Lt-Gen. Farouk Yahaya: Epitome of Professionalism
By Gabriel Ikese
Call to serve.
The clarion call came in May 2021 at a time Nigeria was grappling with widespread insecurity including the long-running Boko Haram insurgency.
Following the unfortunate military plane crash that killed the then Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Ibrahim Atahiru, alongside 10 other officers, and having carefully reviewed the military operations across the nation and the efforts of the Chief of Defence Staff and Service Chiefs in the counter-insurgency operations in the North East, President Muhammadu Buhari quickly began the search for a replacement and picked the best of the best. He appointed Farouk Yahaya as the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS).
Lt-Gen. Farouk Yahaya possessed an uncanny understanding of the geopolitical upheavals which calibrated a tri-services military doctrine to make Nigeria face the myriad security challenges. This valuable knowledge deeply influenced the bringing down of the insurgency to a large extent in the Northeast.
We know that soldering shouldn’t be just about the salary or the privilege that comes with wearing the uniform.
It may include those things, but I believe that Gen Yahaya’s appointment as COAS is about a calling – a calling to serve, nothing more and nothing less.
Yahaya is a perfect gentleman, an excellent and brave soldier. His humble and unpretentious disposition notwithstanding, his true nature comes to the fore at critical moments. And one veritable quality that distinguished him among contemporaries is his untainted integrity. Dwight Eisenhower rightly said, “the supreme quality for leadership is unquestionable integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, especially in the military.” Integrity is a luxury Gen. Yahaya has in abundance.
Making of a General
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Faruk Yahaya, a Lieutenant General, was born on January 5, 1966, in Sifawa, Bodinga Local Government Area of Sokoto State.
Yahaya’s devotion to the military started at a young age when he joined the prestigious Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA) as a member of the 37 Regular Course. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and a Master’s degree in International Affairs and Diplomacy.
Faruk Yahaya started his cadet training at the NDA on 27 September 1985 at the age of 19. He was commissioned into the Nigerian Army Infantry Corps on 22 September 1990.
Gen. Yahaya has held several appointments including Staff, Instructional, and Command. Notable among the appointments is Garrison Commander Headquarters Guards Brigade, Directing Staff at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Deputy Director Army Headquarters Department of Military Secretary, Deputy Director Army Research and Development, and the Chief of Staff, Headquarters Joint Task Force Operation Pulo Shield.
He also served as the Principal General Staff Officer (PGSO) to the Honourable Minister of Defence, the Commander, Headquarters 4 Brigade, and 29 Task Force Brigades (Operation Zaman Lafiya).
He was also Director Manpower at the Army Headquarters, Military Secretary, Army Headquarters, and General Officer Commanding (GOC) 1 Division of the Nigerian Army.
Until he was appointed the COAS, Gen. Yahaya was the Theatre Commander Operation HADIN KAI, responsible for Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Insurgency Operations in North-East Nigeria.
Gen Yahaya’s elite haul of epaulets includes Forces Service Star, Meritorious Service Star, Distinguished Service Star, Grand Service Star, Passed staff course (Dagger), National Defence Course (Chile), Economic Community of West Africa State Monitoring Group Medal, Command Medal, Field Command Medal, General Operations Medal, Silver Jubilee Medal, and Golden Jubilee Medal.
Gen. Yahaya assumed the Command of the Army with a clear matching order from the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, to tackle the most difficult and daunting task of winning the war against terrorism. Previous Commanders before him had battled, albeit unsuccessfully the Boko haram insurgents, adjudged as one of the deadliest, if not the deadliest in the world. Such was the enormity of the task confronting Lt-Gen Farouk Yahaya as Chief of Army Staff.
Barely a year of stewardship as Head of the Counterinsurgency (COIN), the Army Chief has exhibited outstanding leadership and patriotism in going out of his way to boost the self-esteem of officers and men of the Army. His level of professionalism and dedication to duty brought the numerous successes recorded in the prosecution of the ongoing war against insurgency in the northeast corridor.
