Until last Monday February 4th, the impression created in the media is that President Muhammadu Buhari lacks the support of his military constituency. There has been this myth cleverly created around ex-military Generals that they make and can also undo any Nigerian president they no longer feel comfortable with. The belief out there is that President Buhari falls into the category of those lacking the ex-Generals’ support and must therefore be booted out at the polls on February 16.
Drawing from this, it came as a rude shock earlier this week when a total of 71 retired military Generals led by the well loved amiable former military administrator of Lagos state, Gen. Mohammed Buba Marwa assembled at the Aso Rock presidential villa, Abuja to openly identify with and endorse Buhari’s re-election bid. Surprisingly, the endorsement cuts across officers in the three armed forces of Army, Navy and Air Force. The composition of the Generals comprising 13 Major Generals, eight Air Vice Marshals (AVM), two Rear Admirals, 12 Brigadier Generals, nine Air commodores, eight Commodores and 17 former military administrators, is a strong indication that indeed Buhari has his constituency fully and solidly behind him. This logical conclusion is further reinforced by the reasons adduced by the retired Generals for their visit and endorsement. After the brief ceremony, leader of the delegation, Gen. Marwa who also heads a Presidential Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Drug Abuse, PACEDA, in the country, gave the eye opener in their mission.
Speaking to State House Correspondents at the end of the meeting, Marwa said what informed the endorsement was the observations and the fulfillment of all Buhari promised to do in 2015. He stressed that if Buhari had failed in his duties, the retired generals would not have been in the Presidential Villa to endorse him.
In his words, “As an officer and a gentleman, his word is his bond. After winning the elections, he brought out simple three-points 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 the period 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 is it today? Where is IPOB today? The Boko Haram is not flying their 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 in the fringes of Lake Chad. Things are better.
“You look at the 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 with former military governors, retired military officers from the rank of Brigadier General and their equivalents from the Navy and Airforce are here today, to tell him and to tell 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 done under duress, Marwa said, “absolutely not. Every human being is political, we maybe 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 have compassion, you will overlook the matter of drugs and think that these are the dregs of the society. But he did.
“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 sleep with workers not paid and suffering. And now, the national minimum wage, he has approved it.
“And you can go down to what he is doing for the masses. Have you seen the Vice President of Nigeria enter the markets to give succour of N5,000, N10,000, we have never seen this until this time. So, it is because he has performed. If he did not perform you will not see us here. Some of us are politicians already and belong to political parties. I am already in the APC and I’m in fact chairman of the central working committee of the Women and Youth Presidential Campaign Team. But people like Admiral Ayinla who said they are not partisan but they know what is good and so they will work for his success.” The most senior of the retired officers, Vice Admiral Jubrila Ayinla, a former Chief of Naval Staff, added a clincher in his remarks when he said future generations would acquit President Buhari “most creditably,” and added: “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.”
I believe the reasons advanced here can’t be faulted. One can see the genuineness of their effort. I have always been a fan of Gen. Marwa since his days in Lagos and this singular move that has demystified some ex-Generals and exposed the lies behind the perception that ex-Generals don’t want Buhari, has further deepened my love and loyalty to him. No, I understand why in Borno and Lagos where this fine gentleman General has served, his signature of achievements still dot the landscape of these two states.
With this, let no one pull the wool on our faces that Buhari is not loved or supported by the military constituency. That pack of lie has fallen flat and the false perception wiped out by the latest reality as displayed to Nigerians by the Marwa-led team of ex-Generals. And so, I will like to admonish Nigerians with the words of Marwa at the historical ceremony in the Villa; “Peaceful election is what we call for. Allow the process to run, allow the people to elect their own leader. There should be no ‘mago mago’ and all those fake things that used to happen. Happily, we have the machine that will make sure that nobody who does not vote matters than somebody that voted.
“We ask Nigerians to come out in their numbers and vote for your candidate peacefully and after that protect your vote by remaining present until it is counted and announced before you go home.”
* Daramola sent in this piece from Epe, Lagos State