TRIBUTE | General Chris Musa — A warrior’s rise from ‘Hadin Kai’
*Nigeria CDS, Gen Chris Musa
Normally, soldiers the world over are trained to defend their nations.
Nigerian soldiers are not any different from the rest of them. In fact, the Nigerian Army particularly has transformed from a preliterate relic arm of the military due to vestiges of colonial unsophistication to a modern one ready for contemporary realism. And this has been due to certain proactive compatriots who have been unleashed on the organization by fate in the last few years.
When I started my career in the north as a reporter some decades ago, I never thought I would ever be involved in war reporting at the very front not to talk of meeting several battle tested Generals in the last decade of my career. But by fate, I found myself in the North East Nigerian theatre of war against insurgents and deeply enmeshed in war reports by ensuring that the moral of the military remains high even as we give them the positive support they deserve. Many Generals have come and gone but some leave indelible footprints in the annals of history that can never be erased.
General Chris Musa under the searchlight
The history of the battle between the insurgent Boko Haram and the five countries around the lake Chad region can never be completely written without the mention of General Chris Musa. A warrior in all ramifications and a defender of the good of our common humanity. A calm tall gentleman officer whose structure and name alone intimidates the terrorists.
You do not see many books in his office to show off his slant in terms of warfare or philosophy but he is obviously a well read warrior who understands the “art of war” from both the Western and Eastern perspective. With a masters degree from China, if you are working with the man in the Defence House be prepared to take everything serious. His meticulous orientation cannot be faulted. Always on the task ahead for the common good.
Our paths crossed on June 18th, 2021 when he arrived and actually took over from General Felix Omoigui who was the Acting theatre commander (TC) of Operation Hadin Kai and from then on it was no going back. General Felix the Deputy TC then had to act because General Farouk had been appointed as the new Army Chief with the fall of the previous Chief Attahiru who paid the Supreme sacrifice in a plane crash.
From then on if you were not battle tested in any of the war theatres in the country, you may not be privileged to lead any of the three services in Nigeria.
Major General Chris Musa at the war front
One thing journalists like myself at the warfront will never forget is the fact that this is a man who actually came with an open mind to ensure that he succeeded at all cost. He set a template for free flow of intelligence from the media to himself and vice versa. His style was unique as he did not see the business of fighting insurgents as the sole responsibility of the military which he commanded to achieve massive success at the war front. In the three times I had the opportunity to chat him up exclusively, it was obvious he had his troops carried along at all times. He knew what was going on at any point of the two and a half states he commanded troops to ensure that citizens slept with their eyes closed.
General Musa took the Army very seriously just as he took the things of God very solemnly. It was like a calling to serve God in that capacity. When he gives time for interviews, he was conscious. If he kept you waiting he will always apologize not wanting to take the grace of God in his life for granted. From my journalistic instincts, Oga Chris as some of his boys call him is a good planner and a man whose instincts were razor blade sharp ready for any questions that we may ask him about the well being of citizens and even the troops under his watch. I remember in one interview, in his small TC’s office in Maiduguri, he told me that he had to register a dedicated line for the entire troops to have access and send him live intel on anything they find complicated or controversial.
That was unprecedented within the conventional setting. But he was very conscious that he was not fighting a conventional war as he was taught in the war College. He just had to be several steps ahead of the insurgents in their game. And that was the only way to go about getting even fifth columnists within the Army being exposed by their company mates without them knowing.
He mastered the art of intelligence gathering in an asymmetric atmosphere and drove the remaining 70 percent non kinetic efforts among the citizens of the state who had unfettered access to him by way of text messages. Many insurgents defected during his command of the theatre.
A chat with a veteran journalist and former boss of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) Yaaba Kolo revealed that he was very humble and civil in dealing with internally displaced people (IDPS) and even those who willingly defected from Boko Haram. This is what Kolo had to say about him: “He has assisted a lot in the areas of providing security services in relocating our internally displaced persons to their ancestral homes and other designated locations for resettlement and reintegration. Especially during go and see missions and post resettlement assessments visits.”
Imagine a private soldier not a batman or personal staff having the opportunity to text the General from Baga, Madagali or even Gwoza about wrong approaches or obvious mistakes in the handling of troops welfare. He gets the texts from all flanks. Fixes the problem of the troops pronto without any slight on the commander in that region. It had to be so because a lot of officers come with the conventional mindset which had to be fixed before easing them into the front so they don’t clash with their troops.
In the war theatre, everyone is equal in terms of allowances. This is because the bullet that takes out a General is the same that will kill a private or a journalist. There is no discrimination or too much emphasis on ranks here.
On passes for troops General Chris changed the pattern of soldiers spending long months beyond the stipulated at the war front without going to see their loved ones. Before he came some complained that they spent as much as three years without going home.
That to him was a big wrong and must be fixed. And in spite of the fact that he did not have the requisite number of troops to face the terrorists, he ensured that troops went home so that they do not loose their families to care givers in the barracks. In the course of the last 15 years many soldiers lost their lives to insurgents and accidents trying to go home in public transport.
