A man who stands out as the finest expeditionary commander of all time in Nigeria and one of the best generals of our time in the history of Nigeria’s mission to Sierra Leone and Liberia is no other than Brigadier General Maxwell Mitikishe Khobe. born in Zekun, Adamawa State on 1 January 1950, this excellent officer that most Nigerians hardly know about was enlisted in September 1969 as a foot soldier. Subsequently, he enrolled in the Nigerian Defense Academy Short Service Combat course along with two other storied tactical commanders, Brig-Gen Olagunsoye Oyinlola & Maj Gen Gandi Zidon and several others, and in 1971 was commissioned an infantry 2nd Lieutenant.
After playing a noteworthy role during the Dimka coup, he applied for a transfer to the Armored Corps as a captain, and in August 1985, during the palace coup, he commanded a tank unit that ousted Major General Muhammadu Buhari from power, ushering in Major General Ibrahim Babangida, a fellow Armored Corps officer.
With ECOMOG in Liberia, where he commanded a tank division, he started the expeditionary stage of his career. Khobe, who saw several soldiers jostling for good man-control in his company, barely entered a tank at the front but preferred to walk armed with nothing but a radio. As he moved on the enemy’s position, this single move made his men pursue him on foot, and he and other officers and troops marched on foot to seize city after city in Liberia before Buchanan City was taken in 1992.
After his stay in Liberia, he returned home and, in very rapid succession, was saddled with the task of heading a special unit formed to protect Lagos against armed robbers, then to Abuja, and the Armour Brigade headquarters in Yola. Subsequently, in 1985, a government post was turned down by the military head of state, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, but another post was to follow. The May 1997 overthrow of President Kabbah by the AFRC junta in Sierra Leone was another opportunity for him to work abroad. He was assigned to the ECOMOG Task Force as commander in Sierra Leone.
In a lighting case, Brigadier-General M.M. Khobe stunned the world when, on 12 February 1998, he led the ECOMOG attack that crushed the troops of Major Koromah, who held power in Freetown for nine months and restored the democratically elected government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. President Kabbah, in recognition of his contributions, asked the Nigerian government to name him as Chief of Defense Staff for the Sierra Leone Army.
Despite repeated intelligence warnings, Khobe hardly had enough time before the rebels occupied Freetown again on 6 January 1999 to re-build the Sierra Leone army as chief of defense staff. After a lengthy illness, however, at 10.30 a.m. on 18 April 2000, at the age of 50, one of the very few Nigerian military legends whose bravery is unquestioned among peers, friends, and superiors passed away, rising to the pantheon of African military immortals. Brigadier-General Maxwell Khobe ‘s death sent grief and anguish to millions of people in Sierra-Leone, where he played a major role in restoring peace and democracy and was eventually renamed the Rukuba Cantonment of the 3 Armoured Division garrison headquarters in Jos in his memory in recognition of his exploits.