Leaders of five groups that attended a two-day consultative dialogue where former President Olusegun Obasanjo said Nigeria was slowly becoming a failed state, has declared that the Presidency is living in denial with its response to the former leader.
In a statement signed by Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed for Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF); Yinka Odumakin, Afenifere; Chief Guy Ikokwu, Ohanaeze; Dr. Isuwa Dogo, Middle Belt Forum, and Senator Bassey Henshaw, PANDEF; the socio-cultural groups said they are alarmed at the insensitivity of the Presidency to demolish patriotic and responsible action to address gaps in security, economy and governance in the country.
Speaking last Thursday while delivering a speech titled, “Moving Nigeria away from tipping over” at a consultative dialogue in Abuja, Obasanjo had said Nigeria was slowly becoming a failed state and a basket case that urgently needed to be pulled from the brink of collapse.
But in its reaction, the presidency, in a statement by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, described Obasanjo’s action as “attempts to divide the nation while President Muhammadu Buhari continues to promote nation-building and the unity of Nigeria.” However, the socio-cultural groups said: “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 of President 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 communiqué 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.”
They averred further that: “Clearly, our current leaders are living in very deep denial if they do not recognize 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 Nigerian Governors, APC and PDP Governors’ Fora 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 fora 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. President Muhammadu Buhari should know that Nigerians can distinguish between Nigerians who care enough to do something, and those with responsibility who choose to do nothing.”