Former spokesman for the Nigerian Air Force, Group Captain Sadeeq Shehu (retd.), has lamented the number of Generals in the Nigerian Army, noting that the development has led to difficulties in appointing service chiefs. Shehu said this on Friday when he appeared as a guest on Arise TV from Kaduna.
He said, “The retirement is going to include the Generals in the Army, Air Force and the Navy. What is important is not the effect that this retirement will have on security, because we have enough Generals. If these people go, they will be replaced.
“However, it is important to note that it is not normal for the military anywhere in the world to retire about 100 Generals, and by my own estimate, we have close to 133 Major Generals in the Army, Rear Admirals in the Navy and Air Vice Marshals in the Air Force, that are leaving. We also have to remember that this is not the first time. When the last set of service chiefs retired in 2022, we had another batch of about 100 who left.
“The issue here is when you look at the money that is spent on training these people, whether it is foreign courses or the ones here, the experience we are losing and the money we are wasting on these people and then telling them to go is not good for the national economy.
“On the individual level, I must put the premise that our President and Commander-in-Chief, according to the constitutional requirement in Section 217, has the right to appoint service chiefs and the constitution does not tie his hands that in appointing service chiefs, he must pick either the most senior or the middle senior or the most junior. It is completely within his right to do that.
“But President Bola Tinubu came and met about 350 Major Generals across the services, so to be honest with you, his work was not even easy in picking his service chiefs. I think there is a problem that started long ago. We should not be having 350 Major Generals for the President to pick from. The services themselves or the superintendents in the Ministry of Defence approved that number.”
He added, “When you join the military, they will tell you that the military is a pyramid. Now to maintain that pyramid, the lower bottom of the military should be higher than the next higher level. You are supposed to have a large base of Second Lieutenants who came out of the Nigerian Defence Academy in the Navy, Air Force and Army and as they progress into their second rank, which is full Lieutenant, it is almost automatic unless someone dies.
“But from Lieutenant rank, when you are moving to captain that is when the process of filtering starts coming in such a way that you have like 80 per cent, and from Captain to Major, you have like 70 per cent. Towards the end, at the top which is the General, the ideal is that you have like two per cent and a maximum of three or five per cent. But what do we have in Nigeria?
“According to the research I made, there are some courses that since they went out of the NDA, about 44 per cent of them became Major Generals. This is not a good way to go about it. So, I think the failure has to do with a well-coordinated and modern military personnel management system.
“So, I think the problem was not made by the President himself, but the military as an institution with the strict supervision of the Ministry of Defence should be able to follow this filtering process so that only the best become Generals in line with global practices. Unfortunately, that filter has not been working.”
He further stated, “Those of us that studied these things as far back as 2012 noticed this tendency of promoting too many Generals. There are too many Generals. I know the times are not like when I joined the military, but I remember in 1984 when I joined the military in Kaduna, you could hardly see a Brigadier around. But what do we have now? We have too many Generals.
“We need to listen to our elders. General Ishola Williams, as far back as 2020, gave us this warning that we are having too many Generals and too little field troops. In the long run, it is the country that loses.”