Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan today effected a wholesale removal of all the service chiefs—military, police and intelligence—appointed by his late boss, Umaru Yar'Adua.
The firings, which had long been expected, swept away the Chief of Army Staff, Maj. Gen. A. Dambazau, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike, and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin.
But it was not all bad news for Pentirin, who becomes the new Chief of Defense Staff. Major-General Onyeabor A. Ihejirika, formerly Director of Engineering at Defence Headquarters, becomes the new Chief of Army Staff. Admiral O.S Ibrahim is the new Chief of Naval Staff and Air Vice-Marshal Umar is the new Air Force chief of Nigeria.
The Director General of State Security Services, Afakriya Gadzama was also removed in today’s political bloodbath. He was replaced by Ita Ekpeyong.
One of the most compelling developments was in the police, where Jonathan sacked the bumbling Inspector-General of police, Ogbonaya Onovo , and replaced him with Hafiz Ringim.
Until his appointment, Ringim was the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) in charge of Zone 9. Observers say it is of considerable interest that he was promoted above all the DIGs, a fact that may suggest Jonathan intends to weed out all of them.
Ringim was the Commissioner of Police in Bayelsa State when Jonathan served there briefly as governor. Police sources describe him as a very “wealthy” police officer, with homes in the United Kingdom and Spain. They also characterize him as a very intelligent man that may have been brought in to facilitate Jonathan’s electoral hopes next year, a euphemism for rigging.
Maj. Gen. A. Dambazau, it will be recalled, is the army boss that collaborated in the smuggling of a comatose Umaru Yar’Adua into Nigeria last year, without the knowledge of Jonathan.
Today’s extensive top-level realignment by Jonathan comes on the eve of the long Sallah holiday, which begins tomorrow, and the date seems to have been carefully chosen. Some of the affected officers are even thought to be out of the country.
Jonathan is expected to announce his bid for the presidency in the next few weeks. It will be the first time in a strangely-successful political career that he will ever ask to be voted for. But he faces important opposition within the ruling People’s Democratic Party.