No General worth his rank will endorse Buhari —PDP

By Soni Daniel & Dirisu Yakubu

ABUJA— RETIRED military officers from the Army, Navy and Air Force, yesterday, endorsed the re-election bid of President Muhammadu Buhari.

52 Generals who endorsed Buhari on Monday in Abuja

They include one Vice Admiral, two Lt-Generals, 15 Majors General, two Rear Admirals, eight Air Vice-Marshals, 12 Brigadiers-General, three Commodores, nine Air Commodores, and 17 former military governors/administrators, among others.

The generals were led by former military administrator of Lagos State, Brigadier General Buba Marwa, retd, who also heads the Presidential Advisory Committee on elimination of drug abuse in the country.

Some notable retired officers in attendance include former President Goodluck Jonathan’s Minister of Police Affairs, Navy Capt Caleb Olubolade, and former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Jubril Ayinla.

But the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in a swift reaction to the endorsement yesterday, said no general worthy of his rank would endorse President Buhari for another four years.

Speaking to State House correspondents after the meeting with the President, Marwa explained that what informed the group’s endorsement of President Buhari for a second term was his fulfillment of all  he promised to do and general performance of his government in office.

He said:  “As an officer and a gentleman, his word is his bond. After winning the elections, he brought out simple three-point programme – security, economy and fighting corruption. He led the fight and is leading the fight by personal example, that is the height of leadership. Do as I do not as I say, he has demonstrated that.

“On security, I have touched on the advances made before and when he took over from 2015 till date. I put the question, the bombings that used to go on in this FCT, Kaduna and so on, where are they today?

“The herdsmen crisis up and about, the hues and cries, where are they today? Where is IPOB today? Boko Haram is not flying flags like they did before.

“They were in my local government for eight months, actually they even lived in my house believe it or not but they have been chased away and now they are just on the fringes of Lake Chad. Things are better.

“You look at infrastructure, it is the same thing, things are happening everywhere, highways are coming up, there is no state of the federation that there is no work going on, the railways the same thing.

“So the long and short of it is that when you demonstrate what you say you will do and you are from our own constituency, we must stand up and be counted. And, therefore, the retired military officers today, including former military governors, retired military officers from the ranks of brigadier general and their equivalents from other officers are here   today, to tell him and Nigerians that we are fully behind him in the elections next week and we will do whatever we can within the law to see that he is victorious in the elections.”

Asked if the endorsement was out of fear, Marwa said:  “Absolutely not. Every human being is political, we may be non-partisan, we all want a good country for ourselves, our children and grand children and even for those yet unborn.

“Look at the drug abuse thing for instance, he was the first President that launched a war against drug abuse in Nigeria through the committees, one of which I chair. Unless you don’t have compassion, you will overlook the matter of drugs and think that these are the dregs of the society.

“Look at the Biafran Policemen who left the Nigerian police before the war, he remembered them. Airways workers, he remembered them. His first concern when he took over was not the huge projects but for the civil and public servants to be paid.

“He even said it on one occasion and I heard it clearly, that he wonders how governors can sleep when workers are not paid and are suffering. And now, the national minimum wage, he has approved it.

“You can go down to what he is doing for the masses. Have you seen the Vice President in Nigeria enter the markets to give succour of N5,000, N10,000? We have never seen it until this time. So, it is because he has performed. If he did not perform, you will not see us here.”

On how they will lend support to President Buhari’s re-election, the former MILAD said: “Some of us are politicians already and belong to political parties. I am already in the APC and chairman of the central working committee of the Women and Youth Presidential Campaign Team. But people like Admiral Ayinla are not partisan but they know what is good and so they will work for his success.”

On advice to Nigerians ahead of the elections, Marwa said: “Peaceful elections is what we call for. Allow process to run, allow the people to elect their own leader. There should be no ‘mago mago’ and all those fake things that use to happen.”

The most senior of the retired officers, Vice Admiral Jubrila Ayinla, a former Chief of Naval Staff, who said future generations would acquit President Buhari most creditably said: “On behalf of the generals here today, I congratulate you on the tremendous work done by this administration, and wish to state unequivocally that we are proud of you and fully behind you in the presidential elections next week. We pledge our full support and continued loyalty”, he said.

God has made Nigeria great — Buhari

Receiving the generals who were on a courtesy visit to his office at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari, said: “God has made this country great. We have human and material resources, and may God continue to give us the right leaders. My objective is very clear, and I will continue to do my best.”

Recalling what he said in his days as military head of state, the President added: “We have no other country but Nigeria. We will stay here and salvage it together.’’

He noted that even if one was blessed enough to send children for training abroad, after such training, they will still come back home.

‘’We must, therefore, give our best for our country. The patriotism imbued in us by the military will ever remain relevant. Let’s do our best for this country,’’ the President said.

Describing Nigeria as a fabulous country, President Buhari said if it were not so, the country would not have survived the damage done to it materially and morally in the past, glorifying God that after 30 months civil war, with over two million lives lost, the nation was still together.

President Buhari prayed that Nigeria would not lack people who could exploit its human and material resources.