While many lost their wives to care givers having concluded that the soldier is dead due to lack of communication where he is posted to. This is why General Musa expressed excitement in one of our numerous interviews that it was a welcome development for troops to now fly home as a result of a powerful agreement reached between the Air Chief Amao and Chief Farouk. “its a fantastic development and we welcome it for our troops” he had said.
General Musa was lucky to have an Army Chief who fought the war and knew how it felt facing the insurgents without the right platforms on ground in the air or in the lake Chad. He was a trusted ally of Chief Farouk which is why he represented his boss in most programs where the Army Chief was expected.
He actually did his best by maintaining high class discipline among troops and was bent on ending the war if only he was given one more year to clear up the water hyacinths on the lake Chad and take out all the remnants of the insurgents from the general area.
Commanding the infantry Corps of the entire Nigerian Army
It is usually the practice for Generals posted as TC’s here to ship out to N’Djamena to command the multi national joint task force (MNJTF).
Most of the Generals that treaded that path sat on the commanding heights at the army headquarters. But for reasons based on contingency and best known to chief Farouk he was shipped directly out to command the infantry Corps and of course impact his knowledge on the entire Army in the country.
It was while he was at the infantry Corps that the outdated Colour parties of the Army were changed at a colourful ceremony in Abuja by the former commander in chief President Mohammed Buhari. Since he enjoyed the complete confidence of Chief Farouk Yahaya, it was easy for the Regimental Sergeant Majors (RSM’s) to be brought under one roof for their first annual convention which held in jos the plateau state capital.
This was a rear achievement meant to boast the moral of not only the infantry but the entire units in the Army. It was also meant to bring the RSM’s closer to management so that active decentralization of commands can easily take place in war theatres were these non commissioned officers help willing young officers to grow in their profession as is done in other climes.
Expectations of Nigerians from the Chief of Defence staff, General Chris Musa
It is the desire of every distinguished battle tested General to command the entire Army one day if God so approves. But the God of General Musa rather choose another path for him. And that he should rather command the entire military which comprises the other two arms.
As Chief of the defense staff of a country where 34 out of 36 states are involved in one crisis or the other, only God can guide this General in this onerous task ahead of him. His ascension to the highest defense office in the land is surely not by chance. It’s obviously due to his track record. With the corporation of the service Chiefs working with him, it is expected that a lot of the crisis staring Nigerians in the face will be crushed and brought to an end.
Residents of Plateau and Kaduna states respectively will be returned to their ancestral lands stolen from them by dare devil bandits. That is ongoing because Nigerians have seen the new Army Chief Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja launch operation “Hakorin Damisa ” to take out daring bandits who have taken over more than 200 communities from residents.
Many resident idps in jos and environs know that they will soon return to their ancestral homes with this renewed zeal. Above all with the new GOC of 3 division, General Abdulsalam Abubakar who hit the ground running by relocating his operational Hq to Mangu, it is expected that the terrorists will be rooted out this year and most residents will spend Christmas in their homes already taken over by foreign bandits. He is going into the Plateau war theatre from his wealth of experience as GOC 7division and former Commander sector 3 of the north east war theatre. The state will soon heave a big sigh of relief.
Then the troops will March on southern Kaduna and beyond restoring people back to their homes. The killing in Zamfara and Niger states respectively will end and residents will return home. That is the expectations of people in Shiroro, kuta and up to Sokoto.
A lot of military watchers expect that some of the rusty conventional doctrines of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) will be deliberately tampered with to ensure new recruits understand right from the depot how to engage in asymmetric warfare, banditry and any other form of reinvented criminality.
Nigerians also expect the present Commander in chief President Bola Tinubu to support in the recruitment of more soldiers to support the Defence of the borders of the country. It is time to maintain a standing military of not less than a million men in the next eight years to man our desperately porous borders where anyone can come and go without being noticed.
We can’t leave that to the customs or immigration alone. Police recruitment should double this so our vast lands will be covered by more divisions and posts to monitor and minimise crime.
Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) can be wiped out of the Tumbus for instance if we have enough amphibious troops to go after the terrorists in the numerous islands.
The navy seems to be a bit backwards in their performances on the lake Chad because they really do not have the type of platforms that should have been mounted along that axis. Sadly also, no navy chief has had the guts to visit the war theatre in ten years leaving the entire burden on the overstretched Army and Airforce who are expected to perform magic.
How does the Army perform miracles when they are yet to have a strong aviation unit that can navigate the islands without waiting for the over stretched Airforce? How massive is the ambitious unit to traverse the entire lake Chad in the face of natural counter factors like flood and climate change? When will the Army grow from the foundations laid by colonialists to an ultra modern force with its own anti mine factory for instance that will be producing vehicles that can beat the terrorist to their improvised Explosive Devices (IED) games? IED was a problem to General Chris and it was to General Ali now battling the terrorists from the MNJTF in the Chadian front.
These are questions the new defense chief Chris Musa will have to answer before he bows out of service one day. We believe that by then, most of the tormentors of Nigeria will be silenced with this God’s servant on the saddle. The entire citizenry and the God whom he serves will surely back him to success.
Finally with the matching orders given to General Musa and his colleagues to go solve the security challenges of the country by the Commander in chief, President Bola Tinubu it is forward ever backwards never. Congratulations General Chris Musa. The God that you always believed in will never disappoint you. I rest my binocular for now.