The sudden death on Friday of the Chief of Army Staff, Ibrahim Attahiru, has thrown up a controversy over who becomes his successor.
Mr Attahiru and 10 other military officers died in a military plane crash that occurred in Kaduna.
They were on their way to Zaria for the passing out parade of regular recruits slated for the next day.
The officers, including three brigadier generals, have since been buried at the National Military Cemetery in Abuja.
Mr Attahiru was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari as the 21st COAS on January 26 alongside other service chiefs, including the Chief of Defence Staff, Lucky Irabor; Chief of Naval Staff, Gambo Awwal, and Chief of Air Staff, Isiaka Amao.
The late army chief replaced Tukur Buratai, a retired lieutenant general.
However, with the demise of the COAS who would have clocked 55 years in August, the army is currently without a substantive head.
To be sure, the president, who is the commander-in-chief, does not necessarily pick the most senior officer as the COAS.
Going by the history of the Nigerian Army, the appointment of the COAS is political. It is clearly the prerogative of the president, which means that he (president) might ignore seniority in choosing Mr Attahiru’s successor.
Even so, there are speculations that Mr Buhari, who has been accused of nepotism in key appointments, will pick the next COAS from the South-east, one of the regions which repeatedly cries of being marginalised in the area of appointments.
Since the end of the civil war in 1970, the region has produced only one COAS. Azubuike Ihejirika from Abia State was the army chief between October 2010 and January 2014. He was appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Attahiru’s likely successors
There are currently over 30 major generals qualified for the office of the COAS. Some of them are:
Major General Ben Ahanotu: He is currently the Chief of Policy and Plan of the Nigerian Army.
By virtue of the position, Mr Ahanotu, PREMIUM TIMES’ checks reveal, is second in command to the COAS.
Mr Ahanotu, a major general, who hails from Anambra State, is a member of regular course 35, same as the late Mr Attahiru.
He was the commander of the military operation that captured the founder of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf, and his followers at their hideout in Maiduguri in 2009 before handing them over to the police.
Danjuma Ali-Keffi: Also a contender for the office, Danjuma Ali-Keffi is currently the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 1 Division of the Nigerian Army in Kaduna.
Shortly after the interment of the officers, the social media was abuzz with reports of his appointment as acting COAS by Mr Buhari. The information turned out to be a hoax.
Mr Ali-Keffi, a major-general, is a member of the 38th regular course and has many superiors ahead of him.
PR Nigeria, a news agency with close ties to security agencies, reports that the general has about 30 generals ahead of him and the consequence of his appointment will be that it will force many brilliant generals into retirement, which may not be desirable at a time the country is faced with huge security challenges.
Major General AM Aliyu
A. M. Aliyu, a major general, is a member of the regular course 36. Like Mr Ali-Keffi, he has many seniors who are members of Course 35.
He is an operation officer who hails from Gombe State.
He is the Chief of Administration of the Nigerian Army and former Director, Foreign Liaison at the Defence Intelligence Agency.
He was responsible for processing actionable intelligence for military operations, PR Nigeria reports.
Major General Ibrahim Yusuf
Ibrahim Yusuf, a major general, is a member of regular course 37. He is from Yobe State.
He is a former Force Commander Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF).
He is currently the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7 Division and is experienced in the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in the North-east.
He has also taught in many military colleges including Nigerian Defence College (NDC), Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), and Nigerian Army Peace-keeping Centre (NAPKC), Jaji.
Apart from having many senior major generals, another factor that may count against him is that he is from the same state as the acting Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali.
Chukwuemeka Okonkwo: Mr Okonkwo, a major general, is also a member of the regular course 35 of the army.
He is currently the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian Army Welfare Limited/Guarantee (NAWLG).
Until a few months ago, he was the commander of Operation Safe Haven (OPSH) based in Jos, Plateau State.
Mr Okonkwo hails from Imo state, South-east Nigeria.
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