Former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has said that the prerogative of ‘’hire and fire’’ of Service Chiefs is that of the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic. He, therefore, is not disposed to calling for the sack of the country’s service chiefs because he did not appoint them.
Obasanjo stated this on Thursday, during a condolence visit to the Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, over the death of his mother, Abigail. He called for a stronger synergy between the federal government and the citizens in addressing the issues affecting the country. The elder statesman, who also listed insecurity, economic instability, and poor governance as major challenges, urged the citizens to be resolute and proactive in addressing the logjam.
Obasanjo said, “There are many challenges in Nigeria today. There are challenges of insecurity, economy and political instability among others. These challenges are not really new except that they have taken a different dimension.
I WILL NOT GIVE FATHERLY ADVICE TO SERVICE CHIEFS THROUGH THE MEDIA: “I believe that the most important aspect of dealing with all the challenges we have is leadership, and the people must come together. But then, there must be leadership to get everybody to work.” On the increasing call for the sacking of security chiefs in a bid to address the problem of insecurity, he said, “I did not appoint security chiefs, how can I ask that they be sacked? If I have a piece of fatherly advice for the security chiefs, I will not give it through the media.”
Clarification — POWERS OF THE PRESIDENT; C-in-C — A peep into the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) indicates that Section (hereinafter stated simply as “S”) 218 (1; 2; 4 [ a & b] ) of the Constitution provides as follows: ” The powers of the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation shall include power to determine the operational use of the armed forces of the Federation; (2) The powers conferred on the President by subsection (1) of this section shall include power to appoint the Chief of Defence Staff, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff, the Chief of Air Staff and heads of any other branches of the armed forces of the Federation as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly; (4) The National Assembly shall have power to make laws for the regulation of -(a) the powers exercisable by the President as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation; and (b) the appointment, promotion and disciplinary control of members of the armed forces of the Federation.”
S. 219 of the Constitution follows:: ” The National Assembly shall – (a) in giving effect to the functions specified in S.217 of this Const.; and (b) with respect to the powers exercisable by the President under S. 218 of this Constitution, by an Act, establish a body which shall comprise such members as the National Assembly may determine, and which shall have power to ensure that the composition of the armed forces of the Federation shall reflect the federal character of Nigeria in the manner prescribed in the said Section 217 of this Constitution.”
A Lagos based legal practitioner and social critic, eloquent and intelligent Jiti Ogunye in a Premium Times publication of January 18, 2014 notes that: ‘’Part VII of the Armed Forces Act, Cap A20, Vol. 1, LFN, 2004 provides for administration, government and command of the armed forces. S.18 ( 1&2) of the Armed Forces Act governs the appointment of the service chiefs.
It states that ”the President, may, after consultation with the Chief of Defence Staff and subject to confirmation by the National Assembly, appoint such officers ( in this Act referred to as ” the Service Chiefs”) as he thinks fit, in whom the command of the Army, Navy and Air Force, as the case may be, and their reserves shall be vested; (2) The Service Chiefs shall be known (a) in the case of the Army, as the Chief of Army Staff; (b) in the case of the Navy, as the Chief of Naval Staff; and ( c) in the case of the Air Force, as the Chief of the Air Staff”
Security matters are very complex and only the initiated or anybody that has access to full details may be able to justifiably take a stand. Sometimes, those leaders see what an outsider cannot see. Beyond that important factor, it might not be safe to start discussing sensitive security issues in public. What if foreign interets are discovered? It would be unwise for security managers not to be circumspect in the national interest. Years ago while in government, we used to argue when State governors each time attempted to seize the presidency by the jugular in the appointment of Hon. Ministers if governors allowed local government chairmen to dictate to them their appointees as State Commissioners. The closest to this analogy is the question: Will regional governments allow the presidency to choose heads of security outfits recently put together? I remember we used to joke if a governor would simply allow anybody to appoint for him without due clearance his/her Director of Protocol who takes charge of the welfare and feeding of the household of the governor. Poison could creep in from any angle.
A President has a mission and vision which was why Chief Obasanjo threw away lists of ambassadorial nominees from some states for strategic posts of London, (Christopher Kolade) China, (Oluwole Coker) Germany,(Tunde Adeniran) United States, (George Obiozor) and France. Thoseeminently qualified personalities were investment enthusiasts and drove that policy with total commitment. Governors and top party chieftains merely grumbled but never could go fight him because that is Mr. President’s prerogative. And the people appointed for these strategic posts were ”A” Grade materials whom Mr. President believed would run with his vision.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s refusal to comment openly on the matter under reference is a commendable gesture. Security operatives operate in a manner that may not be understood by the uniniated. It is possible that there could be behind the scene consultations with the relevant and knowledgeable people. Last November 26, another knowledgeable retired military personnel, Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar called for more dialogue on insecurity matters for advice on how to effectively tackle insurgency and banditry. We must all contribute our quota to peace in Nigeria.