Maj-Gen. Chukwuemeka Okonkwo’s Stewardship as STF/OPSH Commander in Plateau State

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Major General Chukwuemeka Okonkwo is the outgoing Commander of The Special Task Force saddled with the responsibility of maintaing peace in Plateau State, Southern Kaduna and some parts of Bauchi State code named “Opertion Safe Haven” (OPSH). The Special Task Force (STF) Unit recorded unprecedented successes which were attributed to the steerling qualities and professionalism of the STF Commander.

A Soldier is measured by his ability to do his job successfully, tactfully, and professionally. General Chukwuemeka Okonkwo’s mandate was to keep the peace in his operational franchise, and he did not disappoint. He applied himself professionally and guided by the ethics of the code of conduct, rules of engagement and respect for human rights. Gen. Okonkwo’s tremendous achievements on the job are testimony to his admirable military strategies and uncommon operational dexterity in the art of soldiering.

Before he took over command of the STF/OPSH, the insecurity conundrum had assumed an unusual dimension with myraids of security uncertainties particularly in Plateau and Southern Kaduna States with only a semblance of uneasy stability in Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro Local Government Area of Bauchi State.

The menace of kidnapping holds firm grip on the Plateau and kidnappers ran amok and unleashing terror on residents of Jos and its environs. Many residents including men, women and children were seized from their homes at ungodly hours only to regain freedom after immoral ransoms are negotiated and paid. Palpable anxiety engulfed the entire city of Jos as citizens lived in fear of being killed or abducted by rampageous criminals.

While the country was squarely focussed on the pandemic and drawing on all available resources to curtail it, the operational corridors of Operation Safe Haven (OPSH) are faced with double challenge of incessant attacks by marauding gunmen and the pandemic. The so-called “farmer-herder” clashes would rear its ugly head with concomitant attacks and reprisals.

These daunting insecurity challenges would put Maj.Gen Okonkwu’s capacity to test. The Army General did not shuddered but rekindled his military trainings to deal with the monster head on. The Task Force Commander did not hesitate. He recaliberated the command structure of the Unit to inspire his officers and men. He molded the troops into a formidable fighting force. The morale was high and motivation of troops on his watch remain an enigma despite glaring impediments.

Okonkwo’s operational style was evidently unique. The STF troops are strategically deployed and are visible in the hitterlands within its operational corridors which was a clear departure from the past. The STF Commander instilled strict military discipline and galvanised his soldiers to deliver at short notice.

The STF on Okonkwo’s watch is much more proactive at nipping crisis in the bud which tremendously help at curtailing potential crisis that, hitherto, would have esclated like wild fire. Troops response time to distress calls and speed at which attacks are repelled has endeared the STF to the civilian populations that are mostly affected by these incessant attacks.

General Okonkwo adopted a friendly civil-military approach and introduced amenable peacebuilding mechanism and enforcement strategy that connects easily and effectively with the people. Unlike in the past, civil relations with troops of OPSH improved enormously as citizens now see more reasons to support the STF. Many were favourably disposed to voluntering useful information that had led to many successful operations by the soldiers.

The STF Commander is mindful of the sensitivity of the age-long animosity and hatred across political, tribal and religious divides in the State, and rose above premordial sentiments to remain apolitical and responsive in the discharge of his mandate at ensuring peaceful co-existence. It is a mandate which he proudly delivered by restoring peace and sanity to areas under his command.

Residents praised troops of Operation Safe Haven for living up to expectations in combating terrorism, banditry, cattle rustling, farmers/herders conflicts, cultism and other social vices that held the State by the jugular. Now, people are basking in the euphoria of liberty and have returned to their farms. Plateau is on the rise again.

The people will forever be grateful to Maj.Gen Chukwuemeka Okonkwo for his efforts at dealing decisively with the menace of kidnapping. The belligerent incursions by kidnappers was injurious to the state. However, troops of the OPSH guided by General Okonkwo, were aggressive against the criminal elements and proved its mettle. It was yet another success for the Task Force Commander.

General Okonkwo previously served at various staff and command positions in the Nigerian Army and participated in several peacekeeping operations. Those that are conversant with his progression in the military could easily relate with his achievements with the STF/OPSH Command. His formidable reputation goes far beyond the operational jursdiction of OPSH. General Okonkwo had distinguished himself as a successful military strategist in ECOMOG where he endeavoured ceaselessly to achieve peace and stability in war ravaged Liberia and Sierra Leone.

General Okonkwo should be proud of his stewardship at the OPSH for he did what many others before him could not do. He will be leaving a big shoe which his successor must put extra effort to fit in. The hope and prayer of Plateau citizens is that Gen. Okonkwo’s successor should not lower the bar but improve on his successes.

Maj-Gen. Okonkwo has written his name in gold and will always be celeberated by citizens of Plateau State. Words can hardly convey the sincere gratitutde of ordinary citizens of Plateau, Bauchi and Kaduna states that Gen. Okonkwo inspired. His patriotism and and commitment to duty and country is unequal, and as the popular maxim says, ‘the reward for hard work and exemplary leadership skills is more work.

God bless Maj.Gen Chukwuemeka Okonkwo.

Gabriel Ikese is a political analyst from Jos

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