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Curious gaps in Buhari’s Independence Day speech

By Seye Olumide (Southwest Bureau Chief) and Lawrence  Njoku (South East Bureau Chief)
03 October 2021   |   4:30 am
By his admittance, “…the past 18 months have been some of the most difficult periods in the history of Nigeria. Since the civil war, I doubt whether we have seen a period of more heightened challenges than what we have witnessed in this period.”

President Muhammadu<br />Buhari PHOTO: FACEBOOK/Femi Adesina

• Address Only Succeeded In Emboldening Agitating For Self-determination –Akintoye
• Buhari Missed Opportunity To Douse Rising Tension, Agitations – Okorie
• It’s Appalling Buhari Proferred No Concrete Assurance On Revamping Economy, Ending Terrorism –PDP
• Address Lacked Policy Statements To Stop Naira’s Free Fall –CSJ

By his admission, “…the past 18 months have been some of the most difficult periods in the history of Nigeria. Since the civil war, I doubt whether we have seen a period of more heightened challenges than what we have witnessed in this period.”

But millions concluded that rather than have that inspiring and soul-lifting effect on Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2021 Independence Day speech was not only insipid, it also offered only bland reassurance in a country that is on tenterhooks owing to misgovernance.

Indeed, at a time that the Buhari-led government has been upbraided for openly fraternising and giving presidential reception to persons facing corruption charges, Nigerians expected him to bring them up to speed with the administration’s anti-corruption crusade, or to reassure them that the fight to rid the country of vestiges of corruption was still ongoing.
But he failed to do so thereby creating a curious gap in the 101-point speech.

ACCORDING to the leader of Yoruba group, Ilana Omo Oodua (a group that has been advocating for Oodua Republic), Prof. Banji Akintoye, the Friday’s broadcast has further exposed President Buhari as the president of the North, and not that of Nigeria, adding that the speech has succeeded in emboldening his group to continue agitating for self-determination for the Yoruba people.

“The broadcast was a total nonsense as it revealed that Buhari is bothered about a Sunday Igboho, who is engaged in a lawful agitation, that is endorsed, and confirmed now by a court of competent jurisdiction, the United Nations, and the African Union Declarations on Peoples and Human Rights, while he (Buhari) looked away from the murderous activities of Fulani herdsmen, terrorists and Miyyetii Allah in the South and in the Middle Belt,” he said.

Akintoye, who said that contrary to Buhari’s claim that a serving member of the National Assembly was funding separatist agitations, “the Yoruba people from village to village, and those in the Diaspora were contributing their hard-earned resources to oil, and sustain the agitation.

“Our appeal to Buhari is to, as a matter of urgency, name the invincible National Assembly member so that the Yoruba People can celebrate him because he is supporting a noble struggle. If indeed such a National Assembly member exists, unknown to us in Ilana Omo Oodua, we say very expressly that he is a hero that has chosen to stand by a legitimate, legal and constitutional agitation. Therefore, Buhari is merely grandstanding.

“As Buhari names the unknown National Assembly member, our utmost appeal to him is to help Nigerians in naming those funding the murderous Fulani Herdsmen and Boko Haram Terrorists that are oppressing, maiming, killing and raping his people in the North, and the people of the South and the Middle Belt with impunity.”

Insisting the broadcast symbolizes hopelessness, Akintoye said: “The entire broadcast symbolises hopelessness and chaos. It was a declaration of war against the peace-loving people of Yoruba Land. Our message to him is that we shall not be intimidated. We shall remain loyal and committed to our struggle for an Independent Yoruba Nation. We shall be undaunted. No oppressor has ever triumphed over the people. In this struggle, we shall continue to be legitimate and peaceful. It is Amandla Awethu, nothing shall discourage us.”

FOR elder statesman, Chief Chekwas Okorie, Buhari missed a golden opportunity in his anniversary speech to douse rising tensions and agitations in the country by offering political solutions to the incarceration of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, and Yoruba nation agitator, Sunday Adeyemo, better known as Sunday Igboho.

Okorie, who expressed shock at Buhari’s claim that the rise in the prices of food items was caused by middlemen, pointed out that the activities of herdsmen, who have continued to make farming difficult was responsible for the price hike.

