In the history of Nigeria’s mission to Sierra Leone and Liberia one man who stood out as Nigeria’s foremost expeditionary commander of all time and one of the greatest general of our time is no other person than Brigadier General Maxwell Mitikishe Khobe.
This outstanding officer that most Nigerians barely know about was born on 1st January 1950 in Zekun, Adamawa State and enlisted as a foot soldier in September 1969.Subsequently, he enrolled in the Nigerian Defence Academy Short Service Combat course and was commissioned an infantry 2nd Lieutanant in 1971 alongside two other storied operational commanders, Brig Gen Olagunsoye Oyinlola & Maj Gen Gandi Zidon and several others
After playing a remarkable role during the Dimka coup, he applied for transfer to the Armored Corps as a captain and in August 1985, he led a unit of tanks during the palace coup that removed Major General Muhammadu Buhari from power ushering in fellow armored corps officer, Major General Ibrahim Babagida.
He started out the expeditionary phase of his career in Liberia with ECOMOG where he commanded a tank battalion. Khobe whose knack for good man management saw many troops jostling to serve in his unit hardly entered a tank at the front but preferred to walk armed with nothing but a radio. This single move made his men join him on foot while advancing on the enemy position and in this typical fashion, he and several officers and troops marched on foot to take town after town in Liberia until they captured Buchanan City in 1992.
After sojourn in Liberia, he went back home and in very quick succession, he was saddled with the responsibility of heading a special unit formed to protect Lagos against armed robbers, then to Abuja, and to the Armour Brigade headquarters at Yola. Afterwards,
In 1985, he turned down a political posting from the military head of state, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida but another posting was to follow. The May 1997 overthrow of President Kabbah by the AFRC junta in Sierra Leone provided him another opportunity to work abroad. He was appointed the commander of the ECOMOG Task Force in Sierra Leone.
In a lighting action, Brigadier-General M.M. Khobe stunned the world when on 12 February 1998, he personally led the ECOMOG attack that routed the forces of Major Koromah who held sway in Freetown for nine months and returned the democratically elected government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. In recognition of his efforts, President Kabbah asked the Nigerian government to second him as chief of defence staff of the Sierra Leone Army.
Khobe hardly had enough time to re-build the Sierra Leone army as the chief of defence staff before the rebels invaded Freetown again on 6 January 1999,in spite of repeated intelligence warnings. However, after a protracted illness, at 10.30 am on 18 April 2000 at the aged 50, one of the very few, Nigerian military legends whose bravery is uncontested by subordinates, peers and superiors passed away ascending to the pantheon of Africa’s military immortals.
The death of Brigadier-General Maxwell Khobe sent grief and anguish to millions of people in Sierra-Leone where he played a major role in the restoration of peace and democracy and in recognition of his exploits, The Rukuba Cantonment of the headquarters garrison of 3 Armoured Division in Jos was subsequently renamed in his memory.