Deji Elumoye in Abuja and Segun James in Lagos
An elder statesman and chieftain of the apex Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; South and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF); and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to purge himself of dictatorial tendencies.
Reacting to the presidency’s reaction to the calls on Buhari to restructure the country, the public opinion leader and groups asked the president to be more tolerant dissenting public opinion.
The SMBLF in a statement signed by Mr. Yinka Odumakin (South-west), Chief Guy Ikokwu (South-east), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South-south) and Dr. Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt), stressed that its attention had been drawn “to the very uncouth and rude warning” issued by a presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, to patriotic organisations and responsible individuals like respected Pastor Enoch Adeboye over their admonition that the government should restructure the country to avert a break-up.
It said: “Sounding like the spokesman of Pharaoh in ancient Egypt, Shehu dismissed the recurring agitations as unpatriotic outbursts.
“If Garba Shehu is not lexically challenged, he should know that those calling for restructuring are more patriotic than those running Nigeria towards implosion.
“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.”
PANDEF described the presidency’s reaction as brash, reckless, and dictatorial, adding: “It is rather preposterous that the presidency would refer to eminent and patriotic Nigerians as enemies of the country, and also unfortunate that Messrs Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu have made themselves uncouth attack dogs.”
The group in a statement signed by its spokesman, Mr. Ken Robinson, further stated that: “We are in a constitutional democracy, and not dictatorship; they should watch their words. Nigeria is in the middle of a mist, nobody can tell what comes next. The call for restructuring of the country is a patriotic call; and it is in the interest of the nation. The stark reality is that if we don’t restructure Nigeria, the country will restructure itself.
“Only beneficiaries of the present skewed and lopsided structure of the country are against the clamour for the restructuring of Nigeria. PANDEF would warn that the country cannot continue in the way and manner the affairs of state are being conducted; whereby a section of the country is considered superior to other parts. And where a presidential fiat in the form a Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Initiative would guarantee persons in some parts of the country to ‘mine and refine ‘their gold’, and sell to the Central Bank of Nigeria, while natural resources in other parts of the country are for everybody, with host communities benefiting little or nothing.”
PANDEF urged Buhari to heed the voice of Nigerians, and to without any further delay, begin a constructive dialogue process on the restructuring of the country to guarantee harmonious and peaceful coexistence.
The group noted that the extant structure of Nigeria has become grossly defective and inappropriate for a heterogeneous society like Nigeria.
Adebanjo accused Buhari of implementing a ‘Fulanisation’ agenda.
“If Pastor Adeboye, Professor Wole Soyinka, Aare Afe Babalola, President Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Edwin Clark, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Chief John Nwodo, Dr. Pogu (Bitrus) and many other distinguished Nigerians’ calls to restructure now or break up is blackmail and intimidation then President Buhari has confirmed the view of patriotic Nigerians who have accused him of not being interested in a United Nigeria but in his private agenda of Fulanisation of Nigeria,” Adebanjo told THISDAY.