Nigerians on Monday were diverse in their opinions on Buhari’s first broadcast to Nigerians after a 104-day medical vacation in the United Kingdom.
While some described the speech as all encompassing, others saw it as lacking in matters that affected Nigerians.
An elder statesman and chieftain of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, faulted the President’s position that Nigeria’s unity was not open to negotiation.
He said the President’s statement showed that he was unaware of the country’s mood.
Adebanjo stated that since the country’s past presidents and eminent Nigerians also called for restructuring to address the lopsidedness in the country, Buhari’s position only showed that a section of the country was not comfortable with the idea.
He said, “If anyone opposes restructuring, the person is the number one enemy of this country. If Buhari should continue talking this way, he is the number one enemy of Nigeria. He should not confuse us because we are not schoolchildren. Nobody is talking about the unity of Nigeria. We are talking about addressing the condition of our coming together on agreeable terms. The more he talks like this, the more it shows that he is not sincere about Nigeria. We said let us restructure the country; he referred us to the National Council of State and National Assembly. These are the products of the constitution imposed on us by the military which we are complaining about. Can we make progress with the political instability in the country? The statement does not show that he knows the mood of the country.”
The apex socio-cultural umbrella of Urhobo people, Urhobo Progress Union, also described the broadcast as a mere “thank you address short of concrete plans to address the burning national issues in the country.”
The National Publicity Secretary of the group, Chief Abel Oshevire, said in a statement on Monday that Nigerians had expected Mr. President to address various burning issues in concrete terms, including IPOB, restructuring and the menace of Fulani herdsmen.
He said, “We had expected that the president would have taken his time to address issues of Biafra, restructuring, menace of Fulani cattle rearers, increased Boko Haram insurgence and complaints of marginalisation, among others, to assuage the fears of Nigerians and assure them of the Federal Government’s determination to proffer solutions to them.
“We see the president’s speech as a thank you address to Nigerians for their prayers and good wishes for his recovery. We are waiting for Mr. President to address Nigerians on the real issues agitating their minds.”
The suspended Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Appropriation, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin, likened Buhari’s broadcast to a coup speech.
Jibrin, in a tweet on Monday, wrote, “Fair for everyone to have ideas and expectations, but I did not expect PMB to read a speech this morning like he was announcing a coup d’état.”
Also, a former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, described the broadcast as a “terrible case of missed opportunity”.
“I can give an instant Citizen’s feedback to President Muhammadu Buhari that his speech this morning was a terrible case of missed opportunity,” she wrote in her twitter handle.
The President of the Ijaw Youths Council, Mr. Pereotubo Oweilaemi, said on the telephone that the body was opposed to the President’s position that Nigeria’s unity was not negotiable.
He said, “I disagree with the President’s assertion that Nigeria is not negotiable, I don’t think that is the part we should still be talking about. We must negotiate, we must discuss, if you say we cannot discuss the unity of this country, then you are compounding the problem.”
Southern leaders to react Wednesday
Leaders of socio-cultural groups in the South-West, South-South and South-East say they will meet on Wednesday after which they will make their position known.
A competent source on Monday said, “Ijaw Youth Council, Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo and Pan Niger Delta Forum have digested the contents of the President’s speech and would respond to it accordingly on Wednesday.
“The President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, Edwin Clark-led PANDEF, the President of IYC, Eric Omare, and Afenifere’s leader will jointly address the press,” the source said.
The spokesperson for Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, and Clark confirmed the plan to hold the press briefing in separate statements.
But the Yoruba Council of Elders enjoined Buhari to constitute a forum where ethnic groups in Nigeria would be able to table their agitations and grievances.
The Secretary General of YCE, Dr Kunle Olajide, called on Buhari to sustain the reconciliatory effort made by Osinbajo in addressing grievances of ethnic groups in the country, while also saying that it was important for the President to realise that Nigeria needed to be restructured to strengthen its unity.
Olajide said, “The president must not shy away from the fact that there is agitation from all zones in the country. “We want to observe that general grievances cannot be addressed by threats, stiff legislation and force of arms. Buhari must constitute a forum where every group will table its grievances and agitation for Nigeria to remain united.”
