By Dirisu Yakubu, Omezia Ajayi, Dennis Agbo & Luminous Jannamike
ABUJA—President Muhammadu Buhari’s resumption broadcast, yesterday, elicited reactions, ranging from strong commendations for his proclamations to sustain the unity of the country, to chastisements of same by some who said his assertions came too little and too late.
Commendations for the President came from usual and unusual quarters, including co-convener of the Resume or Resign group, Charles Oputa (Charly Boy); the Senate, organised labour, national Chairman of All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN; Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF among others. Senator Shehu Sani said the speech was the ‘roar of a lion which came handily to eviscerate the threat to national cohesion caused by ants and bugs.’
Many others, however, found fault. Among them were Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, who said he didn’t expect much and didn’t get anything from the speech; the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, which said the claims towards indivisibility were mere wishful thinking; Eastern Consultative Assembly, ECA, which said the President was out of touch with reality on the issues on ground and former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, who described the speech as uninspiring.
Former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Sir Austin Opara, in his reaction, said the broadcast fell short of expectations, while Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, described the speech as off the mark. Former Secretary-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nduka Eya, chided the President for his vow to deal with secessionist agitators.
Kudos for Buhari
Leading the commendations on the President’s broadcast, Chief Odigie-Oyegun, in his reaction, said: “The speech was absolutely outstanding. You see, he is the President of this nation. He has been away for quite a bit of time. Agents of destabilisation have been very much at work because they thought his absence created a gap and a weakness within the polity which they tried to exploit. So Mr. President in his wisdom discerned that the stability, unity, peace, and security of this nation and the ordinary Nigerian are the key issues at this material time.
“He addressed them and went straight to the core of the issues. He left nobody in any doubt that any Nigerian is entitled as a matter of right to live, work and operate in any part of this country. He made it clear and left no one in any doubt that yes, while people can discuss issues and the relationship in the nation, the National Assembly is there to handle such issues.
“But he drew one red line that the only thing that is not on the table is that this nation can be divided. He made it clear that the unity of the Nigerian nation is not up for negotiation of any type.
The Senate in its reaction, yesterday, said as an institution, it was happy with the speech of President Buhari, just as it hailed him and described the speech as apt, precise and highly cogent.
Speaking on the President’s speech in a telephone conversation, Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, APC, Niger, noted that President Buhari’s speech addressed all the inherent issues bordering on fundamentals, fabric and foundations of the nation that were pushed to the front burner of discourse while the President was away.
Senator Sabi Abdullahi said: “Remember, he dismissed the so-called quit notice as well as telling the secession-agitators that the unity of the country is not negotable.
“As a statesman and diligent leader, he needs not to say much until he has made wide consultations and widely briefed on all contentious issues in great details.
Comrade Issa Aremu, the General Secretary of the National Union of Textile and Garment Workers of Nigeria, (NUTGWN) in his appraisal, described the speech as “truly presidential,” “timely,” and “reassuring” on the unity and “indissolubility” of Nigeria as a Federal Republic.
Aremu in a statement in Kaduna, called on all compatriots, “state or non-state alike” to rise and defend the Constitution of the country in the face of what he described as “forces of disunity, revisionism and sheer disintegration.” Comrade Aremu said President Buhari had exhibited remarkable statesmanship by devoting his first appreciation speech to the vexed issue of Nigerian unity in reminding all Nigerians of the “obvious truism” that the motto of Nigeria as enshrined in the constitution is “Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress.” The labour leader who is also a NEC member of the NLC urged other statesmen and women to emulate the President by “talking the right talk and walking the talk” on Nigerian renaissance, rather than organizing what he called “wasteful thanks, giving/solidarity visits of dubious value.
“All Nigerians should not only decry hate speeches, and hate conducts of forces of disunity but should also talk the language of unity and love as President Buhari had done,” he said.
The ACF, while welcoming the President’s assertion on the unity of the country through an email response to Vanguard, said the “Presidential broadcast of today (Monday) was commendable and all-encompassing, especially on the unity and indivisibility of the country.”
The statement issued by the publicity Secretary of the ACF, Muhammed Ibrahim Biu, read in part: “ACF supports the position of government on the issues of restructuring and the channels of addressing genuine grievances through the appropriate democratic institutions such as the Legislature and Judiciary.
