The story of Major Generals Lucky Irabor and Ibrahim Attahiru, the new Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of Army Staff, respectively, is like that of two blood brothers following one another.
Before their appointments as service chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari, Irabor and Attahiru were Commander and Deputy Commander at the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC Minna) of the Nigerian Army, located in Minna, Niger State.
Established in 1981, TRADOC is a research-oriented formation in the Nigerian Army. It is nevertheless dreaded by many officers who regard it as a kind of Siberia, a dumping ground or a quarter-to- retirement construct for senior officers who have fallen out of favour.
In reality, TRADOC is charged with doctrinal training and combat development, while supervising and coordinating research and development of all training schools, depots and the command college of the Nigerian Army.
Before the establishment of the Nigerian Army Resources Centre (NARC) in 2015, TRADOC had served as a major senior think-tank and a liaison centre between the Army and educational establishments, in ensuring the professional development of officers. It also serves as a corps headquarters for directing the operational tasks of various divisions of the Army that are on deployment.
Annually, TRADOC conducts and supervises the Senior Staff Course Qualifying Examination (SSCQE) for officers in the ranks of Major and Captain across all Army formations. This examination is a major prerequisite for officers to attend the Senior Staff Course in Nigeria or subscribed staff colleges oversees.
While Irabor, an Igbo from Agbor in Ika South of Delta State, was born on October 5, 1965, Attahiru, a Hausa from Doka in Kaduna State, was born on August 10, 1966.
Irabor is a member of Regular Course 34, whereas Attahiru is a member of Regular Course 35 of the Nigerian Defence Academy. They have both served as Theatre Commanders of Operation Lafiya Dole, the central counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency outfit of the Nigerian Army in North-Eastern Nigeria. It was Irabor, as Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, who handed over the leadership of the unit to Attahiru on May 30, 2017.
General Irabor, the new Defence Chief obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from Obafemi Awolowo University and Master’s degrees from the University of Ghana, Accra and the Bangladesh University of Professional, Dhaka. He is an alumnus of the National Defence College, Bangladesh and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, USA. He also attended the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC) and Ghana Armed Forces Staff College, Teshi, among several other military courses.
Attahiru obtained a Graduate Diploma from the University of Nairobi, Kenya and holds Master’s degrees from the Nigerian Defence Academy and Salford University in the United Kingdom. Attahiru also attended the National Defence College, Kenya; the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army Special Forces Academy, Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province,; Bournemouth University, United Kingdom; and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.
Major General Lucky Irabor has held several appointments in the course of his career. Notable among these were the Nigerian Defence Academy Adjutant; Commanding Officer, 515 Signal Regiment; Commander, 53 Signals Brigade; Principal Staff Officer to the Chief of Army Staff; Coordinator, Nigerian Army Aviation; Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole; Force Commander, Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF); and the Chief of Defence Training and Operations.
Similarly, before his most recent posting, General Ibrahim Attahiru held top military positions, including serving as Deputy Director Office of Military Secretary; Spokesperson and Director, Army Public Relations; Commanding Officer, 146 Battalion in the Bakassi Peninsula; Commander, 13 Brigade (Pulo Shield) in the Niger Delta; and the General Officer Commanding 82nd Division, Nigerian Army, Enugu. He was also Deputy Chief of Policy and Plans at the Army Headquarters; Chief of Defence Transformation and Innovation; and Chief of Defence Logistics, at Defence Headquarters Abuja.
In terms of foreign operations, both Irabor and Attahiru in their ‘follow-follow-brotherhood’ have undergone tours of duty with the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), and served in peacekeeping with the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), where they were honoured with medals and awards at various times.
The two Generals brought relative stability to the North-East region while they were Theatre Commanders of the counter-insurgency effort at different periods.
In fact, Irabor, as the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole in 2016, was responsible for the capture of Alargano forest, the acclaimed spiritual base of Boko Haram, and the rescue of thousands of civilians, including two Chibok girls earlier abducted by terrorists. He also led the MNJTF in the clearance and domination of the towns of Gashigar, Arege and Metele in the North-East, as well as the destruction of several terrorist camps and IED-making factories in the Lake Chad Basin.
Meanwhile, as Theatre Commander, Attahiru created dugouts along the crossing points of the Boko Haram terrorists, to deny the group freedom of action and stem the conduct of their nefarious activities, before launching Mobile Strike Teams (MSTs) to reinforce the Mobile Brigade Concept (MBC) adopted in the Theatre to facilitate the quick defeat of the terrorists. At least five top commanders of Boko Haram and over 70 of their fighters were killed in the offensive, while 72 other members of the terror group surrendered to the Nigerian troops through non-kinetic and coordinated media operations he commissioned.
Even with their closely related professional attainments, yet in terms of personal dispositions, Irabor could be diplomatic in approach on necessary exigencies, while Attahiru is noted as being quite rigid on the levels of military discipline and operations.
With the appointment of these new service chiefs, the next counter-insurgency campaign should not only be aimed at the deadly Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists but it must also be targeted at their informants and the communities that harbour terrorists.
It is undeniable that terrorists do not drop from outer space to launch their attacks on troops, travellers and other innocent citizens, as they are also located in the same communities that Nigerian troops are trying to protect.
Therefore, in the two remaining years of President Buhari’s administration, the military should deploy sophisticated surveillance equipment for intelligence gathering, and to tackle informants and communities that are protecting and harbouring terrorists. It is high time the government puts an end to these treasonable acts of sabotage of the security and well-being of the country, which also undermines the effectiveness of our gallant forces and leads to the unfortunate erosion of their numbers.
The new service chiefs including Rear Admiral Auwal Z. Gambo, Chief of Naval Staff; and Air-Vice Marshal Isiaka O Amao, Chief of Air Staff. should be aware that is not how long they are in office that really matters, but the swiftness of the sea-change in the impact that they bring to bear on Nigeria’s deeply deteriorating security situation, towards the reclamation of national safety and stability.
As they set out in their new, even if highly formidable engagements, may the best of their efforts be all that our country needs in restoring its balance.
Yushau A. Shuaib
Author “An Encounter with the Spymaster”