Leading the Nigerian Armed Forces: In a Time of Transformation

In a period marked by significant transformation, the Nigerian Armed Forces play a crucial role in ensuring national security and stability. Leading this effort is General Christopher Gwabin Musa, a seasoned military leader with decades of experience.

From his early days in Sokoto State, through rigorous training at the Nigerian Defense Academy, to his recent appointment as Chief of Defense Staff, General Musa has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to his country.

As he approaches his first anniversary in this pivotal role, General Musa reflects on his priorities and the challenges faced by Nigeria, emphasizing the importance of collective responsibility in achieving peace and progress.

During this interview, General Musa provides insight into his daily responsibilities, highlighting the intense demands of asymmetric warfare and the importance of actionable intelligence. He outlines the strategic initiatives aimed at addressing Nigeria’s security challenges, including border control, combating terrorism, and fostering community involvement. General Musa’s leadership is grounded in a deep sense of duty, fairness, and a vision for a unified Nigeria, transcending regional and religious divides.

His commitment to professional excellence and accountability within the military underscores the efforts to uphold human rights and enhance the well-being of service members and their families.

Can you briefly tell us about yourself?

Well my name is General Christopher Gwabin Musa, member of 38 regular course, Nigerian Defense Academy. I was born and raised in Sokoto state, I attended my primary and secondary school in Sokoto state, Federal government college before I went to the Nigerian Defense Academy 1986, got my BSc honors in Chemistry 1990, I was commission second lieutenant to the infantry corp in 1991 and since them till date, have been in the Nigerian Army, and just last year, I was privileged to be promoted to the rank of General and appointed the chief of defense staff and we are here today.

In less than 50 days from now you will be celebrating one year in office, what are you priorities as the Chief of Defense staff?

My priorities are the mandate that was given to us by Mr. President. The president gave us mandate to ensure that we restore peace and tranquility in Nigeria. And to also ensure that our crude oil production improves and we are working on that and you know the challenge we are facing didn’t start now, so it’s not something that we can overnight turn around but am happy that things have greatly improved. There is an increased in awareness especially among the populace that everybody has a role to play in the security architecture of Nigeria. It’s not just a Nigerian military challenge, the police challenge or the security forces alone, it’s an all society approach and that’s what we have been preaching since I came in and am happy now that Nigerians are taking responsibility of what is going on and are supporting members of the security forces in ensuring that we have peace in Nigeria.

Can you describe a typical day in your role as Chief of Defense Staff?

That’s ok, well you know the challenges we are facing in Nigeria is an asymmetric warfare, we are dealing with non-state actors, people that you don’t know but they leave within the citizens. So normally, I don’t get to bed till probably 2 to 3 am in the morning, trying to follow up to ensure that all the theater are working because the citizens are really giving us a lot of information and I have to stay awake to ensure that this information’s received are disseminated immediately. We always want actionable intelligence, working with the intelligence agencies of all the agencies because what we are doing now, is that we are working with everybody, there is no agency that is left behind so seconds-by-seconds, we are getting information’s on what is going on everywhere, I have my commanders in the field, I have my service chiefs and sometimes when it’s very urgent, i relate directly to the commanders in the field so that action is taken and that has really rallied round everybody to know that we are not sleeping and the populace are also knowing that when they give us information, we follow up and they see action being taken and the commanders also know that we are watching what they are doing in the field to ensure that they too are proactive. We don’t want a reactive kind of situation, we want people to be proactive, so once we get any information, action is taken immediately and that is why you see the relative peace we are enjoying now, we are hopeful that as we continue working together, with a better understanding between the security forces and the citizens, it will continue to get better.

What are Nigeria’s primary challenges, and what strategies do you envision to address them under your leadership style?

I think this basically arise from poor boarders. Our boarders are wide open so a lot of people just come in to do what they fill like, they have this impression that Nigeria is so rich and they just want to come in and get money and apart from that, some of the internal issues we are facing are farmer/herders crisis, terrorism, banditry, insurgency, the criminal acts among others. Like I said, it just didn’t start now, it’s something that has been on for a very long while now and the will to actually tackle the challenges have been the problem but now, from the presidency, the president has given a mandate and you will know that he is not a president that goes asleep, he stays awake to see what is being done so we too are up and doing. We have hit the ground running and ensuring that myself, my service chiefs all other security agencies and everybody is up and doing to ensure that we all eventually tackle the challenge.

How do you balance the demanding responsibilities of your position and a fulfilling personal life outside of your military duties?

The balance is actually one sided because I have to put more in my work. like I said, the challenges we are actually facing now is a 24 hours thing so you find yourself almost every day running round making sure that things are really working right and the good thing is that since 1991, we have being on the field, we were operational, that has really given us a better understanding of the challenges we have on ground and I had the privilege of being the theater commander of operation Hadin Kai in the north east for about 19 months, that actually also gave me a good understanding of what we are dealing with on ground and that has helped a lot, rallying round everybody the troops, the citizens everybody putting hands together to make sure that things work well

What personal values or experiences do you draw upon to guide your decision-making process and leadership style?

