Anxiety has enveloped the Nigerian Army over the appointment of a new Chief of Army Staff (COAS), following the death of the occupant of the exalted office, Lt-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, in a fatal military plane crash in Kaduna last Friday.
The late COAS was on his way to attend the passing- out parade for recruits from Depot Nigerian Army as special guest, when the ill-fated military aircraft conveying him and 10 other officers to the Kaduna International Airport, crashed landed killing all occupants onboard
Other victims of the air mishap were: Brig- Gen. Abdulrahman Kuliya (Acting Chief of Military Intelligence); Brigadier General MI Abdulkadir, Chief of Staff to the late COAS, Brigadier General General OL Olayinka, Major LA Hayat, Aide-De-Camp to the COAS and Major N Hamza.
Also involved in the fatal crash were: Flight Lieutenant TO Asaniyi, the pilot of the ill-fated aircraft, Flight Lieutenant AA Olufade, Serheant O Adesina, Sergeant Umar and ACM OM Oyedepo. The remains of the late COAS and other deceased officers were interred at the Nigerian Military Cemetery in Abuja on Saturday.
Barely three days after the unfortunate incident, there is palpable tension in the Army on who will emerge the 22nd COAS, in the face of ongoing counter- insurgency and other military operations across theatres.
The anxiety, according to findings by New Telegraph, is accentuated by speculations that the new Army Chief might be an officer “junior to the late Attahiru’s 35 Regular Course of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA)”. It was learnt that should that happen, all officers of the aforesaid regular course, will have to proceed on voluntary retirement.
“In military tradition, a senior officer is not allowed to salute, or defer to his junior, no matter the circumstances,” a senior military source said.
The source, who spoke in confidence, however, disclosed that “high-level consultations” were the reason the presidency has not announced a new COAS. Asked what would form the basis for appointment of the new Army Chief, another source, who spoke in similar vein, said the President is bound to pick his choice from one of the “Five-Teeth Arms” of the Army.
Hear him: “He has to look at the commanders of the Army, namely: the Infantry Corps; Armoured Corps; Signals Corps; Engineering Corps, as well as the Military Police. “He may equally look at those commanding operational theatres across the country, side-by-side with competence, efficiency and loyalty.
“From the operational briefings the President had received from the late COAS, he will also be able to make a selection from among the General Officers Commanding (GOCs) the various divisions in the country”.
Already, names of some senior officers occupying command/operational positions, are being speculated as possible candidates for the office of COAS. Prominent among the officers said to be favoured for the anticipated appointment, is the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 1 Division Nigerian Army, Kaduna, Maj-Gen. Danjuma Ali-Keffi,
According to a report by PRNigeria: “The consequence of this if it is true, is that it will force these brilliant officers to retire at a period we need more hands in the prosecution of diverse operations across the country.
I don’t think we need such mass retirement now”. Meanwhile, there are strong indications that President Buhari will appoint a new COAS this week.
According to a senior military source: “The NA is too strategic to have a leadership vacuum for too long”.