Meet Paul Dike, Nigeria’s First Air Chief Marshal
PAUL DIKE is Nigeria’s first Air Chief Marshal. Dike is also the 15th Chief of Air Staff of the Nigerian Air Force.
Unlike many others in the top brass of the Nigerian Armed Forces, ACM Paul Dike (retired) is not potbellied. He stands erect, he is smart, handsome and spots a very cute haircut (with this stylish inward curve around the temple). Neat, erudite and very articulate (his voice is very crisp and he sounds like a newscaster, you know, Cyril Stober style), he is often described as a model for all men and women of the Nigerian Air Force. A man with his kitty dripping with laurels, many firsts and awards, he is no doubt a very intelligent officer and by the time you finish reading this, you will see reason as to why some think he is the finest air force officer Nigeria has ever produced. And oh, did I mention the dexterity with which he flies jet fighters? Navigating through the turbulent skies and ferrying presidents from nation to nation?
BACKGROUND, BIRTH AND EARLY DAYS
An indigene of Iselle-Ukwu in Aniocha Local Government Area of Delta State, he is Igbo by tribe, Delta Igbo to be specific but was born in Maiduguri, Borno State.
SCHOOLING AND EDUCATION
Known for his highly detribalized nature, Dike is a Nigerian to the core. While growing up, he schooled at the following:
-Saint Barnabas Primary School, Ilorin, Kwara State.
-Ogbomosho Grammar School, Oyo State.
-University of Ibadan, Oyo State (where he bagged a masters degree in Strategic Studies).
JOINING THE NIGERIAN AIR FORCE
On the 22nd of January, 1973, Dike joined the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna State as an Officer Cadet and on the 21st of June, 1975, he was granted a Regular Combatant commission into the Nigerian Air Force as a Pilot Officer. And so, his journey into the skies started. Over time, he would receive more military training as follows:
-Primary Flying Training Course, 301 Flying Training School, FTS, Kaduna.
-Undergraduate Pilot Training, Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, USA.
-Instructor Pilot Training, Randolph Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, USA.
-Air Command and Staff College, Alabama, USA.
-MB-339 Tactical Conversion Course, Italy
-L-39 Tactical Recurrency Training, Czechoslovakia (now split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic).
-National War College, Abuja.
RISE IN THE NIGERIAN AIR FORCE
Here is an overview of his promotions and rise from wing to wing in the NAF
-Officer Cadet, Nigerian Defence Academy, 22nd January, 1973.
-Commissioned Pilot Officer, Nigerian Air Force, 21st June, 1975.
-Flying Officer, 22nd January, 1977
-Flight Lieutenant, 22nd January, 1981
-Squadron Leader, 22nd July, 1985
-Wing Commander, 22nd January, 1991
-Group Captain, 22nd January, 1996
-Air Commodore, 22nd January, 2001
-Air Vice Marshal, 22nd January, 2004
-Air Chief Marshal, 30th May, 2006, made CAS the same day.
THE FOLLOWING WERE HIS APPOINTMENTS
-Staff Officer I, Operations Headquarters, Tactical Air Command
-Instructor Pilot, Operational Conversion Unit, MiG-21 fighter jets
-Chief Flying Instructor, 303 Flying Training School, FTS.
-Commander, ECOMOG Air Detachment, Freetown, Sierra Leone (the Nigerian Air Force has been accused of using cluster bombs (in contravention of international war conventions) against hapless Sierra Leoneans during the operation to flush out rebels of the Foday Sankoh-led Revolutionary United Front, RUF, during the regime of the late General Sani Abacha who later succeeded in restoring President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah back to power).
-Directing Staff, Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, Kaduna.
-Commander, National Air Defence Corps.
-Deputy Director, Plans, Nigerian Air Force Headquarters.
-Director of Operations, Nigerian Air Force Headquarters.
-Commander, Nigerian Air Force Station, Yola, Adamawa State.
-Airport Commandant, Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
-Appointed Commander, the Nigerian Presidential Air Fleet, PAF (read all about the Nigerian Presidential Air Fleet here) by the late maximum dictator, General Sani Abacha (read all about Abacha here)
-Air Officer Commanding (AOC), Training Command, Kaduna.
-Air Officer Commanding (AOC), Makurdi, Benue State.
-Appointed the 15th Chief of Air Staff (CAS) on the 1st of June, 2006 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
-Appointed the Chief of Defence Staff, Defence Headquarters, Abuja on the 20th of August 2008 by President Umaru Musa Yar’adua. On the 8th of September, 2010, he finally bowed out of service and retired.
-He was also the Chairman of the Committee of ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence Staff.
