NAF Boss Air Mashal Abubakar
NAF Boss Air Mashal Abubakar

Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar Fighter Jet Pilot by Mathew Gboko
Nigeria’s 20th Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar, turns 58 today.  Being a man with a special place in the hearts of many Nigerians, it does not go without saying that he is one worth celebrating.

Weeks before becoming head of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), insurgency in the North East seriously stressed the Nigerian military. The obvious gains over insurgency and militancy being recorded by the military cannot be fully appreciated without giving attention to the Nigerian Air Force.

Full of grit and purpose, the CAS resumed at his duty-post, eager to work and ready to help push back the insurgents who had encroached upon and were on the verge of claiming parts of the Nigerian territory.

He is indeed worth celebrating, especially on this special day of his birthday anniversary for many obvious reasons. He gathered the once-deflated Nigerian Air Force and repositioned it into a highly motivated, disciplined and formidable force that is gaining the trust of every well- meaning Nigerian. He believes that it is a leader’s responsibility to motivate and ensure troops’ understanding on why they are trained in a particular way, lending credibility to the way every single air force personnel today is more concerned about the security and peace of the country first, before himself.

Air Marshal Abubakar’s leadership within the past  two and half years has incredibly and in a more spectacular  way brings the service much more closer to the generality of Nigerian. Many Nigerians would today, sit back and say with all sense of pride that ‘this is our air force’. Nigerians watch with pride the activities of the Nigerian Air Force ranging from its contributions in the fight against insurgency and other security concerns as well as rendering various forms of humanitarian services to internally displaced persons. The Nigerian Air Force under his leadership has forged a bond that is driven by the desire to serve the nation, above all else.

Watching Abubakar’s NAF at work either in Operation Lafia Dole in the North East, Operation Delta Safe in the Niger Delta, Operation Sharan Daji in the North West, Operation Safe Haven in Plateau State or Operation Awatse in Lagos at work, is to see a portrait of amazing initiatives, intellect and determination, anchored by an uncommon passion. The magic is that Abubakar has formed relationships with his troops and has established a set of standards to guide their performance, on and off the line of duty.

Above all, Nigerians are once again witnessing, through him an air force whose desire to stand in the defence of the nation, protection of the citizenry and their properties, offering aid to civil authority have become a permanent feature of the NAF’s national image. It is a commitment that has ‘no finishing line’.

It is a celebration of a man with an uncommon passion for the peace, unity, security and development of the nation. There is the temptation to list out achievements of the NAF under his enduring good leadership. However, the purpose of this write up is not to do that, it is rather intended to say congratulations to an amazing and rare breed this nation has produced. If Nigeria does become a world military power as many international defence experts, believe is inevitable, Abubakar, perhaps more than anyone else, would have helped make that possible.

But we can say this much with certainty: he is one of the world’s most seasoned administrator of his time, an officer who has – and is still – altering the course of military history for the better and a Nigerian patriot worthy of our deepest gratitude and respect. But fortune favours the ready. Abubakar had been preparing to command the skies since he was young.

In a bid to bolster the confidence of the people in the NAF while countering the Boko Haram recruitment strategy to enhance local intelligence gathering, Abubakar introduced “Winning Hearts and Minds” strategy through the provision of humanitarian assistance to the IDPs in the North East and other locations across the country. The NAF initiative, under Air Marshal SB Abubakar , to care for the IDPs and many other vulnerable Nigerians by providing spectrum of medical assistance and other humanitarian projects  stand tall in the history Nigerian military.

Looking at his time in the force, it is clear that he has come as the crow flies, far from his humble beginnings, when things did not look so cast in certainty. Abubakar has a Diploma in Public Administration and a Bachelor of Science degree in political science. He also holds a Master of Science degree in Strategic Studies from the University of Ibadan. Abubakar has a Commercial Pilot License (CPL) for helicopters, with instrument rating and has flown a total of 7 aircraft types; Bulldog, Piper Warrior, Enstrom, Bell 206, BO–105, Mi–35P and Mi–17, with thousands of flying hours to his credit.

Prior to his appointment as Chief of Air Staff, Air Mashal SB Abubakar was former Chief of Standards and Evaluation at the NAF Headquarters, Chief of Defence Communications (Defence Headquarters), Air Officer Commanding, NAF Training Command (presently, unbundled into two Commands, namely, Ground Training and  Air Training Commands) and Chief of Administration, NAF Headquarters.

Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar has placed high premium on the welfare of personnel, capacity building, and aircraft serviceability, among others. He has changed the face of the air force as we gratefully witnessed a new dawn. While many may have a different opinion, it remains clear that the NAF today stamped its authority on the nation’s skies. The impression that the force is a representative of its leadership could never have rang more true. Happy birthday to the Chief of the Air Staff!

Mathew Gboko writes from Abuja

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