NSIKAK EDUOK, Nigeria’s 12th Chief of Air Staff
Full Names & Titles:
Elder Air Marshal Nsikak-Abasi Essien Eduok
He is an Ibibio from Mbak, Akwa Ibom State, southern Nigeria.
BIRTH & EARLY DAYS
He was born on the 11th of July 1947 at Mbak, Ibesikpo/Asutan Ekpe Local Government, Akwa Ibom State. Following his primary education in Uyo, the state capital and his secondary school education at the Lutheran High School, Obot Idim, Eduok worked for a short period with the Voice of Nigeria as a Studio Manager. Nsikak’s father, Nte Eduok, who died in 1996, was a very senior elder of the Qua Iboe Church (now United Evangelical Church).
JOINING THE NIGERIAN AIR FORCE
On the 1st August, 1968, Eduok joined the Nigerian Air Force as a trainee pilot. For his initial training in the military, he was at the Nigerian Defence Academy. After that, he attended the Primary Flying Training School, Kano in 1970 and the Basic Flying Training Course in 1971 at the Basic and Advanced Flying School, also in Kano. In the two courses, Eduok finished as the best all-round student pilot.
CAREER AND LATER DAYS
- In February 1971, Nsikak Eduok was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. After that, Nsikak Eduok attended various professional and staff courses in Nigeria and abroad.
- Advanced and Tactical Flying Training Course, 1971 – 1973
- Aircraft Accident Investigation Course, USA, 1974 – 1975
- MiG-21 Conversion Course, 1975, USSR
- Advanced Staff Course, United Kingdom, 1976
- Command & Staff College, Jaji, Kaduna State, 1981. Eduok finished as the Best Eagle Writer of the Command & Staff Course II, 1981
- MB-339 Flight Training Course, Italy, 1983 – 1986
- Command and Staff College Dagger (+), 1987
- L-39 Flight Training Course, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic and Slovakia)
- United States Air Force (USAF) Air War College, Alabama, 1991 – 1992 where he finished with a distinguished pass.
A trained combat pilot, Nsikak Eduok was a pilot in various aircraft types within and outside Nigeria, these include the L-29, L-39, MiG 15, MiG 17, MiG 21 and the MB-339.
In the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), Eduok served in the following roles:
– Appointed the first Operations Officer, Strike Group, Makurdi, Benue State, 1975 – 1976
– Commanding Officer, NAF Station, Enugu.
– Appointed first Commander, 75 Fighter Squadron
– Commander, 301 Flying Training School, Kaduna
– Commander, 303 Flying Training School, Kano
– Commander, NAF Station, Makurdi, Benue State
– Commander, NAF Station, Kainji, Niger State
– Directing Staff, Command and Staff College, Jaji, 1986 – 1987
– Director of Plans, NAF Headquarters, 1989
– Director of Operations, NAF Headquarters, 1990 (he was a Group Captain then)
– Air Officer Commanding (AOC), Training Command, 1991
– Member, Armed Forces Ruling Council, AFRC, (during Babangida’s regime), 1991
For his non-military positions:
- Member, Governing Council, Bayero University, Kano (BUK), 1984 – 1986
- NAF Representative, National Boundaries Commission, 1989 – 1991
Eduok retired in 1999 to Uyo where he has been engaged in farming, charity, business and religious activities.
AS THE CHIEF OF THE AIR STAFF
On the 27th of August, 1993, he was appointed the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) but one week after, the decision was overturned by the military regime, and the same axe fell on General Joshua Dogonyaro as the Chief of Defence Staff. Both lost their roles because they were branded as loyalists of Nigeria’s military president, General Ibrahim Babangida who supported IBB’s plan to stay put in power and actively worked towards ensuring that. On the 6th of September, 1994, he was redeployed to be the AOC, Tactical Air Command (TAC) and also made a Member, Provisional Ruling Council (PRC).
On the 20th March, 1995, Eduok was appointed a Member, Federal Executive Council as the Honourable Minister for Aviation (appointed as Air Commodore), the position that he held until the 30th of March 1996 when he was reappointed the Chief of Air Staff by the Abacha government. He was in the CAS position till his retirement 1999. Upon retiring, Nsikak Edouk was received by the then Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Bassey Attah (the two were later said to have disagreed when Eduok advised Attah to allow the younger generation to have a shot at governance, that was reportedly why he was alienated through Attah’s tenure). It must be noted that as the Aviation Minister, Eduok carried out some very controversial reforms in August 1995 in which he fired Dr. Harold Demuren, the first Director of Airworthiness in the FCAA and Moshood Agbabiaka, the FCAA DG. He did not stop there. He disbanded the Federal Civil Aviation Authority (FAAN) and created the Directorate of Safety Regulation and Monitoring (DISRAM) and HIRAM (Directorate of Economic Regulation) in its place, he also merged other existing aviation agencies despite profuse opposition of professionals in the aviation industry (on the 31st of August, 1995, Air Commodore Nsikak Eduok, in his capacity as the Minister of Aviation, merged the Federal Civil Aviation Authority and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN). Eduok destroyed the entire structure (he would later be accused of starting the rot that let to the Bellview, ADC and Sosoliso air crashes of 2005 and 2006).
