President Muhammadu Buhari has said recent calls for restructuring provided avenue for “highly irresponsible groups to call for dismemberment of the country.” He said his government could not and would not allow such advocacy.
In a national broadcast on Sunday morning to commemorate Nigeria’s 57th independence anniversary, President Buhari noted that calls for restructuring were quite proper in a legitimate debate.
He, however, said “proper dialogue and any desired constitutional changes should take place in a rational manner, at the National and State Assemblies.”
He said, “These are the proper and legal fora for National debate, not some lopsided, undemocratic body with pre-determined set of objectives.”
The president’s independence anniversary broadcast came on the heels of the agitation of South-east based youth dominated secessionist group, Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), which was recently checkmated by the deployment of troops to the South-east and its proscription by government.
Recalling sad memories of the civil war between 1967 and 1970, the President said, “As a young Army Officer, I took part from the beginning to the end in our tragic civil war costing about 2 million 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 expressed disappointment in South-east leaders over their perceived failure to dissuade their young men from persistent agitation for secession, but praised their South-south counterparts for providing what he described as responsible leadership in their region.
“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,” the president said.
He said the government was keeping faith with its pursuit of peace in the Niger Delta through dialogue with stakeholders, assuring that genuine grievances in the region would be addressed.
The president said, “Government is grateful to the responsible leadership of those communities and will pursue lasting peace in the Niger Delta.”
Seizing the occasion to render stewardship, the President said, “In the past two years, Nigeria has recorded appreciable gains in political freedom. A political party at the centre losing elections of state governor, National Assembly seat and even state assemblies to the opposition parties is new to Nigeria. Added to these are complete freedom to associate, to hold and disseminate opinions.”
Buhari said another demonstration of the country’s political freedom under his administration was exemplified in the ruling party losing governorship, National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly polls to opposition parties.”
He also described people’s freedom to associate without any threat as a further show of prevalent political freedom which he described as a mark of political development.