Gen. Farouk Yahaya’s experience as former Theatre Commander of Operation HADIN KAI in the North East puts him on a better pedestal to formulate a workable counter-strategy to defeat the menace of terrorism in the country.
The indefatigable COAS knows that counterinsurgency operations cannot succeed without comprehensive retraining of officers and men of the military.
He consciously inculcates operational discipline to resurrect the deflating morale of soldiers and remold them into a formidable fighting force.
The Army Chief reintroduced the principles and values that distinguish the actions of a professional soldier such as discipline, integrity, honor, commitment, service, and sacrifice. These values help to reshape the troops of Operation Hadin Kai with a purposeful mission, clear lines of authority, and accountability.
The military tactician quickly plugged the synergy gap in the Armed forces that hitherto undermine the counterinsurgency operations in the northeast. Gen. Yahaya cultivated a culture of synergy, teamwork, and cohesion among the service trinity.
The Army Boss said the goal of the operation is to render the insurgents ineffective and non-influential. It requires an extremely capable intelligence infrastructure endowed with human sources and deep cultural knowledge. This can only be made possible through public diplomacy and having strong and secure relations with the civil populations.
He subsequently trained his lens on a robust information-gathering mechanism as a veritable strategy. The success of the war against terrorism and insurgency is often dependent on actionable intelligence.
Gen. Yahaya acquired, through his trust and goodwill, the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari (C-in-C) and the approval of the National Assembly to continually equip the army with modern weaponry and accouterments. The Army under Gen. Yahaya is boosted with relatively sufficient weapons and equipment needed for the COIN operations.
Gen Farouk Yahaya is not new to the fight against insurgency in the northeast. He was first moved from the 1st Mechanised Division in Kaduna state to oversee the COIN war as Theatre Commander and promised to ensure “total peace and sanity” in the troubled region. He may not have achieved that completely at the time, but from available records so far, he is on the brink of restoring total peace to the region.
Gen. Yahaya’s sophistication in military strategy and public diplomacy influenced the changing narratives in the counterinsurgency operations in the northeast. He reorganized the internal structures in the army and commissioned the very best of his officers and men to strategic positions for operational efficiency.
The COAS’s valuable experience and tactical operational instructions powered the army to achieve tremendous success in beating back Boko Haram and ISWAP fighters.
The military severely decimated the terrorists and pushed them out of the interior towns and cities that took over as enclaves.
The remnants of Boko haram and ISWAP fighters were expeditiously pursued to their forest hide-outs and are under intense pressure to disallow them of inordinate ambition to hold or control indiscernible caliphate in Nigeria territory.
Successes in the Northeast
Gen. Yahaya, on his initial visitation as COAS to military formations in Borno State, swiftly charged the Army to destroy all enclaves of terrorist groups in the northeast. And with military panache, he immediately sanctioned simultaneous operations including Operations Ayiso Tamunoma, Katana Jimlan, Fire Ball, and Takaibango among others in the Northeast region.
Troops of Operation Hadin Kai, under his watch, displayed commitment, sheer bravery, and doggedness which translated to monumental success against insurgent groups. The soldiers consolidated their operational push against Boko Haram and ISWAP in various areas including; Bama, Gwoza, Monguno, Kanduga, Damboa, Damasak, Gudumbali, and Nganzi Local Government Area. Others include Kukawa, Chibok as well as Sambisa Forest, and KirtaWulgo in Marte Local Government of Borno State.
The operational disposition of the army in battle resulted in the neutralization of high-profile terrorist commanders and hundreds of their foot soldiers. The mass surrender of fighters and recovery of combat equipment has substantially degraded the terrorist’s fighting capability.
Defense headquarters reported that over 50,000 Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists and their families have surrendered to the troops of Operation Hadin Kai in the war theatre between September 2021 and April 2022.