Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that with the recent appointment of Air Vice Marshal Oladayo Amao as the 21st Chief of Air Staff, a new order has begun at the Nigerian Air Force
For five years, six months and 13 days, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar held court as the 20th Chief of Air Staff (CAS). In that time frame, he took the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) to soaring heights through germane platform acquisitions, welfare boosts, trainings, as well as Research and Development (R &D).
But on January 26, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari set off a flurry of change with the appointment of a new Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Oladayo Amao. With his appointment, Amao became the 21st CAS in the long line of succession, thus setting off a new order at NAF.
Change of Baton
Three days afterwards, a change of baton occurred at the Headquarters NAF (HQ NAF) in Abuja. The handing and taking over started off with Inspection of the Quarter Guard by the incoming and outgoing CAS on arrival at HQ NAF Complex as well as the laying of wreath by the new CAS at the HQ NAF Memorial Arcade.
Other highlights of the event included the signing of the handing/taking over notes and the handing/taking over of NAF colours. The event was climaxed with the Changing of the Guard ceremony and lowering/hoisting of NAF flag in front of the HQ NAF Complex, which symbolised the end of one era and the beginning of another.
In his inaugural address, the 21st CAS pledged that the NAF would sustain and effectively employ Air Power in the protection of Nigeria’s people and interests, against all enemies of the state, just as he assured Nigerians that the NAF in synergy with sister services and other security agencies, would do its best to provide the support and security necessary for the nation’s development, whilst sparing no effort in discharging its constitutional responsibilities to the government and law-abiding citizens of the country.
Acknowledging that the NAF had recorded tremendous successes in the past few years, especially in enhancing the service’s operational efficiency and the welfare of its personnel, AVM Amao assured his predecessor that we would work hard to maintain his records while hoping to attain greater heights.
Also admitting that his appointment was a challenge and call to national duty, especially at this crucial stage in Nigeria’s development, he further noted that, though bedeviled by various forms of insecurity in the country, ranging from the Boko Haram insurgency/terrorism in the North-east to the criminal activities of pipeline vandals, crude oil thieves, sea robbers and militants in the South, the nation was also facing increasing threats from kidnappers, cattle rustlers and militarised herdsmen.
Thus, he restated the NAF’s resolve to bring such threats to an end in order to ensure the nation is safe and economically attractive, just as he added that the NAF will continue to do its best possible by leveraging credible partnerships, focusing on enhancing professionalism for high performance as well as motivational initiatives to create an enabling environment for its operations and personnel to thrive.
He therefore charged all officers, airmen and airwomen of the NAF to give their best by exhibiting unparalleled professionalism, patriotism and ingenuity to ensure the security of the country.
Thanking President Buhari for the honour, he also appreciated the Ninth National Assembly, the officers, airmen and airwomen of the service for the support given to his predecessor without which, he noted, many of the successes recorded would not have been possible. He implored them to extend the same support to his administration as it opens a new chapter in the NAF’s history.
Earlier in his remarks, the former CAS, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, noted that at the outset of his five years, six months and thirteen days in office, his vision was to reposition the NAF into a highly professional and disciplined force which was clearly defined through capacity building initiatives to ensure effectiveness, efficiency and timeliness in the employment of Air Power to address the security challenges facing the country.
He expressed satisfaction that he had not only restructured the service substantially, with the expansion of its structure and recruitment of about 10,000 additional personnel, but that the service had also embarked on massive air operations in different parts of the country; especially in the North-east, North-central and the North-west, adding that in the North-east alone, the NAF flew over 37,000 hours of air operations.
Speaking on manpower development, he noted that due to the critical personnel requirements for the effective projection of Air Power, about 133 pilots had been trained and winged under his watch. This, he said, represented “about 49 per cent of the total active pilots conducting air operations to defend Nigeria today”.
He also disclosed that, while in office, he embarked on an elaborate effort to bridge the gap between force projection and force protection. This had been premised on the fact that Air Power cannot be effectively projected when there are no proper means to protect the bases, air assets and air crew.
In the area of Research and Development, he that the NAF, under his leadership, entered into Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with 15 Nigerian universities, which have continued to contribute significantly to addressing some of the aircraft maintenance challenges facing the service.
