The pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, and its northern counterpart, the Arewa Consultative Forum, on Sunday, disagreed on President Muhammadu Buhari’s Independence Day’s broadcast.
Buhari had, in the broadcast, said irresponsible groups had hijacked the restructuring debate, decrying what he called the folly of “hot-headed” youths.
The ACF said the broadcast was timely, but Afenifere said the advocates of restructuring meant well for the country.
The National Publicity Secretary of the Forum, Alhaji Muhammad Biu, told one of our correspondents in Kaduna that the broadcast was a scorecard of the President’s administration on security, economy and corruption.
He noted that the ACF advocated peaceful and meaningful dialogue on all issues of national importance and the use of democratic institutions to achieve better results.
The ACF’s spokesman stated, “The President’s independence anniversary speech was timely and appropriate considering the issues raised. It was a scorecard of the Buhari administration on security, economy and corruption which was the hallmark of his campaign promises.
“On the issue of restructuring, we totally support the position of the President which has been our position all along.
“Agitations that come with threats and intimidation have no place in our present democratic dispensation. The ACF will therefore support any restructuring that comes with clarity of purpose, just, fair and equitable to all sections of the country.”
But Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, in an interview with The PUNCH, said Buhari should distinguish between the two camps and take the necessary steps to salvage the nation.
He stated that Buhari was promoting those working for the break-up of the country by ignoring the demands of Nigerians for restructuring.
Odumakin added, “He should separate those agitating for restructuring from those calling for a break-up of the country. I think he is confusing restructuring with break-up.
“Those calling for restructuring are those working to avert the breakup of Nigeria while those opposed to it are the ones working for the break-up of the country.
“Let the President deal with restructuring; if he does not listen to the agitations for restructuring, he is promoting those who are working for the break-up of the country.”
A northern elder statesman, Dr. Junaid Muhammed, said the speech by the President was “not realistic,” noting that some of the claims of Buhari were not true.
Muhammed, a Second Republic member of the House of Representatives, said, “Frankly speaking, the speech is not realistic. There is nothing and there was nothing meant to be spectacular or unique about the speech of the 57th anniversary. It is celebratory. Where we have a leader who is articulate or is in a firm control of the government, the speech could have been an avenue to mobilise and regain the confidence of the people.
“As far as I am concerned, there is nothing in the speech to energise, galvanise or persuade me. The government muddled up a speech that should be about matters of national importance with personal reminiscences of being a young officer. This romantic lamentation does not have a place in this speech.
“Some of the claims the President made were clearly dishonest. For example, he claimed that his agricultural policies have been a success. As far as I am concerned, that cannot be true because I don’t even know the policies.
“If I don’t, I am sure millions of other Nigerians don’t know too. When you see the functionality of a policy, you know it is working.”
A civil society group, Concerned Nigerians, said the President’s actions and comments gave rise to the agitations for restructuring, insisting that Buhari’s appointments were sectional and promoted nepotism.
The National Coordinator of the group, Deji Adeyanju, attributed the agitations for secession by the South-East youths to Buhari’s style of governance and actions.
“The President should look all around him; the Director General of Department of State Services is from his village; the people in charge of INEC are his kinsmen and all the service chiefs are from the North.
“If he looks around him, he would find the answers to why people are making the agitations for restructuring,” he added.
Adeyanju called on the President to practise unity through his conduct, noting that he portrayed himself as a sectional leader by overlooking the ultimatum by the northern youths to the Igbo while coming down hard on Igbo youths calling for secession.