By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
THE Presidency yesterday berated the Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, for dissociating themselves from Democracy Day and accusing the government of not doing enough to protect the north from insurgents.
The Presidency in a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu in Abuja told the group to thank their stars that the country was operating a democratic government where the right of free speech is guaranteed and protected.
It said, if the group had dared to issue the comments under a non-democratic system of government, they would have met a swift and harsh retribution from a dictatorial government.
Recall that a coalition of Northern groups had on Monday bemoaned the growing insecurity in the region and called on the Federal Government to implement sweeping measures.
The group had asked President Muhammadu Buhari to “immediately relieve the service chiefs of their duties,” saying unless killings in the region stop within 14 days, the coalition would “mobilise citizens to take to streets until the government is completely shut down.”
But the Presidency in its reaction said the Buhari administration has done more than any other – elected or not elected – to curtail and beat back terrorism in the country, adding that the President was working hard to fix all the ailing areas in the country before it hands over a clean state of affairs to the youths.
According to the statement, “For as many times as he met youth leaders, President Buhari has said to them again and again that we are fixing the ailing state to hand it over to you.
“It then amounts to a grave mistake, for this group of otherwise promising northern stars to dissociate themselves from Democracy Day and, in effect de-cognizing democracy as a chosen system of government.
“Nigeria recognises Democracy Day because, for many decades since independence, the fight for the right for Nigerians to choose their own government in their own name was not complete. A prominent citizen of the country, Chief MKO Abiola died trying to do just this.
“When independence was won, and then swiftly replaced by unelected government, it was not much of a change.
“For the challenges Nigeria faces today, lack of universal suffrage or lack of elected politicians is not one of them.
“We are facing severe hardships because of the coronavirus pandemic. And we continue to face the challenges posed by the terrorists Boko Haram.
“Yet when groups such as the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) put out statements claiming that Democracy Day holds no purpose and the government somehow wishes for the northern states to be struggling it is embarrassing not for the government but for the group, its members and their sponsors.
“For a start, if the group dared to issue such a comment under non-democratic method they would have met a swift and harsh retribution from a dictatorial government.
“They should thank their stars that we are operating a truly democratic government where the rights of free speech are guaranteed and protected.
“This government has done more than any other – elected or not elected – to curtail and beat back the terrorists.
“Similarly, no government has done more to foster democracy and freedom of speech in Nigeria than the current administration.
“The fact that CNG is freely able to transmit garbage to the media in the hope they will be widely reported is a testament the freedom of expression and media liberty that exists in our country today.
“Equally, the fact that the government is issuing this statement, in response to the puerile message is a testament that today Nigeria is a country where disagreements can be aired publicly through the press, not through less gentlemanly methods used in the past.
“We hope that CNG will consider the facts and reconsider the unhelpful and inaccurate message their statements contain when issuing them in the future.”