He argued that it was wrong to insist that food items like vegetables, yam, garri and onions, among others were being hoarded, stressing that farming activities had reduced in Benue and Niger, which primarily were noted for production of food.

He urged the president to take decisive action against herdsmen that were creating challenges for farming and farmers across the country.

Okorie, who said it was preposterous to continue pointing accusing fingers at Kanu and Igboho as those attempting to cause disaffection in the country, stressed that people were responding to them based on the mood of the nation, even as he volunteered to be part of any dialogue that could be provided by the Federal Government about them.

He said: “On the president’s stand on Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho, my position is that dialogue is the answer. Going through the court, following legal methods, and constitutional definition of offences to resolve what is clearly a political issue will not solve the matter. The South East Caucus of the National Assembly has made itself available to engage the government to find the solution to the political problem. I urge the government to take advantage of that offer.

I also offer myself for that engagement. I urge the adoption of dialogue, and if we don’t accept that approach, we may not be able to resolve this problem. Since this president has shown the capacity to forgive going by what he did with Fani Kayode (receiving him into the party), there is no doubt, therefore that the president has the capacity to forgive and be the father to all. I urge him to deploy that capacity in the case of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho and a lot of attention will be reduced in this matter and he will be happy for it.”

A former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party  (PDP), Chief Olabode George, and a South West socio-political group, Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum, are united in their submissions that the speech failed to touch on critical issues of importance and those challenging the country.

The duo, who deplored the president’s failure to restructure and stem the escalating insecurity, added that Buhari ought to have emphasised on issues that would ensure peace, confidence and trust among the diverse ethnic groups between now and 2023 when his tenure would end.

George who said President Buhari ought to have used the opportunity presented by the anniversary to bring Nigerians together irrespective of their ethnic affiliations, lamented that one of the issues fueling divisions in the country was the lack of memory among the younger generations on how Nigerians, irrespective of their diversities, related harmoniously in the past.

The former military administrator of Ondo State said: “Leaders cannot afford to use different standards and perceptions for Nigerians because of where they are from, or the religion they profess. Let them go back and read what led to the collapse of the First Republic…This is a time to reflect. By this time next year, we would be talking of 2023.”
THE President of Yoruba Ronu, Akin Malaolu, said that the group was reassured by the turn of events if truly “Nigeria is for all of us. Its unity is not negotiable, and its ultimate success can only be achieved if we all come together with a common goal of having peace and prosperity for our nation. We are glad that President Buhari may turn a new leaf if he truly desires his hold on government to be one that brings smiles to Nigerians.”

THE National Organising Secretary of Afenifere, Abagun Kole Omololu, who described the address as a familiar sing-song of Mr. Buhari, whose blame game did not just start now, but an echo of his military incursion into governance, said the president would have done well for himself and the country by naming identified sponsors of the separatists agitators, as well as the middlemen that are pivotal to the rise of prices of food.

He, however, berated the president for failing to end the grievous attacks on farmers and wanton destruction of farmlands by cows herded by vicious killer herdsmen.

If the president name those he is pointing accusing fingers at, “then he should just keep his peace and work to deliver on the evasive promises rather than insult the nation’s consciousness with such lame excuses of an indolent and insensitive administration.”

He urged Nigerians not to believe in the Independence Day broadcast, which he described as “insincere diatribes of the president.”

ALSO expressing reservation over the broadcast, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said it was appalling that President Buhari had no concrete assurance on how to revamp the economy and how to end acts of terrorism in the country. Instead, the speech, as usual, dwelt on empty claims that have no bearing with the actual situation in the country.

On its part, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) said President Buhari’s Independence Day speech failed to address Nigeria’s economic challenges.

A statement by Eze Onyekpere, the lead director of the centre, said on such occasions, a leader proposes a vision, which is a new way of doing things to achieve targeted results.

He said it was regrettable that there were no policy statements to stop the free fall of the naira, which has lost 13 per cent of its value since July 28, 2021 after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) stopped the sale of foreign currencies to Bureau de Change.

The Chairman of African Democratic Congress (ADC), Ralph Nwosu, described the broadcast as the worst in the history of the country.

He said it was shocking no mention, in the address, of the killer herdsmen, bandits and insurgents who were destroying farms and haunting farmers away from their farmlands, across the country.