. horse-trading intensifies as buhari searches for ‘best candidate’
. president may not appoint non-northerner – military sources
The lobbying for the vacant office of the Chief of Army Staff of the Nigerian Army intensified on Monday and Tuesday as President Muhammadu Buhari and the powers-that-be at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja, zeroed in on a final choice amongst more than 40 eligible generals in the force.
The incumbent COAS, Lt General Ibrahim Attahiru and 10 other officers died in a plane crash in Kaduna last Friday. Their remains were buried at the Military Cemetery in Abuja on Saturday.
But since the demise of Attahiru, the search began for a new COAS with the names of some top generals being touted in military and political circles as his possible replacement.
FirstNews gathered from impeccable military sources that a new COAS is expected to be announced by the Presidency any moment from now.
It was also learnt that intense lobbying and high powered consultations are now going on over the matter.
FirstNews, however, learnt that the search for a new COAS has been narrowed by the Presidency to just five very senior generals in the Army.
Some powerful politicians are also said to have begun the deployment of powerful machineries to lobby Aso Rock officials on behalf of their various candidates for the highest office in the Nigerian Army.
FirstNews gathered that the eligible five top generals in the Nigerian Army for the office of the new COAS include Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Manu Yusuf, Maj. Gen. Danjuma Ali-Keffi, Maj.-Gen. Benjamin Ahanotu, Maj.-Gen. Jamil Sarham, Maj.-Gen Faruk Yahaya and Maj.-Gen. Fidelis Azinta.
It was, however, learnt that the Presidency is currently considering the pros and cons of the candidacy of each of the five top Army generals eligible to occupy the office of the COAS.
FirstNews gathered that inspite of the commendable past military exploits of the Army Chief of Operations, Maj.-Gen. Yusuf as the Force Commander, Multinational Joint Taskforce and General Officer Commanding 7 Division, his state of origin, Yobe, may inhibit his chances of getting appointed as the new COAS.
General Yusuf is said to hail from the same Yobe State as the acting Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba.
A similar factor is also likely going to work against the chances of Maj.-Gen. Sirham, who, though played vital role in the successes recorded by the force, is also unfortunate to have come from the same Kano State as the incumbent Minister of Defence, Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd), and the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo.
The Chief of Policy and Plans, Major General Ahanotu and the Director of Physical Training, Maj-General Azinta have brighter chances of getting the coveted appointment as COAS, especially given their experience and longer years of service, which give them the advantage of being the most senior serving Army generals, but the duo may not be that lucky as competent military and Aso Rock sources have said that President Buhari may not want a non-Northerner as the head of the country’s Army
However, Maj.-Gen. Ali-Keffi, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 1 Division, Kaduna, Maj-General Ali-Keffi said to be highly favoured to clinch the coveted office of the COAS, may be inhibited by the availability of over 40 other senior generals above him still serving in the Army.
Defence analysts have continued to wonder how Alli-Keffi, who belongs to Course 38 of the Nigerian Defence Academy will be appointed above several of his seniors, who are members of Courses 35, 36 and 37 and who are still serving in the same Nigerian Army.
But FirstNews gathered that the powerful forces lobbying for Ali-Keffi’s appointment are making deft moves to ensure that the President overlooks that factor to consider him for the position of the new COAS.
According to a powerful source privy to the ongoing lobbying for the GOC 1 Division to emerge as the new Army boss, the usual tradition in the force is that all senior officers are usually retired whenever any of their juniors is appointed the COAS.
He told FirstNews that he was sure that the case of Ali-Keffi won’t be different in this regard.