By Emeka Mamah, Ben Agande, Dapo Akinrefon, Simon Ebegbulem, Gbenga Oke, AbdulSalam Muhammad, Peter Okutu & Dirisu Yakubu
•Say he’s trying to push S-East out of Nigeria; full of excuses
•Speech disappointing, empty —Ozekhome, Junaid Mohammed
•He has opportunity to bring Nigeria back on track—Afenifere
•He was rationalising failure—Osuntokun; it’s laudable— ACF, Oshiomhole
LAGOS – President Muhammadu Buhari’s Independence Day broadcast elicited strong reactions from across the country, yesterday, with Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Eastern Consultative Assembly, ECA, taking strong exceptions to the indictment of Igbo leaders over the escalation of agitation for Biafra.
The President’s speech was, however, welcomed by the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, and some of the President’s political supporters, including Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
However, critics from across the country, including Dr. Junaid Mohammed, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, Senator Roland Owie, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN; Mr. Akin Osuntokun, among others, flayed the speech for either being empty, sectional or lacking in imagination.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which was the object of criticism in the broadcast for allegedly superintending over what the President described as the years of the locust between 1999 and 2015, failed to articulate a reaction yesterday.
Warning against the sustenance of ethnic agitations, Buhari had in the broadcast said: “As a young army officer, I took part from the beginning to the end in our tragic civil war costing about 2m lives, resulting in fearful destruction and untold suffering. Those who are agitating for a re-run were not born by 1967 and have no idea of the horrendous consequences of the civil conflict which we went through,” he said.
Chiding leaders of the region involved, the President said: “I am very disappointed that responsible leaders of these communities do not warn their hot-headed youths what the country went through. Those who were there should tell those who were not there, the consequences of such folly.”
Buhari’s govt always has excuses — Ohanaeze
Responding to the broadcast, Ohanaeze, responding through its National Publicity Secretary, Prince Uche Achi Okpaga, who described Buhari’s policies as sentimental, lopsided and sectional, advised the APC-led Federal Government to always take responsibility for the current situation in the country.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo said: “The issue is that the Buhari administration has always found one excuse or the other for the challenges facing the country. They have never taken responsibility before (because) they were not prepared to rule Nigeria.
“Hate speech started from Buhari and he has continued to implement policies against the existence of Ndigbo. The agitations did not come from oblivion; it is part of his policies which I describe as sentimental and lopsided. These policies had over time fuelled agitations and so, he should not blame Igbo leaders but his administration.
“We blame the agitation on his administration and not Igbo leaders.”
ECA, in a statement said it was a regret that the President, helped by his kitchen cabinet, had continued to see Nigeria on an ethnic prism.
ECA Secretary, Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko, while reacting to the speech said: “Mr. President has finally confirmed to all and sundry that he is light years behind global trends and far away from the political reality of the Nigerian situation. This is exactly what happens when a leader surrounds himself only with his kinsmen.
“They erroneously mistake their sectional worldview as the national interest. Gen Buhari has clearly misread the resolve of the younger generation to change their lot in Nigeria through any means necessary.
“His kitchen cabinet is obviously living in an ancient world where the fear of the inevitable restructuring forced them to take solace inside the cocoon of an outdated, unrealistic northern daydream of forcing Nigerians to head to a National Assembly which was created by a discredited military constitution.
“The obstinacy of those scared of the inevitable new people’s Constitution, regional autonomy, and true fiscal federalism gave birth to the agitation for secession; this same obstinacy will ultimately destroy Nigeria.
“As the agitation rebounds and resurges, time will unveil the price we all will pay for delaying the return of Nigeria back to regional format.”
Buhari trying to push S-East out of Nigeria — Ezeife
Former governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife on his part said President Buhari was trying to push the region out of the Nigerian State.
“Buhari is the engineer of the problems. He is trying to push the South-East out of Nigeria by marginalising, dehumanising and humiliating them,” he said, adding that the development led to the agitations by the youths that has now morphed into a national concern.