All the FCAA directors were retired while about 700 others were either fired or retired – all in one day. Eduok justified his actions saying Agbabiaka and his management were corrupt. Others like the head of the liquidated Nigeria Airways Limited (NAL), Andrew Agom, also got their sack letters. Some analysts have accused Eduok of causing more havoc than good in the Nigerian aviation industry. In February 2000, to correct all the troubles caused as a result of Eduok’s actions, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) were established by the Obasanjo presidency, but not after the country was severely ridiculed in the international community.
However, Demuren would later state in September 2007 that he and others were fired because he had a heated disagreement with Eduok:
“We can’t have another accident again. So I grounded the operation of HARKA. HARKA was owned by Flt. Lt. Salisu, a retired Airforce he was a good friend of Nsikak Eduok know that. I now grounded the operation, when I grounded the operation what happen? Nsikak Eduok who was then the minister called for a meeting that day, all of us went that day, all the directors and including the MD. He asked ‘who grounded this operation?’ ‘Who has right?’ And I said I’m an Airport Safety officer to Nigeria, that’s my job, if I don’t do that I will go to jail, so it’s me, Honourable Minister, this is normal. He said you should have taken permission and I said no, no we don’t take permission from you, I’m only going to inform you that I’ve done this and I did inform you. He said no, the Soviet Ambassador called me, and I repleid it doesn’t make any difference, you have seen the crash, people are in the mortuary right now.”
According to Demuren, that disagreement was to lead to his retirement Hear him “But in August 31, 1995 I was retired, not only me. In our aviation slang we called it ‘Thursday morning massacre’ because it was a lot of us who were retired that day.
Why was he retired – was it for incompetence or professional negligence?
His reaction was quick. “I believe it was because of the disagreement with the Minister.. He said I should restore the license of HARKA Air, but I didn’t restore it. He felt that we shouldn’t have grounded the airline without telling him and I said it’s a safety issue.
“So, after I had that problem with him we left, on this press conference day when he now came in, he just said well, there are a lot of things going on, I’ve got permission from the authority to make a lot of changes in aviation I’m going to start and then he started. Started from my Ministry, people were retired from the ministry, then in FAAN the MD was removed, somebody was appointed, if you remember that I was the one they called last. He said and the powerful Director of safety Service is retired.
-When Eduok took over as the CAS, flight training was almost zero in the NAF and he made spirited efforts to change this. It was during his time that the first NAF attack helicopter was purchased. This was in addition to the various Presidential Task Force projects such as the construction of the NAF Mini Barracks in Abuja and improvement in the accommodation and welfare of officers. To further improve the welfare of the air crew and boost their morale, the Eduok administration carried out a significant review of the flying allowances given to the air crew. His administration was also the first to look into the regular maintenance of NAF aircraft in the country, and this was carried out on two NAF C-130 transport aircraft.
LOVE, MARRIAGE & FAMILY
Eduok married the late Deaconess Nkese Nsikak Eduok. During her husband’s tenure as the CAS, she was the President of the Nigerian Air Force Officers Wives’ Association (NAFOWA). She died in 2012. Their marriage produced seven children.
AWARDS, HONOURS, POSITIONS & ACHIEVEMENTS
-Nsikak Eduok Avenue in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State is named in his honour. The six-lane avenue was built during the Attah administration.
-He is a recipient of the National, Defence, Independence and Republic Medals.
-He was also garlanded by the Nigerian Air Force with the Distinguished Service Star (DSS) and the Meritorious Service Star (MSS) medals.
-He holds a honorary doctorate degree of Humanities from the Cornerstone University & Seminary, Israel.
INTERESTING THINGS ABOUT NSIKAK EDUOK
– In 1997, Nsikak Eduok came up with the idea of having a total radar coverage (TRACON) for all of Nigeria. The proposal was to cost the country a total of $250 million but it did not sail through.
-Eduok is one of the very first indigenes of Akwa Ibom State to join the Nigerian Air Force.
– Eduok is an ordained elder of the United Evangelical Church and he says:
The Church has given me an assignment. Since August 1998, I have been teaching the word of God in churches like Apostolic and Lutheran. I teach every Wednesday with pastors from other churches and from my church always in attendance. I think it’s a great privilege for me to be found worthy to teach the Word. I’m not a Pastor; I’m an ordained elder. I’m not selected because of my status in the society. Most of the churches these days, select people and give them positions because of status. In 1997 and 1998 when I was still in service, I used to come from Lagos or Abuja to Calabar, or to Uyo to attend elders’ traing at our church on No. 2 Abak Road, Uyo. At the end of the day, I was interviewed by six old pastors including the then National Chairman.
