Beyond Buhari’s independence speech


President Muhammadu Buhari’s avowal that his administration is ready to arrest and prosecute all persons inciting violence through words or actions underscores the president’s determination to restore peace and orderliness to the country. The president was apparently referring to the separatist agitations by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) led by its embattled leader Nnamdi Kanu and the Yoruba nation agitator Sunday Igboho, both of whom are being prosecuted for treasonable felony.

In a nationwide broadcast to mark Nigeria’s 61st Independence Anniversary on October 1, in Abuja, Buhari vowed to continue to ensure the welfare and security of lives and properties of all citizens in line with the nation’s constitution. The president advised all citizens to always avoid violence while trying to settle grievances or socio-political misunderstandings, saying grievances could be settled peacefully.

“In line with Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the security and welfare of Nigerians continue to be the prime focus on which programmes and projects of our government revolves. Therefore, as a government we are ready to arrest and prosecute all persons inciting violence through words or action. Our resolve for a peaceful, united and one Nigeria remains resolute and unwavering.

“That said, our hope is not to fight for peace. We can always settle our grievances peacefully without spilling any blood. I will, therefore, take this opportunity, on this special day that symbolises the unity and oneness of our great nation to ask all Nigerians to embrace peace and dialogue, whatever your grievances.

“The seeds of violence are planted in people’s heads through words. Reckless utterances of a few have led to loss of many innocent lives and destruction of properties. Such unfiltered and unsubstantiated lies and hate speeches by a few evil persons must be stopped,’’ he maintained.

President Buhari also enjoined media houses and commentators to always move away from merely reporting irresponsible remarks to investigating the truth behind all statements and presenting the facts to readers.

“We must all come out and speak against the lies being peddled. At this point, I would want to sincerely appreciate the large number of our traditional, religious and community leaders, as well as other well meaning Nigerians who, in their various fora, are openly spreading the message of peaceful co-existence and conflict settlement through dialogue in their respective communities.

“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,’’ he said.

He reiterated the determination of the federal government to continue to work on dialogue based solutions to address legitimate grievances.

In the same vein, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano state said governors were not voted to power by Nigerians to destroy the country in its present critical stage, adding that the “unity and oneness of Nigeria as a nation is sacrosanct.”

Speaking with journalists at the Government House on Friday, Ganduje said the clamour for power shift bandied about by governors in the Southern part of the country “is a simple political impasse that could amicably be resolved without necessarily stoking the embers of dissension and acrimony.”

He noted that even though there was nothing wrong for power to be shifted to any part of the country since it was based on a gentleman’s agreement, “it is equally not bad for

section of the country to retain power as long as a particular political party is able to win an election. It is not for the governors to decide where the political pendulum swings as far as the issue of power shift is concerned.”

“We should apologise to ourselves for crassly making uncomplimentary remarks. It is high time for us to begin to avoid anything capable of causing disunity and disharmony within us. The Southern governors should understand the simple fact that the issue of rotational presidency is unconstitutional. It is just a simple arrangement at the level of party hierarchy.

“We have to also take into cognisance the fact that our founding fathers have created the leeway for us to leave as one, irrespective of one’s tribal or religious leaning without grouse. I again want to reiterate the fact that the issue of power shift is a political issue and not a matter to be decided by some governors in the country.”

Although, Buhari did not name any individual or group responsible for stoking the embers of disunity, it is quite obvious that the clamour for secession by IPOB and Igboho as well as the insistence and conditionalities by the Southern Governors Forum for power shift to the South are worrisome developments that threaten the country’s unity.

Consequently, we urge the president to go beyond mere rhetorics by addressing the fundamental issues that give rise to these agitations and restiveness. As Mr President rightly noted, the sacred constitutional responsibility to ensure justice, equity and fairness to all Nigerians, irrespective ethnic and religious persuasion rests on shoulders. The wisdom underlying this principle is to ensure an egalitarian, peaceful and prosperous nation.

Related content you may like