The authorities of the Nigerian Army have put a retired Major General under close watch over the allegations of nepotism against the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika.
Also being closely watched are a few of the accomplices of the general, who are strongly suspected to have aided him in whipping up ethnic sentiments in the army.
The general was said to have served in the army for the mandatory 35 years but was retired compulsory during the last retirement exercise involving some 51 top officers of the army.
Investigations showed that his retirement came unexpectedly to him as the Chief of Army Staff had initially agreed to retire the generals on their birthdays.
Defence sources did not give the reasons for the change of mind on the part of the COAS for the retirement of the affected generals, some of who were said to have made separate cases for service extension to afford them the opportunity to build their personal houses.
It was learnt that the army was giving a serious attention to the issue of the ethnic dimension in the military because of its implications. It is considered inimical to national unity.
It was, however, not clear whether the army would move to apprehend those suspected to be behind the allegations that have caused grave concerns in the military in recent time.
Since a group of military personnel under the aegis of Group for the Salvation of the Nigerian Army cried out over alleged ethnicity and favouritism in promotions and postings in the army under Ihejirika, the army has been silent on the allegations.
Although an official response has not been given on the issues contained in the petition which was reportedly forwarded to the National Assembly, army officials are insisting that a combination of officers, who were retired and others who were not promoted were behind what they described as a campaign of calumny against the army chief.
The group had claimed among others that the promotion exercise had created disenchantment within the army because it was skewed in favour of a particular section of the country.
The anonymous authors of the document appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan, the National Security Adviser, Bello Dasuki, and the National Assembly to intervene in the purported division rocking the army to prevent unpalatable consequences.
The Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna was mentioned as one area where no person from the South had been appointed as commandant for years.
It was alleged that even positions like the Adjutant and Registrar of the institution were exclusively reserved for a particular part of the country.
Ihejirika was said to have attracted the ire of some powerful individuals when he broke the jinx and appointed Emeka Onwuemegbu, a former Defence Spokesman, as the commandant.
Investigations further showed that the decision to challenge the entrenched imbalance was responsible for the anger among some military personnel.
It was learnt that only officers from a section of the country were being posted to the Brigades at Obinze and Port Harcourt.
The situation was the same at the Warri Battalion until Ihejirika ensured that changes were made in the postings to those places.
“What other investigation are you talking about? The army knows who is behind this deliberate move to discredit the service. We know the man behind it. He is gone and no matter what he does, he cannot come back. It is the President and Commander-in-Chief that has the power to recall anybody.
“It is that particular general and a few of his boys that are behind this attempt to destroy the army by whipping up ethnic sentiments. He has got to his retirement period; you don’t behave as if you are more important than others.
“And because the issue is sensitive; you know it involves ethnic sentiments, the army is taking it very seriously because ethnic sentiments are being raised against the leadership.
“The man is really balancing things. Haba, this army is called the Nigerian Army; it belongs to all of us. He is making efforts to balance years of sustained partiality in the postings and people are angry.
“They are angry because the Chief is up against a partial practice that has lasted several years. Take a look at postings to the military formations in the South-South and South like the Port Harcourt Brigade, the Obinze Brigade and the Warri Battalion, no southerner has been posted there since the 1990s because they say they are from there.
“Since the 1990s, this is the first time this monopoly in postings has been broken,” the source said.
Since reports of the allegations broke out, the army has not come up with a comprehensive defence on the issue. The Army Directorate of Information has kept mum over the allegations.