In his first reaction to the deafening clamour for the restructuring of the country, President Muhammadu Buhari this morning passed the buck on discussions on Nigeria’s future to the National Assembly and the National Council of State, saying they are the “legitimate and appropriate bodies for national discourse”.
Buhari, who by his statement effectively slammed the door against the report of the National Conference, for which he has never hidden his disdain in the past, also restated that Nigeria’s unity was not negotiable.
He equally warned that his administration would not allow irresponsible elements to trouble the nation, but at the same time acknowledged that there are legitimate concerns.
Buhari made the remarks in a nationwide broadcast following his return from a 103-day medical vacation in the United Kingdom.
The president had left Nigeria for London on May 7 for treatment of an undisclosed ailment. He returned to the country on Saturday into the waiting arms of his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, governors, presidential aides and hundreds of his supporter who took over the streets on the day he flew into Abuja.
In his address, Buhari who said he had followed developments daily at home when he was in London, added that he was distressed by certain comments questioning the nation’s unity.
He recalled how in 2003, he hosted the late ex-Biafra warlord, Chukwuemeka Ojukwu at his Daura country home where both of them had resolved that Nigeria must remain an indissoluble entity.
According to him, every Nigerian reserved the right to reside in any part of the country without hindrance, stating that he was sure that this position was held by the vast majority of Nigerians.
The president, who further said it was better to stay together than to break up, tasked the security operatives not to allow the successes recorded in the last 18 months to be jeopardised, pledging that all criminal elements including Boko Haram terrorists, kidnappers, violent herdsmen, among others, would be adequately fought.
He urged all to shun what he described as petty differences and close ranks to handle the issues of economic security, political evolution and integration.
He thanked Nigerians for their prayers, saying he was pleased to be back to the country.
“In the course of my stay in the United Kingdom, I have kept in daily touch with events at home. Nigerians are robust and lively in discussing their affairs, but I was distressed to notice that some of the comments, especially on the social media have crossed our national red lines by daring to question our collective existence as a nation. This is a step too far.
“In 2003, after I joined partisan politics, the late Chief Emeka Ojukwu came and stayed as my guest in my hometown, Daura. Over two days, we discussed in great depth till late into the night and analysed the problems of Nigeria.
We both came to the conclusion that the country must remain one and united.
“Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable. We shall not allow irresponsible elements to start trouble and when things get bad they run away and saddle others with the responsibility of bringing back order, if necessary with their blood.
“Every Nigerian has the right to live and pursue his business anywhere in Nigeria without let or hindrance. I believe the very vast majority of Nigerians share this view.
“This is not to deny that there are legitimate concerns. Every group has a grievance. But the beauty and attraction of a federation is that it allows different groups to air their grievances and work out a mode of co-existence.
“The National Assembly and the National Council of State are the legitimate and appropriate bodies for national discourse. The national consensus is that, it is better to live together than to live apart.
“Furthermore, I am charging the security agencies not to let the successes achieved in the last 18 months be a sign to relax. Terrorists and criminals must be fought and destroyed relentlessly so that the majority of us can live in peace and safety.
“Therefore, we are going to reinforce and reinvigorate the fight not only against elements of Boko Haram who are attempting a new series of attacks on soft targets, but also against kidnappings, farmers versus herdsmen clashes, in addition to ethnic violence fuelled by political mischief makers. We shall tackle them all.
“Finally, dear Nigerians, our collective interest now is to eschew petty differences and come together to face the common challenges of economic security, political evolution and integration, as well as lasting peace among all Nigerians,” he submitted.