Socio-political organisations on Wednesday faulted the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)’s advice to Nigerians at the launch of the 2021 Armed Forces Remembrance Day Emblem and Appeal Fund.
The President, at the launch of the armed forces remembrance day emblem in Abuja, called on Nigerians to desist from actions and comments that could jeopardise the unity and progress of the nation.
But organisations such as the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex Yoruba group, Afenifere and the Middle Belt Forum in their separate reactions told the media that more than anything, Buhari’s actions were dividing Nigerians.
While launching the Armed Force Remembrance Day emblem on Wednesday, Buhari had said Nigerians must be ready to guard jealously the nation’s unity which he said was won at a great cost.
Buhari said the solemn event was meant to first remember and commend the sacrifices of the nation’s fallen heroes and veterans of the First and Second World Wars, the Nigerian Civil War and Peace Support Operations around the world.
He said it was also meant to pay tributes to those currently engaged in internal security operations, particularly the ongoing fight against insurgency, terrorism and armed banditry in some parts of the country.
The President noted that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, these gallant officers and soldiers had remained steadfast in the difficult task of restoring peace and security in the country.
He said, “We honour the memory of our gallant officers and men who have paid the supreme sacrifice in order to keep the country united as one entity. The nation remains grateful for the efforts and sacrifice of the Armed Forces especially in the fight against insurgency and other internal security challenges confronting Nigeria.
“The Armed Forces Remembrance Day or Veterans Day as it is known in some parts of the world is an important event observed in commemoration of the end of the Second World War.
“In Commonwealth member countries, Remembrance Day is observed on November 11 yearly. However, for us, the date was changed to January 15 annually to accommodate the commemoration of the end of the Nigerian Civil War.
“Therefore, the occasion reminds us of the need to guard jealously the unity of the nation which was won at a great cost.
“It also serves as a reminder for our citizens to desist from divisive actions and comments that could jeopardize the unity and progress of the nation. Nigeria’s strength lies in her diversity.”
The President expressed delight that security agents had been able restore normalcy in some parts of the North-West and North-Central that previously witnessed security challenges.
He said, “These security threats have undermined Nigeria in the areas of trade, investment and economy, education, health as well as agriculture and frequently denied Nigerians the freedom of movement.
“I am however pleased to state that a lot has been achieved in the internal security operations in the North-West and North-Central zones where in addition to Operations Lafiya Dole, Hadarin Daji, Harbin Kunamar, Whirl Stroke and other operations such as Accord, Sahel and Katsina were successfully launched.
“This has led to the return of normalcy in some of the affected areas. However, all hands must be on deck to check attacks on soft targets.”
Buhari urged business enterprises to render discounts and rebates to security personnel as a symbol of appreciation for their sacrifices.
While launching the emblem with N10m, Buhari called on all Nigerians and others resident in Nigeria to procure and wear the emblems with pride in order to identify with those who laid down their lives for the peace and security of the country.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in a statement after the event, quoted the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (retd.), as calling on members of the civil society, religious and political leaders, the academia as well as the media to educate and enlighten Nigerians on the need to recognize and appreciate the sacrifices of gallant compatriots in uniform.
But the socio-political groups, who faulted the President, cited specific actions of Buhari that were pulling the country apart.
Ohanaeze acting Secretary-General and National Publicity Secretary, Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga, in an interview with the media, described the advice of the President on the unity of Nigeria as antithetical to his actions and policies.
“They (Buhari’s actions and policies) seem ethnic as they are religiously inclined,” the Ohanaeze spokesman said.
He stated, “He has just reappointed Prof Yakubu Mamoud as the INEC Chairman for a second term of five years. Under Mamoud as INEC Chairman, a new chapter of inconclusive elections was opened in Nigerian electoral process coupled with a staccato of electoral litigation in which some governors are described as Supreme Court governors.
“Apart from that, must he appoint his tribesman? Babangida appointed Prof Humphrey Nwosu, Obasanjo appointed Prof Maurice Iwu, Goodluck Jonathan appointed Prof Atahiru Jega, all different from the tribes of their respective appointers.
“Look at the RUGA issue. It was designed to take the land of the indigenous people and give to Fulani herders most of whom are not even Nigerians. It was severely rejected by Nigerians. As if that was not enough, his government brought the National Water Ways Bill.”
The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, in an interview with the media, said in the last five years, Buhari had carried out actions that did not promote the unity of Nigeria.
He stated, “ This sermon sounds like, do as I say but not as I do. He should lead by example and not precepts. Words are cheap but examples are hard.
“The way to stop divisiveness is to stop promoting the interest of herdsmen above other Nigerians and stop behaving like the President of a corner of Nigeria.”
On his part, the National President of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr Bitrus Porgu, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Jos, said the President’s speech would only make meaning to Nigerians if he carried everybody along.
Porgu noted that it was the inability of the President to recognise the diversity of the country in his policies and programmes that had brought the country to its present retrogression
He stated, “ He (Buhari) only saw Nigeria as a monolithic entity comprising only his own Fulani ethnic group and every of his policies was centred around them and those close to him.
The spokesman for the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Ken Robinson, said President, was being hypocritical in advising Nigerians to avoid comments that are divisive and capable of causing disunity.