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Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Brass Hat Envoys

Brass Hat Envoys

Less than two weeks after they left the military and were replaced as service chiefs, President Muhammadu Buhari last week tapped ex-brass hats for appointment as non-career ambassadors. The nominees, whose names he sent to the Senate for consideration and approval, are former Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin (rtd.), former Chief of Army Staff Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai (rtd.), former Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas (rtd.) and former Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar (rtd.). 

Also tipped is a retired Chief of Defence Intelligence, Air Vice-Marshal Mohammed S. Usman. In a letter to Senate President Ahmad Lawan, the President said he made those nominations in line with specified constitutional provisions and urged the red chamber to accord his request expeditious attention.

The ex-service chiefs took office in 2015, and amidst persistent insurgency, killings and kidnappings of hapless citizens by criminal actors, the President came under intense pressure to sack them and allow fresh initiatives and vigour in the battle against insecurity in Nigeria, especially since they had exceeded the statutory benchmarks of 60 years of age or 35 years of service. 

At least on three occasions, the National Assembly by way of resolutions asked Buhari to do away with the service chief as it seemed apparent they had reached their limit and could do nothing new to arrest the escalating trend of insecurity. 

But those calls were for long spurned as it was argued it was the President’s prerogative to determine wo he works with, and that he had insights into their services and the security situation that fell beyond the public’s grasp. When eventually their replacement was announced 26th January, it was widely seen as long overdue to give the top brass deserved rest and time for self-replenishment.

But the President thought differently, and on 4th February sent in their names for confirmation as ambassador-designates. Sections of the Nigerian public went into overdrive with criticisms of the move, wondering what’s the haste in thrusting the ex-commanders into the most civil of the civvies (i.e. diplomacy) with their military uniforms barely off. Government said it was “rewarding hard work and exceptional sacrifice” and described the transition as normal in decent democratic societies; but critics questioned those motives.

Whatever one makes of this move, it is reassuring to see a President famed for suspended motion act with haste for once in the nominations. It took several months of inaction before the envoys last confirmed by the Senate got assigned duty posts; we must wait to see if this set will make a difference if confirmed.

Talking about transition in other societies like the United States, if a General leaves service, he isn’t allowed to take any government job until seven years after unless by special waiver from Congress. It will be a precedent in re-acculturation to see the how hard boots adjust shortly after giving military orders to taking directives from a civilian supervising minister. 

So, Nigeria may be about teaching the world how to make brass hat envoys. C’mon, let’s look on the bright side!

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