By Henry Umoru & Chioma Onuegbu
LEADERS of thought and elder statesmen from four of the six geo-political zones of the country, under the aegis of Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, have taken a swipe at President Muhammadu Buhari over his position on restructuring of the country, asking him to stop playing Pharaoh.
This is even as the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, said it would not stop advocating for the restructuring of Nigeria.
The Presidency had said in a statement on Sunday that President Muhammadu Buhari would not be pressured into restructuring the country, and warned those driving the agitation to desist.
But in a statement, yesterday, by Yinka Odumakin for South West; Chief Guy Ikokwu for South East; Senator Bassey Henshaw for South South and Dr Isuwa Dogo for Middle Belt, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum particularly berated FG on the warning issued by the Senior Special Assistant, Media to the President, Garba Shehu, to patriotic groups and responsible individuals, such as the respected Pastor Enoch Adeboye.
According to the Forum, the warning is not only uncalled for but also unacceptable. The leaders, said: “Our attention has been drawn to the very uncouth and rude warning issued by Garba Shehu to patriotic groups and responsible individuals, such as the respected Pastor E A Adeboye that this government should restructure the country to avert a break – up.
“Sounding like spokesman of Pharaoh in Ancient Egypt, Garba dismissed the recurring agitations as unpatriotic outbursts.
”The Presidency responds to the recurring threats to the corporate existence of the country, with factions giving specific timelines for the President to do one thing or the other or else, in their language, the nation will break up.
“We are perturbed that instead of giving assurances about rebuilding the country towards inclusivity, the regime is talking down on Nigeria in very intemperate language. We want to make it clear to the regime that it cannot cow us by using cantonment approach to national issues.
”We will not accept turning us to second class citizens on our land, not even with threats of arrests or assassinations.
“Should we be clapping for the government and not talk when the Customs appoints eight Deputy Comptrollers from a section of the country? Are we expected to be saying well done when DSS recruits 535 cadets from North West and North East and only 93 from the entire South and North Central?
“Are we to keep quiet when the law setting up PENCOM was clear on succession at directors level, you go and bring somebody from North East to replace a South Easterner eased out as DG?
“If Garba Shehu is not lexically challenged, he should know that those calling for restructuring are more patriotic than those running Nigeria towards implosion. Patriotism is to corporate Nigeria for all and not the sectional idea of Nigeria by the nepotists.
“We will not succumb to their narrow idea of Nigeria, while we are fully assured that this too shall pass away. Therefore, let us restructure now and withdraw from the path of implosion forewarned by patriots at home and abroad.”
On its part, the pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, in a statement by its National Chairman, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, retd, said: “Our reaction to that statement is very straight forward.
”We will continue to advocate for restructuring. If you like to hear it, fine, and if you don’t like to hear it, it is up to you. We believe whoever says this administration will not tolerate those advocating for restructuring is ignorant of what restructuring is all about and doesn’t understand what democracy is all about.
“If something is not going right, what you do is to adjust it. Today, we are seriously marginalized in the Niger Delta and they don’t want us to talk about restructuring? God forbid, we will talk about it. “If you can remember, PANDEF has said before that if you don’t restructure Nigeria, Nigeria will restructure itself, we cannot go back on what we said because that is the truth. There are other people, groups that are saying the country could break up if it is not restructured. They are just advising. It is not a threat.
“In democracy, the rule of law is prime. And a leader is as strong as his followers. If all the followers are saying, let the people who don’t agree on restructuring come out and say so and not for you to sit down somewhere and say that Nigerians don’t agree. It is as simple as that.”