Shola Oyeyipo reviews President Muhammadu Buhari’s address to the nation on October 1st and comes to the conclusion that some of the claims made by the president in the speech failed to project him as a national leader
President Muhammadu Buhari’s broadcast to celebrate the nation’s 57 independence anniversary has continued to generate reactions from Nigerians. Although the broadcast was in the morning but by 8pm that same day, there were already torrent of reactions across the nation.
Some of the earliest reactions were from former vice-president Atiku Abubakar, a former presidential running mate to Buhari and founder, Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare, constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), the Nigeria National Summit Group (NNSG), pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere and other Nigerians. Others took to the social media to air their views.
In the broadcast, the president made some very salient points on issues affecting the country, particularly the issue of restructuring, Biafra agitation, fight against corruption, the economy, the indivisibility of the country among others.
He also used it as an opportunity to briefly reappraise the country’s journey from 1999 to 2015, when Nigeria returned to democratic rule.
Lamenting the wastefulness that characterised those period when oil prices averaged $100 per barrel at about 2.1m barrels a day, the president said Nigeria had witnessed appreciable gains in recent times.
But perhaps, the most controversial part of the independence message was when he said: “Recent calls on restructuring, quite proper in a legitimate debate, has let in highly irresponsible groups to call for dismemberment of the country,” and that “We can not and we will not allow such advocacy.”
He added that “As a young army officer, I took part from the beginning to the end in our tragic civil war costing about two million lives, resulting in fearful destruction and untold suffering. I am very disappointed that responsible leaders of these communities do not warn their hot-headed youths what the country went through. Those who were there should tell those who were not there, the consequences of such folly.”
These statements did not go down well with those who expected the president to adopt a reconciliatroy approach especially given the atrocities committed by the Nigerian Army against members of the Indigenous People of Biafra.
Others wondered why Buhari as a responsible leader in the north did not call Boko Haram members to order until the insurgency grew out of control.
Ozekhome described the president’s broadcast as un-presidential and un-reconciliatory.
Ozekhome, in a statement said: “The entire national day broadcast by PMB on the occasion of Nigeria’s 57th independence is quite disappointing in all ramifications. He expressed disappointment over Buhari’s refusal to come out strong against the rampaging herdsmen and that the president “left the real issues and pursued trifles”.
According to him, the speech was bereft of nobility of statesmanship, and devoid of a calm grasp and appraisals of the dire straits Nigeria is currently in.
He said: “The broadcast was rabidly narcissist, parochial, nepotic and clannish, as it failed to see anything wrong with the blatant and well reported threats by the Arewa youths to quit fellow Nigerians from their domain..
“The speech followed his now well worn out fixation of perceived hatred for the Igbo race, whose leadership he needlessly scurilised and lampooned, for allegedly being behind IPOB and other agitations.”
He accused the president of not giving the necessary attention to gun-wielding herdsmen ‘that literally vanquish citizens in their own homesteads across Nigeria’.
“The president celebrated mediocrity and edified his government’s non-performance two and half years down the line. I genuinely wondered if he was discussing the same country, Nigeria, that I am in, or another utopian planet mars,” he added.
Bakare disagreed with the position taken by the president that calls for restructuring are fuelling calls for the disintegration of the country.
The lawyer-pastor-turned-politician, in a state of the nation address at his Ogba, Lagos church argued that rather agitations are being fuelled by government’s refusal to look into what is behind the disaffection among the people.
He also noted that by the expression that government was in dialogue with stakeholders in the Niger Delta as a way to achieve peace, the president reduced the discussion to monetary gains.
“The president has reduced the call for restructuring to naira and kobo by focusing on the area that produces the oil, as if other areas calling for restructuring have no voice,” he said.
According to him, such position by the president is only capable of instigating grievances among those whose demand for restructuring of Nigeria is genuinely to bring about, equity, fairness, true federalism and justice, which he said would actualise the aspirations of Nigerians.
“The clamour for restructuring some years ago was the exclusive lingo of pro-democracy groups like the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), the Pro-National Conference Organisation (PRONACO), and The Patriots. The leading individual voices in this call emerged mainly from the southern part of the country.
“However, in more recent times, leaders from the northern part of the country have increasingly lent their voices to this call. From former vice-president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who has aired this opinion since around 2012, to a former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, and, most surprisingly, former Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida, the call for restructuring appears to be reaching a tipping point,” Bakare said.
He stated that one of the conditions that made him to agree to run with Buhari as vice president was that restructuring would take pre-eminence in the government’s pursuits, as highlighted in the Congress for Progressives Change’s (CPC) manifesto.
The Secretary-General of NNSG, Mr. Tony Uranta, who spoke on behalf of the body, expressed discomfort that the presidency misread the feelings of Nigerians. He noted that: “This is a democracy and our president should not continue standing on the wrong side of history.”
According to him, since Buhari returned to Nigeria from his medical sojourns abroad, it was evident that he still lacks a real connection with the people; that he still is unaware that we are not in the 1980s anymore; that he still doesn’t realise that guns are not the solution to every challenge besetting today’s Nigeria; and, that force has never triumphed over ideology in all of history.
The group wondered if Buhari’s advisers are not really leading him off the mark, by not allowing to support restructuring. It noted that it was because the president was not pro-restructuring that secessionist agenda are gaining more momentum.
The spokesperson of pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said the earlier the government saw reasons the better. He could not understand why the government failed to understand that it was the refusal of federal government to heed the call to restructure that was responsible for the rising agitations for dismemberment of the country and not the call for restructuring as being speculated by government.
That same position was expressed by Igbo socio-political organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, which in a reaction to Buhari’s statement that he is disappointed in South-east leaders, insisted that the president was responsible for agitation in the South-east and not Igbo leaders.
Ohaneze’s National Publicity Secretary, Prince Uche Achi Okpaga alleged that Buhari started hate speech in Nigeria, describing government policies of the Buhari-led federal government as “lopsided, sentimental and sectional.”
Addressing a gathering of youths at the 2017 edition of Emerging Leaders Forum (ELF), public opinion analyst, Mr. Henry Agbebire was unhappy that Nigerian youths rarely got the needed attention in national discourse such as the recent presidential broadcast.
He said:. “The president himself has not paid enough attention to the youths, yet it is proven that the younger generation has larger percentage, so any leader who plans to succeed should involve them in the core place otherwise such government will fail. A lot is not being done to galvanise the youths to be leaders tomorrow and how they can be the protectors of our values. Nobody is talking about how to use the youths for the realisation of our yearning.”
Hence, ELF founder, Dr. Kriz David urged the Nigerian youths to take up the challenge of becoming leaders themselves without waiting for anyone to handover power to them.
However, ACF commended the president for the broadcast, saying it was commendable and all encompassing, especially on the unity and indivisibility of the country. The body said it supported the position of government on the issues of restructuring and the need to allow genuine grievances to be addressed through the appropriate democratic institutions such as the legislature and judiciary.
”On the issue of hate speech and inflammatory remarks, now that government has taken a decisive action to arrest the situation, ACF appeals to all Nigerians to henceforth heed the call for restrain 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”.
The president has reduced the call for restructuring to naira and kobo by focusing on the area that produces the oil, as if other areas calling for restructuring have no voice