As agitations by different sections of the country gather momentum, the presidency and the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) have engaged in battle of words over patriotism and need to maintain a united Nigeria.
The presidency, Tuesday, slammed NEF for what it called “delusional arrogance” over its call for some sections of the country to secede.
According to a statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the presidency insisted that only democratically elected leaders can take decisions that steer the nation, and no one else.
The presidency noted that the Nigerian government does not take guidance or invitations from such groups–only from the Nigerian people who put governments in office, adding, while any group can refer to itself as “leaders”, the government will not recognise it as such “if you have not been elected by Nigerians to a leadership role.”
It reads in part, “We are aware of the latest statement from the so-called ‘Northern Elders Forum’. We wish to reassure Nigerians that it remains their democratically elected leadership which takes the decisions that steer our nation–and no one else.
“No self-appointed and unelected group can take this right from Nigerians – no matter how much coverage they might enjoy in the media. Nigerians listen to elected leaders, not opinionated tin-gods who have no traction with any responsible group.
“It is a delusional arrogance that would lead such a group to publicly state terms and conditions for the existence of our nation. Who gave them the right to ask for the exclusion, or expulsion of any one, group or section of the country from the Federal Republic of Nigeria?”
The statement further noted that like many other countries around the world, Nigeria is feeling the strain of the current period of volatility and uncertainty, adding, “Now is not the time to seek to exacerbate divisions amongst Nigerians. Rather, we call on all Nigerians to come together and work to overcome the challenges we face as one nation, one people.”
NEF replies presidency
However, in a statement late Tuesday night, signed by NEF’s Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, the Forum said that it is not instigating a section of Nigeria to leave the country and that Malam Garba Shehu ought to know better as a supposed journalist.
The statement reads: “The attention of Northern Elders Forum has been drawn to a statement by Malam Garba Shehu, Special Assistant to the President on Media, claiming that the Forum has released a statement instigating a section of Nigeria to leave the country. Malam Garba Shehu’s Statement did not quote single word in the “Statement”, did not mention its signatory or its date. As a former journalist, he must know that no self-respecting journalist will take this statement seriously. His Statement was entirely a monologue castigating the Forum over fiction which only he can understand.
“The Forum believes in the rights of all Nigerians to live in peace and aspire to their dreams. It believes in the utility and desirability of a united and strong Nigeria which will meet the aspirations of all citizens. When the Forum made comments in the past about the challenges to our union, security or governance, it always did so openly and in a responsible manner. It is baffling to see this unfair attribution from the Presidency, at a time when calm nerves are needed, and statesmanship should be in display.
“Northern Elders Forum restates that it made no such release, and advises leaders to note the very sensitive times in which we live at the moment.”