Mixed reactions have trailed yesterday’s appointment of new service chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari following the sacking of the quartet of Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff and Chief of Air Staff.
While some Nigerians and socio-cultural groups believe that the new service chiefs will live up to expectations, especially in the on-going war against insecurity, others said the appointments were not done in national interest.
Those who spoke with our correspondents on the issue include elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai; National Publicity Secretary of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Emmanuel Yawe and spokesperson of pan Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin. Odumakin, who described the president’s move as belated, said Nigerians are not excited by his action as the former service chiefs championed “parochial and ethnic agenda” all through their stay in office.
He added that the sectional agenda of the sacked service chiefs would be pursued by their successors. Odumakin, who also berated the president for not finding anyone from the South-East geopolitical zone qualified as a service chief, maintained that the appointments were not done in national interest.
“We are not excited. It’s a belated action that has taken these centuries for Mr. President to respond. People are not even interested in the news anymore because what gives the assurance now that the parochial and ethnic agenda that was pursued by the former service chiefs has ended.
“The nepotic and sectional agenda that informed the action in the first place cannot be erased by the belated action. It would take more than this to ignite confidence in the system again.
“The architecture they are pursuing, are they changing to new one?
There is no evidence to show that. Even in the new arrangement they have made, they didn’t find any person worthy from the South-East to be appointed a service chief. So, there’s no justification for any optimism or excitement about what the president has done.
They’re just playing with us. “For a government that has kept all those service chiefs for that long, we cannot say yes to its action until we see changes in the whole arrangement and that the appointments were done in national interest.
But to me, it is just another package for nepotism and sectional agenda until we see them perform differently from what has happened in the last six years.”
Also, the immediate past President-General of pan- Igbo sociocultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, decried the omission of military officers of South-East origin in the appointment of new service chiefs.
Nwodo, who is the Coordinator of the Southern and Middle Belt Forum (SMBF), said Buhari’s action was an obvious expression of disdain for the people of South- East. Nwodo said: “Gen. Buhari, thanks for making us in Igboland feel, once more, that we are not fit to head any of the security services.”
He said this was not different from what has become the trademark of the Buhari administration in the marginalization of Igbo in everything.
According to him, the current development tends to suggest that no Igbo was fit to occupy head of any Nigerian security agency.
The ACF, which spoke through its National Publicity Secretary, Yawe, said that it is hoping that the new service chiefs will live up to expectations given the prevailing insecurity in the country and calls by many Nigerians that there is need for change in the military high command.
His words: “The cries for this change were ev-erywhere. We only hope that the new service chiefs will justify the confidence the president has placed in them.
“When Buhari came into office as president, we at ACF had expected him to sort out the security problems of Nigeria speedily. Of late, we have complained endlessly about his security failures. We only pray his new security chiefs will serve him and Nigeria better.”
Yakassai, on his part, said the concern of Nigerians is the incessant security challenges and hoped that the new chiefs will rise to the occasion.
His words: “I hope that the new service chiefs will consider the desire of many people in this country, so that the fight against insurgency and banditry in the country can be successfully prosecuted.
“They need to study the situation, because the concern of the Nigerian people is about the incessant security challenges in the country. They need to assess the security situation in the country holistically and bring about a positive change.”
Also speaking, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) said it expects the new service chiefs to consolidate on achievements of their predecessors. The party, in a statement by the Secretary of its Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, Senator John AkpanUdoedehe, said: “We are confident that the new service chiefs will consolidate on the remarkable achievements of their predecessors in keeping the country safe and peaceful.
“The party calls for public support for the new service chiefs as they perform their constitutional roles of protecting our country’s territorial integrity and tackle emerging security threats. We also urge increased synergy among the armed forces in achieving these tasks.
“Recent incidents in the country have triggered quite divisive rhetoric in some quarters. It is counterproductive and dangerous to national security when we put ethnic spins to issues affecting us. In tackling security threats, we should criminalise crime, not ethnicity.”
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, called on the new service chiefs not to politicise security by aligning with politicians, but to use their positions to improve the country’s security.
Wike also noted that although the removal of the service chiefs came later than expected, President Buhari should be commended for appointing the new ones.
He challenged them to see their appointments as an opportunity to re-engineer the nation’s security architecture, which has suffered tremendous setback in the last five years.
“The new service chiefs should not politicise security by aligning with politicians. What the country needs now is competence and professionalism that will reduce insecurity to the barest minimum,” Wike said.
He noted that Nigerians who lost confidence in the former service chiefs are looking up to the new appointees to make the desired change and called on all levels of government to give them the needed support they would require to execute their assignments.
“This is an opportunity to serve the nation and I believe that the service chiefs will be focused and dedicated,” he added.
Meanwhile, Northern youths have asked the new service chiefs to live up to the expectations of Nigerians that called for the change of the former service chiefs.
The Arewa Youth Forum (AYF) in a statement issued by its president, Alhaji Gambo Ibrahim Gujungu, said the “the newly appointed service chiefs should ensure positive changes in the security situation which has overtime, become a sad story, particularly in the North.”