President Muhammadu Buhari says he does not mind being addressed as retired Major-General because he not only earned it but that he is no less than other retired military officers who later became democratic leaders anywhere else.
His position as contained in a press statement issued on Wednesday, was in reaction to a scathing editorial of the Punch Newspaper of same day which condemned the Buhari government’s human rights abuses as reminiscent of his earlier regime as a military head of state between 1984 and 1985.
Reacting swiftly to the development, Buhari’s special adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, said that the decision of the newspaper was in fact another testimony to the freedom of speech and expression allowed by the current administration.
According to Adesina: “A newspaper says it will henceforth address President Muhammadu Buhari by his military rank of Major General.
“Nothing untoward in it. It is a rank the President attained by dint of hard work before he retired from the Nigerian Army. And today, constitutionally, he is also Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
“All over the world, just as in our country, a large number of retired military officers are now democrats. It does not make those who did not pass through military service better than them.
“Rather than being pejorative, addressing President Buhari by his military rank is another testimony to free speech and freedom of the press, which this administration (or regime, if anyone prefers: it is a matter of semantics) has pledged to uphold and preserve.”
The Punch editorial which was titled – Buhari’s lawlessnes, Our Stand – had summed up its position thus: “As a symbolic demonstration of our protest against autocracy and military-style repression, PUNCH (all our print newspapers, The PUNCH, Saturday PUNCH, Sunday PUNCH, PUNCH Sports Extra, and digital platforms, most especially Punchng.com) will henceforth prefix Buhari’s name with his rank as a military dictator in the 80s, Major General, and refer to his administration as a regime, until they purge themselves of their insufferable contempt for the rule of law”.