Barely a week after some 71 retired generals stormed the Aso Rock to pledge their unflinching support for President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid, some members of the group have distanced themselves from the purported endorsement, saying they did it on their own.
Led by a former military administrator of Lagos State, retired Brigadier General Buba Marwa, the officers had commended the president for making the association proud by keeping to his three-point agenda-security, economy and anti-corruption fight, saying “you have represented your constituency very well.”
Marwa had said during the visit: “You announced a simple three-point agenda upon assumption of office namely security; fighting corruption, and the economy. You have kept your words as an officer and a gentleman.
“We the retired armed forces officers, representing 99.9 per cent of our colleagues say that we are proud of you; proud to be associated with your administration; and proud to witness this era of Nigeria rising again under your able leadership.”
But a prominent member of the retired officers’ association, Gen Ishola Williams (retd), reacting to the purported endorsement in an interview with Sunday Sun, said those who visited Buhari at Aso Villa did so on their own, and therefore, did not represent official position of his group. His words: “There are over 200 generals that have retired from the Nigerian armed forces. The 71 Generals that went to endorse Buhari did so on their own, they did not represent us because we have an association we call Army, Navy, Air Force Retired Officers’ Association of Nigeria. No single officer of the association went there with them. Therefore, those officers are on their own and they are free to form a group and express support for whoever they like. At least, they did not represent me. They are on their own”.
He further advised President Buhari to honourably retire back to Daura, his country home, to go and start farming. “My personal belief is that if he (Buhari) is true to himself and he has conscience, he should just go back to his farm in Daura. Not only that he is no longer articulate, he can’t also remember things well. He is mixing up things. You cannot be at that stage and still function well as a head of state. Those people who are pushing him are pushing him for their own interest. It is not for the interest of Nigerians,” he added.
Similarly, Major General Life Ajemba, also dissociating himself from the Marwa group, said the officers who went to the Villa to adopt Buhari as their preferred candidate were members of the APC masquerading as representatives of the retired officers’ association.
He said: “We read the report in the news just like any other person. I didn’t know where the meeting was held, and many of us were not contacted. It is obviously not a reflection of the position of the whole retired generals. They are about 70-something retired generals that made the endorsement. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of retired generals. We have a forum where we all meet, and the endorsement was never brought up there for us to debate and agree.
“Retired generals are private individuals in different fields. Maybe those ones that made the endorsement are supporters of APC. I know some of those generals and they know me. But they didn’t even call to inform me before they made the move. So, I believe they are APC supporters. I see it as an APC team of retired generals coming together to endorse the candidacy of PMB. So it’s not correct trying to rope in all retired generals because many of us know nothing about the endorsement.”
The generals’ open disagreement is coming on the heels of virulent verbal attack former Chief of Army Staff and Afenifere leader, Gen Alani Akinrinade (retd), recently launched on former President Olusegun Obasanjo for supporting the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, describing it as “an insult to our collective intelligence”.
In a paid newspaper advertorial, Akinrinade said Obasanjo lacked a good sense of judgment.
It read in part: “Some of us who knew him in the military and were privileged to see him operate during the civil war know if there is one thing Obasanjo is not blessed with, it is a good sense of judgment.
“Take a look at history through the clandestine manoeuvres in 1979, he foisted on Nigeria a reluctant Shehu Shagari at the expense of a cerebral Obafemi Awolowo or Nnamdi Azikiwe. After his second coming, he so manipulated the electoral system such that he fraudulently installed an unhealthy Umaru Yar’Adua as president alongside another reluctant character in the person of Goodluck Jonathan as the deputy. He denied every other interested member of his party while employing all sort of machinations, including threat and blackmail.”
He, therefore, advised the electorate to disregard Obasanjo’s antics.
Indeed, Obasanjo, who supported Buhari’s election in 2015 general election, has been going round the country, telling the people that the president is unfit for the job. Prior to now, he had also asked God not to forgive him if he supports Atiku because of what he knew he had done.
But in a dramatic turn of event, he later embraced Atiku’s candidature, and has since been in the forefront of the campaign for his election. This is in disregard of the fact that he and Buhari are both members of the same constituency.
President Buhari, who is seeking re-election on the platform of the platform of the APC, had served as military governor of Northeast, which is now six states, Minister of Petroleum for over three years and Head of State, before he retired from the army in the rank of major general. His endorsement by the 71 Generals, according to Marwa, was in recognition of the good work he is doing for the country.
The delegation of the retired military generals who endorsed the president for a second term as against his main challenger, Atiku, was made of one Vice Admiral, two Lt.-Generals, 15 Majors-General and two Rear Admirals. Others included eight Air Vice-Marshals, 12 Brigadiers-General, three Commodores, nine Air Commodores, and 17 former military governors/administrators.