â€œIt is both shocking and scary to hear the recent comments by a senior citizen calling for Nigerians to defend themselvesâ€
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
Former Chief of Army Staff and Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd.), who last week indicted the Nigerian Armed Forces of complicity in the killings in some parts of the country and asked Nigerians to rise up and defend themselves, got a reply from the Presidency on Saturday, rebuking him for making remarks that could inflame passion and undermine national security.
â€œIt is both shocking and scary to hear the recent comments by a senior citizen calling for Nigerians to defend themselves,â€ the Presidency said in a statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, urging prominent Nigerians to avoid making statements that could lead Nigeria to â€œthe mess that destroyed some African countries, notably Somalia.â€
Although the statement did not specifically mention Danjumaâ€™s name, the reference to â€œa senior citizen calling for Nigerians to defend themselves,â€ was a clear repudiation of the former army chiefâ€™s call on Nigerians at the maiden convocation of Taraba State University, Jalingo, Yola in Taraba State penultimate Saturday, to defend themselves against gunmen terrorising their communities in the face of the failure of the armed forces to protect them.
Against the background of this unusual outburst by a former minister and the growing searing criticisms of the Muhammadu Buhari administration by some senior citizens, the Presidency statement urged notable Nigerians to rather use their influence wisely without engaging “in public declarations that are likely to inflame emotional passions and threaten national security.”
It said it was very worried by the ex-ministerâ€™s comment because it would make criminal gangs to feel justified by defying legal, governing and democratic institutions as well as the authority of legitimately elected democratic government.
“What country would survive if its citizenâ€™s rise against the countryâ€™s organised, trained and equipped military?â€ it asked in a clear reference to the former military chieftainâ€™s call to arms.
The Presidency, however, praised the military, which it said had continued to maintain peace and stability of the country despite temptations from those it said wanted to use it to destabilise the government.
“The Presidency commends the Nigerian militaryâ€™s efforts to maintain peace and stability, despite being pulled in various directions by elements determined to destabilise the country and government for their selfish reasons,â€ it said.
It, therefore, encouraged the nationâ€™s prominent leaders to explore proper channels to advise the government instead of appealing to emotions. “We advise former leaders to take advantage of the various fora where people with a history of national security can offer advice to the government without resorting to the exploitation of emotional sentiments,â€ it stated.
In an apparent warning to the leaders not to take its gentility for granted, the Presidency, said: “Silence can be dignified, but sometimes it can be misinterpreted and exploited,â€ adding that the motto of the civil war: â€œTo keep NIGERIA one is a task that must be done,â€ had become more germane at these troubled times, urging at Nigerians to be careful and avoid the mess that destroyed other African countries like Somalia.