“On the issue of hate speeches and inflammatory remarks, now that government has taken a decisive action to arrest the situation, ACF appeals to all Nigerians to, henceforth, heed to the call for restraint and resort to peaceful means of ventilating their grievances.
“ACF further calls on governments at all levels to step up peace and confidence building in order to douse the current socio-political tensions,” he said.
In his response, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, the spokesman of the Coalition of Northern Youths, the group which issued the controversial October 1 eviction notice to the Igbo in the North, said: “What Mr. President said is, indeed, only a reiteration of what the Acting President said earlier at the last Council of State meeting he chaired. We, therefore, have no reason to be rattled.”
He defended the position of his coalition saying that “we have not offended anybody or breached any law by our declaration and subsequent actions and correspondences with government and international agencies.
“What the President said is only reaffirming our position that Nigerians have the right to reside anywhere in the country, but certainly that does not extend to a people who by action and utterances, say they are not Nigerians. In any case, since the Kaduna Declaration, we have never called anybody to violence, and none of our statements fall within the definition of hate speech. We are in total support of any move by the government to bring about sanity in the country and to finally bring and end to all divisive agitations and separatist tendencies,” he added.
The Niger State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, on its part, lauded the President for denouncing inflammatory statements capable of causing chaos in the country.
In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Minna, yesterday, Rev. Mathias Echioda, the state CAN chairman, also commended the President’s resoluteness that the country’s unity was not negotiable.
“President Muhammadu Buhari’s address to Nigerians this morning (Monday) is a move in the right direction.
“Buhari’s statement is a clear call to all sectional patriots and hate champions of our dear country to put away their swords. We are better together as a Nation.
“We don’t only welcome Buhari home we congratulate him for such a bold step this morning,” he said.
Maverick entertainer and good governance advocate, Charles Oputa, also known as Charly Boy, who was part of the organisers of the Resume or Resign group that two weeks ago commenced a campaign for the President to resume or resign, also welcomed the President’s speech, saying he shared similar thoughts with the President on the Nigerian project.
According to him, there is a good reason for all Nigerians to believe in the unity of the country if the fundamental issues of our value erosion are addressed.
“A lot of my Southern brothers are asking why I should believe in Nigeria. My answer is why not if we can solve the fundamental problem bedevilling the nation which is the fact that our values have been eroded.
“The youths are learning from their elders who are the political leaders. So far, we have seen elders and leaders who are enmeshed in corruption, who have managed to corner government. These are not the kind of people to move the country forward.
“I want to see a better environment for all Nigerians. In fact, it’s painful that some of our children abroad no longer wish to return to Nigeria. Even, the ones in Nigeria want to leave the country.
“If we push hard enough, Nigeria might just get better or something more positive than the present situation might happen, because we can’t continue to exist like this.
“I am an Igbo man. Even my people are ‘yabbing’ me and asking me why break a sweat over Nigeria, let’s face Biafra instead. But I say to them; I may be a dreamer, but I still believe in Nigeria.
“It is the same fight ‘Our Mumu Don Do’ movement and what the pro-Biafra agitators are struggling for. It is almost the same fight.”
Deputy Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, also welcomed the speech saying that he agreed with the president that every Nigerian has the right to live anywhere in the country without let or hindrance.
The deputy, PDP Senate leader, said he “was very encouraged by his position on the indivisibility of Nigeria.”
On his part, Chairman, Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, Senator Shehu Sani, APC, Kaduna Central, likened the President’s speech to a Lion’s roar re-establishing full control over his den.
Senator Sani, who noted that the President spoke the minds of Nigerians who wanted unity and progress in the country, said he equally spoke as a nationalist.
“The President spoke the mind of Nigerians who cherish our unity, peace and collective progress. He spoke as a Nationalist, and he spoke my mind a hundred per cent.
“He sent a clear message to terrorists, ethnic irredentists, secessionists, and champions of sectionalism that this union is an indissoluble matrimony in all circumstances.
“The President’s speech was a Lion’s roar meant to reaffirm and reinforce the unity of a nation showing signs of disintegration during his absence. The President speech was a Lion’s roar re-establishing full control of a staggering clime heading to an engineered implosion during his absence.
“The President speech was a Lion’s roar meant to wake up a slumbering nation dangerously forgetting the lessons of its history and the calling of its future. The president speech was a Lion’s roar meant to extinguish the Soviet/Yugoslavia inferno stoking in our country.
