By Chuks Aziken
General Lucky Irabor was appointed the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) on 26 January 2021. His appointment certainly put a round peg in a round hole because of his wealth of experience and achievements in the service to fatherland.
From the up scaling of its airpower, acquisition of world class platforms for enhanced maritime security and research and development to improvement of personnel welfare, the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) have been retooled within the time under review to deliver on their mandate of national security.
Upon assumption of duty, Irabor said his appointment came at a defining moment in the annals of our great nation, particularly at a critical time when the call to serve came with a huge responsibility, which demanded a clear direction and philosophy of leadership to act as guiding principles of conduct, behaviour and a roadmap for action.
The CDS said the essence is to emplace a homogeneous, highly-motivated, disciplined, and mission-ready AFN to deliver their constitutional roles and contribute their quota as foremost national institution to facilitate national security, peace, stability, and sustainable development of the nation.
Irabor first unveiled his vision of the Armed Forces which was “To foster a Professional Armed Forces capable of effectively meeting constitutional imperatives”.
General Irabor pledged to lead by the finest examples that he will set to create the right tone for personnel motivation, active followership, and consolidative leadership at all levels of the AFN.
His leadership focus is anchored on PEARL which is to build the AFN into a Professional, Effective, Agile, Result-oriented and Loyal institution in concept, shape, and outlook.
One very major subject that continues to attract commendations for Gen. Irabor is how he has been able to promote interservice synergy which is at all-time high now in the Armed forces of Nigeria.
He promised to promote synergy and mission-command as essential elements for operational planning and execution for all security challenges requiring military intervention across our dear nation.
The CDS hinged his drive for synergy on the fact that no Service can do it alone and secondly, to enable disciplined initiative within any commander’s intent to empower agile and adaptive leadership in the conduct of joint operations. As a General who has been at warfront against terrorists and insurgents, the CDS appreciates how inter-service rivalry disrupts military operational efficiency.
According to him, “I shall also promote active cooperation and collaboration between the military and other relevant stakeholders, key players, departments, agencies, and organisations in aggregating our overall national resource endowments to comprehensively deter, counter, overcome, or resolve all security challenges across the nation requiring military intervention”
True to his words, the Armed Forces under the leadership of General Irabor have degraded terrorists in the North East leading to mass surrendering.
For fear of military wrath, over 100,000 terrorist fighters including women and children have laid down arms in the North East. This has translated to the present unmistaken improved security situation in the zone.
There is also mass resettlement of displaced persons in the North East leading to shut down of Internally Displaced Person Camps (IDPs) by the government.
Within the last two years, the military under Irabor, has rejigged the anti-terror war, clearing strongholds of the terrorists in the Northeast and other parts of the country.
Meanwhile, key Boko Haram Commanders who have been on the watchlist of the Military were arrested and cache of arms and ammunition recovered.
Not forgetting that people of the North-East will forever remain grateful for greater opportunity to exercise their electoral franchise. This was unthinkable two years ago.
Many attribute the successes of the military in the North-East and other regions to the ‘soft or non-kinetic approaches being implemented by the current AFN leadership in solving security challenges.
The non-kinetic measures include rehabilitation of school buildings, improvement of school laboratories, provision of portable water and other non-kinetic measures quietly been executed across the country.
Another key achievement of was the release of the remaining 23 victims of Kaduna Train attack victims following the intervention of the Chief of Defence Staff Action Committee (CDSAC) which he conceived and guided ITS operations.
To ensure a smooth transition, Irabor pledged to defend democracy at all costs and tasked servicemen to remain apolitical but firm in their disposition towards the conduct of the 2023 elections.
He has demonstrated leadership at this critical time in the history of our great nation where the politics have been that of divisive rhetoric of ethnic and religious tales threatening the unity and peace of the nation.
While, many people have insinuated a military takeover of government, the number one military officer, a gentle officer has consistently maintained that the military under his leadership will not interfere in the electoral process.
Reports across the country revealed that the military indeed provided support to the Police and other security agencies to ensure free, fair, and credible polls.
In the healthcare sector, the Armed Forces of Nigeria have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a renowned medical consulting firm, to build a world-class military hospital.
The hospital patterned after the Walter Reed Military Hospital in the United States, when completed, will serve both active and retired personnel from all branches of the military, as well as the civilian population
To promote the mental health of service personnel, Irabor, solicited support for the Armed Forces Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Centre project being constructed by the Defense and Police Officers’ Wives Association (DEPOWA) under the leadership of Barr. Vickie Irabor.
The mental health of personnel has been an issue of concern to tame friendly killing of soldiers.
Irabor at the ground-breaking and foundation stone-laying ceremony of the PTSD Centre at the Muhammadu Buhari Cantonment Giri Abuja, commended DEPOWA for the initiative considering the involvement of military personnel in protracted operations across the country and other parts of the world to restore peace and security.
He said men and women of the armed forces remain the first beneficiaries of the establishment of the center, adding that the project would also be of high value to all Nigerians.
Gen. Irabor on assumption of office reinvigorated military operations against crude oil/products thieves. This effort is not only saving the country scarce resources, but helping to reduce considerably, environmental degradation in the Niger-Delta region. Available information show that troops have discovered and destroyed thousands of illegal refineries and arrested hundreds of criminals.
In addition, the troops have also recovered crude oil, Automotive Gas Oil and Premium Motor Spirit running into billions of naira.
The AFN have also witnessed enhanced professionalism through human capacity development, enhancement of personnel welfare as well as Research and Development (R&D).
On his leadership thrust, Irabor said the Defence Headquarters, is evolving a Whole-of-Society Approach to security by deepening strategic communication to educate the populace on the fact that issues of security are a collective responsibility.
According to him, everybody in the society ought to be a relevant stakeholder.
He said, “timely information on suspicious movements of strangers in a community might be the main lead to provide the needed early warning for the relevant government agency to swing into action.
He stressed the need to formulate a robust and proactive communication strategy that draws all citizens to the realization of their roles in protecting the nation while also using the same medium to preempt and counter narratives of the insurgents.
The Military within the time under review, has embarked on strategic reforms, targeted at strengthening the Services and boosting the morale of personnel.
On Pension management, the Military Pensions Board has unveiled plans to transmute from manual verification of all military pensioners to a more secure and user-friendly electronic verification.
The Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) despite the security challenges posed by the homegrown terror group, Boko Haram and its affiliate, the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) have in the last two years, evolved into one of the most formidable in Africa through total reengineering and impactful leadership
From the consequent achievements, it is evident that Irabor, despite taking Command at a very trying period, when the AFN were bogged by the counter insurgency war, is committed to repositioning the military into a highly professional and disciplined Force through capacity building initiatives for timely response to Nigeria’s national security imperatives.
Chuks Aziken writes from Abuja