On Friday, the news broke out that several colonels were promoted to the rank of Brigadier-General in the army, which included the former ADC to President Muhammadu Buhari, Colonel Mohammed Abubakar. This new appellation to their names generated a lot of controversies in the mainstream media in Nigeria as some called it Brigadier, some Brigadier-General, and others called it General.
Different Between Brigadier and Brigadier-General
The media seems to confuse the Army rank of Brigadier with Brigadier-General when reporting on military matters but the two are similar in name and position. Army officership is divided into three broad categories:
1. Company Grade Officers Rank
2. Field Officers Rank; and
3. General Officers Rank.
Brigadier is a term used in the Royal Army (Britain), and in the Royal Army, a Brigadier is the highest Field Officer Rank and is not reckoned as a General. But in the US Armed Forces (Army, Air Force, and the Marines ) a Brigadier-General is a General and the lowest rank in that category. Therefore, while both Brigadier and Brigadier General are the next rank after colonel and the next rank below Major-General in both Britain and US armies, their responsibilities in each country differ.
The confusion in the media is traceable to the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida who Americanized our military. As Chief of Defence Staff, General Abacha’s official designation was “Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff”, like his American counterpart. Even barracks were named FORT IBB, FORT ABACHA, etc., like the Americans have FORT LEAVENWORTH, home of their Command and Staff College in Kansas, FORT CAMPBELL, home of the famous 101st Division in Kentucky, FORT MYERS in Virginia, the official residences of their Chairman of Joint Chief (Quarters 6) and the Chief of Staff of the Army (Quarters 1), etc.
It will be wrong to refer to anything like “Brigadier-General Idiagbon”, Brigadier-General Murtala”, etc. They were simply Brigadiers and not Generals as they then were.
Who is a General?
“General” has two significations depending on the context it’s used. The term General can be used either in a general sense or in a specific case. In the general sense, General means any of the ranks from Brigadier-General (one-star General) through to Major-General (2 star General), Lieutenant-General (3 stars General), General (4 Stars), and Field Marshal (5 stars). In general, any officer holding any of the listed ranks is said to be a General. Meaning he could be holding any of the above 5 ranks. That’s general usage.
In specific use ‘General’ refers to only the 4-star general rank i.e., the rank below Field Marshal. Please note all these 5 general ranks have their equivalent in the Navy (Navy Commodore, Rear Admiral, Vice Admiral, Admiral, Admiral of the Fleet) and the Air Force ( Air Commodore, Air Vice Marshal, Air Marshal, Air Chief Marshal, and Marshal of the Nigerian Air Force). But the one that has caused a lot of confusion in the media and among Nigerians is that of the Brigadier-General or Brigadier as applied.