ACF, others back Buhari
A pan-socio-political organisation, the Arewa Consultative Forum, however, supported Buhari.
The ACF, in a statement on Monday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Muhammad Biu, said indeed the nation’s unity was not negotiable.
The northern body commended the President’s broadcast, which it said was all encompassing, especially on the unity and indivisibility of the country.
It said, “The ACF supports the position of government on the issues of restructuring and the channels of addressing genuine grievances through the appropriate democratic institutions such as the legislature and the judiciary.’’
On its part, the Coalition of Northern Groups, which gave a notice to quit to the Igbo in the North, said it supported any move that would ensure sanity in the country.
The coalition noted that the President’s speech was a reiteration of what the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, had said “at the last Council of State meeting that he chaired.”
It said, “We are in total support of any move by government to bring about sanity in the country and to finally bring an end to all divisive agitations and separatist tendencies.”
Also, a northern elder statesman and Chairman of the Northern Elders Council, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, said the address by Buhari should “naturally” end the agitations for secession in parts of the country.
Yakasai said, “I also believe that the unity of this country is not negotiable. At a constitutional conference before independence, a request was made that a clause empowering regions to secede should be included in our constitution. I recall that the conference unanimously rejected that clause.
“The decision made then is binding on us even after independence. There is no singular provision for secession. The president said the National Assembly and the Council of State are the only platforms for discussing issues of this country.”
Similarly, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, on Monday, hailed Buhari’s speech.
He described it as “outstanding,” adding that the President was apt on issues affecting the country.
Odigie-Oyegun, who spoke at the national headquarters of the party, Abuja, said, “Mr. President is correct to say that the stability of this nation, the unity of this nation, the peace of this nation and the security of ordinary Nigerians are the key issues at this material time.”
He said the President’s speech was not tough on those clamouring for political restructuring.
He said, “The President did not insinuate in his speech that those clamouring for restructuring and the rest cannot discuss. You can discuss; the only issue that is out of bounds is the unity of this nation.”
Also, the deputy national chairman of the APC (North), Senator Lawal Shuaibu, on Monday, said the President’s speech, among other important issues, was specifically aimed at reassuring Nigerians of their safety in any part of the country.
He said, “One major point from the speech is the President’s determination to nip in the bud the purported notice to quit given by some misguided youths in the north, as well as their counterparts elsewhere who have been heating up the polity by fanning the embers of discord.”
Buhari’s speech, a missed opportunity – PDP
The main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, has described the President’s speech as a missed opportunity to reconnect with Nigerians.
The party said the speech, which was aimed at intimidating Nigerians, did not address pertinent issues the citizens expected their President to tackle.
The statement, which was signed by the Head of Administration of the party, Chinwe Nnorom, said Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief when their President arrived in the country after more than three months in London.
It said, “When last Friday the Presidency issued a statement intimating the people of the imminent return of President Buhari to the country after his more than three-month medical vacation in London with, not a few Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief, thanking God for delivering our President and expectantly looked forward to a robust speech that would boost the confidence of the people in the capacity of the government to continue to take on the huge challenges of governance.
“However, rather than rekindle that hope and confidence, that speech can most charitably be described as a monumental anticlimax.
“The President and his handlers missed a golden opportunity to reconnect with the people through addressing issues that have direct bearing on their well-being and those of their children and dependents.
“Indeed, the President’s speech did not contain anything new. The PDP had had cause to commend the then Acting President for going round the country to engage with relevant stakeholders, which certainly was a better approach.”
The party added that its believed that rather than rehashing the worn-out clichés about Nigeria’s unity not being negotiable, Nigerians would have loved to hear their President come out definitively to tell them what realistic measures his government intended to take to uproot the causes of the perennial agitations that were becoming a recurring decimal in the national discourse.
The statement added, “The casual mention of ‘elements of Boko Haram, kidnappings, farmers versus herdsmen clashes, among others, was also somewhat on the perfunctory side and does not imbue confidence.
“President Buhari returned to the country in a week that saw the closure of all our public universities as a result of the strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
“Yet, not even a whimper from our President. Has the future of the future leaders of our country sunk so low in the estimation of our current leaders that the issue was considered not important enough to command a mention in the President’s address?