EX-SERVICE CHIEFS AS DIPLOMATS

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Omoba K. Aigbegbele argues that their nomination is in order

Nigeria has grappled with insecurity, especially the Boko Haram terrorism for over a decade. Despite various military victories in the last five years of the current administration, the issue remains unresolved.

Over time, experts have suggested that Nigeria needs better international collaboration to finally defeat the insurgents. Without a doubt, this remains true.

There have been allegations that Boko Haram receives international support. To win the war, there will be need to get support outside Nigeria to cut their chains of monetary and weapon supplies.

This is why the recent nomination of the immediate past service chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari as non-career ambassadors is not only significant and historic but also a good reward for their meritorious services to the fatherland.

The ex-service chiefs come in with years of experience in the war against the insurgents. Even in America, many diplomats are CIA spies or ex-military officers; but here some persons have attempted to question the president’s nomination of the immediate-past service chiefs as non-career ambassadors. Some of these Nigerians faulted the president’s decision, citing the inability of the nominees to effectively tackle the insecurity challenges across the country.

For me, the nomination which is an ample demonstration of Mr. President’s appreciation for the unalloyed loyalty and commitment of these illustrious sons to the protection of democracy and sovereignty of Nigeria, will, no doubt, go a long way to engender patriotism among the citizenry.

Besides, the nominees – the former Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin (rtd); former Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai (rtd); former Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Ibok Ibas (rtd); former Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Abubakar Sadique (rtd), and Air Vice Marshal Mohammed S. Usman (rtd) have over 20 years combined experience tackling insurgency. Their military experience will be key in gathering intelligence and negotiating deals for Nigeria with countries where they will be posted to. Just like the President, every Nigeria wants an end to the security challenge currently bedeviling the country.

President Buhari’s decision to nominate the ex-service chiefs has not violated any extant law of the land, international treaty or convention. Those in this school of thought are of the view that the call for the rejection of the would-be appointees could only be based on morality but noted that such is neither here nor there. It is important to state that foreign relations and diplomacy are not based on morality but much deeper diplomatic issues and facts. The nomination of the former service chiefs is without doubt the proverbial putting of a square peg in a square hole.

African Centre for Leadership and Good Governance (ACLG) in a press release issued recently in Lagos by the Executive Director, Dr. Chindo Nkweke and Executive Research Assistant, Hassan Bature Muhammed, said nominating the immediate past service chiefs as non- career ambassadors by the president is in order, that the president exercised his presidential prerogative and has not breached the law or constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

ACLG insists that the National Assembly is under obligation to consider the nominations on the basis of merit, qualification and capacities and that the onus now falls on the Senate to use its screening and approval processes in tandem with the law of the country to favour these men of tested loyalty and professionalism.

As the nomination means a reward for hard work and exceptional sacrifices and a service to the nation, the past service chiefs are really worthy ambassadors, who deserve to be honored. Here is reiterating that their services will be required in global security challenge and counter-insurgency matters across the globe, particularly in sub-Saharan region, while also bringing their wealth of experience to bear in assisting the country in its insurgency war with Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists.

I believe the president who nominated them has his genuine reasons for doing so. They may not have arrested the insurgency in the North East region totally but they did their best in the circumstances they find themselves. They served the nation to the best of their abilities as service chiefs. Now that they are retired and transiting to another sphere of life, it is imperative to remind them of the tasks ahead.

There is no doubt that these professionals with several years of experience had distinguished themselves, having served their fatherland meritoriously. One therefore wonders when loyalty, patriotism and selfless service to one’s nation have become a crime. Again, while not dismissing the apprehension of the critics, these chiefs have rights to aspire to any position they so desire and should be accorded their civic rights.

I commend President Buhari’s nomination of the former service chiefs as non-career ambassadors which we believe is borne out of a sincere desire to enthrone loyalty, hard work as well as promote patriotism among the citizenry. I congratulate the ambassadorial-nominees and urge them to bring their military prowess to bear in the diplomatic circle with the aim of resolving the rising insecurity in the country which has been largely attributed to international complicity.

Aigbegbele wrote from Abuja