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Rebuilding the Nigerian Air Force, by Emmanuel Ado

Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, the 20th Chief of Air Staff, of the Nigerian Air Force undoubtedly came adequately prepared for the top  job, the dream of every pilot and professionally equipped for the urgent task of rebuilding the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), which despite its present travails had given a good account of itself. Very comforting is that Amao is not under any illusion of the challenges ahead, nor is it fathomable that he underrates the expectations of a nation,that is tired of burying its officers and men,at such an alarming frequency. 

The recent air crashes involving the air force, are hangovers from the systematic decimation which the air force has been subjected it to. Denied adequate budget for servicing and constant  training, and retraining, very critical requirements that is the hallmark of an air force. Starved of funding, the service became a shadow of itself, even though the effect took time manifesting. 

Not many Nigerians are aware that the Nigerian Air Force, which has given a good account of itself during the civil war, the Liberian and Sierra Lone conflicts, in the recent past lacked pilots that would lead the service, a doomsday scenario that late Alex Badeh averted by organizing crash training programmes for about ten officers. But for that singular effort,the Nigerian Air  Force, would have in the near future suffered the ignorable record of being the only air force in the world to be headed by an engineer. An abomination! 

The task ahead for the very soft spoken Amao, is definitely daunting, but certainly not insurmountable, considering the determination of the 20th Air Chief to give the assignment of rebuilding the force into a world class force, his undivided best efforts, by not allowing other preoccupations distract him from the job at hand, and more  importantly, because at long last, the executive and the National Assembly, its main clients who definitely must be scared stiff using the service, considering the spite of crashes, the attention it deserves. We don’t need any marabout, to tell us that  any “big man” flying in any air force plane, would be doing so with great apprehension. 

The supersonic speed with which the Chief put together the AVM Abraham Adole,  Deputy Theatre Commander, Operation Hadin Kai Committee  to thoroughly Audit the Engineering and Operational units, following the  crash of the NAF Beechcraft 305, which claimed the life of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, and 10 other  officers  is indicative of the readiness to get to the root of decay, of a man willing to seek for help from serving and retired officers,because he doesn’t know it all. 

The Adole committee is to analyse safety reports from operational and engineering units, conduct safety evaluation of all NAF units and recommend measures to enhance safety of operations in the units. It was also mandated to interact with crucial unit operational and technical personnel for their unfettered views, observations and contributions on safety measures.

Another significant development, is the involvement of the Accident Investigation Bureau(AIB), in the investigation of the accident, an indication that the service has nothing to hide and a demonstration of the military subordination to civilian authority. Hitherto, such investigations are conducted in utmost secrecy. To date, the report of the investigation into the crash of the Charlie 130 on 26th September 19922, in which 158 people died, has remained a “state secret”, thus denying the country the necessary facts to work with, to avert a reoccurrence and a closure for the families. 

Clearly, now more than ever before, in its very challenging times the air force needs a guiding leader, resourceful and with the credibility to lift sagging morale and restore the much needed confidence, espirit – de – corps so that it can with focus lead the war on insurgency,banditry and criminality and going by his professional antecedents Amao, is definitely the man. Amao, has shown uncanny vision, anticipation and strategic planning, the strength and decisiveness, the willingness to act, in a timely manner, to restore the bragging rights of the men in blue,which has taken a dent,for no fault of theirs. 

The Chief is thankfully paying attention to the welfare of its personnel, which is important to earn their confidence, respect and loyalty. The personnel, for Amao, are the most valuable resource,which if motivated will over deliver on set targets. His decision to lead by personal examples and by teamwork,is a message to all, that the new air force  can achieve its goals by working together.  

The prayer on the lips of everyone is that Oladayo, which in Yoruba language literally means “wealth brings joy”, would bring the same  immense joy to a new confident air force, that will professionally dominate the air, providing air support, and reconnaissance..…all which he has committed himself to deliver. 

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