BY ISAIAH BENJAMIN, Kaduna
The presidency has strongly responded to the growing calls for succession by different groups, saying it will not be fazed or unsettled by such agitations.
LEADERSHIP reports that there have been separatist groups in the South East calling for secession, led first by the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and lately by Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) which has been proscribed as terrorist group in Nigeria.
But of late, the call for secession has spread to the South West geopolitical zone during the Buhari administration, with certain groups calling for the establishment of Oduduwa nation.
But the presidency yesterday insisted that President Muhammadu Buhari cannot be intimidated and bullied over by such selfish interest.
It, therefore, chided those calling for the breakup of the country, saying they are causing nuisance to the nation for self-serving motives.
The presidency also ruled out the calls for another national conference to discuss the unity of Nigeria, even as it said government was not ready to give any monetary reward as settlement to secession agitators.
Senior special assistant to the resident on media and publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, made this submission yesterday at the national secretariat of the All Progressives Congress (APC) during a media interface organised by the APC Professional Group.
He said: “The presidency has been talking and our position is clear: that this country is one, is united and, by the grace of God, will continue to be united.
“Look, one thing with this president is that you can’t intimidate Buhari; you can’t bully him. A lot of these people who are calling for secessions are the problem of this country and I’m happy that reasonable voices are now rising. Was it not only yesterday we were reading Afenifere, the most credible faction of Afenifere, saying we’re not for secession. The Ohanaeze Ndigbo said this over and over again.
“So, this thing about secession is, they had used it in the past – you create secession talk to break up Nigeria and then you intimidate the sitting leader and then he opens the booth and he brings money to settle people.
“President Buhari will pay no one. He is not going to pay and now it is clear that having ignored all of that, reasonable opinions are coming from those states and from those regions. The governors in the South-west, we have all heard them; they have denounced all of these things.”
He described the calls of succession as a hoax, noting that Nigerians want to stick together even in the midst of their challenges.
“So it’s a sham, Nigerians want to be one, they want to continue. Yes, there are problems and we are hoping that, as people united and loving of one another, we will come together and solve our problems,” he said.
When asked whether President Buhari will convene another national conference to discuss the unity of Nigeria, the presidential aide urged those calling for it to understand the functions of the parliament in a democratic system of government.
“What can national conference do more than a parliament? Anyone who is a democrat in heart, in practice, in their beliefs, they should believe in the tripartite structure of government. Governments that are democratic, there must be a parliament, the executive arm of the government and the judiciary, each one being independent and cooperating with each other.
“We have an elected parliament, whose mandate is to be the custodian of the sovereignty of the Nigerian people.
“Look, a lot of these people crying for this secession, they are unelectable. If you think you are electable, go and contest for a parliamentary seat whether House of Representatives or Senate and come and table an amendment to the constitution.
“The (constitution review) process is ongoing as we speak now under the deputy Senate president. They are calling for memoranda, why can’t you present what you want? So the issue is that people who are not democrats want a parallel parliament to be set up and this constitution does not recognise two parliaments in this country. We have one parliament that is sovereign that is the custodian of the sovereignty of the Nigerian people,” Shehu said.
While reeling out the achievements of Buhari-led administration, Shehu said the president has done well, especially in infrastructure and poverty alleviation among others.
“In 2016, President Buhari launched the National Social Investment Programme, currently the largest such programme in Africa and one of the largest in the world. Currently, the National Social Register of poor and vulnerable Nigerians (NSR) has 32.6 million persons from more than 7 million poor and vulnerable households, identified across 708 local government areas, 8,723 wards and 86,610 communities across the 36 States of the country and the FCT.
“From this number, 1.6 million poor and vulnerable households (comprising more than 8 million individuals, in 45,744 communities from 5,483 wards of 557 LGAs in 35 states and the FCT are currently benefiting from the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme, which pays a bimonthly stipend of N10,000 per household.
“In January 2019, President Buhari launched Nigeria’s Micro-Pension Scheme – which allows self-employed persons and persons working in organisations with fewer than three employees to save for the provision of pension at retirement or incapacitation.
“Establishment of Survival Fund, National Youth Investment Fund, and National Special Public Works Program, and the COVID-19 Targeted Credit Facility (TCF), to support millions of small businesses, households and young people, with federal grants, loans and stipends.”
Speaking earlier, the national secretary of APC Caretaker Committee, Sen James Akpanudoedehe, accused opposition parties of playing politics with the achievements of the current administration.
“They want to downgrade the government. There has not been a government like this in the history of the nation. And I am not playing politics. Show me any government that has done more than President Buhari in building a direct link with the masses?”
History Won’t Be kind To Buhari If Nigeria Breaks Up Under Him As Preaident- Rev Hayab
Meanwhile, in his reaction to the statement credited to the Garba Shehu that the president cannot be intimidated on agitation by secessionists, the vice chairman Northern Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the FCT, Rev. John Joseph Hayab, said that history will not be kind to the president if the country breaks up on his watch.
Rev. Hayab who is also the Kaduna State CAN chairman, when contacted by our correspondent, said, “It is not cheering news that many groups in Nigeria now are clamouring for secession. Everyone will desire to see Nigeria growing as a united, big, strong and dependable nation but the current realities have further given room for more people and interests to seek secession from what they see as a nation without hope or future.
“As our president, you cannot expect him not to talk tough. History will not be kind on him if this nation breaks up during his reign as president.
“The challenge now is whether all that is happening now across every state and region is just to intimidate or bully the president.”
Time will tell, but the truth is that things are not going well everywhere in Nigeria and our president should come up with measures to convince Nigerians that he means well and he is truly in charge.”
Asylum to IPOB members: UK disrespectful, sabotaging terrorism fight- FG
The federal government has said the reported decision of the United Kingdom to grant asylum to members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is disrespectful of Nigeria as a nation.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, also said that the decision amounted to sabotaging the fight against terrorism and generally undermining Nigeria’s security.
Fielding questions at a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) flagship interview programe, NANForum, yesterday in Abuja, Mohammed said the decision is unacceptable to Nigeria.
“Let me say straightaway that this issue is within the purview of the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs and I am sure he will handle it appropriately.
“But as the spokesman for the Federal Government of Nigeria, I will say that if indeed the report that the UK will grant asylum to supposedly persecuted IPOB and MASSOB members is true, then something is wrong somewhere.
“Against the background of the fact that IPOB is not only proscribed but also designated as a terrorist organisation here in Nigeria, the UK’s decision is disrespectful of Nigeria as a nation.
“The decision amounts to sabotaging the fight against terrorism and generally undermining Nigeria’s security. It is not only unconscionable, it is inexplicable,’’ he said.
The minister noted that there had been heightened attacks against security agencies in the South East Zone of late and that IPOB had been fingered as being behind the attacks in spite of its denials.
“For the UK to choose this time to give succour to IPOB beggars belief and calls to question the UK’s real intention.
“If we could go down memory lane, what the UK has done is like Nigeria offering asylum to members of the IRA before the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement,’’ he said.
Recently, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) released new guidelines to its decision makers on how to consider and grant asylum applications by members of Biafran secessionist groups.
In the guidelines, asylum is to be granted to “persecuted” members IPOB, a group that Nigeria had designated as a terrorist organisation.
Also in the guidelines, asylum is to be granted to the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).