Leadership, faculty, and staff of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) expressed deep sadness at the passing of General (Retired) Owoye Andrew Azazi, along with five others, in a helicopter crash in Nigeria on December 14, 2012. Azazi, a former National Security Advisor, had recently accepted an invitation to be the Africa Center’s first-ever Distinguished African Alumni Fellow.
“General Azazi was known to be an honest and outspoken advocate of security sector reform,” said Mr. Michael Garrison, Acting Director at ACSS. “He was also part of the ACSS family.”
Since enrolling in the Nigerian Defence Academy in 1972, General Azazi dedicated his life to military and public service, serving as Nigeria’s Chief of Defense Staff from June 2006 until August 2008 and as National Security Advisor to President Goodluck Jonathan from October 2010 to June 2012.
“The President extends deep and heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the deceased, and the governments and people of Kaduna and Bayelsa States,” a spokesman for Nigerian President Jonathan said in a statement December 15. “He describes the sudden loss of these distinguished Nigerians as extremely painful to the entire nation.” Also perishing in the crash were Kaduna State Governor Patrick Yakowa, two aides for General Azazi and Governor Yakowa, and the two pilots.
Along with his leadership role in Nigeria, General Azazi also made valuable contributions to ACSS, beginning with his participation in the Africa Center’s 2004 Senior Leaders Seminar. In subsequent years, he served as keynote speaker, guest lecturer, and advisor on numerous occasions. He played a key role in the development of several Africa Center programs, to include serving on committees to review ACSS curricula on a variety of African security issues. In October 2012, he agreed to begin serving a yearlong commitment as the Africa Center’s first Distinguished African Alumni Fellow, requesting that any compensation or travel reimbursement connected to the position be instead applied toward regional security research and academic programs. General Azazi had been next scheduled to speak at the ACSS Next Generation of African Security Leaders program, scheduled for March 2013 in Washington, D.C.
ACSS faculty and staff recalled General Azazi’s keen understanding of the evolving nature of security threats facing the continent. “He understood…the vital importance of integrating security efforts across various ministries of government,” said Dr. Joseph Siegle, Director of Research at ACSS. “He understood that communities needed to be engaged on a personal level, with a recognition of the grievances they faced.”
General Azazi was also an ardent supporter of efforts to empower women. Speaking at a September 2012 ACSS Workshop on Gender Mainstreaming in Africa’s Armed Forces, he argued that “the structure of politics in African countries must also allow women to participate so that they can look at gender issues objectively.”
“General Azazi was a thoughtful, versatile, strategic thinker,” said Dr. Siegle. “He understood that the nature of Africa’s security threats was changing, with an ever greater share of risk emerging from within fissures in society. In addition to his sharp intellect he brought an engaging, humble personality that was disarming to all he met. This made him an effective and trusted communicator, teacher, and leader.”
“With the passing of General Azazi,” he added “Nigeria and Africa lose a wise leader—someone who had much left to give and to share with younger generations both in Africa and beyond.”
“Our hearts go out to all who knew him,” said Brad Minnick, ACSS Director of Communications and Community Affairs, “especially his fellow ACSS alumni in Nigeria.”