On the 4th of March 2012, following the dismissal of Andre Villas-Boas as the manager of the English Premier League side Chelsea FC, Roberto Di Matteo became the caretaker/ manager till the end of the season.
Di Matteo started his stewardship of Chelsea in winning form with victories over Birmingham City in a fifth round FA Cup match, Stoke City in a Premier League fixture and Napoli in the second leg of the last 16 round of the UEFA Champions League, winning 4–1 to overturn the deficit in the first leg which Villas-Boas’ Chelsea had lost 3–1.
Di Matteo led Chelsea to a 3–2 aggregate win over holders Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League semi-final, winning 1–0 in the first leg at Stamford Bridge and following this with a 2–2 draw in the second leg at the Camp Nou despite having captain John Terry sent off in the first half. On the 19th of May 2012, Di Matteo guided Chelsea to victory in the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final, defeating Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. The match had ended 1–1 after extra time with Chelsea coming out victorious in the penalty shootout. This was Chelsea’s first Champions League title.
On the 13th of June 2012, Chelsea announced that Di Matteo had been appointed manager and first-team coach on a permanent basis which lasted just eight months despite winning two major trophies for the side. It was the end of an era. There was no sentiment of the past achievements and like they say in football “you are as good as your last game”.
One needs to lay this background in order to situate the tenure of the outgone Chief of Army Staff Lt General Tukur Yusuf Buratai.
While many will gladly give accolades and credit to him for many innovations and policies formulated to reposition the Army during his tenure, like Di Matteo who achieved some milestone but had a short stint as the manager of Chelsea, Burutai’s era too has come to end eventhough it was longer than expected.
Now that there is a change of guard ,the new COAS needs to avoid the pitfalls that characterised the old era.
Despite the many achievements of Lt. Gen. Buratai, there were issues which tainted his stewardship and also the reputation of the Nigeria Army, which would remain as a burden on the new Chief of Army Staff, Major-General Ibrahim Attahiru. These issues will dictate the agenda ahead of him.
What lies ahead of the new COAS I will discuss as highlighted below:
1. CONFIDENCE BUILDING: While the confidence of the fighting troops and the gallantry of an average personnel of the Nigeria Army is never in doubt, one must not be delusional by believing all is well within the Army. Whether we like it or not, the prolonged stay in office of the former Chief of Army Staff truncated the career and progression of many officers. Many were stuck on a rank for two to three years as there was no room for elevation. Some were retired without fulfilling their full potentials and aspirations. This is one discontent the new Chief of Army Staff must tackle head on.
To make this easier and achievable, I am of a strong conviction the Chief of Defense Staff with the Minister of Defense need to prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari to promote the new COAS to the rank of a Lt. General so as to create room for promotion of officers who are still in service. This will bring smiles to the faces of many and also lift the morale of the Army as a whole.
Retreats should be organised periodically to strategise and restrategise as well as map out action plan which will see to the correction of what could be termed as prolonged injustice.
DEMAND FOR MORE FUNDING:
I have always maintained we are not spending as a nation which is prosecuting a war and serious about winning it.
Major General Attahiru needs to improve on the scope paper of the Army and demand for armament which will enhance our chances of ending this war very soon. We do not have business with Tucanos when we can push for purchase of 1st and 2nd generations of Apache for a well-equipped Air Wing for the Nigeria Army. The NA do not have to always wait or rely on the Nigeria Airforce for CAS(Close Air Support) or Dust Off(Medical Air Evac). These are things a well-equipped Air Wing will address.
Also, with increased funding, the Army can be expanded. NA is just a standing force of under a hundred thousand (100,000) men when in the real sense we need at least three hundred thousand (300,000) standing force in the face of many unrelated functions we have deployed the Army to across the federation.
REBRANDING THE ARMY:
Many Nigerians see the Army as a biased institution with no thanks to positions, military operations and actions carried out under the leadership of former COAS. Many Nigerians are also quick to refer to the allegations by former Chief of Army Staff and also a Minister of defense, Lt. Gen. T.Y Danjuma(Rtd), in which he claimed the Army collude with bandits and fulani herdsmen to attack community. The double standard adopted by the Army in response to issues classified as threat to National Security also emboldened this assertions in many Nigerians. The brute force at which the Army crushed IPOB and hurriedly proscribed it a terrorist organisation without recourse to the extant law of the land, while it claimed to have underrated the firepower of herdsmen who killed people in Miango village of Plateau State are instances Nigerians hold on to.
In order to turn around this tacky image, the
Army needs a suave, humane, diplomatic and mature image maker whose utterances is dignifying.
Colonel Sagir is a far cry from this and his positions on issues which often times come across as needless outbursts always exacerbate issues rather than clarify it. With no intention of sounding like giving an order to the Chief of Army Staff or the Army, Col. Sagir, must be redeployed and an officer with a broader national outlook to issues be appointed in his stead.
HUMAN RIGHTS RECORDS: We must tell ourselves the truth that human rights abuses and allegations of such under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Buratai as the Chief of Army Staff was a big war the Army was fighting alongside the war on insurgency. The Army under the past leadership had an untoward reputation and Nigerians had the perception it was a force ready and very quick to turn its weapons and brute force on its citizens. There are many instances to corroborate this.
This poor Human Rights status, I believe contributed in no small measure to the dearth of HUMINT(Human Intelligence) for the Army to work on and work with especially in the North East and North West.
The anger towards the institution brought about hostility and deep mistrust that existed between Nigerians and the Army. It goes beyond setting up a Human Rights desk or outreach program, it is now time to leverage on the many activities of the Civil Military Affairs Directorate and also put a humane face to the interactions between Nigeria Army and Nigerians.
I might not address all the issues which will set the agenda for the new COAS but I am of utmost conviction that I have raised some valid issues which should be part of the immediate agenda and action plan of the new COAS.
I will sign off by saying; Sempe fi Soldiers.
Long Live Nigeria Army
God Bless Nigeria.
Deyemi Saka writes from Lagos