By Jude Edeh-Attah

One very defining factor that contributed greatly in what has been described in some quarters as unsatisfactory tour of duty by the immediate past leadership of the Nigerian military was unhealthy inter-service rivalry.  Sources close to the military revealed that clash of ego between the immediate past COAS and CAS translated into a festering toxic rivalry which robbed off negatively on the professional and operational relationship between the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Air Force especially as it concerns the prosecution of the war against terror.

It was so bad that in a number of occasions troops were seen in video clips lamenting not just the late arrival but sometimes non arrival of air support to ground operations in critical situations which always proved disastrous. In fact, the distraught troops in the theatre were at a point convinced that some people within the system were deliberately sabotaging their effort as it was unbelievable to them watching the glaring show of unnecessary and costly rivalry between the two services that were supposed to engage in the same operation while things go awry.

Close watchers were also of the view that undue dominance of the operation and selfish appropriation of the modest achievements made possible through joint effort by one of the services was central to the animus that characterized the partnership. It was revealed for instance that the Air Component of Operation Lafiya Dole and by extension the Nigerian Air Force were always miffed at the way their gallant efforts and contribution are down played or even neglected in media reports and the whole operations at the north east made to look as if it were just the battle by the ground troops. Such feeling of alienation by an indispensable partner in a joint operation is a recipe for disaster as the morale, fighting spirit and sense of collaboration between and among the fighting forces will be greatly affected.

In effect, the mutual suspicion and unhealthy rivalry that characterized the operational relationship between the ground troops and air component was chiefly responsible for the poor result posted for most of the period in the past dispensation.

It was against this backdrop that the various pronouncements and declarations of the current Chief of Defence Staff and the Service Chiefs indicating their intention to break away from the old animosities that hampered the operational efficiencies of the military have become not only refreshing but most imperative.

In fact, a couple of days after they were appointed, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Lucky Iraboh led the Service Chiefs on operational visit to the epicenter of Boko Haram terrorism to get the a first-hand report on the status of the ongoing operations. During that visit and in several other fora across the country, the CDS and the Service Chief had left no one in doubt as to their collective decision to reenergize the time-tested efficiency of joint operations by the Nigerian Armed Forces.

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru even went a step further in this direction by incorporating the auspiciousness of collaborative efforts in his corporate vision for the Army. He conceived of having “A Nigerian Army that is repositioned to professionally defeat all adversaries in a JOINT ENVIRONMENT” (emphasis mine). He clearly recognizes the indispensability of synergy and collaboration between and among Nigeria’s tri-service armed forces in all wars and military operations that the Army will be involved. Despite the fact that the Nigerian Army is the linchpin of all the internal security operations undertaken by the Nigerian military, the Army Chief is interested in identifying gaps that could be addressed in the planning and conduct of future operations. Without doubt, the reported lack of synergy and undue rivalry in the past is a big operational gap that the armed forces must fill in order to ensure all-round success.

Listening to Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao emphasize the imperative of synergy of action among the services as an assured way of winning wars, confirms the unity of purpose and synergy of action that this new set of our military leaders have come to table with .  According to Amao, “When we say that we are members of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, we mean that the three Services represent a single entity. When we accept the fact that we the members of AFN constitute a united entity, the need for rivalry will not arise”. Apt!

What these remarkable disposition and profound statements by the military chiefs mean is that the old order with its animosities, ego trips and unhealthy inter-service rivalry that characterized the military’s internal security operations will now be a thing of the past. Indeed, it is heart-warming that these proclamations have already been put into immediate action as Nigerians have begun to see more synergy and collaboration between and among the fighting forces engaged in the war against terror and banditry. It is also hoped that this spirit of collaboration synergism will cascade down to media operations of the services. Nigerians hope to see more harmonization of information on military operations so as to avoid incidences of speaking at cross-purposes. It was such cacophony of voices in sensitive security information which ends up confusing the public and embarrassing the government that compelled the formation of the hybrid information management organ at the Defence Headquarters called Defence Media Operations at the twilight of the last dispensation. Thanks goodness that the new order has taken dressing and we are beginning to see much respectability in the management of information by the services.

By and large, we expect that the reinvigoration of joint operations will be the needed catalyst to effectively stamp out Boko Haram terrorism in the north east and the rampaging bandits in other parts of the country.

*Edeh-Attah, a military enthusiast and journalist wrote in from Lugbe Abuja.


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