As the search goes on for the next head of the Nigerian Army following the demise of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, the permutations are on in effort to zero in on a final choice.
Attahiru and 10 others died on Friday in a plane crash involving Nigerian Air Force’s Beachcraft 350 aircraft in Kaduna.
A new COAS is expected to be named between Tuesday and Wednesday, according to sources familiar with the ongoing consultations over the matter.
About five senior military officers were being considered for the post we gathered, with persons close to senior officers lobbying key government functionaries for their preferred persons.
Among the most touted senior officers for the top job are; Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Manu Yusuf, Maj. Gen. Danjuma Ali-Keffi, Maj.-Gen. Benjamin Ahanotu, Maj.-Gen. Jamil Sarham, Maj.-Gen Faruk Yahaya and Maj.-Gen. Fidelis Azinta.
Factors are now being weighed in favour and against each of the senior officers being considered.
The Army’s Chief of Operation, Maj.-Gen. Yusuf is said to be highly regarded for his past exploits as Force Commander, Multinational Joint Taskforce (MNJTF) and General Officer Commanding 7 Division.
But a major snag against his choice, according to sources, is his coming from Yobe, the state as the acting Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba.
Like Yusuf, Maj.-Gen. Sirham who is a credentialed military officer and responsible for many successes recorded by the army, has the disadvantage of coming from the same state (Kano) as the Minister of Defence, Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd), and the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo.
In their case both Maj-Generals Ahanotu and Azinta, the Chief of Policy and Plans (COPP), and Director Physical Training, respectively, are also being considered for their experience and seniority in the service.
There are indications, however, that the president may not pick any of the two as the Aso Villa sources said he may opt for a northern officer.
There are however calls on President Buhari to look beyond the eligible officer’s ethnic and religious backgrounds in settling in for a new head for the army.
Maj.-Gen. Ali-Keffi, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 1 Division, Kaduna, who is said to be highly considered for the position is however said to be constrained by the number of senior officers ahead of him, with some persons arguing that it may not be worth the while for the country to lose so many experienced hands in the process.
A source rooting for him however argued that the seniority should not be a yardstick as many major-generals were retired to pave way for the favoured candidate to emerge as COAS in the past.
“When Dambazau was appointed COAS over 30 major-generals were retired. When Ihejirika, Minima and even Buratai were appointed, the army retired about 30 generals or more each time,” he said, pleading not be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.