Generals on diplomatic missions – Blueprint Newspapers Limited
One of the professional vocations which have a definitive impact on human society is the military profession. The army is a strong national institution. It is an institution which, as Sir John Hackett, a British general noted, makes “anyone who decides to join the profession of arms an unlimited state responsibility”.
General Hackett’s submission captured in his 1962 book, Profession of Arms… was further amplified in his 1970 lecture to the United States Airforce Harmon Memorial Lecture, titled:
State ”where he posited thus:“ Until man is much better than he is, or is capable of being, the requirement will persist for the capacity which allows the orderly application of force at the request of a properly constituted authority.
The training and exposure of the military in service to their nations makes them unique in and out of service – in recognition and commitment to duty and country.
And for those lucky enough to reach the rank of general, they automatically become statesmen. And as a statesman who understands how to conduct the business of the state, you can be given any task on behalf of the state. It is then easy to understand why the role of the military, in uniform or not, has been profound for many centuries.
It is this unique training and exposure that makes them loyal, patriotic, selfless, and devoted to duty, honor and homeland that has prompted ancient and modern civilizations to deploy retired military officers for other purposes. as missions directly related to their military career.
Countries like USA, UK, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Korea etc. have various ways of using their military personnel retired. Even though they are apolitical and many remain steadfast in such a direction, history is replete with cases of retired military personnel having proven astute in politics.
The first President and Founding Father of the United States, George Washington, was a general who was trained in politics to lead the new state. The role of retired military officers has been so profound in the United States that many of its former presidents were soldiers trained in politics after retirement. Since Washington, General Dwight Eisenhower, almost all American presidents have received military training as combatants or reservists. In fact, it was a prerequisite for running for President of the United States until recently.
In Nigeria, former President Olusegun Obasanjo was dragged from prison to join politics and then lead Nigeria from 1999 to 2007. President Muhammadu Buhari is a military general who ruled Nigeria as head of state of December 1983 to August 1985. In other cases, some are appointed to boards of directors, others retire to a quiet life.
One of the areas in which retired military officers are used is the deployment by their countries as lay ambassadors. For example, during the more than two hundred years of American democracy, various administrations have used retired generals as diplomats. As noted in the Diplomatic Profile of the Council of American Ambassadors, “the tradition of sending eminent Americans abroad on diplomatic missions has continued to this day. In the wake of the
Civil war, prominent generals were posted abroad for diplomatic missions. Major General Daniel Sickles, Medal of Honor at Gettysburg, has been appointed Minister of Spain; Major General Williams Rosecrans was sent to Mexico by President Andrew Johnson; and
Confederate General James Longstreet was sent by President Rutherford Hayes as an envoy to Turkey.
In India, which is the world’s largest democracy with over a billion people, successive administrations have used the knowledge, experience and insight of retired military generals. Research indicates that since independence India has assigned a total of 18 defense retirees to diplomatic missions as ambassadors or high commissioners. While 16 of them are retired department heads, the other two retired defense officers include a lieutenant general (Srinivas Kumar Sinha) and a brigadier (Bhiwani Singh). The service distribution of these 16 retired chiefs includes seven army chiefs, five air force chiefs and four naval chiefs.
Similarly, Indonesia drew on the experience of retired military officers. In their article, “Indonesia: Diplomacy as Nation Building”, Dr. Greta Nabbs-Keller and Dr. Hadianta Wirajuda note that: component. Retired Naval General Safzen Noerdin, for example, served as Indonesian Ambassador to Iraq from 2012 to 2015. While the former Commissioner General of Police and head of the Indonesian Criminal Investigation Agency (Bareskrim), Ito Sumardi, heads the Indonesian mission in Myanmar.
It is also important to note that the current ambassadors of Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh and India in Nigeria are retired generals from their armed forces. For example, the Indonesian Ambassador to Nigeria with concurrent accreditation to ECOWAS, including Sao Tome and Principe, Usra Hendra Harahap, is a retired two-star Indonesian Air Force General. Likewise, the Pakistani high commissioner to Nigeria, Muhammad Tayyab Azam, is a retired major general and an infantry officer. Former Bangladesh High Commissioner to Nigeria Md. Shameen Ahsan, although not a retired military officer, is a member of the Bangladesh National Defense College.
Over the years, various Nigerian administrations have started to adopt global best practices of drawing on the experience, pedigree and legacy of compatriots and women who have distinguished themselves in the careers of their choice and appointing such people. as ambassadors without a career, including retired military personnel. officers.
Recently, Lt. Gen. TY Buratai and his co-leaders joined the call of military officers who have held ambassadorial positions such as Brigadier George Kurubo, the first Nigerian Air Chief of Staff; Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe, (deputy to General Ironsi) and
Brigadier Oluwale Rotimi. Major-General Joe Garba served as Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs during his service and held an important position as Nigeria’s representative to the United Nations.
Following this proven tradition, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed in February 2021 the retired Chief of Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin, Chief of Staff of the Army, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, Chief of Staff Navy Staff Vice-Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, Air Staff Chief, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar and Defense Intelligence Chief Vice Marshal Air Mohammed Usman as ambassadors.
Fully convinced of what he wanted to accomplish with the appointment of former department heads as ambassadors, the President worked closely with the National Assembly to ensure their confirmation.
When presenting the report of the Senate committee that selected the candidates, the chairman of the committee, Mohammed Bulkachuwa, said their appointments were in accordance with Article 171 (40) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Bulkachuwa said the committee was satisfied with his performance and his knowledge of international diplomacy.
And confirming the appointment of the President, Senate Speaker Ahmad Lawan said: “These candidates we have just confirmed are candidates who have served this country to the best of their ability. Our call to the executive is to make sure they make the best use of their experiences as military personnel. “
With their confirmation, the President was quick to deploy the former heads of service in countries where the geopolitical dynamics as well as the current and emerging security challenges in Nigeria are important: General Olonisakin has been assigned to Cameroon; General Buratai in the Republic of Benin; Vice-Admiral Ibas in Ghana; Air Marshal Abubakar in Chad; and Air Vice-Marshal Usman in Niger. They received credentials and ran for their ambassadorial posts.
As already noted, President Buhari’s decision to appoint the former department heads underscores his understanding of the ever-changing dynamics of regional, continental and global politics and diplomacy. It also indicates a strategic shift on the one hand, and a clear willingness to take over as well as reorganize Nigeria’s diplomatic relations with the assigned countries.
The appointment of Buratai and other department heads is not only a timely decision, but a timeless practice that has existed for over a century, even in the most advanced democracies. It is therefore a well-informed policy decision, rather than the use of favoritism that partisan media and the opposition have attempted to attribute to the appointments.
With this deployment, Ambassador Buratai joins the ranks of other prominent chiefs of staff appointed retired ambassadors such as the 8th Chief of Staff of the Indian Army, General Gopal Gurunath Bewoor (he has successful, celebrated Marshal San Manekshaw in 1973, who was appointed as his country’s envoy to Denmark in 1976).
Already, in less than a month of resumption of service in the Republic of Benin, Buratai’s tour of duty is bearing fruit. Reports say the arrest of secessionist mastermind and so-called Yoruba nation leader Sunday Igoho was the result of Ambassador Buratai’s proactive approach and clear understanding of his diplomatic mission.
It is hoped that Ambassador Buratai and other military leaders will continue to justify the confidence of the President on the one hand, and Nigerians (all those who supported or opposed their appointment) on the other. Like all generals who have commanded at the tactical, operational and strategic levels at home and abroad, these new ambassadors understand not only how to wage war, but more importantly, wage war and keep the peace.