By Idoko Ainoko
A lot has been written on the exploits of the Nigerian troops fighting Boko Haram Insurgency in North East Nigeria. President Muhammadu Buhari has also received commendation on the choice of Service Chiefs for the Army, Navy, and Airforce. But a few know about the Chief of Defence Staff and the unseen role he plays in coordinating the activities of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
As a start, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) is the highest ranking military officer of the Nigerian Armed Forces. It is the duty and responsibility of the CDS to formulate and execute policies, programmes towards the highest attainment of National Security and operational competence of the Armed Forces namely; the Army, Navy and Air Force. The CDS is assisted by the Service Chiefs of the Army, Navy, and Airforce.
Having stated the above, it becomes clear that the CDS plays a critical role in the operational efficiency of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And in the context of the piece, it would suffice to state that the successes recorded by the Nigerian troops in North East Nigeria can be traced to the dexterity of the current CDS, General Abayomi Olonishakin.
What many do not know about the Gen. Abayomi Olonishakin is that he is a man of few words but plenty action. As a seasoned Signaller of the Nigeria Army, he has garnered peacekeeping experience in Nigeria and abroad in the course of his military career. For example, he participated in a United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM III) peacekeeping mission that began operating in Angola in February 1995 during the civil war to facilitate the restoration of peace and the process of national reconciliation in Angola. To mention but a few.
Gen Olonisakin has been awarded Forces Service Star (FSS), Meritorious Service Star (MSS), Grand Service Star (GSS), Command Medal, Research Medal, Silver, and Golden Jubilee Medals. He also has in his kitty, the Corps Medal of Honour having commanded the Nigeria Army Signals Corps. What does this tell us?
It merely tells us that the CDS has done well in coordinating the Counter-Terrorism Initiatives of the Armed Forces. This is sufficing to state that as the CDS, he gives operational directives to the various Arms of the Armed Forces (Army, Navy, and Airforce). Those in the know of the activities of the CDS attests to his workaholic nature. An insider once confided in me that the CDS monitors the operations of the Nigerian troops in North East Nigeria closely. And even though he doesn’t interfere in postings, he readily offers suggestions when any of the Service Chiefs makes postings that might backfire at the end of the day. That is how strategic and diplomatic he can be.
So in a way, I wasn’t surprised that in three years the Armed Forces was able to turn the tide against the Boko Haram Terrorist. And again, what some may not know about the CDS is that he was at a time the Commandant of the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) of the Nigerian Army. TRADOC is the intellectual arm of the Nigeria Army that offers pieces of advice, ideas and probable solutions to training and operational challenges of the Nigeria Army. Also when numerous divisions are committed concurrently in field operations, TRADOC automatically acts as a Corps Headquarters to coordinate, direct and control operational exigencies of the divisions. So his exploits as the CDS goes without fanfare because he is not meant to relate with the public directly. That is the role of the Service Chiefs. But instead, he is the unseen hand that pilots the affairs of the Armed Forces.
In my opinion, the unseen hand strategy has helped a great deal in delivering victories for the Armed Forces. Unlike in times past, where previous CDS delve into issues that were meant for the Service Chiefs thereby jeopardizing their efforts in the discharge of their duties.
According to insider sources in the Defence Headquarters, the CDS is nicknamed the “Strategist” because the bulk of the thinking and operational strategies that are implemented across the Armed Forces, emanates from his office, especially that of the Nigeria Army, been and the most active service involved in the counter-insurgency operations in North East Nigeria. Some also say he regularly undertake routine visits to the theatre of operations with publicity as he is one that abhors any form of publicity especially in the discharge of his duties. It was stated that he is also not disposed to cameras whenever he is on official assignment. He normally would say “cameras are for celebrities, and I am a soldier.”
This, in my opinion, contributed significantly to the operational successes we see and hear every day. This is indeed commendable, and an indication that one of the best gifts President Muhammadu Buhari bestowed on Nigeria is the choice of Service Chiefs, especially the Chief of Defence Staff and the Chief of Army Staff. They have both shown an unalloyed commitment to ending the Boko Haram Insurgency. And what I find fascinating about the CDS is the fact that under his watch the Armed Forces has stayed faithful to their professional engagements. They have also abided to the rules of engagement as well as fully integrated Civilian-Military relations.
I know for a certain that the end of Boko Haram is near. The effort of the CDS has helped a great deal in the Boko Haram war. This much the various Service Chiefs can attest to.
Ainoko is a pubic affairs commentator based in Kaduna.