THE AIRCRAFT HE FLEW
Although he looks cool and as harmless, he is a ‘badoo’ with fighter aircraft. He has flown different types of aircraft as a trainee pilot, Instructor Pilot and also as a Combat Pilot. The following are some of the aircraft that ACM Dike handled while in the NAF during training:
-Cessna T-37 Tweet Jet Trainer
-T-38 Supersonic Trainer: The Northrop T-38 Talon is the most widely used and most produced Supersonic Trainer in the world. It is also the first supersonic trainer in the world.
As a Combat and Instructor Pilot, he has flown the following aircraft:
-MiG15 (Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15, Russian-made)
-L-39 (Aero L-39 Albatross), developed in the then Czechoslovakia.
-Aermacchi MB-339, made in Italy.
-And of course, the popular Alpha jet (which I think should be phased out of the NAF inventory because of the high casualty rate).
BECOMING CHIEF OF AIR STAFF
In 2006, he was appointed the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and he was there until August 2008 when he was made the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). Upon becoming the CDS, Dike made history when he became the first Nigerian Air Force officer to attain the rank of an Air Chief Marshal (ACM), an equivalent of a four-star general in the Army. The tradition is that only that CDS holds the four-star rank and the CAS is usually an Air Marshal (three-stars). He later handed over the post to Air Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin (see photo).
INTERESTING THINGS ABOUT ACM PAUL DIKE (RTD)
-He is a lover of tennis (you think you can beat him to it? lol).
-He is the second air force officer to become the Chief of Defence Staff, after Air Marshal Al-Amin Daggash who held the position from 1998-1999.
-He is a very patriotic man and detests tribalism to a fault. More than anything, he always emphasizes his detribalized view as a person. That is not surprising in the sense that he is Delta Igbo, born in Maiduguri, married to a Yoruba woman from Abeokuta in Ogun State, schooled in Ilorin and Ibadan. ACM Paul Dike is quick to tell anyone and everyone he is a Nigerian and that is all. He does NOT like to be labelled based on ethnicity or given any unreasonable tribal appellation like some tribe-crazed Nigerians always do. Dike seems to be every inch a man ahead of his time.
-When the psychotic naval ratings attached to Rear Admiral Harry Arogundade beat up and strip Miss Uzoma Okeke in broad daylight on a Lagos street in 2009 simply because she did not leave the way for Arogundade’s convoy, Dike later issued a guideline of discipline for Nigerian military officers outlawing the use of koboko (horsewhips) on Nigerian civilians. He also banned the use of sirens by convoys (except of course, for the one conveying him and some other top military dudes). I am not sure if that directive is still adhered to.
-He speaks every major Nigerian language fluently.
-Between May and August 2009, the Nigerian military under the orders of the CDS, bombed Oporoza Village, an oil-producing community in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Delta State in a bid to root out Niger Delta militants. The military was accused of targeting innocent civilians with Nigerian Air Force warplanes but the military denied this saying they were only after the militants. Incidentally, Dike hails from Delta State. The Joint Task Force was accused of using helicopter gunships and gunboats to launch surprise aerial offensive which resulted in the loss of lives and property. As at that time, President Yar’adua was determined to get Leader of the Camp 5 militant group, Chief Government Ekpemukpolo aka Tompolo who later surrendered when offered an amnesty package.
-He was reportedly appointed the Chief of Defence Staff by the late President Yar’adua because Dike had the ‘unusual’ habit of returning unspent money to the government at the end of every financial year.
-When the late President Yar’adua was in Saudi Arabia to attend to his medical condition and no one knew what was going on, there were some calls from some quarters for Dike, who was the Chief of Defence Staff at that time, to take over the leadership of the country. But for a man who strongly believes that the military has no business with politics, he was not tempted to assume the role of the Commander-in-Chief. Hear him:
“Meddling in political issues does not complement our constitutional role in any way, shape or form. I therefore warn all members of the armed forces to steer clear of politics. Ours is a military that is mindful of its past, conscious of its present and hopeful of the future.”
-Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike
“Regardless of the imperfections of our political experiments, democracy remains the only acceptable form of governance.” –Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike
HONOURS, AWARDS AND LEGACIES
An intelligent man with a cool mien to complement it, he has received the following honours:
-The Chief of Air Staff Prize for the Best Air Power Research Work (he received this as a student at the National War College).
-The Most Outstanding Air Force Officer Award, 1996.
-Distinguished Service Star, DSS.
-Meritorious Service Star, MSS.
-Fellow of the National War College (fwc).
-Honourary Doctorate Degree, Igbinedion University, Edo State
-The third highest national honour in Nigeria, the Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR).
-Inducted Member, International Honour Roll, Air University of the United States Air Force (USAF).