(i am using one of my tributes to SB Abubakar when the NIGERIAN AIR FORCE turned 56 to set some records straight as desert Herald spearhead a campain if calumny agaist former Air chief Sadique Baba Abubakar.)
No predicament of public office in Nigeria is more sordid than the exposure it lends to being slandered by individuals or constituted media organs on baseless imagination. This has caused many a well meaning Nigerian to decline from any call to public service or even leadership. The late Abba Kyari is not the only case in point of a man vilified in life and called horrible names only for us to find out that he was maligned without being understood while he chose not to defend himself but to do his work.
As it is, Nigeria has been caught in a war against the Boko Haram insurgency for up to 10 years, a totally unnecessary war for which the country’s armed forces were not prepared. No military is configured to fight within its own territory. This is a sole preserve of the police and internal security, failing which the armed forces has had to be overburdened.
The length of the insurgency has determined that it has been a costly experience in our history – costly in terms of loss of men, material, and resources.
But in every cloud, there is a silver lining. In this cloud, we must note the fact that the Nigerian Military have emerged better reoriented for an asymmetric war as opposed to the conventional war for which Armed Forces are hitherto only configured. And in all, none impresses as much as the redefinition brought about by the Nigerian Airforce under the command of Chief if Air Staff Sadique Abubakar decidedly the game changer in the war.
Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar (born April 8, 1960) the Chief of Air Staff of the Nigerian Airforce (NAF) was appointed to the Chief of Air Staff position on July 13, 2015 by President Muhammadu Buhari. It will be recalled that President Buhari came to power at a time when Nigerians in totality had become disillusioned by the injuries that Boko Haram, thought to be a ragtag formation, was inflicting on the Nigerian Armed Forces. It happened then that the Chief of Defence Staff was also an Air Officer and had designed a response in which the Air Force was to lead with air attacks weakening the insurgency positions. To do this, the Goodluck Jonathan Administration bent over backwards to ensure that the Air Force was funded. And it did carry out its air missions. Sadly intra-agency conflict caused the failure to take advantage of the strategies of the airforce and resulted in Nigeria losing grounds to Boko Haram. Not only were all the Local Governments in Borno occupied by insurgents, even Madagali Michika and Mubi in Adamawa State had been occupied. Thus Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar was faced with an immediate need to change the narrative and today, we have the Air Force at 56, a fully reconfigured and conflict ready air formation with laurels to celebrate achievements.
As far back as 2014, the Nigerian Government had approached Pakistan for the purchase of joint Chinese-Pakistani made CAC/PAC JF-17 Thunder multirole fighter aircraft. The United States was also approached for purchase of combat aircraft. Nigeria sadly failed to pass the transparency tests and hence the purchase attempts were bogged down. It must be noted that the policy of President Muhammadu Buhari is to ensure a Government to Government purchase agreement and hence all deals were concluded without third parties. This has augured well for accountability. Under these, Pakistan sold three JF-17 to Nigeria. In the same Government to Government purchase agreement, Nigeria and the US have agreed to the purchase by Nigeria of 12 Super Tucano attack aircraft set for delivery in 2021.
Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar walking tall from these, did not rest on his wings. He has since seen to the novel establishment of the NAF Regiment. The Nigerian Air Force Regiment functions as a specialist airfield and defence corps, designed to respond to attacks by Boko Haram on Nigerian Air Force installations. It was created as a specialist unit capable of providing security and protecting the Air Force interests and its bases across the country, in especially the North East. Trained by the British Military Advisory and Training Team (BMATT), it has been responsible for the recorded turning point in the war against the insurgency. It also came in handy in the North West and Central States of Katsina, Kebbi, Zamfara, and Kaduna where armed bandits and kidnappers have been denying citizens peace.
AIr Marshall Sadique was also able to quickly develop and deploy another novelty, the Quick Response Force (QRF) that consists of crack elite military units namely special operations teams of paratroopers which are trained at a higher combat level than the regular military units. They have been effective against Boko Haram striking deep behind lines and extracting vital information that have aided the Armed Forces’ onslaught on terrorists. This has determined much of the success recorded of recent in the counter insurgency and has been acknowledged by Boko Haram itself.
This unit is capable of instant deployment for counter terrorism and security not only for various Nigerian Air Force installations, such as bases, but as well military assets from which the Air Force operates. These security forces consists of elite military units such as special operations or paratroopers which are trained at a higher combat level than the regular military units.
Air Marshall Sadique has been able to record achievements for the Airforce during his tenure as Chief of Air Staff because of his informed inward look to develop a local capacity and establish an indigenous Air Force for combat both internally and externally and as well for crucial engineering and maintenance. Despite the lean resources, the Airforce has not relented in training of airmen, engineers, and technicians. A significant percentage of spare parts are currently being locally produced and used, same time as major air platform maintenance are now being carried out locally saving Nigeria of hard earned foreign exchange. Indeed, there has been advancement in the development and deployment of drones and other unmanned air platforms to support the counter insurgency effort to great success. Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar is the epitome of modesty and shies away from publicity. He would rather have the credit for the development of the Nigeria Airforce these past 56 years to be celebrated by all airmen serving, retired, or even paid the supreme price of service to the fatherland. He looks back at the milestones recorded by the force, without missing the giant footsteps of his 18 predecessors. Salutation to the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar as the Air Force turns 56.