BY ERIC TENIOLA
It is a tradition for officers of the Signal Corps of the Nigerian Army to be given Political appointments.
Therefore the recent appointment of brigadier general (rtd.) Jones OladeindeArogbofaas Chief of Staff to the President, is a continuation of that tradition.
There was General Murtala Ramat Muhammad (1938-1976). After gaining his school certificate at the Government (now Barewa) College in Zaria in 1957, Muhammed enlisted in the Nigerian Army and was sent to Britain for training at Sandhurst Royal Academy as an officer cadet. His training completed in 1961, he returned to Nigeria as a commissioned 2ndLietenant and was posted to the Army Signals.
After Spending one year at the Catterick School of Signals in England, he went to the Congo where he served with the United Nations’ Peace-Keeping Force. On his return from Congo, Muhammed was appointed Aide-de-camp (ADC) in 1962 to the Administrator of the Western Region of Nigeria, Dr. Moses AdekoyejoMajekodunmi CFR (1916-2012), who later founded St. Nicolas Hospital, Lagos. A state of emergency was declared at that time in Western Region by the then Prime Minister Sir AbubakarTafawaBalewa (1912-1966).
During the war, Murtala commanded the second infantry division of the Nigerian Army. He returned to Lagos in March 1968 to be again appointed Inspector of Signals and became a full Colonel in April. He was promoted Brigadier in October in 1971, after a year at the Joint Services Staff College in England, and took his first political appointment as Minister of Communications in replacement of Chief Joseph SarwuanTarka (1932-1980) on 7th August, 1974, which he combined with his military duties at Apapa. He was holding both offices when he was named Nigeria’s new Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces on 29 July 1975, following the coup against GeneralYakubu Gowon (79) who was attending the 12th Summit meeting of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Kampala,Uganda.
There is also David Bonaventure Alachenu Mark(66), a man some claimed, is addicted to power. He enlisted in the Military school, Zaria, 1962-1970, Nigeria Defence Academy, Kaduna and the Ahmadu Bello University,Zaria. He was commissioned into the Nigeria Army Corps of Signals and promoted Lieutenant in 1970, promoted Captain in 1971, major,1974, commandant, Static Communication, Nigeria Army (1974-1976), commanding officer, 3 Marine Commando Division, Signals Regiment, Nigerian Army, appointed Chairman, Abandoned Properties Implementation Committee, former Eastern Nigeria now made up of Ebonyi, Enugu, Anambra,Imo, Abia, Cross River, Bayelsa, Akwa-Ibom and Rivers States, 1976 director of Telecommunications, Nigeria Army Headquarters, Lagos, appointed Military Governor of Niger State, 1984-1986, commander, Army Corps of Signals, Headquarters, 1986-87, member, Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC), 1986-89, Minister of Communications, 1987-90. For the past Fifteen years, David Mark has been a Senator and for the past Seven years he has been the Senate President.
There is Major General (rtd.)AbubakarTankoAyuba (69). He enlisted in the Nigerian Defence Academy in 1967, and proceeded to the School of Signals, Blandford Camp, UK, 1970, US Army South-Eastern Signals School,Georgia,USA,Command and Staff College, Jaji, 1978-1979; joined Nigerian Armed Forces, commissioned second lieutenant, Signals Corps 1967, second-in-command, Signals Regiment, 1967, adjutant, 2 Signals Regiment, 1970, company commander, 1971, brigade major, 1972, commanding officer, 1973, commandant, Nigerian Army School of Signals, 1978, commanding officer, 2 Signals Regiment, 1979, commander, 1979-1980, commander, Signals Brigade, 1980-1981, commander, Army Headquarters, Signals Group, 1981-84, commander, Corps of Signals, 1984-85, appointed member, Armed Forces Ruling Council, 1985, Minister of Communications, 185-1987, promoted Colonel, 1986, director of Manning, Army Headquarters, Lagos, 1988-1990, appointed Military Governor of Kaduna State, 1990. He represented Kebbi South in the Senate between 2007-2011, a seat now occupied by Major General MuhammedMagoro (rtd.).
There is also Brigadier General AlagbeRajiRasaki (Rtd.) (66). He enlisted in Nigeria Military School from 1962-1966,Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna 1967-1970, Command and Staff College, Jaji, 1977-1978; joined Nigerian Armed Forces, commissioned second lieutenant, 1970,later acting principal staff officer, Army Headquarters (Signals), 1977, commander, Signals Brigade, 1978-1980, commanding officer, Direct Short Service Commission Wing, Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, 1980-1981, commandant, Nigerian Army School of Signals, 1981, later commander, Army Headquarters and Signal Group until 1986, also member, Armed Forces Ruling Council, 1985-1986, promoted colonel, 1986, military governor, Ogun State, 1986-July 1988, appointed military governor, Lagos State, July 1988.
