LEO IRABOR: THE MAN FOR THE JOB
General Leo Irabor, Chief of Defence Staff, is steadfast in the performance of his duties, writes Gondo L. Gondo
Napoleon Bonaparte, a former French military commander and political leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution, once said, “Read over and over again the campaigns of Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Gustavus, Turenne, Eugene, and Fredrick. This is the only way to become a great general and master the secrets of the art of war.”
General Leo Irabor, like the great men mentioned above, is a true war commander and defender. He has been a guiding light in the darkness that has since enveloped the Nigerian space when insecurity reigned supreme. By his commitment to ending the ravaging scourge of Boko Haram and other security threats, General Irabor has demonstrated to this generation that there can be a positive metamorphosis from gloomy days to glorious days. He has proven that the President Buhari-led administration made the right decision in bringing him on board as the Chief of Defence Staff up to this point. Have you seen, in this generation, a man who is so principled? Have you seen in this country a man who can take the bull by the horns to emancipate the people from the clutches of apprehension and insurgency?
General Irabor is that man for the job. This is one man who has distinguished himself by believing that change does not arrive on the wheels of inevitability but rather through constant struggle. Even the blind can see that he has rid the military of almost the bag eggs that have aided and abated insecurity while also restoring staff discipline through synergy and promotion of inter-agency cooperation amongst the armed forces and the Nigeria Police force. Indeed, he deserves a standing ovation.
The Delta State-born general gained admission into the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) in Kaduna as a member of the 34 Regular Course in 1983 and was commissioned a second lieutenant on June 28, 1986, into the Signal Corps of the Nigerian Army. In his quest to grow and explore knowledge like the great philosophers of old, he attended military and civil courses within and outside the country. He attended the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji for his junior staff course in 1995, and the Ghana Armed Forces Staff College, Teshi, Accra, for the senior staff course in 2000/2001. In his quest to keep studying and distinguish himself among his equals, he attended the National Defence College in Bangladesh in 2010 and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Executive Education in the USA in 2012 and 2017. General Lucky Irabor earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Obafemi Awolowo University and two master’s degrees from the University of Ghana and Bangladesh University of Professional, Dhaka.
Before he became the 17th Chief of Defence Staff in January 2021, he served as Theatre Commander of Operation Lafia Dole, which later became Operation Hadin Kai. I remember vividly that before his assumption of office as CDS, the country was wallowing in insecurity of great dimensions. People, especially in the North East, lost their source of livelihood; mayhem was being unleashed by the deadly religious sect, Boko Haram, and the citizens were dismayed and lost touch with peace. It was a horrifying tale. In the south-east, IPOB’s separatist movement affected lives and property negatively. But the General Irabor-led administration as the Chief of Defence Staff brought solutions to all these puzzles that beclouded the nation, which for me can’t be forgotten, even in the next generation.
President Buhari, who in his wisdom appointed him as the CDS, knew that General Irabor had all the leadership capacity and acumen to flourish in the new assignment; he knew that rot needed to be eschewed and discipline brought to the fore. This was a front-burner issue at that time. Apparently, he made no mistake handing over the mantle of leadership to him. He was aware that he was a no-nonsense man who would not take “no” for an answer. It happened exactly as the president predicted.
General Irabor, after taking the appointment, knew it was going to be a big task to crack down on the security crises that were perpetuated by Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), kidnappers, and other kinds of threats to the collective peace of the Nigerian people. So he rolled up his sleeves, engaged in critical thinking, and began to dish out his jobs in collaboration with other security chiefs and relevant stakeholders. In a matter of weeks after his appointment as the Chief of Defence Staff, he revealed his command philosophy, christened PEARL. PEARL means a Nigerian military who is Professional, Effective, Agile, Result-oriented, and Loyal to constituted authority. Obviously, this philosophy spurred the military to stand firm in the defence of the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. For me, I think “PEARL” has to be written on a marble so that the generation yet to be born who are going to be soldiers in the future will always have recourse to it. I remember that, when one Nigerian soldier was interviewed, he said, “At the sight of General Lucky Irabor, our boss, there is this fire of motivation in me right now to push hard and crackdown on these elements of conflict in our nation. Nigeria belongs to all of us, and we will overcome by the grace of God.”
Is the above assertion by a soldier not enough to prove that the general is the man of the people?
Under the leadership of General Irabor, many security and intelligence services were organized. He authored gender policy for the Armed Forces and built a very healthy relationship between the Nigerian Army and other countries’ armed forces. This is spectacular. Some of those countries are the Niger Republic, Chad, etc. Through his intervention, so many abducted citizens have gained freedom from the hands of their captors. This is a significant feat.
General Irabor has spread his tentacles of decisive leadership to the oil-producing areas. His resolve to bring sanity to the Nigerian space has drastically reduced oil theft. Oil production is undoubtedly the mainstay of the Nigerian economy. What becomes of the nation’s economy if oil theft is on the increase? This is one aspect in which he has succeeded.
Last year, The Image Merchants Promotion (IMPR) Limited, publishers of PRNigeria in collaboration with The Media Today (TMT), unveiled a book, authored by Mahmud Abdulsalam, in honor of the Chief of Defence Staff, titled “General LEO Irabor: The Pearl of Defense.” The 119-page book, whose blurb was written by Senator Kashin Shetimma, a former governor of Borno State, contains 33 articles under six chapters, namely, operations, stakeholders, infrastructure, synergy, human capital, and communication. The author brilliantly chronicled the capacity, achievements, and leadership qualities of this great compatriot, General Irabor. It is indeed an intricate honeycomb that expounds the personality of the general.
Gondo writes from the United Kingdom