We were 15 but 13 of us passed the interview. I was properly brought up in religions matters by my parents. They were great leaders of our church. Besides, when I left my parents, my very first encounter was in the secondary school – Lutheran High School, Obot Idim. The founder of Lutheran Church in Nigeria taught me Bible Studies. He brought Lutheran Church from the United States to Nigeria. I am talking about Rev. (Dr.) Jonathan Udoekong, whose grandson is the present National President of Lutheran Church. He laid a very good foundation not only for me but for all of us who had the privilege of passing through him. So today we stand before people who are formally trained as pastors and humbly contribute meaningfully to the furtherance of the word of God.
-In April 2012, Eduok revealed a secret he had kept for 25 years concerning the creation of Akwa Ibom State, his relationship with General Edet Akpan (former Director-General, NYSC) and other issues. He said in an interview with David Augustine of the Uyo-based Weekly Insight Newspapers:
“I want to say that in this state today, probably Gen Akpan and I, we can say that we were actively involved in the creation of Akwa Ibom State. I, now standing here, by the grace of God, I was the first person appointed Governor of Akwa Ibom State, eight days before it was created. Some days later, my then Chief of Air Staff, begged the then Head of State, Gen Babangida to please leave me because of my specialty as a fighter pilot. I was one of the most senior fighter pilots in Nigeria then. The Chief of Air Staff told Gen Babangida to please not waste this man, referring to me, in the governor’s post. I am talking of the Head of state at level. Before then, General Y.Y Kure had been dispatched to come and brief me in staff College Jaji, where I was a directing staff. He came there and told General Amu, our commandant then, that I had been appointed out as a Governor to a state to be created out of Cross River. The commandant sent for me and briefed me on my appointment as a governor of a new state. I went back, handed over to a new director. Back in Lagos, I had a call to see the Chief of Air Staff. When I went there, at the breakfast table he said, ‘Yes I have been able to rescue you out of the hands of being a governor. Don’t ever think I would allow you to go and be governor. If this country is in trouble today, you are the one we will be looking forward to organize the boys to go and fight. We cannot afford to waste you as governor….
…. So you can see that right from earlier than the existence of the state, God used us here. All these noise politicians are making everywhere, sometime if you bring them here to tell the story of the state, they have no idea. But we are here, we are not making noise I am sure since this state was created, this is the first time I am talking publicly of this story….
Take for instance the 31 local government areas in the state. The Almighty God will be my witness here; I was really critically involved in the creation of 24 out of the 31 that were eventually created. I am not making noise. We are quietly making our contributions, but remember we don’t make noise like politicians….
On relationship with General Akpan and the Qua Iboe Church:
There had never been anything like disunity between us. There is nothing like disagreement. If you had met Gen Akpan far away from here, he would have told you the same thing. There is no slightest form of disunity. All those things you hear are purely imaginary….
“The church of God is one. It is owned by one authority. If we are not one, how come we are all here embracing one another? Every time you see us together. We are not the cause of the problems, but we are trying to assist in its resolution….”
- While CAS, Eduok’s ADC was Group Captain Mfon Ekpoh. On 8th September 2012, the 16-year-old son of Ekpoh, Ferguson Edidiong Mfon Ekpoh aka Papillo was gunned down by armed robbers at Osong Ama Residential Estate when he was returning from a vigil at the Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel), Uyo, with his mother. The gunmen opened fire on the boy when he held back his mother from being abducted by the kidnappers. He died the next day at the teaching hospital. It was two days to his 17th A couple of months before his killing, his aunt, Mrs. Godwin Eduok had been kidnapped and they demanded for a ransom of N50 million naira. Group Captain Ekpoh hails from Onna Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
- In 1999, on the reduction of air fares, Eduok said that the Nigerian Air Force would be going commercial and to ensure that the average Nigerians benefitted, the NAF would be charging 25 – 65% of the normal fares charged by the Nigeria Airways. Major-General Jeremiah Useni had said around that time that air travel was not for the poor.
- When Eduok told his parents he wanted to join the air force, they bluntly refused.
- On the 27th of September 1999, the TELL published investigations into the murder suspected to have been committed by Nsikak Edouk. In 1999, concerning the murder of Iniobong Eko, Air Force Private John Uko alleged that his brother (Iniobong Eko) was killed by agents of Nsikak Eduok who had accused his friend’s son of stealing N50.8 million naira, part of the money kept….
- Nsikak Eduok is the proprietor of Ultrafit and he is also the owner of one of the largest palm produce farms in Nigeria.
