President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday said the unity of the country would not be open to any negotiation.
The President, in its first statement to Nigerians since he returned to Nigeria after a 104-day medical vacation in London, added that political mischief makers who were fuelling ethnic violence would be dealt with.
Buhari, who said he was not against legitimate concerns, noted that different groups must 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,” he added.
The President said he had been monitoring developments in Nigeria from London, adding that some comments, especially on the social media, crossed the national red line by questioning the nation’s continued existence.
Apparently making a reference to the recent quit notice to people of Igbo extraction by some northern youths, Buhari said “every Nigerian has the right to live and pursue his business anywhere in Nigeria without let or hindrance.”
He said terrorists and criminals must be fought and destroyed relentlessly so that the majority of Nigerians could live in peace and safety.
The President said his administration would reinforce and reinvigorate the fight against elements of Boko Haram, which he said, were attempting a new series of attacks on soft targets.
The speech read in part, “I am very grateful to God and to all Nigerians for their prayers. I am pleased to be back on home soil among my brothers and sisters.
In the course of my stay in the United Kingdom, I have been 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 in 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 analyzed 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 which are attempting a new series of attacks on soft targets, 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 common challenges of; economic security, political evolution and integration; as well as lasting peace among all Nigerians.
I remain resolutely committed to ensuring that these goals are achieved and maintained. I am so glad to be home.”
Meanwhile, Socio-cultural groups have advised President Buhari to act on the agitations over restructuring of the country.
Afenifere and the Ijaw National Congress, in separate interviews on Sunday with The PUNCH said restructuring, among other issues, was what they expected the President to immediately address.
Although there had been calls for restructuring before Buhari travelled out of the country on May 7, the agitation had increased with groups asking Nigerians of other tribes to leave their areas before October 1.
Afenifere said the best decision Buhari could take was to facilitate the process of restructuring the country, adding that Buhari might be the last President of a united Nigeria if he failed to respond to the yearnings of the people.
The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said, “Looking at the agitations for restructuring, nearly every section of the country has waded in, including former heads of state and a former Vice–President. He (Buhari) must facilitate a process of addressing this matter if he did not want to be the last President of Nigeria.”
Odumakin observed that the President had failed to record any meaningful result in his anti-corruption campaign and other programmes, noting that he could, however, achieve success with restructuring the country.
Asked about the opposition of the North, particularly the North-West to restructuring, Afenifere said the region could not hold the nation to ransom.
Odumakin said, “To save the republic; to keep this country together, he (Buhari) must facilitate the process of addressing restructuring now.
“In the last two years, he has attempted everything in the book, he did not record success. In the anti-corruption war, only one person was convicted and the Appeal Court has quashed it. So, the only thing he can do is to start the process of uniting the country where everyone would have confidence.”
The INC said the 16-point agenda by the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, which was submitted to the Federal Government, had a link with restructuring.
INC spokesman, Mr. Miebaka Tamunomiebi, stated that in spite of the fact that the Ijaw were the fourth largest ethnic group in the country, they had not been getting what they deserved from the Federal Government.
“Our position on restructuring has been in the public domain for a very long time. The INC is part of the 16-point agenda submitted to the Presidency.
“The basic clamour is that people have not been getting what they should get and if there is any clamour for that to change, we are at the forefront of it.
“We are the fourth largest tribe in Nigeria, but it has not reflected in any of the thing they (FG) have done. It has not reflected in state creation; it has not reflected in anything. Our position has always been the same; that we have been short-changed in the Nigerian business.”
Restructuring not properly defined, ACF insists
The northern socio-political organisation, Arewa Consultative Forum said on Sunday that the word, “restructuring,” should be properly defined.
The National Publicity Secretary of the ACF, Muhammadu Biu, said, “The ACF has observed the nationwide debate on the term, “restructuring of the country,” as being canvassed by some people and groups.
“The term, however, means different things to different people. To some, it is true federalism. For others, it is fiscal federalism, while some groups demand resource control. We also have those agitating for resource ownership.
