The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has invited three former service chiefs to campaign for its presidential candidate in the 2023 election, Atiku Abubakar.
Ishaya Bamaiyi, Kenneth Minimah and Martin Luther Agwai, all retired lieutenant generals and former chiefs of army staff, were named as members of the party’s Presidential Campaign Council (PCC), which has the mandate to organise the campaign.
Membership of the much-awaited council was announced on Thursday by the PDP National Organising Secretary, Bature Umar, in Abuja.
While the PCC is chaired by Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State with Governors Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State and Seyi Makinde of Oyo State as his deputy in the north and south, respectively, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State was named the director general of the campaign.
Mr Tambuwal is to be assisted by five deputies who will man strategic areas.
According to the timetable and schedule of activities set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), campaigns will commence on 28 September.
The army generals
Mr Bamaiyi was army chief from 1996 to 1999 under the administrations of late Head of State, Sani Abacha and Abdulsalami Abubakar.
An indigene of Zuru in Kebbi State, the 72-year-old former military officer was in office when Nigeria transitioned from military to democratic rule.
Mr Bamaiyi was detained and subsequently charged alongside others for the attempted murder of the Guardian newspaper publisher, Alex Ibru, by the Lagos State Government, but was discharged and acquitted in 2008.
Although he is a member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the PDP, it is not clear when the former army chief joined the party. He has been participating in the activities of the party, particularly in his north-west zone.
In October last year, he was linked with the alleged funding of a parallel congress of the party held at Shagalinku Hotel, Birnin Kebbi, which produced Ibrahim Manzo as state chairman.
In February, when Governor Aminu Tambuwal travelled to Kebbi as part of his consultations for his presidential ambition, Mr Bamaiyi was among party members in the state who received and accorded him a rousing welcome.
Mr Bamaiyi’s late younger brother, Danladi Bamaiyi, represented Kebbi South in the Senate between 1999 and 2003.
Rivers State-born Kenneth Minimah, who is number 268 on the list of PCC members, served as army chief for one year 2014 and 2015 in the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
It was not however, establish the time he joined the PDP after his retirement.
In 2016, the Presidential Committee on Defence Equipment Procurement in the Nigerian armed forces had invited Mr Minimah and two of his predecessors, namely Abdulrahman Dambazzau and Azubike Ihejirika as well as over 290 serving and retired officers who worked with them over the procurement of arms, ammunition and equipment between 2007 and 2015.
Last year, the 63-year-old retired officer was charged by the EFCC with fraud involving the alleged misappropriation of N13 billion meant for arms purchase.
Mr Minimah was charged alongside an erstwhile Chief of Accounts and Budget of the Nigerian Army, A. O. Adetayo, a major-general, and a former Director, Finance and Accounts of the Nigerian Army, R. I. Odi, a brigadier-general, at the Federal Capital Territory High in Abuja.
However, in May this year, he filed a suit against the EFCC over the criminal charges preferred against him by the commission. He was reported to have returned some money to the government though this could not be confirmed by this newspaper.
Between 2003 and 2006, Mr Agwai served as chief of army staff and then chief of defence staff between 2006 and 2007.
The Kaduna-born retired officer was hired from retirement by Mr Jonathan as the deputy head of Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (Sure-P), a government intervention agency.
He later became the head of the agency after the exit of Christopher Kolade, who was the chairman.
He was, however, fired in March 2015for attending Mr Obasanjo’s birthday. He was said to have preached “change” while delivering a lecture at the event held in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital. At the time, “change” was the slogan of the opposition party, APC.
It is not certain when Mr Agwai became a card-carrying member of the PDP.
Meanwhile, it is speculated within the party that one of the three former service chiefs would head the security subcommittee of the campaign council.
Going by the antecedents of the party, retired security chiefs head the security subcommittee of its conventions and campaign organisations.
A former Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mike Okiro, chaired the security subcommittee for the August 2013 PDP Special National Convention. Mr Okiro was at the time the chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC).
Also, another former IGP, Solomon Arase headed the subcommittee during the party’s convention in October 2021.
Ex-servicemen in politics
It was recently reported that though the influence of former military officers in the nation’s political process appears to be reducing as the nation heads towards its sixth general elections under the Fourth Republic, about five retired officers are seeking elective positions in the election.
They are Sadique Abubakar, a former chief of air staff, who is the APC governorship candidate in Bauchi State and Aminu Bande, a retired major general, who is the PDP governorship flag bearer in Kebbi State.
Hamza Al-Mustapha, a retired major and former chief security officer to the late Head of State, Sani Abacha, is flying the flag of the Action Alliance (AA) in the February presidential poll.
Others are Kefas Agbu, a retired colonel and Samuel Abashe, a retired major.
However, several former military personnel keep membership of some of the 18 registered political parties.
Of the four presidents the country has had since 1999, two – Mr Obasanjo and President Muhammadu Buhari – are retired generals.