Mixed reactions have been trailing President Muhammadu Buhari’s Independence Day speech to Nigerians with some critics faulting the broadcast for either being empty, sectional or lacking in imagination.
In his speech, the President addressed some national issues ranging from the agitation for Biafra to the anti-corruption fight.
But groups like the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Eastern Consultative Assembly, ECA, faulted the speech for indicting Igbo leaders over the escalation of the Biafra agitation.
The National Publicity Secretary of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Prince Uche Achi Okpaga described Buhari’s policies as sentimental, lopsided and sectional.
“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,” Ohaneze said.
Similarly, the ECA in a statement by its Secretary, Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko, regretted that the President, helped by his kitchen cabinet, had continued to see Nigeria on an ethnic prism. It 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in an ancient world where the fear of the inevitable restructuring forced them to take solace inside the cocoon of an outdated, unrealistic northern daydream of forcing Nigerians to head to a National Assembly which was created by a discredited military constitution.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.”
On his part, a former governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife told the Vanguard that President Buhari was trying to push the region out of the Nigerian State. His words:
“Buhari is the engineer of the problems. He is trying to push the South-East out of Nigeria by marginalising, dehumanising and humiliating them. 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.”
Human rights activist and constitutional lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, also faulted the speech for not being 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.
According to Ozekhome, the President’s perceived hatred for the Igbos, again manifested in his national broadcast, saying his description of the nation under his stewardship is far from reality.
In his reaction, a second republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, said the speech lacked substance, adding that there was nothing interesting about it.
“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 said.
The pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, said the President has the opportunity to bring Nigeria back on track by restructuring the country.
According to the group’s National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin: “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.”
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On the other hand, the Arewa Consultative Forum, (ACF) however, welcomed the President’s speech as soothing, saying it was the way to go.
The ACF through its Publicity Secretary, Muhammadu Ibrahim Biu, told the Vanguard that 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.
Also praising the President’s sppech is the former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole who 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.”