A DISTINGUISHED OFFICER IN CHARGE

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Abdulrahman Sade pays tribute to the new Chief of Air Staff, Isiaka Oladayo Amao

In recent years, experts have been making submissions that air power is the most important component of modern warfare. Their opinions cannot be far from the truth. Despite this viewpoint, more than a century after the beginning of “the age of air power” and nearly six decades after the creation of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF was established in 1962), the force was, until recently, nothing to write home about, even though Nigeria ought to have since been a clear leader as the “giant of Africa.”

But Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar, the immediate past Chief of Air Staff (CAS), shifted the paradigm upon assuming office in 2015, fulfilling the promise he made at the beginning that he would “reposition the NAF as a highly professional and disciplined force through capacity building for effective, efficient and timely employment of air power in response to Nigeria’s national security imperatives.”

On Tuesday, January 26, 2021, Air Marshal Abubakar went into retirement and President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Air Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amao as his successor. Consequently, pundits have been debating on the capability of the new Air Chief in wearing the big shoe left behind by his predecessor.

With my vast but humble knowledge of the affairs of the Nigerian Air Force, I can confidently declare that Amao is a worthy successor and that Nigerians are going to be proud of him the same way they are of Air Marshal Abubakar. He will surely sustain his predecessor’s tempo or even exceed it, considering the African notion that elders often want those behind to surpass them in achievements.

My opinion about Air Marshal Amao’s capacity is predicated on his antecedents as a person and also as an officer of the NAF since he enlisted into the force in 1984 and got commissioned as a pilot officer in 1986. Let me begin with the sought-after decorations and awards he has been able to bag over the years. They are: Force Service Star (FSS), Meritorious Service Star (MSS), Distinguished, Service Star (DSS), General Service Star (GSS), General Service Medal (GSM), River Benue Star (RBS), Passed Staff College (PSC), Fellow National Defence University (FNDU) and Qualified Flying Instructor (QFI).

Not every military officer gets these kinds of laurels. They are exclusively reserved for officers who distinguish themselves in discharging the responsibilities given to them. Getting them indicates that Amao has a history of distinguishing himself whenever tasks are given to him. He will certainly take that credential to his new office.

Military watchers believe that among the criteria the presidency considers when appointing service chiefs are sound leadership qualities, outstanding commanding attributes and remarkable administrative experiences. Amao, a recipient of the Chief of Air Staff Letter of Commendation for Good Leadership, has handled many frontline responsibilities. Among them are: Squadron Pilot at 99 Air Combat Training Group, Instructor Pilot at 301 Flying Training School, and Air Assistant to the Chief of Air Staff.

Amao was also at various times, Assistant Director Operations at Defence Headquarters, Abuja; Commander of 99 Air Combat Training Group; Commander of 75 Strike Group Yola; Air Component Commander of Operation Zaman Lafiya Dole; Deputy Theatre Commander (Air) Operation Lafiya Dole; Director of Policy at Headquarters Nigerian Air Force; Director of Training at Headquarters Nigerian Air Force; Director of Operations at Headquarters Nigerian Air Force; Air Officer Commanding Tactical Air Command, Makurdi; Chief of Training and Operations Nigerian Air Force; Chief of Policy and Plans Nigerian Air Force; and, until he was appointed Chief of Air Staff, the Commandant, Armed Forces Resettlement Centre, Lagos.

The new Air Chief is also not new to diplomatic and international affairs, in view of the fact that his office would periodically require him to go into partnerships with other countries for weaponry, equipment or personnel trainings. He has served at the Nigerian High Commission in London at various times as Deputy Defence Adviser (Air) and later as Acting Defence Adviser. Those were, no doubt, fitting positions for this holder of Postgraduate Diploma in International Relations and Diplomacy from Kaduna Polytechnic.

Other academic qualifications in Amao’s kitty are: Master of Science (MSc) in Defence and Strategic Studies from University of Madras, India; Master of Military Science and Strategy (MMSc); Advanced Diploma in Defence and Strategy Studies from National Defence University (NDU) China; National Diploma in Freshwater and Fisheries Technology from Federal College of Freshwater and Fisheries Technology (FCFFT), New Bussa; and Nigerian Defence Academy’s Certificate of Education.

The official profile of the new CAS shows that prior to his latest appointment, he attended nine capacity-building courses both in Nigeria and abroad. The courses were: ​​Primary Flying Training, at 301 Flying Training School Kaduna; Basic Flying Training at 303 Flying Training School, Kano; Tactical Fighter Training at 99 Air Combat Training Group, Kainji; ​Instructor Pilot Course at 301 Flying Training School, Kaduna; Junior Staff Course at Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji; Senior Staff Course at Defence Services Staff College Wellington, India; National Defence Course at National Defence University, China; Aircraft Accident Investigation Course in Pakistan; and ​Aircraft Accident Investigation in Civil Airline at Nigeria Civil Aviation Training School. Zaria.

On the basis of my years of interactions with him and the opinions I sampled on him from both military and non-military circles, he is a go-getter who never flinches before obstacles anytime he wants to achieve an aim. Someone in the NAF family even confided in me that he was one of the top brains behind the resounding successes recorded in the air component of the counter insurgency operations of the Buhari-led administration.

It is worth repeating here that Abubakar resoundingly changed the narrative of the NAF and history will be fair to you. When a revolutionary like the former air chief exits, people would naturally be apprehensive about the capacity of his successor. I boldly say that the new helmsman was forged by the same school of thought that moulded his predecessor. In fact, many insiders are of the view that some of the best policies of the Abubakar era came when Amao was the Chief of Policy and Plans at the NAF headquaters. Nigerians should, therefore, expect the new helmsman to prolong and build on Abubakar’s legacies.

Amao’s parting words to his former boss the other day corroborate that optimism: “Be rest assured Sir that we will work assiduously to consolidate on the already made gains while charting a new course to take the NAF to the next and higher place of pride.” I strongly believe he will lead the way.

Sade wrote from Abuja