Ex-Army Chief Lt.-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau PHOTO: Reuters
FORMER Army Chief Lt.-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau was in high spirits on Wednesday in New York, United States – thousands of kilometers away from home where a major decision that was to change his mood was being taken.
He was in a two-piece suit, looking strange (he is usually seen in public in the all-green army uniform, with the red-neck insignia and epaulette of a General).
Gen. Dambazau was shaking hands with dignitaries as Nigeria’s Representative to the United Nations, Prof Joy Ogwu, and Defence Minister Kayode Adetokunbo introduced him to guests.
Gen. Dambazau was on a working visit to the UN when President Goodluck Jonathan announced the retirement of all service chiefs.
Gen. Dambazau, and other senior military officers were on the entourage of the Minister on a five-day working tour.
The visit, which began on Tuesday, was scheduled to end tomorrow.
The team, including Lt.-Gen. Chikadbia Obiakor, outgoing UN military adviser on peacekeeping operations, was on a courtesy call on Ms Susana Malcoraa, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, when calls hit Dambazau’s mobile phone.
"The calls reportedly came from family members who informed him of the change of baton," a close aide told NAN.
After the meeting on the eighth floor of the DC One building of UN, the former army chief and Director of Finance Maj.-Gen. Charles Airhiavbere, hurriedly left.
The team did not attend other assignments scheduled for the day, including a briefing on UN peacekeeping missions at the UN office on Madison Avenue, Manhattan, New York.
Gen. Dambazau was also absent at a cocktail party organised at the Nigerian Mission later on Wednesday.
Other visiting Nigerian defence officials continued their meetings but at intervals they made frantic calls to Nigeria.
Army officers on the minister’s entourage were Maj.-Gen. Emeka Onwuamaegbu, Commandant, Nigerian Army Peacekeeping Centre, Jaji, and Maj-Gen. E.D. Atiegoba, former head of the Nigerian Army College of Logistics.
why were the service chiefs retired? The question was still popular yesterday, with many speculations flying on why the president suddenly disbanded the nation’s security machine on Wednesday.
"The timing is perfect. We have elections coming up next year and we have other issues coming up and the country is fairly stable and safe," Minister of Defence, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, said yesterday.
The minister, in company with the ousted Chief of Army Staff, was on a week-long duty tour to the United Nations (UN) when the announcement was made in Abuja.
Kayode told reporters that the service chiefs were already aware that their respective tenures had expired last month, and it was subject to renewal based on the wishes of President Jonathan.
"They know that this is a normal, regular, statutory and constitutional exercise of power by Mr President," he said.
The Defence Minister, however, maintained that the service chiefs were not removed, saying: "under the rules and terms of condition of service they are entitled to two years and their tenure has expired.
"Mr President, exercising his prerogatives under the Armed Forces Act and under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has every right to make new appointments," he said.
Jonathan’s replacement of security leaders came a day after at least 700 prisoners escaped during an attack on a jail in Bauchi by members of a religious sect known as Boko Haram.
Kayode, however, said the change of guard had "absolutely nothing" to do with the attack on the prison.
"The Armed Forces continue to be committed to the internal security in Nigeria and, on the issue of Boko Haram, we have been on top of it and have been monitoring it over time.
"We are already prepared, but we know that it is inevitable that this will happen because there is religion in it and we have to be very careful the way we tackle it," he said CALLED FROM thenationonline, pix Reuters