By Gondo L. Gondo
Napoleon Bonaparte, a former French military commander and political leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution, once said, “Read over and over again the campaigns of Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Gustavus, Turenne, Eugene, and Fredrick.This is the only way to become a great general and master the secrets of the art of war.”
General Leo Irabor, like the great men mentioned above, is a true war commander and defender. He has been a guiding light in the darkness that has since enveloped the Nigerian space when insecurity reigned supreme. By his commitment to ending the ravaging scourge of Boko Haram and other security threats, General Leo Irabor has demonstrated to this generation that there can be a positive metamorphosis from gloomy days to glorious days. He has proven that the President Buhari-led administration made the right decision in bringing him on board by being at the helm of affairs as the Chief of Defense Staff up to this point. Have you seen, in this generation, a man who is so principled? Have you seen in this country a man who can take the bull by the horns to emancipate the people from the clutches of apprehension and insurgency?
General Irabor is that man for the job. This is one man who has distinguished himself by believing that change does not arrive on the wheels of inevitability but rather through constant struggle. Even the blind can see that he has rid the military of all the bag eggs that have aided and abated insecurity while also restoring officer and staff discipline through synergy and promotion of inter-agency cooperation amongst the armed forces and the Nigeria Police force. Indeed, he deserves a standing ovation. A rare gem of this caliber must have a very rich and enviable profile.
The Delta State-born general gained admission into the Nigerian Defense Academy (NDA) in Kaduna as a member of the 34 Regular Course in 1983 and was commissioned a second lieutenant on June 28, 1986, into the Signal Corps of the Nigerian Army. In his quest to grow and explore knowledge like the great philosophers of old, he attended military and civil courses within and outside the country. He attended the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji (AFCSC), for his junior staff course in 1995, and the Ghana Armed Forces Staff College, Teshi, Accra, Ghana, for the senior staff course in 2000/2001. In his quest to keep studying and distinguish himself among his equals, he attended the National Defense College in Bangladesh in 2010 and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Executive Education in the USA in 2012 and 2017. General Lucky Irabor earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Obafemi Awolowo University and two master’s degrees from the University of Ghana and Bangladesh University of Professional, Dhaka.
Before the General became the 17th Chief of Defense Staff in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, in January 2021, he served as Theatre Commander of Operation Lafia Dole, which later became Operation Hadin Kai. I remember very vividly that before his assumption of office as CDS, the country was wallowing in insecurity of great dimensions. People, especially in the North East, lost their source of livelihood; mayhem was being unleashed by the deadly religious sect, Boko Haram, and the citizens were dismayed and lost touch with peace. It was a horrifying tale. In the south-east, IPOB’s separatist movement affected lives and property negatively. But the General Irabor-led administration as the Chief of Defense Staff brought solutions to all these puzzles that beclouded the nation, which for me can’t be forgotten, even in the next generation.
President Buhari, who in his wisdom appointed him as the CDS, knew that General Irabor had all the leadership capacity and acumen to flourish in the new assignment; he knew that rot needed to be eschewed and discipline brought to the fore. This was a front-burner issue at that time. Apparently, he made no mistake handing over the mantle of leadership to him. He was aware that he was a no-nonsense man who would not take “no” for an answer. It happened exactly as the president predicted.
General Irabor, after taking the appointment, knew it was going to be a big task to crack down on the security crises that were perpetuated by Boko Haram, the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP), kidnappers, and other kinds of threats to the collective peace of the Nigerian people. He knew he had to show those who were throwing tantrums and doubting Thomas that he was up to the task at hand. So he rolled up his sleeves, engaged in critical thinking, and began to dish out his jobs in collaboration with other security chiefs and relevant stakeholders. In a matter of weeks after his appointment as the Chief of Defense Staff, he revealed his command philosophy, christened PEARL. PEARL means a Nigerian military who is Professional, Effective, Agile, Result-oriented, and Loyal to constituted authority. Obviously, this philosophy spurred the military to stand firm in the defense of the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. For me, I think “PEARL” has to be written on a marble so that the generation yet to be born who are going to be soldiers in the future will always have recourse to it.
General Irabor, a spirited officer who was so optimistic and resolute about the victory of the Armed Forces and the Nigeria Police Force over insecurity in the country visited various war zones and commands to cheer up the troops and our police. This alone was a source of motivation for the gallant peace-makers. I remember that, when one Nigeriqn soldier was interviewed, he said, “At the sight of General Lucky Irabor, our boss, there is this fire of motivation in me right now to push hard and crackdown on these elements of conflict in our nation. Nigeria belongs to all of us, and we will overcome by the grace of God.”
Is the above assertion by a soldier not enough to prove that the general is the man of the people? I leave the answer to the discerning public.
Under the leadership of General Irabor, many security and intelligence services were organized. He authored gender policy for the Armed Forces and built a very healthy relationship between the Nigerian Army and other countries’ armed forces. This is spectacular. Some of those countries are the Niger Republic, Chad, etc. Through his intervention, so many abducted citizens have gained freedom from the hands of their captors. This is a significant feat, no doubt.
General Irabor has spread his tentacles of decisive leadership to the oil-producing areas. His resolve to bring sanity to the Nigerian space has drastically reduced oil theft. Oil production is undoubtedly the mainstay of the Nigerian economy. What becomes of the nation’s economy if oil theft is on the increase? This is one aspect in which he has succeeded.
Last year, The Image Merchants Promotion (IMPR), Limited, publishers of PRNigeria in collaboration with The Media Today (TMT), unveiled a book, authored by Mahmud Abdulsalam, in honor of the Chief of Defense Staff, titled “General LEO Irabor: The Pearl of Defense.” The 119-page book, whose blurb was written by Senator Kashin Shetimma, a former governor of Borno State, contains 33 articles under six (6) chapters, namely, operations, stakeholders, infrastructure, synergy, human capital, and communication. The author brilliantly chronicled the capacity, achievements, and leadership qualities of this great compatriot, General Leo Irabor. It is indeed an intricate honeycomb that expounds the personality of the general. For all those who want to know more about him or learn about his stellar leadership qualities, read the book. It was awesome for me to journey through the book.
Some weeks ago, the Chief of Defense Staff bagged an award of excellence as Man of the Year. It was conferred on him by the media platform, News Headquarter Publisher Services. The award was in recognition of his selfless service, professionalism, and undiluted transparency injected into the system, which has made the country safer. The records are there. The award will be bestowed on the gallant Chief of Defense Staff on January 12, 2023. It takes a man of greatness to be recognized at this magnitude.
Finally, General LEO Irabor is a man who has remained steadfast in the performance of his duties and deserves to be recognized. Do you know what it means to fight tough against saboteurs, mindless killers and dark agents ? It takes an upright man to do this. General Irabor is a man who has shone a light in the military, regardless of whose ox is gored. I am pretty sure that there are many people out there who appreciate and love him as much as I do. Great people make an impact. He has performed exploits and left a mark that will not be erased until the end of time.
Gondo wrote this article from the United Kingdom.