Military insiders anxious over possible friction between new defense minister and service chiefs

Defence Minister,
Defence Minister, Brig-Gen. Monsur Dan-Ali (rtd)

According to military insiders, the working relationship between the new Minister of Defence, Brig-Gen. Monsur Dan-Ali (rtd) and the current service chiefs may be shaky owing to the fact that he was their junior in military hierarchy and order of seniority, ThisDay reports.

Findings revealed that a friction could occur should Dan-Ali tries to assert his authority over the service chiefs,

Some of the officers have expressed doubts over the seemingly confrontational and controversial manner with which he started his assumption of office, saying “this smacks of braggadocio.”

Dan-Ali reopened the old wounds recently when he openly castigated the immediate past Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Kenneth Minimah (rtd) and the Nigerian Army for the manner they handled President Muhammadu Buhari’s West African Examinations Certificate (WAEC) scandal.

“Where is your integrity when your own Chief of Army Staff (Minimah) stood up and say his Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces (Buhari) has no WAEC. How? Please let us be sincere with ourselves. Because you should have stood up and said no, because you are there you cannot. If you leave the job, is it the end of your life. If you leave the job there are other ways, better ways God can bless your life,” he was quoted to have said.

According to one of the sources, this is the first time a Minister of Defence with military background would have to issue (administrative) directives and orders to his superiors (the service chiefs).

The source said Dan-Ali, who retired two years ago, was a Short Course Service equivalent to the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) Regular Course 31, while the COAS, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, who is the youngest among the service chiefs is from the Regular Course 29.

“He retired barely two years ago, in 2013, when the services chiefs were major-generals then. He is of the Short Service Course, equivalent to the NDA 31st Regular Course and the present Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) is of the 25th Regular Course. So you can see the gap, and the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) is of the 26th Regular Course, the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) who also came through the Air Short Service is equivalent of the 26 to 27th Course. Then the COAS who is the most junior among the current service chiefs, is even of 28th Course. So you can imagine that they are all senior to this new minister,” the source explained..

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Another senior officer expressed doubt if he can bring what it takes to match the sterling experience and intellectual capacity of the service chiefs most of whom were directing staffs at one time or the other in different military institutions.

The source expressed doubt if the minister would have the courage and professional grounds to reject from the service chiefs, “and being their junior, how will the service chiefs react if their advice are being discarded by the minister.”

Also, another officer further explained: “The fear is that President Muhammadu Buhari wanted to bring down the service chiefs to the 31st Course before he appointed this present minister but people had to intervene because the rate of retirement is so high.

“The limitations are many, one most of the service chiefs will not feel comfortable working with him. So there might likely be friction because a leader will not want a subordinate to give the impression that they are better than him. So that is an area of friction because these men may not be able to give him directly the proper interpretation of things. We are in a quagmire, I am telling you.”

Investigation also revealed why the former COAS, Lt-Gen. Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau (rtd), who was initially tipped to head the Ministry of Defence was dropped for Dan-Ali.

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