Femi Adesina, special adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on media and publicity, says the decision of PUNCH to refer to the president as a “major general” is proof of press freedom.
In an editorial entitled “Buhari’s lawlessness: Our stand”, on Wednesday, the newspaper said it will also refer to the Buhari administration as a regime until it purges itself of ”contempt for the rule of law”.
”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,” it said.
But responding hours after the editorial went viral, Adesina said Buhari earned the rank, adding that all over the world retired military personnel are now “democrats”.
“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,” Adesina said.
“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 Buhari administration has been criticised for its application of extra-judicial means in matters.
In October, 2016, agents of the Department of State Services (DSS) invaded the residences of judges in the dead of night knocking down doors.
Also, there have been arrests and detention of citizens by the secret police without regard to the verdicts of the courts on the cases.
Omoyele Sowore, pro-democracy activist, was rearrested last Friday — less than 24 hours after he was released on Thursday. He had spent 124 days in detention before of his brief release.
No charges have been filed against him since he was re-arrested, but he has been held for more than 48 hours against the law, which states that a person shall not be detained for more than 48 hours without an order of a court.