NIGERIAN leaders and elders under the aegis of pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere; Northern Elders Forum (NEF); Ohanaeze Ndi’gbo, Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and the Middle-Belt Forum (MBF), on Monday described as “deeply disappointing and worrying” the way the presidency chose to react to the pieces of advice offered by the groups and former President Olusegun Obasanjo on better ways to move the country forward.
This was made known in a statement jointly signed by Mr Yinka Odumakin for Afenifere; Dr Hakeem Baba Ahmed (NEF); Chief Guy Ikokwu (Ohanaeze); Senator Bassey Henshaw (PANDEF) and Dr Isuwa Dogo (MBF), a copy of which was made available to Tribune Online.
The Presidency had, in its reaction, condemned the parley which held last week in Abuja which featured the groups and Obasanjo, describing the former president as “Divider-In-Chief” for saying that Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership was approaching a failed state status, among others.
Leaders of the five groups, while distancing themselves from being the mouthpieces of Obasanjo, said it was left for the former president “to choose how he responds to the lamentable response of President Buhari to his initiative.”
They declared that they had no regret or apology to offer for making themselves available to dialogue with each other, exchange ideas and re-commit themselves to pulling the country from the brink of precipice of “no return.”
According to the groups, the communique released at the end of the Abuja meeting, being “the first of many,” is a loud testimony to levels of responsibility and maturity on their part, for which countless commendations had poured in “from many responsible Nigerians,” expressing more worries why such initiative “will attract the type of childish vitriol from the Presidency, including labelling us as terrorists.”
The leaders and elders said: “Leaders of five groups who held a two-day meeting under facilitation and chairmanship of former President Obasanjo in Abuja, last week, have taken note of the reaction of the Presidency to the meeting.
“To say that the Presidency chose to react in the manner it did to a responsible and credible initiative by our groups and a former president is, to put it politely, deeply disappointing and worrying.
“Our groups are not mouthpieces for Obasanjo and we will leave it to him to choose how he responds to the lamentable response of President Buhari to his initiative.
“For us, it is sufficient to say that we have no regrets or apologies to offer for making ourselves available to dialogue with each other, exchange ideas and re-commit ourselves to pulling our nation from the brink of precipice of no return.
“The communique released at the end of our meeting, which we are confident is only the first of many, is a loud testimony to our levels of responsibility and maturity.
“We have received countless commendations from many responsible Nigerians for supporting and participating in this initiative to make our country a democratic and united entity.
“We are even more worried at this stage that a responsible and constructive effort to douse tensions, build bridges and restore hope in the potentials for the survival of our country as democratic and united entity will attract the type of childish vitriol from the Presidency, including labelling us as terrorists.”
The groups argued that it was quite certain that the country’s current leaders at the helm of affairs were living in very deep denial if they do not recognise that the current situation represented an existential danger to the nation.
This was just as they applauded the commendable support of other leaders for the initiative as well a hat they described as the statesmanship of chairmen
of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors‘ Fora, who attended second day of the meeting and expressed genuine support for it.
Afenifere and others said the position of the governors’ fora was in contrast, which made them to be “alarmed at the insensitivity
of the Presidency which will rather demolish patriotic and responsible action than
take steps to address gaping holes in the manner it handles our national destiny, our security and our economy.”
The group of leaders and elders, while saying that their forum was encouraged to pursue the time-tested strategy of engagement, dialogue and steadfast commitment to the future of the country as secure, united and just, vowed that they would continue to exercise their rights to meet and seek solution, and discharge their obligations to younger generations of Nigerians who deserve to live in a nation without its current frightening limitations.
They expressed the belief that the Presidency, the National Assembly and all Nigerian lawmakers and every well-meaning citizen should be part of the initiative, saying Nigerians have the right to ask what the Presidency is doing to address the country’s deeply-embedded problems, “if the Presidency chooses to stay out.”
They, however, pointedly said President Buhari should know that Nigerians can distinguish between the citizens who care enough to do something and those with responsibility, but choose to do nothing.
“Clearly, our current leaders are living in very deep denial if they do not recognise that our current situation represents an existential danger to the nation.
“We noted the commendable support of other leaders for the initiative and the statesmanship of chairmen of APC and PDP governors’ forum, who attended the second day of the meeting and expressed genuine support for it.
“In contrast, we are alarmed at the insensitivity of the Presidency which will rather demolish patriotic and responsible action than take steps to address gaping holes in the manner it handles our national destiny, our security and our economy.
“Our forum is encouraged to pursue the time-tested strategy of engagement, dialogue and steadfast commitment to the future of our country as secure, united and just.
“We will continue to exercise our rights to meet and seek for solutions and discharge our obligations to younger generations of Nigerians, who deserve to live in a nation without its current frightening limitations.
“We believe that the Presidency, our legislators and all well-meaning Nigerians should be part of our initiative. If the Presidency chooses to stay out, Nigerians have the right to ask what it is doing to address our deeply-embedded problems itself,” they said.