It is a tradition for officers of the Signal Corps of the Nigerian Army to be given political appointments.
Therefore the recent appointment of retired Brigadier General 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 Lieutenant and was posted to the Army Signals.
After spending one year at the Catterick School of Signals in England, he went to the Congo where he served with the United Nations’ Peacekeeping Force. On his return from Congo, 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 in Western Region by the then Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (1912-1966).
During the war, Murtala 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 1971, after a year at the Joint Services Staff College in England, and took his first political appointment as Minister of Communications. He replaced Chief Joseph Sarwuan Tarka (1932-1980) on 7th August, 1974, a position 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 of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Kampala,Uganda.
There is also David Bonaventure Alechenu Mark (66), a man some claimed, is addicted to power. He enlisted in the Military School, Zaria in 1962. He later attended the 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 in 1974 and appointed commandant, Static Communication, Nigeria Army (1974-1976), and later, commanding officer, 3 Marine Commando Division, Signals Regiment. Later he was 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, In 1976, he was made Director of Telecommunications, Nigeria Army Headquarters, Lagos. He was 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 15 years, David Mark has been senator and for the past seven years, has been the President of the Nigerian senate.
There is also retired Major General 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; member, Armed Forces Ruling Council, 1985; Minister of Communications, 1985-1987; 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 Brigadier General Alagbe Raji Rasaki (Rtd.) (66). He enlisted in Nigeria Military School from 1962-1966,Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna 1967-1970, Command and Staff College, Jaji, 1977-1978; joined Nigerian Armed Forces, commissioned second lieutenant, 1970,later acting principal staff officer, Army Headquarters (Signals), 1977, commander, Signals Brigade, 1978-1980, commanding officer, Direct Short Service Commission Wing, Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, 1980-1981, commandant, Nigerian Army School of Signals, 1981, later commander, Army Headquarters and Signal Group until 1986, also member, Armed Forces Ruling Council, 1985-1986, promoted colonel, 1986, military governor, Ogun State, 1986-July 1988, appointed military governor, Lagos State, July 1988.
There is retired Major General Leo Segun Ajiborisha (66). He was once Commandant of the Corps of Signals. He 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 Principal Officers to Major General Ajiborisha when he was the Commandant of the Signals. He was at the Apapa house of Major General Ajiborisha when officers behind the failed coup of Major Gideon Orkar on April 22 1990 stormed the house. How General Arogbofa 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,Otunba Gbenga Tiamiyu, Hon. Femi Onimole and Dr. Jide Bawala.
Then, there was Col. John David Dungs (rtd.) former Governor of Delta state. He too is from the Corps of Signals. He is a gubernatorial aspirant in Plateau State.
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 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 an 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 Commandant 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 Redeemed 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 Mr. Jonathan can explain. His friends, among others, include Remi Omosowon,a school proprietor and Mr. Segun Oni, former governor of Ekiti state whom he met at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Osun state.
The expectations among serving and retired officers of the Corps of Signals are that Arogbofa will perform well and be loyal to the President. 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, he is 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 Oghadiomhe as Chief of Staff to the President because unlike their late hero, Admiral Okhai Mike Ahkigbe, he never brought any development project to Fugar. The people of Fugar must know more of Mike Oghadiomhe than the office he once 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 one. The Chief of Staff does not have absolute power like that of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation or the Minister of Finance or the Governor of Central Bank or even that of the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
His major power is access to the President. That in itself, no doubt, is power.
Eric Teniola, a former director at the presidency ,now lives in Lagos.