The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Azubuike Ihejirika has for the first time spoken up on allegations that he is executing an ethnic agenda in the recent recruitment, promotion, redeployment and retirement in the Army, saying it is regrettable that the operations of the Army are being viewed from a political angle when all decisions are based on merit.
Gen Ihejirika made this statement at the first quarter of 2013 Chief of Army Staff conference in Abuja on Monday, adding that the army was more stable now than it was when he was made its head. He also said that out of all his personal aides, only one officer was Igbo and the officer joined him not too long ago.
The army chief stressed that the military service world over was a call to service and should not be seen as a civil service thing or a place for business as usual.
While speaking on the November, 2012 bombing of the Jaji Cantonment, the Army Chief disclosed that the report of the board of inquiry revealed that the immediate past commander of the cantonment, Major-General M.D. Isah (rtd) had a foreknowledge of the attack, but did not take any actions to prevent the attack from taking place.
He further revealed that in his pretence that he was ignorant about the bombing of the cantonment under his supervision, the retired officer travelled for a conference the day before without leaving instructions for his subordinates.
Ihejirika added that the retired officer and others knew the plotters of the bombing because one of them went to the National Assembly to make an oral report and was asked to go and put such in writing but never went back to the lawmakers.
He stated that the investigation into further details of the bombing had not been concluded and that some people will be prosecuted for their involvement in the incident.
Ihejirika recalled that in the previous dark days of the army, disloyal Army officers had always staged coups and counter-coups in order to achieve selfish objectives, which were always unsuccessful.
He said that those whose aim is to separate Nigeria would have succeeded in killing over 100,000 soldiers, adding that the unity of the country was not up for negotiation.
He warned those who always used blackmail and lobbying to gain promotions to quit such behavior, as such era is gone in the new Army under him.
“When we commenced operations against the Boko Haram in Maiduguri, text messages started flying around that a General of Igbo extraction had been sent by the Chief of Army Staff to avenge the killing of Igbo during the Civil War.
“But it is on record that the Boko Haram sect claimed that they were fighting to avenge the death of their leader and other members killed in various encounters.
“From the operations taking place, are people not being killed as alleged? Even though the operations are coordinated by the leadership at the Defence Headquarters, sentiments are still being whipped up by making reference to a war fought and resolved before many of them were even born.”
The new Army spokesman, Brigadier General Ibrahim Attahiru corroborated Ihejirika’s statements by calling the reports as the handiwork of disgruntled elements in the system, using politicians to achieve their selfish desires and causing disunity within the Army and chaos in the country.
“It is a great disservice to the nation for anyone to choose through deliberate falsehood to link the routine postings and promotions of the Nigerian Army with ethno-religious considerations.
“If this faceless group had no ulterior motives, they would have sought to air their grievances through the official communication channels which are available for redress by any genuinely aggrieved persons over the policies or actions of the Army.
“The Nigerian Army, through the vision of the COAS, emphasizes the use of merit to reward hard work and performance as against the past parochial interests which have largely influenced postings and appointments,” he stated