- Eduok once headed a committee as the CAS, and at a point, his committee discovered that of the 2,349 on-going projects in the Niger Delta, 76 of them had gulped the sum of N3.91 billion with nothing done as of September 1998.
- As the CAS, Eduok influenced the location of the Air Force Comprehensive School, Okop Ndua Erong, Ibesikpo/Asutan Council Area of Akwa Ibom State. The school is simply called Air Force Comprehensive School, Uyo, but in reality, it actually lies outside the state capital in a semi-urban setting, about 15 kilometers to the north of Uyo.
- Eduok is very good friends with former Governor Godswill Akpabio. He is also good friends with Air Commodore (Otuekong) Idongesit Okon Nkanga who served as military governor of Akwa Ibom State from 5th September, 1990 to 2nd January 2, 1992. Nkanga was a Commander of the Presidential Air Fleet and in 2011, he was the Campaign Manager for Akpabio. Nkanga also influenced the location of the College of Education at Afaha Nsit, Nsit Ibom Council Area, where he hails from.
- Eduok has been mentioned as one of those who gave approval for the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and others, as members of the Provisional Ruling Council so that the military junta would not be perceived as ‘weak’. Apart from Eduok, the following were the members of the PRC at that time under General Sani Abach and also approved of the execution: General Patrick Aziza (Minister of Communications); Major Gen. Tajudeen Olarenwaju (General Officer Commanding); General Abdulsalami Abubakar (Chief of Defence Staff); Lt. General Oladipo Diya (Chief of General Staff); Maj. Gen. Victor Malu (GOC); Ibrahim Coomasie (Inspector General of Police); Mike Akhigbe (Chief of Naval Staff); Maj. General Ishaya Bamaiyi (Chief of Army Staff); Lt. Gen. Jeremiah Useni (Minister of the Federal Capital Territory); and Michael Agbamuche (Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice).
THE QUOTES AND SAYINGS OF NSIKAK EDUOK
-I was retired in 1999 just before we handed over to the civilians during the time of Obasanjo. Since then till now, I decided to come back to my home state, to work in the farm and in the Church. Initially, I was tempted to join active politics but I discovered that I could not cope with the type of falsehood within politics and I took an oath that I will never be involved in active politics for the rest of my life even though I love good governance and like to advise my friends who venture into it.
Since then, it has been up and down, I want to mention that, any properly trained military person will not have much problems finding his way in civil life after retirement…but military training and civil life are not compatible.
– We were given all round training which has helped us. For example, I was a counter pilot flying aircraft up to the speed of 2.1 times the speed of sound and now, I’m working inside the bush.
– And, I thank the Nigerian government because my parents alone wouldn’t have been able to afford one percent of the huge financial investment government made on me in forex. So, when you sit back at home and see things happening, as a Christian, you have no choice but to come out voluntarily and advise.
– I really don’t know whether I will want to single out politics in Akwa Ibom State because invariably, it’s the same thing that happens in Nigeria. But I will want to say emphatically that I have not seen a reliable politician in Nigeria.
– I study and know the meaning of ‘Democracy’, as ‘government of the people, for the people and by the people’. From there, when you go to all the dictionaries or political publications, you will never see zoning being associated with democracy. Zoning is brought about by sentiments and these are religious, tribal and economic. It must be your clan man, it must be your colleague, and it must be somebody you can have easy access to, so that you can be rich that must be there or win the election. I believe that when we look at the players, we will find that it is not all of them that have the capacity to deliver. But somebody can come from anywhere and deliver good governance to the teaming masses. Why must we pay too much attention to zoning? If that person you’re talking about was so qualified, let him sell himself to the populace so that the ballot box will decide. When you hear me say I don’t have any confidence upon any politician in this country, I mean it, because you hardly see anybody who will politicize without any of these sentiments. Let’s look for the person who is honest, God-fearing and who can deliver.
-In November 2012, Nsikak Eduok voiced out his opposition to the concept of state police. He said only those who do not want the country to exist are those calling for the establishment of state police.
-At a time, his brother was kidnapped in Akwa Ibom State. Also when the wife of Group Captain Sam Ewang (former military administrator and All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP’s chieftain in Akwa Ibom State) was kidnapped, Governor Akpabio held a meeting with Ewang at Eduok’s house, Akpabio had been accused of being behind the kidnapping because Ewang was interested in the governorship of the state, a claim that Akpabio vehemently denied.
-He is the owner of Ultra-Fit Hotel in Uyo and he was also one of the sponsors of the Akpabio National Under-17 Boys and Girls Soccer Competition held in December 2008 to celebrate the 46th birthday of Governor Akpabio.
NSIKAK EDUOK TODAY
-He is the Chairman, Board of Trustees, United Evangelical Church (formerly Qua Iboe Church).
-Eduok is also the 3rd Grand Patron of the Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio (MMI), a socio-cultural organization of Ibibios.