“The higher you go in Nigeria, the hotter it becomes, and not the other way round. But I can’t complain. I tried so hard to be here three times, ending up at the Supreme Court. So, I can’t complain over anything I am going through now,’’ he said.

On the Military

He described the military as an institution that gives amazing opportunities to know the country, its different peoples and cultures.

Buhari said:  “I am very grateful that you have claimed me back as one of your own. I was governor of North East, which is now six states, Minister of Petroleum for over three years, head of state; I was arrested and detained, but did not lose my rank because nothing was found against me.”

PDP reacts

Meanwhile, PDP, yesterday, dismissed President Buhari’s endorsement by the 71 retired Generals, saying given the level of insecurity in the country since the President took over in 2015, no general worthy of his rank would endorse his quest for a fresh four year tenure.

Questioning the rationale for the endorsement, National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, said it was unfortunate that the said Generals were not speaking up while officers and men of sundry military agencies were being killed by bandits and insurgents in some parts of the country.

“We consider this endorsement as names dropping, just to create an aura that does not exist around President Buhari.

‘’Young officers are being killed and no General has spoken on how to curb the insurgency and banditry. Is it now that Nigerians are tired of the governance style of President Buhari that Generals will be endorsing him?

‘’When bandits are taking over Zamfara   and even Katsina, the home state of Buhari? The PDP does not believe any General worth his salt will do that,” he said.

On allegations by Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, that the PDP was conniving with hostile international security forces to undermine the current administration, Ologbondiyan enjoined Nigerians not to take the Minister seriously, adding that each time he speaks, he exposes the plot of his own party invariably.

“Each time Lai Mohammed speaks, he comes out to make allegations that in a way reveals the plan they are making.

“Not long ago, he accused the opposition of a plot to bring people from Niger Republic to disrupt elections but at the end, who brought people from Niger Republic? It was President Buhari.

“If he claimed that the opposition is planning to scuttle the polls; like President Buhari, we are not aware,” he added.

He also accused governors elected on the platform of the APC of submitting names to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for engagement as ad-hoc staff during the polls.

“The PDP alerts Nigerians that INEC has been taking directives from the Presidency and the APC on how to manipulate our electoral process at various levels.

“To this end, INEC has collected a list of people that will serve as electoral officials, including ad-hoc staff and returning officers at the polling units, from APC state governors and candidates, across the federation, on the directives of the Buhari Presidency.

“The PDP is already privy to how the lists were populated with APC members and agents of the APC candidates, after clearance by the APC leaders in various states.

“The PDP vehemently rejects this wicked plot by the Presidency, which is tailored to ensure institutional manipulation of the electoral process, including accreditation, voting and collation of results at the polling units, which is the base of the elections.

“The PDP holds that by following the directive of the APC in such dubious rigging scheme,  INEC Chairman, Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, has violated section 29 (1) of the Electoral Act (as amended) and shows that he is in clear deficit of the required political will to conduct a credible, free and fair election.

“This is especially in the light of the boasting by agents of the Presidency and the APC to give the INEC chairman what they describe as the “Onnoghen treatment”, and frame him, if he fails to comply with their rigging plans,” he stressed.

Accordingly, the PDP   asked INEC to, within the next 48 hours, “publish the list of all officials and ad-hoc staff that will play any form of role in the election at all levels for verification by stakeholders.

“Any delay or refusal by INEC to publish the list with 48 hours would be a clear acceptance that it has been compromised by the APC and this could lead to a very serious crisis with very dire consequences as the PDP will never allow anybody to rig it out in this election,’’ the party stated.

While warning the the INEC boss to desist from soiling his name, the party urged him to “note that the fate of our nation lies in his hands. It is left to him to decide whether he would end as a national hero or as a villain.

“Furthermore, the PDP calls on the international community to place the INEC chairman, Directors and Commissioners in INEC responsible for this election on their watch list and proceed to impose travel ban on them as well as hold them directly responsible should there be any form of rigging in the February 16, 2019, presidential elections.”

INEC dismisses PDP’s  allegation

Reacting to PDP’s allegation, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, challenged the  Party to come up with evidence that the umpire was indeed planning to rig the 2019 polls.

Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the umpire would not allow itself to be distracted ahead of the polls.

“The Independent National Electoral Commission has been conducting general elections since the past 20 years. During this time, especially since 2010 and particularly from 2015, the Commission has introduced many innovations to improve the electoral system. One of such innovations is to ensure that no member of any political party is engaged to participate in the conduct of elections.

“I, therefore, call on any political party or individuals with information on how the commission plans to or has engaged members of any political party as ad-hoc staff for the upcoming general elections to make such information public and mention specific names.

‘’It is not enough to make wild allegations. It is incumbent on those who make such allegations to   also provide the proof.

“With less than two weeks to the general elections, INEC cannot afford to be distracted by baseless allegations. The commission is not a political party and will not allow itself to be dragged into unneccesary controversies at a time like this.

“INEC assures Nigerians that its overall commitment is to conduct free, fair and credible 2019 general elections, for which it needs the support of all,” he said.

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