 37. Yusuf has operational experience. The problem Yusuf had is that he is from Yobe State where the IG of Police hails from.
“Farouk Yahaya is from Sokoto and has no contender in that area or any inhibiting factor, no service chief is from there.

“Maj. Gen. M.S. Ahmed was disqualified because he is from Kano where the naval chief and the defence minister are from,” he stated.
On the number of generals that may be retired, he said: “Only the military secretary can say that because it depends on many factors.

“When Attahiru came on board, the minister of defence insisted that all members of 35 course must go but he pleaded that two of them remain to help him, Ahanotu and the TRADOC commander. From today, the two of them will not bother to come to the office.

“The same thing with the 36 course that is his (Yahaya’s) senior may not even remain. The same minister of defence may say that all members of Course 37 should go. He did that in the navy when the present naval chief was appointed. He said that all Course 36 must go so that he should have command and control.”

He added: “He can say all members of 37 Course should go; it depends on the decision at the strategic level. The decision will come from the Chairman of Armed Forces Council, who is the Minister of Defence, and who will also decide on how to streamline the army.

“It is not easy to say who will go or not. It’s only when you check the seniority role that you can say so – if you check from the first 30, less CDS.
“The new army chief is in 37 Course. Even in the 37, he is number 27. If he is no 27 on the seniority roll; let’s say 23 are going from 36. But if you add his course mates more will go. If you also add the two from 35, you can arrive at 30.”

THISDAY further gathered that the expected retirement of the senior officers in the army may also affect their colleagues in the navy and the air force.
“When the present service chiefs were appointed, their course mates in the three services were advised to leave the service and they all left except for those who were moved to the defence headquarters.

“If you ask the opinion of other younger officers, those who are due for retirement should go,” the source said.
He described the new army chief as a man known to have the welfare of the army at heart.
“In terms of welfare, duties, he is even better than Buratai. He does not listen to gossip,” the source added.

Profile of New Army Chief, Yahaya

Yahaya was born on January 5, 1966, in Sifawa, Bodinga Local Government Area of Sokoto State. A member of the 37 Regular Course of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), he started his cadet training on September 27, 1985, and was commissioned into the Nigerian Army Infantry Corps on September 22, 1990.

Yahaya has held many appointments, including staff, instructional and command.
Notable among the appointments he held are Garrison Commander, Headquarters Guards Brigade, Directing Staff at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Deputy Director, Army Headquarters Department of Military Secretary, Deputy Director, Army Research and Development and the Chief of Staff, Headquarters Joint Task Force Operation Polo Shield.

He also served as the Principal General Staff Officer (PGSO) to the Minister of Defence, the Commander, Headquarters 4 Brigade and 29 Task Force Brigade (Operation Zaman Lafiya). He was also Director, Manpower at the Army Headquarters, Military Secretary, Army Headquarters and General Officer Commanding (GOC) 1 Division of the Nigerian Army.

The new COAS is a recipient of many honours and awards, including Forces Service Star, Meritorious Service Star, Distinguished Service Star, Grand Service Star, Passed Staff Course (Dagger), National Defence Course (Chile), Economic Community of West Africa State Monitoring Group Medal, Command Medal, Field Command Medal, General Operations Medal, Silver Jubilee Medal and Golden Jubilee Medal.
He is married with children.

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