President Muhammadu Buhari bypassed no fewer than 24 top senior Nigerian Army officers to appoint Major-General Farouk Yahaya as the Chief of the Army Staff, according to a document, Seniority Roll Nigerian Army Officers 2021 (Revised) obtained by SaharaReporters on Friday.
The President, by appointing Yahaya, hitherto the Theatre Commander of Operation Hadin Kai in the North-East and from Regular Course 37, puts the 24 top army officers from Regular Courses 35 and 36, on the path of forceful retirement.
Military sources said Buhari might have appointed a less qualified Yahaya, from Sokoto State, based on the president’s usual ethnic and religious sentiments as seen in his other various appointments.
Checks by SaharaReporters on the army’s document showed that most of the officers in line of seniority following the late Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru, are from the South-West, South-East or Christians.
Following Attahiru are: “Maj Generals J. O. Olawumi from Ekiti, J. O. Akomolafe from Kwara, C. O. Ude from Enugu, J. Oyefesobi from Ogun, M. O. Uzoh from Abia, C. C. Okonkwo from Imo, M. S. A. Aliyu from Zamfara, U. M. Muhammed from Niger and B. M. Shafa from Ogun.”
Others are: “N. E. Angbazo from Nasarawa, Y. P. Auta from Kebbi, A.S. Maikobi from Bauchi, B. Ahanotu from Anambra, S. A. Yaro from Bauchi, J. Sarham from Kano, H. E. Ayamasaowei from Bayelsa, O. F. Azinta from Enugu, B. A. Akinroluyo from Ondo, K. A. Y. Isiyaku from Niger, A. T. Haman from Borno, A. M. Aliyu from Gombe, H. P. Z. Vintekaba from Taraba, K. O. Kadiri from Lagos, and I. M. Yusuf from Yobe.”
While Olawumi and nine others - Akomolafe, Ude, Oyefesobi, Uzoh, Okonkwo, Aliyu, Muhammed, Shafa and Angbazo were promoted to the rank of Major General in 2016, Yahaya and others did not become Major Generals till 2017.
The new army chief, Yahaya, now 55 years old, was taken by the Nigerian Army Infantry Corps on September 22, 1990.
When Buhari appointed the present crop of service chiefs only in January, no fewer than 20 generals from the three services who were members of courses 34 and accepted 35 were retired to pave way for them.
They were course mates with the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor from Course 34; late Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Ibrahim Attahiru from Course 35; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral A.Z Gambo, and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Amao, also from Course 35.
From as far back as 2015, as Buhari began to make his early appointments, there have been public outcries of nothernisation agenda which the President has done little or nothing to prove wrong with subsequent appointments.
In 2018, former President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote an open letter to Buhari, asking him not to bother to seek re-election.
In the letter, the former President cited among others, Buhari's “nepotistic deployment bordering on clannishness”. Also, a retired Colonel Abubakar Umar, former military governor of Kaduna State, accused Buhari of nepotism, saying it could tear the country apart.
“Nigeria has become dangerously polarised and risks sliding into crisis on account of your administration’s lopsided appointments, which continue to give undue preference to some sections of the country over others,” Umar said.