“During the President’s absence, our hard-earned trophy of peace and plaque of unity were gathering dust and gradually being eaten by ants and bugs; the Lion roared to clear them.”
Knocks for the president
MASSOB, however, disagreed saying it was hypocritical of the President to still believe in one Nigeria.
The leader of the group, Comrade Uchenna Madu, in a statement, yesterday, said:
“We the people of Biafra can never be deceived by a man Biafrans fully blooded with religious and ethnic sentimental hatred against the people of Biafra.
“Buhari in his inner sense of reasoning believes that with his kinsmen occupying the military positions of service chiefs, including all the most senior military offices/positions, he will easily crush Biafra.
“Maybe with his intimidating tendencies over Igbo governors, National Assembly members, religious/opinion/ political leaders, he still thinks he can crush Biafra.
The Eastern Consultative Assembly, ECA, on its part, faulted Buhari’s claim that the country’s unity was non-negotiable and settled, saying Nigeria’s continued existence must be negotiated by all parts for it to be restructured.
Secretary of ECA, Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko, while reacting on behalf of the group, described the President’s speech as “shocking.”
The statement, entitled “NIGERIA MUST BE NEGOTIATED,” read in part:
“Nigeria is tottering at the edge of the precipice, bursting at the seams and sitting on a combustible keg of gun powder, and Buhari and his speech writers are the only people who are unaware of this self-evident fact.
“If Mr. President does not, as a matter of urgency, set up a Constituent Assembly to draft a new people’s constitution that will be affirmed at a referendum before the end 2017, there may be no Nigeria by 2018.
“We also implore Mr. President to apologise to Nigerians without delay on his very provocative position on Nigeria’s very fragile unity.”
Former Minister of Aviation and PDP chieftain, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, described the broadcast as uninspiring, noting that the Commander-in-Chief ought to have used the channel to apologise to Nigerians over what he termed the incompetence of his administration.
“During his thoroughly uninspiring six minute broadcast this morning (yesterday), instead of appealing to Nigerians for patience and understanding and instead of apologizing to them for the ineptitude and sheer incompetence that his government has displayed over the last two years, President Muhammadu Buhari has returned home after 105 days on his sick bed in the United Kingdom and not only insulted Nigerians but also threatened them.
“He made no attempt to reach out to the people, to build bridges and to calm the troubled waters in what is a traumatized and divided nation, and instead, he sought to intimidate and talk down on our people and his perceived enemies,” he wrote on his blog.
“The President appears to have failed to appreciate the fact that times have changed and that he cannot impose his will on others. If he wants to enhance national unity, which is, of course, a noble and righteous venture, and if he really wants Nigeria to remain one, then he must desist from his dangerous and provocative rhetoric; he must treat all Nigerians like human beings and as equals; he must exhibit a much higher degree of sobriety and accommodation of contrary and dissenting views, and he must display far more sensitivity, understanding, and restraint in his interactions and discourse with the opposition and those that do not agree with him.
Fani-Kayode also decried the President’s refusal to order the arrest of those who issued quit notice to a section of the country.
“Worse of all, other than saying that every Nigerian has the right to live in any part of the country, which in itself is undoubtedly a welcome and gratifying assertion, he refused to order the arrest or threaten to cage and bring to justice those that gave the Igbo people a chilling quit notice and that have promised to unleash genocide, ethnic cleansing and mass murder on them if they refused to abide by it and leave the north by October 1st.
“This strange omission and instructive refusal by Mr. President is unacceptable, and it feeds into the narrative that there may well be some frightful hidden agenda unfolding.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo described the two years achievement of President Muhammadu Buhari as a mere political choreography which do not have direct impact on the lives of Nigerians.
Reacting to the President’s broadcast in Abakaliki, the National Publicity Secretary of the apex body, Prince Achi Okpaga, stated that the APC were responsible for hate speeches and that they should purge themselves first before accusing anybody of it.
“I join other well-meaning Nigerians in thanking God for the President’s miraculous recovery. It is however pertinent for the government to get on with business and start implementing the budget to the fullest. This administration has less than two years to prove its mettle, in all ramifications, to Nigerians. I am tempted to observe that the achievement the government is crediting to itself is a mere political choreography.