Colonel Gerhard Kahtz: Nigerian first Chief of the Air Staff (CAS)
“Colonel Kahtz arrived Nigeria on 30 May 1963 as head of the GAFAG which was charged with the responsibility of setting up the NAF. He started literally from the scratch, as he had no troops, aircraft, support services or training equipment on ground”
Germany has been and is still a medical home of sorts for past Nigerian presidents, top government officials and many Nigerian citizens who come for medical checkups and treatments. These include President Ibrahim Babangida, President Umar Musa Yar’Adua. Her Excellencies Stella Obasanjo, Mariam Babangida and Dr. Patience Goodluck Jonathan have also benefited from this gesture. The relation between Nigerian and Germany have come a very long way but today ignorantly pushed aside by our new breeds of politicians and government officials afraid to stick to “made in Germany” quality standard of doing things. The Germans on the other hand must also accept that we are in a changing world where it is no longer do what I say but let’s share ideas together.
In the opinion of knoefler-journalist, one of the German-media experts on Nigeria, this attitude is probably due to ignorance and a lack of information. As a trading partner, Nigeria is only attractive for big businesses, at best, which rely on a more offensive acquisition of information. But to smaller companies, the medium-size enterprises in particular, which play such an important role in the German economy, the West-African country is of little interest if not an unattractive trading partner indeed. Nigeria as well as Germany is thus missing out on these unique opportunities. Not only geographically is Germany the heart of this community of states but it plays a central role in economy, too. With its almost 82 million inhabitants Germany is the most densely populated country of the European Union.
It was surprising to most officers during Nigerian information day at the German Armed Forces Command & Staff College, on the 1st of November 2012 when Major Suleiman Kabir Usman and his Colleague Major Nikolas Nuhu Bature, in stressing the special relation between Nigerian and Germany in a stunning presentation about Nigerian, took the officers glued to their seats from Nigerian history, geography, cultural, the people, business, tourism and the military of Nigeria. It was the best presentation about Nigerian to an international community that I have ever witnessed. In 45 minutes everybody could have sworn they have been to Nigeria and back. It was during the presentation that the duo informed the audience that Colonel Gerhard Kahtz; a Germany can be described as the first Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) of the NAF. The Nigerian Air force web site collaborated this fact and have the following to say “ Colonel Gerhard Kahtz can be described as the first Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) of the NAF. However, he was officially designated as the Commander of the NAF. He had the onerous task of building up an Air Force for Nigeria when the agreement for that purpose was signed between Nigeria and Germany in 1963.
Born on 26 November 1922 in Durlach, Germany, Colonel Kahtz was a professional architect, before his commission as an officer into the German Air Force. He served the GAF as a Luftwaffe pilot during the Second World War during which he was decorated with the prestigious Iron Cross for his courage and devotion to duty.
Colonel Kahtz arrived Nigeria on 30 May 1963 as head of the GAFAG which was charged with the responsibility of setting up the NAF. He started literally from the scratch, as he had no troops, aircraft, support services or training equipment on ground.
However, by the end of his tour of duty on 23 November 1965, a functional NAF existed with an operational base in Kaduna and administrative headquarters in Lagos. It was the firmness and quality of the foundation he laid, that saw the NAF through a civil war and to the height it attained in later years.
His administration brought the first set of aircraft into the NAF inventory. Among these is the Allouette helicopter and fixed wing aircraft such as the DO-27, the Piaggio and the Nord Atlas. Commenting on the NAF, Colonel Kahtz asserted that, “Despite all the problems we were confronted with, I am pretty happy and proud of what I did for the NAF in only 2 years”1. While replying to questions on his major inputs towards the development of the Service over the years, he expressed satisfaction with his efforts, recalling that, “When I left Lagos by a French ship, the NAF with their available aircraft, flew a parade over the ship in Apapa.”2 NAF personnel who worked under Colonel Kahtz described him as a focused, firm and exemplary leader” – Nigerian Air Force, NAF).
The relationship between Germany and Nigeria is therefore a very unique one. Luckily the new found love between Nigeria and Germany was further underscored by the recent visit of President Jonathan to Germany on the invitation of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had earlier visited Abuja in July 2011. During the visit, both Governments decided to create a German Nigerian Bi-national Commission in order to intensify the bilateral relations between both countries. At the occasion of President Goodluck Jonathan’s visit to Berlin, the working groups of this Bi-national Commission met for the first time. The four groups are working on issues such as politics, energy, economy and investment as well as culture, education migration.
We hope that the one way street journey to either UK or US by our new breeds of politicians and government officials neglecting the big opportunities that Germany has to offer in the areas of small business enterprise development and co-operation, security co-operations and hospitality industry would be re examined.