Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that with the new appointment of service chiefs, there was a change of baton between the outgone Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Etrends Ibas, now retired, and his successor, Rear Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, thus ushering in a new era in the naval chain of command
As with most military traditions, the handing and taking over ceremonies provide ample opportunity to showcase their longstanding peaceful transition from the predecessor to successor. So it was last Friday at the Naval Headquarters in Abuja when the outgone Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas (retired) handed over to his successor, Rear Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo.
Change of Baton
For Vice Admiral Ibas (Rtd), after spending five and half years at the helm of affairs of the NN, it was time to say goodbye. The occasion was heralded by a ceremonial quarter guard. Following tradition, the handing and taking over ceremony was observed as well as the valedictory and inaugural speech by the outgone CNS and his predecessor. The former also adorned the latter with the Admiralty Medal.The Admiral’s Distinguishing Flag tradition was also observed at the end of the handing/taking over ceremony.
In his valedictory remarks, Ibas who went down memory lane said: “It is a little over five and half years since I stood in this hall to present my inaugural address where I outlined my vision and mission statements. Closely after that event I travelled to Lagos to hold my maiden dialogue with you since my appointment then. In those two early addresses, I shared with you the background, prevailing, emerging and predicted challenges, response plans, your role in the plans and the expectations of the Nigerian people.
“In the narratives then, none was left in doubt that the NN has a lead role to play in combating maritime crimes to safeguard the nation’s prosperity and wellbeing of the citizenry. The adverse impact of these crimes was and remains enormous and we concluded that they should not be allowed to continue. The intents of the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR and his expectations of each and every one of us were made clear to all of us.
“In acknowledgement of that presidential charge, the service resolved to frontally confront illegal bunkering and crude oil theft, piracy and other criminal activities in the maritime environment with all the resources at our disposal. As your new CNS then, I braced up to the responsibility of leading the charge. I set the tone by the vision statement and directed it to be the compass to order our direction and the barometer to gauge our focus in our efforts to collectively move the NN to a sustainable and enviable height.
“I shared my expectation that all officers, ratings and civilian staff were to adhere to high standards of discipline, loyalty, integrity, selfless service, teamwork and professionalism. I implored you to be on the right side of history by being part of the solution to the challenges confronting the service and the nation. In all these I promised you a responsive leadership.
“Today, we have come a full circle, but this occasion will be too brief to conduct a full post mortem or take adequate stock. I can therefore only make a nominal attempt at review. But what is sure is that we proceeded with a singleness of purpose to address the subversive and ruinous activities in our domain.
“ The menacing scenario at sea from the spike in piracy and sea robbery, proliferation of illegal refinery, brazen theft of crude oil, mindless destruction of critical infrastructure for oil and gas, reckless violent crimes such as kidnapping, hijack and attack on security forces and many more activated in us new concepts. Some of these are the dedicated anti-piracy operations, choke point operation and riverine and swamp operations.
“Seeking to overwhelm the criminals in their game, the requirement for enormous capacity upgrade led to massive fleet recapitalisation, generous logistic support, retooled maintenance facilities and equipment restock, processes recalibration, manpower boost in quality and quantity, an improving welfare facilities and increasingly strengthened coalition of international partners and local stakeholders.”
Ibas added that although the country has witnessed new security challenges elsewhere, “the unsavory state of affair in the maritime domain depicted earlier has been significantly narrowed. They must be recognised as social problems and so with the benefit of other complementary remedies would continue to face decline until obliteration.
“What is important is to sustain the pressure to foreclose a relapse. At this point credit must be accorded the quarters from which help came in the crusade. Let me therefore first offer thanks to the Almighty God for his grace and providence. I remain indebted to Mr President, Commander in Chief for not only appointing me to the office but also resourced all of the efforts we can identify today.
“I am similarly grateful to several other senior government officials. In particular, I must register my gratitude to the Vice President, His Excellency Professor Yemi Osinbajo for his attentive ears and encouragement. I thank the legislative leaders, especially leaders of the Navy Committees in the two Chambers who tirelessly worked to always crystallise the service’s dreams. I acknowledge in the same vein the support of the various states of the federations, particularly those hosting Navy units and formations who continued to care for those elements of the navy in their domain.
“I am profoundly indebted to the Hon Minister of Defence, Gen Bashir Magashi (Rtd) for his unceasing advocacy and recommendations for accelerated growth of the navy. I have to acknowledge the outgoing Chief of Defence Staff for his attention and interest in the navy to the extent that he was jovially dubbed Navy General. May God bless you Sir for your guidance and companionship.