“The young ones couldn’t understand what he was up to and so they reacted as young people.
“We didn’t have these problems under President Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua or Goodluck Jonathan but immediately Buhari took the oath of office and swore to protect the Constitution, he reneged on such things as the federal character.
“He told us he belongs to everybody and to nobody but we have seen that he belongs to Katsina,” he added.
Buhari’s speech disappointing, says Ozekhome
Rights activist and constitutional lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, flayed the speech as not good enough.
Describing the speech as “disappointing” Ozekhome noted that President Buhari left the real issues for trivialities, wondering why the Commander-in-Chief failed to say a word on the threats issued against the Igbo by the Arewa youths.
He told Vanguard that the President’s perceived hatred for the Igbo, again manifested in his national broadcast, saying his description of the nation under his stewardship is far from reality.
Nothing interesting from Buhari—Junaid Mohammed
In his reaction, Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, said the speech lacked substance, adding that there was nothing interesting about it.
He said: “I feel very sad that Nigerians have found themselves in this quagmire and it is very unfortunate. “Unfortunately, he surrounded himself with family members who have no experience about government. So what do you expect from such government?
“I strongly believe Buhari cannot take this country to the promised land and for him to be telling us his experience as a junior officer in the military when the country needs urgent attention is unbecoming of a leader.”
He has opportunity to bring Nigeria back on track—Afenifere
For the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, the President has the opportunity to bring Nigeria back on track by restructuring the country.
Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said: “The only way Nigeria will not disintegrate under him (Buhari) is for him to begin to lead the conversations around the need to restore Nigeria to better federalism as promised in the APC manifesto.
“He still has the opportunity to bring Nigeria back on track. The call for restructuring is the call for a better Nigeria, the call for restructuring is to avoid a breakup.”
Nothing new, says Yakasai
Yakasai on his part, dismissed the speech as empty on the claim that the President did not say anything new.
“From my own understanding, President Buhari did not say anything new, and there is nothing new about the speech most especially if you are conversant with his style,’’ he said.
He was rationalising failure —Osuntokun
Mr. Akin Osuntokun, who served as Political Adviser in the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, said there was nothing remarkable about President Buhari’s broadcast.
He said: “First I am happy for the President that he looks well-rested and apparently in good health. There is nothing particularly remarkable, negative or positive about the speech.
“It was all about exaggerating modest achievements and rationalizing failure. You can see the escapist argument he was making on the seeming intractability of the Boko Haram insurgency.”
No hope in the speech — Owie
Former Senate Chief Whip, Senator Roland Owie, also faulted the speech saying: “I see no hope in that speech. It is unfortunate that Nigeria has found itself in this situation under a government that has no direction. The anniversary speech does not give hope to anybody.
“He was elected to preside over the country, but he is not doing that. When I compare what happened in 1983 when he came first and when he came now, nothing has changed.”
Buhari’s speech is way to go — ACF
The ACF, however, welcomed the President’s speech as soothing, saying it was the way to go.
The ACF in an email reaction sent to Vanguard through its Publicity Secretary, Muhammadu Ibrahim Biu, said the speech was “a score card of the Buhari administration on securing, economy and corruption which was the hallmark of his campaign promises.
“ACF advocates peaceful and meaningful dialogue on all issues of national importance and the use of our democratic institutions to achieve better results. Agitations that come with threats and intimidation have no place in our present democratic dispensation. ACF would, therefore, support any restructuring that comes with clarity of purpose and is just, fair and equitable to all sections of the country,” he said.
Buhari deserves applause — Oshiomhole
Former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, while also praising the President’s speech said: “I think the President’s speech made it clear about what is being expected and the progress made so far. The president has emphasized that the unity of this nation is non-negotiable and that is the stand of most of us.
“That is sending a message to all those who are plotting one evil or the other against this nation. The President also emphasized plans to create more employment for our youths to check restiveness. So I see hope because if you look at where we are coming from you will know that we are on the right track with President Buhari as President. He deserves applause for this” he stated.