He also noted that, while building the human resource base of the NAF, concerted efforts were also made to significantly address personnel welfare issues with the provision of new, as well as upgrade of existing, accommodation, medical and educational facilities in NAF units across the country.
While expressing confidence in the abilities of AVM Amao, he noted that the new CAS had played very crucial roles in ensuring that the NAF attained its present status. According to him, “he was here as Director of Operations and later as Chief of Training and Operations. He also served as Air Officer Commanding Tactical Air Command and as Chief of Policy and Plans here at HQ NAF before he moved to the Armed Forces Resettlement Centre, Oshodi as Commandant.
“I am very confident, that you have all it takes to move the Air Force to a much higher level than you met it. My prayers are with you and my prayers are with all the officers, airmen and airwomen of the NAF.”
Thanking the president for giving him the opportunity to add value to what he inherited from his predecessor in 2015, he also expressed his gratitude to members of the National Assembly, particularly the Senate and House Committees on the Air Force, as well as officers, airmen and airwomen of the Service who, he said, stood by him to ensure that the NAF moves to a much higher level.
According to information made available by NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Vice Marshal Ibikunle Daramola, AVM Amao was born on September 14, 1965 at Enugu. He hails from Oshogbo Local Government Area of Osun State, Nigeria. He enlisted into the Nigerian Air Force on January 19, 1984 as a member of 35th Nigerian Defence Academy Regular Course and was commissioned as Pilot Officer on December 20, 1986.
He has the following academic qualifications: Master of Science (MSc) in Defence and Strategic Studies from University of Madras India, Master of Military Science and Strategy (MMSc) and Advance Diploma in Defence and Strategy Studies from National Defence University (NDU) China, Post Graduate Diploma in International Relations and Diplomacy from Kaduna Polytechnic Nigeria, National Diploma in Freshwater and Fisheries Technology from Federal College of Freshwater and Fisheries Technology (FCFFT) New Bussa Nigeria and Nigerian Defence Academy Certificate of Education.
AVMl Amao has attended the following courses at Primary Flying Training, at 301 Flying Training School Kaduna Nigeria; Basic Flying Training at 303 Flying Training School Kano, Nigeria; Tactical Fighter Training at 99 Air Combat Training Group Kainji Nigeria; Instructor Pilot Course at 301 Flying Training School Kaduna Nigeria; and Junior Staff Course at Armed Forces Command and Staff College Jaji Nigeria.
He also attended the Senior Staff Course at Defence Services Staff College Wellington India; National Defense Course at National Defence University China; Aircraft Accident Investigation Course at Karachi Pakistan; and Aircraft Accident Investigation in Civil Airline at Nigeria Civil Aviation Training School Zaria Nigeria.
Appointment-wise, AVM held positions like Squadron Pilot at 99 Air Combat Training Group, Instructor Pilot at 301 Flying Training School, Instructor Pilot at 303 Flying Training School, Air Assistant to Chief of Air Staff at Headquarters Nigerian Air Force, Deputy Defence Adviser (Air) at Nigerian High Commission London, and Acting Defence Adviser at Nigerian High Commission, London.
Others include Assistant Director Operations at Defence Headquarters Abuja Nigeria, Commander of 99 Air Combat Training Group, Commander of 75 Strike Group Yola Nigeria, Air Component Commander Operations ZAMALAFIYA and LAFIYA DOLE. (North East Nigeria Operation), Deputy Theatre Commander (Air) Operation LAFIYA DOLE, Director of Policy at Headquarters Nigerian Air Force, Director of Training at Headquarters Nigerian Air Force, and Director of Operations at Headquarters Nigerian Air Force.
He was also the Air Officer Commanding Tactical Air Command Makurdi, Chief of Training and Operations Nigerian Air Force, Chief of Policy and Plans Nigerian Air Force, and he was currently the Commandant Armed Forces Resettlement Centre, Lagos.
For AVM Amao, his awards and decorations are as follows- the 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) China and Qualified Flying Instructor (QFI).
Asides being a fighter instructor pilot with over 1500 jet and instructional hours, he is the recipient of the Chief of Air Staff letter of commendation for good leadership.
Over the years, he has participated in operations like the Draw Down of AFISMA operation in Mali, Operation ZAMAN LAFIYA (North East Nigeria operations), Operation LAFIYA DOLE (North East Nigeria operations) and other internal security operations in Nigeria.