FEATURE ARTICLE

Eric TeniolaThursday, March 27, 2014
teniolaeric@yahoo.com
Lagos, Nigeria

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MURTALA, MARK, AROGBOFA AND THE CORPS OF ARMY SIGNALS

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t 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.) of Jones Oladeinde Arogbofa as 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 2nd Lietenant and was posted to the Army Signals.

After Spending one year at the Catterick School of Signals in England, he went to the Congo (now Zaire) where he served with the United Nations' Peace-Keeping Force. On his return from Zaire, Muhammed was appointed Aide-de-camp (ADC) in 1962 to the Administrator of the Western Region of Nigeria, Dr. Moses Adekoyejo Majekodunmi CFR (1916-2012), who later founded St. Nicolas Hospital, Lagos. A state of emergency was declared at that time by the Federal Government following a political crises which threatened the stability and unity of Nigeria.

In 1963 Murtala Muhammed was made Officer-in-Charge of the First Brigade Signal Troop in Kaduna,returning to Catterick later in the year for a course on more advanced telecommunication techniques. In 1964 he was promoted to Major and made the Officer Commanding, One Signal Squadron in Apapa, Lagos. Muhammed became Acting Chief Signals Officer of the Army in November 1965, on the eve of the military coup of January 1966 which saw his elevation by the new leader, Major General Johnson Thomas Umanakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi (1922-1966) to the rank of Lieutenant- Colonel.

During the war, he 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 Sarwuan Tarka (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 General Yakubu Gowon (79) who was attending the 12th Summit meeting of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Kampala.

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 Abubakar Tanko Ayuba (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 Muhammed Magoro (rtd.).

There is also Major General (Rtd.) Leo Segun Ajiborisha (66).

He was once Commandment of the Corps of Signals. He has also served as Principal Staff Officer to the former Head of State, General Abdusalam Abubakar 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 Olusegun Obasanjo when he became President on May 29, 1999.

Incidentally, Brigadier General Arogbofa was one of the Principals Officers when Major General Ajiborisha was the Commandment of the Signals. He was in his house when officers behind the failed coup of Major Gideon Orkar on April 22 1990 stormed the house of Major General Ajiborisha in Apapa. How he escaped on that day is still a mystery.

General Ajiborisha who was the First Governor of Osun State, now lives quietly in Apapa, Lagos. He is of the Olorogun Adodo 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. Derin Osoba,Gbenga Tiamiyu, Honourable Femi Onimole and Dr. Jide Bawala. We also have Brigadier General Raji Alagbe Rasaki (rtd.), former Governor of Ogun and Lagos states. There was Col. John David Dungs (rtd.) former Governor of Delta state. Both of them are from Signals too.

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 Raji Rasaki wanted a DFRI director in Lagos state, he picked on Brigadier General Arogbofa. Three years ago, when the same Brigadier General Raji Rasaki 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 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 Olusegun Obasanjo 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 Commandment 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 Banky Ladele, who was also retired by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. Very often he will visit egbon, Col. Olu Craig (rtd.) who also lives at Ogudu GRA estate in Lagos. To his credit, he is 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, Seinde Arogbofa is the Secretary of Afenifere. While the President picked him, only the President can explain.

In the tradition of the Corp of Signals, the expectations among serving and retired officers of the Corps of Signals are that Arogbofa will perform well. 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 they are 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 Ohai Mike 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 the office he occupied. I hope the people of Oka in Ondo state will not rejoice too after the tenure of Brigadier General Arogbofa as Chief of Staff to the President. The Post is not a miracle post. It has only one schedule which is access to the president. That in itself is power.

Eric Teniola is a former Director at the presidency

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