Pictures of service chiefs attending President Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign rally tagged ‘Next Level’ have become a source of worry for the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation, a spokesman for the organisation has said.
Some service chiefs including the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin; the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Abubakar Sadiq; and Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas seen attending the event were obtained by The PUNCH on Monday.
However, it could not be immediately ascertained if the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai, also attended the event which took place in Abuja on Sunday.
In one of the photos, the Chief of Naval Staff is seen shaking hands with the All Progressives Congress chieftain and former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio.
The event was well attended by the APC Chairman, members of the APC National Working Committee, members of Buhari’s campaign team as well as several ministers who took to the podium to bash the Peoples Democratic Party amid chants of ‘APC, Next Level’ from the audience.
Speaking with The PUNCH on Monday, the Spokesman for the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation, Mr. Segun Sowunmi, said the presence of the service chiefs at such a political gathering showed that Buhari as the commander-in-chief had compromised the heads of the military agencies.
Sowunmi called on the international community to take note of the development as it could imply that the military had already started working for Buhari’s re-election.
He said, “The problem with the security agencies is that they have not fully defined who they should be loyal to. The concern is that the commander-in-chief has some sort of relationship with them but when they elevate that relationship to a point where they begin to attend political events at the launch of the campaign of a political party, everybody must be scared.
“This is because it portends a very dangerous development which is that they have now got themselves involved in politics to the point that they are now the cheerleaders of another political party.
“I hope when we want to unveil our own political document in a public forum and if we invite them, they would be reasonable enough to attend since they now attend political events.
“We want to advise them to be removed from politics so that the opposition can feel safe. I am quite disappointed in President Buhari for exposing the military to such a compromise and we call on the international community to take note.”
The Spokesman for the Buhari Campaign Organisation, Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN), said the event was not a political one per se but an event to showcase the achievements of the Buhari administration.
Keyamo said during election time there is a thin line between politics and government, adding that there was no cause for alarm.
He said, “It was not a campaign but the launch of a scorecard. You cannot prevent the crowd from chanting ‘APC’ because party members will do what they want. The event was a scorecard involving heads of all sectors including security to showcase their achievements.
“We were supposed to have a segment for security chiefs but the airtime was not enough. We showcased achievements in infrastructure, social investment, and agriculture.
“The truth of the matter is that in campaign periods, the line is very thin because the government is APC and APC is the government but the truth of the matter is that it is about government performance.”
By Eniola Akinkuotu, Punch