“In the same vein, I congratulate my colleagues outgoing Service Chiefs, appreciate the invaluable support I got from them without questions always and wish them a restful retirement. I acknowledge with gratitude the supports of the icons of the navy and entreat them to sustain the goodwill. For want of space and time, may I add in general my appreciation to several others, including Heads of MDAs, international partners and a huge population of well-wishers from all walks of life.
“ It is only appropriate for me to place on record here that while the assistance received was important, it would have yielded no fruits without you, the personnel of the Nigerian Navy. I cannot therefore thank you enough for your dedication as I commend your excellent teamwork.
“Together from the PSOs, commanders at various levels, officers, men and civilian staff, we were able to always rally responsible and dedicated men who served at different duty posts to win the NN mandate. I charge you to keep up the high standards which we have built and never rest on your oars, but to continue your devotion to the service. In particular, I enjoin you to earnestlyextend the same cooperation to the incoming Chief of the Naval Staff, Rear Admiral AZ Gambo. I have no doubt that you will heed this call and continue to deliver even against any odds.
“Just as I am winding down today, another important wing of the Navy, the Navy Officers Wives Association (NOWA) is also drawing curtain on their own administration. I take this opportunity therefore to congratulate the outgoing National President, Barrister (Mrs) Theresa Ibasfor a successful tenure. We are united in appreciation of the quantum of development her tenure has brought to this association and the immense value addition, some of which will endure into several generations in future, her milestones of attainment have impacted on the members.
“Nevertheless, while I thank you as head of NOWA for your official role, I am in the same vein grateful to you privately as my dear wife who bore stoically along with me the different tempests of my career voyage over the years to this final berth in my harbor of retirement. Thank you. By the same token I appreciate my loving children who embraced emotional maturity early in their young lives due to the frequent absent of their daddy occasioned by deployments away from the family. Now, I can look forward with relish to reuniting with you.
“I commend all the members of NOWA and the Naval Ratings Wives Association (NARAWA)who are the wives of personnel of the NN for their steadfast love to their husbands. Your devotion to remain on guard at home in the long absence of your husbands is nothing short of a huge indirect role in the management of the NN. I thank you at this end of an era and urge you not to relent. Finally, may I congratulate the incoming NOWA National President, Mrs Gambo and equally wish her a successful outing.
“I must at this juncture also spare a few words for the bad eggs among us. Like any other organisation, the service has its own fair share. I refer to all those who mindlessly subvert the system at every opportunity. Our experiences in their treachery of connivance with some criminal elements, complicity in crime commission, negligent performance of duty permitting aggravation of cases in some instances, the disrepute to the institution of the Nigerian Navy in their less than professional conduct through alleged unethical behaviours, marring the otherwise lauded efforts of our prosecution of infractions, were very sad and regrettable commentary in an otherwise glowing, commendable and exemplary service from you all.
“ I urge this band of undedicated personnel to please make a turnaround promptly, and reclaim traction to a fulfilled and successful career. I am still hopeful that you would, after pondering on this, reconsider your disposition, choose the path of honour, in clear appreciation of the essence of service to your fatherland.
“On this note distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, and as the time has beckoned for me now, I want to assure you that I am moving on with great satisfaction in what we have accomplished together and in the knowledge that I leave you in good and capable hands. Thank you, God bless you, ONWARD TOGETHER.”
In his inaugural address, the new CNS while
expressing his delight at the honour bestowed on him, said: “ I am particularly delighted that the leadership of the Nigerian Navy has fallen on me as the next Chief of the Naval Staff. I am a firm believer in God and I do know that he works in mysterious ways.
“ In the last five years, the outgoing administration has achieved giant strides and I most sincerely thank the outgoing CNS and his amiable staff for achieving this feat. Indeed nothing is impossible with God. I want to assure the outgoing CNS that I am going to uphold the good works that he has begun and ensure that we move the NN to yet greater heights.
“On behalf of the officers and men I wish to most sincerely thank you for the Leadership you provided while at the helm of affairs and trust that same measure if applied in your civil life, will definitely make you excel all over again.
“ My sincere thanks to the President, C in C who found me worthy of this highly exalted office. I therefore wish to pledge my unalloyed allegiance to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the President, C – in C. May I also humbly request that the cooperation and support extended to Vice Admiral IE Ibas be extended to my humble self.
“As I conclude I wish to appreciate my amiable and great pillar, wife Nana and our dear children for their unflinching support at all times in my career. On this note once again I wish the outgoing CNS V Adm IE Ibas fair winds and following Seas. Onward Together.”