Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The five socio-cultural groups drawn from both the Southern and the Northern parts of the country that held a two-day meeting with former President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abuja last week have berated the Presidency for its condemnation of the meeting.
The groups – Afenifere, Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), and Middle Belt Forum – yesterday described federal government’s reaction to the meeting as highly disappointing, adding, however, that it would continue to meet with people of like minds with the sole aim of bringing the nation out of the brink.
In a joint statement signed by Mr. Yinka Odumakin for Afenifere; Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed (Northern Elders Forum); Chief Guy Ikokwu (Ohanaeze); Senator Bassey Henshaw (PANDEF), and Dr. Isuwa Digo for Middle Belt Forum, the groups said they had taken note of the presidency’s reaction to the meeting.
According to them, “To say that the presidency chose to react in the manner it did to a responsible and credible initiative by our groups and a former president, is, to put it politely, deeply disappointing and worrying.
“Our groups are not mouthpieces of President Obasanjo, and we will leave it to him to choose how he responds to the lamentable response of President Buhari to his initiative.”
The leaders noted that they have no regret whatsoever in holding the meeting with Obasanjo.
“For us, it is sufficient to say that we have no regrets or apologies to offer for making ourselves available to dialogue with each other, exchange ideas and re-commit ourselves to pulling our nation from the brink of precipice of No Return.
“The communiqué released at the end of our meeting, which we are confident is only the first of many, is a loud testimony to our levels of responsibility and maturity. We have received countless commendations from many responsible Nigerians for supporting and participating in this initiative to make our country a democratic and united entity,” the groups explained.
“We are even more worried at this stage that a responsible and constructive effort to douse tensions, build bridges and restore hope in the potentials for the survival of our country as democratic and united entity will attract the type of childish vitriol from the Presidency, including labelling us as terrorists.
“Clearly, our current leaders are living in very deep denial if they do not recognise that our current situation represents an existential danger to the nation. We noted the commendable support of other leaders for the initiative, and the statesmanship of chairmen of Nigeria, APC and PDP governors‘ fora who attended the second day of the meeting and expressed genuine support for it.
“In contrast, we are alarmed at the insensitivity of the Presidency, which will rather demolish patriotic and responsible action than take steps to address gaping holes in the manner it handles our national destiny, our security and our economy.
“Our fora are encouraged to pursue the time-tested strategy of engagement, dialogue and steadfast commitment to the future of our country as secure, united and just. We will continue to exercise our rights to meet and seek for solutions, and discharge our obligations to younger generations of Nigerians who deserve to live in a nation without its current frightening limitations.
“We believe that the Presidency, our legislators and all well-meaning Nigerians should be part of our initiative. If the Presidency chooses to stay out, Nigerians have the right to ask what it is doing to address our deeply-embedded problems itself. President Muhammadu Buhari should know that Nigerians can distinguish between Nigerians who care enough to do something, and those with responsibility who choose to do nothing.”