There is Major General (Rtd.) Leo SegunAjiborisha (66).
He was once Commandant of the Corps of Signals.Hehas also served as Principal Staff Officer to the former Head of State, General AbdusalamAbubakar between 1998-1999. That post is the same as Chief of Staff in the modern day era.
The office of Chief of Staff was created by President OlusegunObasanjo when he became President on May 29, 1999.
Incidentally, Brigadier GeneralArogbofa was one of the Principal Officers to Major General Ajiborisha when hewas the Commandant of the Signals. He was at the Apapa house of Major General Ajiborishawhen officers behind the failed coup of Major Gideon Orkar on April 22 1990 stormed the house. How General Arogbofa escaped on that day is still a mystery.
General Ajiborishawho was the First Governor of Osun State, now lives quietly in Apapa,Lagos. Heis of the OlorogunAdodo and Onimole Families in Isale-Eko,Lagos. His father is from Epe while his other name is Musa. Other members of that family include Chief Rex Ajibodu, Mr. Murphy Ojikutu, Mrs.DerinOsoba,OtunbaGbengaTiamiyu, Hon. Femi Onimole and Dr.JideBawala. There was Col. John David Dungs(rtd.) former Governor of Delta state. He too is from the Corps of Signals. He is a gubernatorial aspirant in Plateau State.
There are many formations in the Nigerian Army. We have the Engineering Corps, Artillery, Infantry and some other formations,but it is the Corps of Signals that links all the other formations.
We often talk of Espirit de Corps among serving or retired officers within the Military. That of the Signals Corps of the Nigerians Army is the strongest. For example, when the former Governor of Lagos state, Brigadier General RajiRasakiwanted a DFRI director in Lagos state, he picked on Brigadier General Arogbofa. Three years ago, when the same Brigadier General RajiRasaki wanted to be Governor of Oyo State, he picked on the same Brigadier Arogbofa to be his campaign manager, even though he is from Oka in Ondo state.
There is an abiding trust among officers of the Signals Corps which cannot be explained. They treat themselves as brothers irrespective of tribe and religion. In 1999 when President OlusegunObasanjo retired all Military Officers who had held political appointments in the past, Arogbofa was among those retired. His greatest regret was that he did not make it to the rank of Major General or be appointed the Commandant of Corp of Signals. Since his retirement, with his family away in the United States, Arogbofa jogs daily at his Ogudu residence in Lagos along with his best friend Group Captain BankyLadele, who was also retired by Chief OlusegunObasanjo. Very often he will visit egbon, Col. Olu Craig(rtd.) who also lives at Ogudu GRA estate in Lagos. To his credit, heis a good neighbour and a member of the Redeem Christian Church of God partaking in the Church activities. His name was not among those rumoured to be Chief of staff to the President but I am aware that his brother,SeindeArogbofais the Secretary of Afenifere. While the President picked him,only the President can explain. His friends, among others, includeRemiOmosowon,a school proprietor and Mr.Segun Oni, former governor of Ekiti state whom he met at the ObafemiAwolowo University in Ile-Ife,Osun state.
The expectations among serving and retired officers of the Corps of Signals are that Arogbofa will perform well and be loyal to the President. We are going to see more of him in the media but not likely to hear much from him. By the nature of that job, he is to be seen and not to be heard. Unlike Ministers or Heads of Government Agencies, the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President has no budget to defend before any Committee of the National Assembly.
Brigadier Arogbofa is to work in the background, accountable only to the President and his conscience. I read in the papers recently that the people of Fugar in Edo state were rejoicing over the removal of their son, Mike Oghadiome as Chief of Staff to the President because unlike their late hero,Admiral OkhaiMike Ahkigbe, he never brought any development project to Fugar. The people of Fugar must know more of Mike Oghadiome than we do not know about and the office heonce occupied. I hope the people of Oka in Ondo state will not rejoice too, after the tenure of Brigadier GeneralArogbofa as Chief of Staff to the President. The Post is not a miracle post. The Chief of Staff does not have absolute power like that of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation or the Minister of Finance or the Governor of Central Bank or even that of the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
His major power is access to the President. That in itself, no doubt, is power.
ERIC TENIOLA, A FORMER DIRECTOR AT THE PRESIDENCY,NOW LIVES IN LAGOS.