“Those demanding restructuring have yet to define what they actually meant by the concept and its application in the present democratic setting.”
Osinbajo, others celebrate Buhari’s return
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and other worshippers at the Aso Villa Chapel on Sunday celebrated the return of President Buhari.
The chapel’s administrator, Rev. Isaac Ambi, set the tone for the service by congratulating Osinbajo on Buhari’s return and on his good performance while standing in for the President.
“We want to rejoice with our father, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, for the safe return of our President and our father, Muhammadu Buhari.
“We also want to thank God on how he has used you (Osinbajo) in piloting the affairs of Nigeria while the President was away,” he said.
Also, the Chaplain of the Aso Villa Chapel, Pastor Oluseyi Malomo, described the return of Buhari as an answer to prayers by well-meaning Nigerians.
The chaplain said Nigerians should be thankful to God for the President’s return, expressing the confidence that Buhari would fulfil the promises he made to Nigerians.
Malomo stated this on Sunday at the 40th anniversary of the Christian Pentecostal Mission at the church headquarters in Lagos, where he represented the Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo.
He said, “We believe that God that has answered our prayers and Buhari is going to fulfil all the promises he made to Nigerians at the beginning of his administration. His healing is also a healing for Nigeria.”
While urging Nigerians to cooperate with the President, the wife of the General Overseer of CPM, Pastor Mercy Ezekiel, implored Buhari to ‘‘look into the people’s plight’’.
Nigerians should pray for Buhari – Gov Akeredolu
The Ondo State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, has called on Nigerians not to relent in praying for the success of the administration of Buhari.
While welcoming the President back to the country, Akeredolu expressed optimism that Buhari would move the country forward.
This was contained in a statement on Sunday by by Akeredolu’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Segun Ajiboye.
The statement read in part, “We all stand to benefit when the country is peaceful and prosperous. Let us all continue to support President Buhari in his efforts to move Nigeria forward. “
The governor also sought the cooperation of the legislature and the executive to enable Buhari to move the country forward.
Similarly, the Ondo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress on Sunday commended Osinbajo for properly managing the affairs of the country while the President was out of the country.
In a statement, the party said Buhari’s return had shamed many of his critics.
Also, Governor Mohammed Bindow of Adamawa State said the safe return of the President was God’s answer to prayers.
The governor made the remark through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Yohanna Mathias, to the News Agency of Nigeria in Yola on Sunday.
Bindow, who noted that the state was the first to organise prayers for Buhari, said the success so far recorded by the military against the insurgency in the North-East was an indication that the president had done a lot for the people of the region, the state in particular, and the nation at large.
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State also called on Nigerians to intensify prayers for Buhari despite his return to the country.
Okorocha in a statement said, “It is out of the abundance of God’s love on the country that the President had recovered and came back alive and very healthy.
“The government and people of the state also want to contend that although the President has come back, Nigerians should not relax their prayers for him.”
In the same vein, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State on Sunday described Buhari’s return as a big boost toward ending Boko Haram terrorism in the North-East.
The governor said, “The people of the North-East should be congratulated as the major beneficiaries of Buhari’s return because of his keen interest in addressing the security challenges in the sub-region.
“Before the coming of Buhari in 2015, the North-East was the most marginalised in everything that had to do with the Federal Government. But he changed that soon after he assumed the mantle of leadership.’’
Meanwhile, the Deputy National Chairman (South) of the APC, Chief Segun Oni, described the homecoming of Buhari as a soothing balm on the fragile political atmosphere in Nigeria.
Oni in a statement on Sunday said, “Seeing President Muhammadu Buhari in good health has put a lie to the wishes of those who don’t wish the nation well.
“There is a particular governor in one of the South-West states who said he would commit suicide if President Buhari returned to the country alive.
“Now that our leader is back into the country alive to resume his Presidential seat, when are we getting the news of his suicide?”