While the president referred to competition in the military, he did not say he fired the last set of service chiefs because of rivalry.
President Goodluck Jonathan did not indeed suggest that he sacked Nigeria’s immediate past military chiefs over “unnecessary competition” as widely reported last week, a recording of his speech has shown, reinforcing the presidency’s description of the reports as “misleading and untrue”.
Mr. Jonathan spoke at a military function in Yola, Adamawa State, last Tuesday, where he inspected new projects by the Nigerian Air Force.
He however alluded to “mutual and individual competition” in the military in the past, but he did not say that was why he removed the heads of the army, navy, and air force a fortnight ago.
But Mr. Jonathan was widely quoted in local and foreign reports as saying he fired the military commanders over an unhealthy rivalry between them, which helped undermine his government’s efforts at rooting Islamist insurgents, Boko Haram.
A presidential spokesperson, Reuben Abati, denounced the reports as misleading, and accused the media of “mischief and reckless sensationalism”.
“As Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces and Chief Security Officer of the Federation, President Jonathan is fully aware of the importance and sensitivity of all defence and security-related matters,” Mr. Abati said in a statement Thursday. “If he had any reprimand or admonition for the former service chiefs, which he does not, he would not have cavalierly given it at a public function as the media falsely reported.”
An audio recording of the president’s speech in Yola backs that claim, and provides no details of Mr. Jonathan linking the rivalries to the sackings.
In the clip, the president talked about his decision to retain the new Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh, who is the former Chief of Air Staff, and praised Mr. Badeh as a prudent manager of resources.
“One of the reasons that made me to uplift the present chief of defence staff from the chief of air staff to chief of defence staff, I noted very carefully that in terms of managing resources, he tried,” the president said.
“And I believe that, he now taking charge as the chief of defence staff, working with other men that have been properly briefed about how they conduct their work, I know that the Nigerian armed forces will be a different armed forces.”
Then, speaking directly to the new service chiefs, whom he assured will get their new ranks this week, Mr. Jonathan urged them to cooperate and work together, and avoid the “unnecessary competition” of the past, without explicitly relating such rivalry to the removal of their predecessors.
“Sometimes, we used to hear some kind of mutual and individual competition among service chiefs and service personnel; but this time around, we will not tolerate any unnecessary competition that will bring retrogression to this country.”
The president however indicted the former leadership of the military of “obvious lapses” over the deadly attack by insurgents on a military facility in Borno State, where about five helicopters were destroyed.
“We charge you to work together because our country is exposed to tests. And I told the former chief of defence staff when I came back from France in a meeting. That was the time they attacked our attack helicopters. And a journalist asked me Mr. President is it not shameful? And I asked him if you were me, how would you have felt?” he narrated.
“And I believe that we will no longer experience that kind of situation. That happened because of obvious lapses.”
Below is a transcript of part of the president’s speech
I’m indeed delighted to be in Yola today, to inspect some of the projects undertaken by the Nigerian Airforce. This followed by a brief, by the immediate past chief of air force who is now chief of defence staff, of course and the present chief of air staff. But most especially, we are indeed happy to be here to inspect and commission this school.
While we were driving down here, I had a conversation with the governor of the state, Admiral Nyako. And he told me the time he attended school there were only two secondary schools in northern Nigeria. Governor that’s what you told me? So you can imagine how our people got to where they are today.
Now we are talking about the number of secondary schools doted around our country. I’ve just listened to the chief of defence staff who gave us a bit of history about the evolution of the air force schools which are really unity schools.
Of course he mentioned that the first girl school, the girls refused to join the air force and for that they changed. Now we are indeed happy that we opened the Nigerian Defence Academy for women. There is so much pressure for Nigerian women who want to join the armed forces. So Nigeria changed significantly. I commend the Nigeria Air Force leadership for this achievement which are essentially directed at strengthening its institutions to meet the welfare needs of Nigerians.
The mission to secure lives and properties begins with putting in place infrastructure such as this. Of course without making provisions for our children, then we are not planning for the future. And we always say that a nation that does not plan for the future is planning doom. A father that does not prepare for the children, then that family will go into extinction. So we thank you and congratulate you for this vision.
The impact of this will be felt not only within the base but also in the surrounding communities. Furthermore, it will contribute immensely to our fight against insurgency and also enhance the welfare of our service men and women.
A few weeks ago, I was in Kaduna to commission the Goldman 1, the first made-in-Nigeria unmanned aerial vehicle, UAV, an indigenous technological breakthrough powered by the Nigerian Airforce. Of course the Master of Ceremony mentioned it.
This achievement has the potential to save our nation so much in finance. But not only saving our nation in finance because globally there is competition. Any nation that does not go technological, then it cannot begin to talk about development.
They are talking about Nigeria joining MINT, and I say that when we were growing up, Nigeria, India, Brazil and others were categorized as nations that were at the same level. Almost at independence, India left us, Brazil have left us, others have left us.
The concept of the BRICS came, and Nigeria was forgotten. The countries that were at par with Nigeria, were categorized under the BRICS and they felt that Nigeria has pulled back. Now the concept of MINT came, and they have remembered us. And I say that this time we move with others.
And we cannot move with others if we do not venture into creativity, innovation, especially in the areas of science and technology. That is one of the reasons I was quite pleased with the Airforce when I commissioned the Goldman 1. And indeed, the Nigerian Navy and also the army, I’ve inspected their facilities.
I always say that if this country must move forward, the defence industry is key. The resources we have in the armed forces, airforce, army and navy, we must encourage them through them, through the NDA, we will begin to go further in terms of scientific and technological development.
Distinguished officers, ladies and gentleman, this administration’s commitment to ensuring the best working conditions for our service personnel, is total. We have challenges, no doubt about that, but we’ll continue to make sure that we provide what is required of us. Even for the Boko Haram insurgency, I’ve been briefed; though we’ll have our first Security Council meeting next week because of my involvement in the AU meeting in Addis Ababa.
And, we’ll get briefings from the new service chiefs; but believe me before that you will wear your new ranks. We will work with them to make sure that we overcome those challenges.
One of the reasons that made me to uplift the present chief of defence staff from the chief of air staff to chief of defence staff, I noted very carefully that in terms of managing resources, he tried. And I believe that him now taking charge as the chief of defence staff, working with other men that have been properly briefed about how they conduct their work, I know that the Nigerian armed forces will be a different armed forces.
I urge you to cooperate. Sometimes, we used to hear some kind of mutual and individual competition among service chiefs and service personnel; but this time around, we will not tolerate any unnecessary competition that will bring retrogression to this country.
We charge you to work together because our country is exposed to tests. And I told the former chief of defence staff when I came back from France in a meeting. That was the time they attacked our attack helicopters. And a journalist asked me Mr. President is it not shameful? And I asked him if you were me, how would you have felt?
And I believe that we will no longer experience that kind of situation. That happened because of obvious lapses. We’ll make sure we work with the National Assembly, we work with the service chiefs and other senior military personnel. We work with our traditional rulers to see that we move our country to the next level.