As Jonathan fires service chiefs, Gadzama, Onovo || Appoints 6 govs as zonal campaign co-ordinators || Forty years after the end of the civil war fought by Dim Chukwemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu-led Republic of Biafra and General Yakubu Gowon-led Nigeria army, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday appointed an Igbo man, Major-General Onyeabo Azubuike Ihejirika, from Ovim, Isuikwuato Local Government Area of Abia State to head the Nigeria Army.
Major-General Ihejirika was born on February 13, 1956 and was commissioned in the army on December 17, 1977. A fellow of Nigeria Institute of Quantity Surveyors, he was the Chief of Defence Logistic, Defence Headquarters before he assumed his new position.
In a surprise announcement, the president shocked all departments of security units in the country, when he also announced the sack of all the service chiefs, the director-general of the State Security Services (SSS) and the inspector-general of police, and appointed new ones to take over from them.
In the new appointments announced through a press statement by the presidential spokesman, Mr. Ima Niboro, the former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Oluseyin Petinrin, took over from Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike as the new Chief of Defence Staff.
Major General Ihejirika took over from Lieutenant General Abdulrahaman Dambazzau.
The appointment of Ihejirika was last night viewed as the "end of the perceived marginalisation of Ndi-Igbo in the army," as he becomes the first man of Igbo extraction to head the army 40 years after the civil war.
Others appointed were Real Admiral Ola Saad Ibrahim, Chief of Naval Staff, and Air Vice Marshal Mohammed Umar, Chief of Air Staff.
Air Vice Marshal Umar was born in Kano Municipal Local Government Area of Kano State on June 20, 1955. He started his early education at Victory College Cairo, Egypt in 1963 before he proceeded to Sardauna Memorial College Kaduna from 1969 to 1973. He later attended Pivotal Teachers' College Kano in 1975 where he obtained the West African School Certificate and Grade 2 Teachers' certificates respectively. The senior officer was enlisted into the Nigerian Air Force in July 1976 as a member of Nigerian Defence Academy Short Service Course 12.
Air Vice Marshal Umar commenced his flying training on the Bulldog aircraft in January 1977 at the then Primary Flying Training Wing now 301 Flying Training School, Kaduna. Other courses attended include: Basic Flying Courses on the Jet Provosts 3 and 5 at RAF Linton-On-Ouse, Advance Flying Course at the Royal Air Force, Valley and DO-228 conversion course at 301 Flying Training School, Kaduna. He also attended HS125, Hawker 1000, Falcon 900 and B727 aircraft Conversion Courses. The senior officer is a qualified Flying Instructor with a total of 8175 flying hours. He took over from Vice Admiral Ishaku Ibrahim.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo and the Director-General of SSS, Mr. Afakriya Gadzama were also affected by the purge. For their replacements, Mr. Hafiz A. Ringim, an assistant inspector-general of police in Charge of Zone 9, Umuahia, has been directed to take over the Nigeria Police Force on acting capacity while Mr. Ita Ekpenyong is now the director-general of the SSS.
They were sacked after what looked like a valedictory meeting with the president at the villa yesterday morning, at the same time the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, was going on with Vice-President Mohammed Namadi Sambo presiding.
According to Niboro, 'The appointments which take immediate effect are however subject to confirmation by the National Assembly, in line with the provisions of the Armed Forces Act, Section 18,cap A20, laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He said the president thanked the outgoing service chiefs whose tenure expired in August, for their loyalty and dedication to service and specially commended them for defending the Nigeria constitution at all times and for successful command of the armed forces during their tenure.
This is the second consecutive time an air officer is heading the defence headquarters of the armed forces.
Meanwhile, sequel to President Jonathan's declaration to governors that he will run for the presidency in 2011 general election, six governors have been appointed campaign co-ordinators.
Besides the co-ordinators, the president who met with the governors on Tuesday in Abuja also appointed Senator Dalhatu Seriki Tafida as the director-general of the president's campaign organisation.
The governors who were appointed on zonal basis are: Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State (North-West), Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State (North-East), Gabriel Suswam of Benue State (North-Central), Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State (South-West), Liyel Imoke of Cross River State (South-South) and Martins Elechi of Ebonyi State (South-East).
President Jonathan is scheduled to flag-off his presidential campaign on the 18th of this month in Abuja.
Meanwhile, national chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo has warned officers, especially state chairmen of the party at all levels, to desist from imposing candidates of their choice on the party and to stop making themselves campaign managers of aspirants .
Dr. Nwodo's warning came as he addressed a delegation of party members from Taraba State who have listed a number of allegations against the state chairman of the party.
A statement from the media aide to the national chairman, Ike Abonyi quoted him as saying that "as umpires in a game, leaders of the party must remain neutral."
"Don't close the door to any aspirants, give them equal attention, if you have interest hide it," Nwodo said.
He said that the national leadership of the party will deal ruthlessly with any state or ward official said to be campaigning for one candidate.
Nwodo said that neutrality is necessary for leaders of the party so as to give a sense of belonging to all members.
New Service Chiefs
• Chief of Defence Staff: Air Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin
• Chief of Army Staff: Maj-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika
• Chief of Naval Staff: Vice-Admiral Ola Saad Ibrahim
• Chief of Air Staff: Air Vice Marshal Mohammed Umar
• Ag. IGP: Mr. Hafiz A. Ringim
• DG SSS: Mr. Ita Ekpenyong