Considering the challenges we are having as a nation where people try to look at which area you come from, which zone, which state, which religion, I don’t have those, I am privilege to have parents that brought me up looking at myself first as a human being and as a Nigerian and so whatever i do, am doing it for Nigeria as a whole, not for any section and that has really given me a lot of advantages in all we do. I have a clear mind as to what my task are that’s why I don’t allow issues of which section, which tribe, which religion to becloud my thoughts. I look at things dispassionately and I deal with them accordingly and that has helped me a lot so you see everybody rallying round because they know I don’t take sides with anybody. I look at issues on ground the way they are and tackle them. I believe in God whole heartedly, completely and I know there is always a judgment day so whatever am doing, if it is behind the Curtin, God is also watching so am always guided by that to know that I should fear nobody, I should be sincere, I should be impartial because those are critical aspects. I notice those are areas that have brought in a lot of challenges for Nigerians, when you start taking sides then you are bound to start making issues. Through my command when I started as a junior officer to when I was a battalion commander, brigade commander, sector commander, theatre commander, up till now, have operated the same, every Nigerian is my brother and sister and it’s our responsibility to ensure that Nigeria succeeds because if Nigeria succeeds we will all be happy and if it doesn’t, we will all be in trouble.

What steps are being taken to address allegations of human rights abuses and ensure accountability within the military ranks?

Well as much as possible we try to remain professional as possible. We are human beings and there are bound to be mistakes, in ever society, we have the good, the bad, the ugly and we get our men from the society but the good thing about the arm forces training is that it gives everybody the opportunity to be better in every aspect that you do. Unfortunately, we have the bad ones and most times when they come in we have a way of checking them out, we do not shy away from that so, any military that is indiscipline cannot be a military so am happy the arm forces of Nigeria have remained very proactive, very disciplined and very professional in what we do. We are respected all over the word and some people wonder, with all this professionalism, how come we can’t tackle the situation, it’s because we don’t produce most of the things we need and that’s why am happy again that the president has signed the bill for Dicon to be able to get original equipment manufacturers to be able to produce here in Nigeria from the challenges we have seen. If you don’t produce what you need you will be held by the jugular when you need them. We have been fighting Boko-haram for fifteen years still counting because most of the equipment’s we need, we don’t have but I believe if we are able to produce them in Nigeria, Nigeria will benefit, and our arm forces will be stabilized, and we will be able to stabilize the entire sub-region because we have that capacity. The arm forces of Nigeria can stabilize the whole of West Africa and we have done it over and over even without anything so am happy and very positive that it would continue to get better.

In what ways do you prioritize the mental health and well-being of service members and their families amidst the challenges of military life?

Basically, am a very positive person and that is my life however, the situation, in life, there must be challenges and without challenges, human life will be very boring so realizing that, our nature of training makes you understand that there will be challenges, there will be failures but what do you do when you fail, you pick yourself up, brace yourself up and move forward, during training we make them to believe in themselves and during failures, you use them as stepping stones to move forward and that has made a lot of difference.

How do you envision the role of Nigeria’s defense forces in contributing to regional and international peacekeeping efforts?

Overtime, Nigerian arm forces have been everywhere, we have been in Congo, during the Second World War we were in Boma, our troops did extremely very well even without nothing and that was even before independence, we have been in Tandayaki in Tanzania, so we have done so much and we will continue to do well because we have already gathered the experience in what we do remember we were in Liberia and despite when the world turned its back against Liberia, Nigeria stood by Liberia and from Liberia, we went to Seria Leone and we were able to stabilize Seria Leone, we did a lot and presently as we speak, we have our troops in Central African Republic, we have our troops in Gambia, we have our troops in other African countries, assisting them in stabilizing their own security situations, we have the experience and we will always continue to improve.

How do you intent to engage and empower Nigerian youth to contribute positively to the country’s defense and overall progress?

Well I think it’s by showing good example in whatever we are doing and that’s why forums like this when we speak with Nigerians directly is very important because we show that positive nature of what we are doing, we own up when we default, and they see that we are very sincere, impartial and committed to our tasks and that is what we want the Nigerian youths to understand that everything is not about enjoyment, you have to work hard. If you want to enjoy, you have to work extremely very hard. There is no member of the arm forces that you will see that has not gone through the vigorous training and it is not easy for whether soldiers or officers, that spirit of sportsmanship dedication, focus and sacrifice because everybody has a role to play to know that life is not a bed of roses and that is why its dangerous when you see this yahoo boys want to make quick money, it doesn’t last, do the hard work, this things pay and they make you a better person in life.

General what will you like to point out to conclude this interview?

Just to appreciate members of the press for what you are doing, this is a good opportunity to present ourselves and what we do to Nigerians, let them see all over the world that the Arm forces of Nigeria remains very positive, we are die hard Nigerians, trying to make sure that Nigeria survives but we can’t do it alone, we need everybody to put hands and to support Mr. President and the commander in chief who has shown leadership in all he do and for them to understand that we have a great country, God has blessed this country both humanly and materially and together if we put our hands together, Nigeria will continue to grow higher and higher and for those naysayers who believe that nothing good can come out of Nigeria, a lot of people want to run out of Nigeria saying things are hard, and you want to go somewhere you think things are better, just know that if those ones in their own country had run away, am sure you wouldn’t have had any country to run to so why not stay here and make your country better, we have almost everything, it’s just for us to rally round, love ourselves and nobody should wish his country bad, it’s only a fool that will cause his own country because if you do that you are equally causing yourself and whatever doom comes to you, be ready to face it. I want us to be very positive; God will always answer us if we do the right thing.

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