Unic Press UK: Two aides to the Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari seem to hold contrasting views over the decision of Punch Newspaper [a leading Nigerian news media outfit] to henceforth use a prefix Major General [the president’s rank while in the Nigerian military] to address him, saying its decision is driven by President Buhari’s repeated disobedience to court orders and violation of human rights.
“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… PUNCH will not adopt the self-defeating attitude of many Nigerians looking the other way after each violation of rights and attacks on the citizens, the courts, the press and civic society, including self-determination groups lawfully exercising their inalienable rights to peaceful dissent. This regime’s actions and assaults on the courts, disobedience of court orders and arbitrary detention of citizens reflect its true character of the martial culture. Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) ran a ham-fisted military junta in 1984/85 and old habits obviously run deep. Until he and his repressive regime purge themselves of their martial tendency therefore, PUNCH will not be a party to falsely adorning it with a democratic robe, hence our decision to label it for what it is – an autocratic military-style regime run by Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd),” said Punch Newspaper.
In a tweet Tuesday when news broke that the Punch Newspaper in its editorial is accusing President Buhari of contempt of court and disrespecting the rule of law, the Special Adviser on media/publicity to the president, Femi Adesina said:
“If you decide to call him Major General, he wasn’t dashed the rank, he earned it. So, you are not completely out of order. The fact that you can do so is even another testimony to press freedom in Nigeria.”
If you decide to call him Major General, he wasn’t dashed the rank, he earned it. So, you are not completely out of order. The fact that you can do so is even another testimony to press freedom in Nigeria.
— Femi Adesina (@FemAdesina) December 11, 2019
However, in a press statement same day, a Senior Special Assistant to the President
(Media & Publicity), Garba Shehu voiced a different view, accusing the Punch of partisan politics.
I”t is not within the power or rights of a newspaper to unilaterally and whimsically change the formal official title or the designation of the country’s President as it pleases. It is unprecedented and absurd in our recent political history. The Punch never changed President Olusegun Obasanjo’s title from the President to General Obasanjo, despite the latter’s refusal to comply with Supreme Court judgment, ordering him to release N30 billion of Lagos State local councils funds. When General Ibrahim Babangida who wasn’t democratically elected assumed the title of President, why didn’t the Punch challenge him or address him by any title it so desired? In fact, IBB closed media houses for several months and years, including Punch. But the paper didn’t stop addressing him as President, despite the fact that he wasn’t elected.
Is it within the paper’s responsibility or power to change the official title of the man who occupies the office of the President? Does that mean any newspaper is free to address the Comptroller General of Customs a Colonel rather than his official title?,” Garba said.