According to foremost writer, Frank Sonnenberg, progress is a mark of excellence. As a mark of their impressive performance in office, immediate past Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin (rtd), and the other three retired service chiefs were recently nominated by the president as non-career ambassadors.
This is coming few days after the president accepted their immediate resignation, and approved their retirement from service.
Part of the letter to the Senate President, Senator Ahmed Lawan, from President Buhari stated thus:
“In accordance with section 171 (1), (2) (c) and sub-section (4) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, I have the honour to forward for confirmation by the Senate, the under listed five nominees as Non-Career Ambassadors-Designate.
“The nominees are: General Abayomi G. Olonisakin (rtd), Lt. Gen. Tukur Y. Buratai (rtd), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas (rtd), Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar (rtd), and Air Vice Marshal Mohammed S. Usman (rtd).”
Ambassadors are the highest-ranking diplomats representing their country’s interests outside the country. The president has the prerogative to recommend ambassadorial nominees. After Senate’s approval, they are posted to different stations across the world. The ambassador’s major role is to oversee their country’s activities in any country they are designated and further strengthen the foreign policy goals of the home government.
It is important to mention that unlike ambassadors pursuing their career, non-career ambassadors are appointed based on unique talents and the expertise they will bring to their ambassadorial post. The non-career ambassadorial position and the overall ambassadorial role is very crucial so the president is always careful in selecting the best to represent the country abroad.
For the former service chiefs, the basis for their nomination is an obvious reality having delivered on the previous jobs given to them by their principal. If they had performed below expectations, the President probably wouldn’t have considered any of them for the roles.
Commendations have continued to pour in from patriotic citizens, and some have even suggested that they should be posted to neigbouring countries where they can effectively reinforce the current partnership existing between those countries and Nigeria.
Having done well in their previous posts, the president has decided that it would make more sense to give the former service chiefs other roles to serve their fatherland.
The achievements of the ex-service chiefs can be seen in the fight against insurgency: their utmost prerogative while they were in office. The fight against Boko Haram insurgents witnessed remarkable improvement as opposed to what was obtainable prior to their appointment as service chiefs.
Gen. Olonisakin’s giant strides in office gave good direction to different multinational operations that Nigeria was involved in. This multinational intervention is what has contributed a great deal to the relative stability the Northern region enjoys and by extension the country. Olonisakin’s appointment in 2015 was a turning point in the fight against insurgency and other criminal elements across Nigeria.
Diverse formations, departments and units of the Nigerian Army have also had a feel of Gen. Buratai’s providential leadership. His reforms and innovations during his administration transformed the Army.
Unlike some of his predecessors who preferred to map out strategies and bark orders from the comfort zone of their Abuja offices, Buratai on several occasions joined the troops on the battlefront. After the recapture of Gamboru Ngala in Borno state on 1st of September 2015, Buratai marched with the troops on a field inspection of the town crossing a bridge to Fatokol where a huge crowd of Nigerians received them with cheers and tears of joy.
The contributions of the other former service chiefs, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas (rtd), Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar (rtd), and Air Vice Marshal Mohammed S. Usman (rtd) were equally exceptional.
The air defence component of the country’s armed forces under the leadership of Air Marshall Abubakar transformed the war against insurgency.
In the first few months of Muhammadu Buhari assumption of office, and the appointment of Air Marshal Abubakar as CAS, Boko Haram controlled over 20 local government areas in the Northeastern part of the country. The air power component of the nation’s armed forces played a crucial role in liberating those territories from the dreaded sect.
Now effectively decimated, Boko Haram insurgents are mainly limited to the fringes of Lake Chad and parts of Sambisa and Alagarno Forests. This scenario has facilitated the return of many displaced persons to their ancestral homesteads.
It is against this backdrop that President Muhammadu Buhari decided to give the ex-service chiefs new assignments. This nomination comes clearly both as an acknowledgement and appreciation of the superlative feat achieved previously by the service chiefs, as well as a show of presidential confidence.
The nomination of the former service chiefs as ambassadors is a recall to serve and make impact in more formidable ways following past achievements. This is why their nomination has been described as a strategic move to spearhead efforts in the diplomatic space to bring the Boko Haram menace to a quick end.
For someone like Gen. Olonisakin (rtd), who has carried out various international assignments, this is not totally new. While he was in service, Olonisakin was part of a conference co-hosted by the U.S. military aimed at boosting cooperation between military forces of countries fighting extremist groups.
Top military officers from at least 30 African countries and some top military chiefs from the United States and Europe attended the opening session of that conference which was the sixth African Land Forces Summit, with the theme “Unity in Strength: Combating Africa’s Security challenges.”
On February 9, 2016, Olonisakin visited AFRICOM where Gen. David Rodriquez, Commander, U.S Africa Command welcomed him and Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams, Commander, U.S. Army Africa to a two-day meeting, alongside several of his most senior officers. The purpose of the visit was to reinforce the importance of a strong US-Nigeria security cooperation relationship, with topics focused on ways to counter terrorism, joint operations, logistics and maritime security.
Ibas too has equally attended many seminars and exhibitions at home and abroad. He attended the 25th International Homeland Security Exhibition and the 3rd International Exhibition for Operational Units in Tel Aviv, Israel, in June 2011.
Buratai was the Force Commander of the Multinational Joint Task Force that brought together soldiers from four west African countries. Being the pioneer Joint force commander, he had the responsibility of putting together the entire joint task force operations. He established the headquarters in N’djamena, Chad and made all the deployments.
The former service chiefs are likely to assume their new assignments seamlessly and should have the capacity to hit the ground running.
Obviously, the ambassadorial nomination of the ex-service chiefs is a reaffirmation of the Buhari-led administration’s resolve to effectively tackle insurgency, as well as bring sustainable development to Nigerians.