President Muhammadu Buhari’s 57th Independence Day speech has attracted flak from many notable Nigerians and groups across the country’s geo-political zones.
In the address, Buhari spoke on the agitation for restructuring and some other national issues including the war on corruption, the economy and Boko Haram terrorists in the North East.
Specifically on the agitation for restructuring the country, the president said some irresponsible groups had hijacked the debate and blamed the leaders of such groups for not calling their “hot-headed” youths to order.
Some who reacted to the speech said it lacked substance while others described it variously as “sentimental”, “lopsided”, “sectional”, “empty”, “not realistic,” and whatnot.
A Second Republic member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Junaid Muhammed, said Buhari’s speech was “not realistic,” and faulted some of the president’s claims.
“Frankly speaking, the speech is not realistic. There is nothing and there was nothing meant to be spectacular or unique about the speech of the 57th anniversary. It is celebratory. Where we have a leader who is articulate or is in a firm control of the government, the speech could have been an avenue to mobilise and regain the confidence of the people.
“As far as I am concerned, there is nothing in the speech to energise, galvanise or persuade me. The government muddled up a speech that should be about matters of national importance with personal reminiscences of being a young officer. This romantic lamentation does not have a place in this speech.
“Some of the claims the President made were clearly dishonest. For example, he claimed that his agricultural policies have been a success. As far as I am concerned, that cannot be true because I don’t even know the policies.
“If I don’t, I am sure millions of other Nigerians don’t know too. When you see the functionality of a policy, you know it is working,” he said.
Mr. Akin Osuntokun, who served as political adviser in the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, said there was nothing remarkable about President Buhari’s broadcast.
Osuntokun who said Buhari was rationalising failure declared: “First I am happy for the President that he looks well-rested and apparently in good health. There is nothing particularly remarkable, negative or positive about the speech.
“It was all about exaggerating modest achievements and rationalizing failure. You can see the escapist argument he was making on the seeming intractability of the Boko Haram insurgency.”
Former senate chief whip, Senator Roland Owie, also faulted the speech saying: “I see no hope in that speech. It is unfortunate that Nigeria has found itself in this situation under a government that has no direction. The anniversary speech does not give hope to anybody.
“He was elected to preside over the country, but he is not doing that. When I compare what happened in 1983 when he came first and when he came now, nothing has changed.”
A civil society group, Concerned Nigerians, said the President’s actions and comments gave rise to the agitations for restructuring, insisting that Buhari’s appointments were sectional and promoted nepotism.
The national coordinator of the group, Deji Adeyanju, attributed the agitations for secession by the South-East youths to Buhari’s style of governance and actions.
“The President should look all around him; the director general of department of state services is from his village; the people in charge of Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) are his kinsmen and all the service chiefs are from the North.
“If he looks around him, he would find the answers to why people are making the agitations for restructuring,” he added.
Adeyanju called on the President to practise unity through his conduct, noting that he portrayed himself as a sectional leader by overlooking the ultimatum by the northern youths to the Igbo while coming down hard on Igbo youths calling for secession.
In its reaction, pan-Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo said Buhari’s government always has excuses.
The group described Buhari’s policies as sentimental, lopsided and sectional, and advised the government to always take responsibility for the current situation in the country.
“The issue is that the Buhari administration has always found one excuse or the other for the challenges facing the country. They have never taken responsibility before (because) they were not prepared to rule Nigeria.
“Hate speech started from Buhari and he has continued to implement policies against the existence of Ndigbo. The agitations did not come from oblivion; it is part of his policies which I describe as sentimental and lopsided. These policies had over time fuelled agitations and so, he should not blame Igbo leaders but his administration.
“I strongly believe Buhari cannot take this country to the Promised Land and for him to be telling us his experience as a junior officer in the military when the country needs urgent attention is unbecoming of a leader.”
For the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organization, Afenifere said Buhari was confusing restructuring with break-up and called on him to distinguish between the two camps and take the necessary steps to salvage the nation.
“He should separate those agitating for restructuring from those calling for a break-up of the country. I think he is confusing restructuring with break-up.
“Those calling for restructuring are those working to avert the breakup of Nigeria while those opposed to it are the ones working for the break-up of the country.
“Let the President deal with restructuring; if he does not listen to the agitations for restructuring, he is promoting those who are working for the break-up of the country,” said spokesman for Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odunmakin
However, Afenifere said Buhari still the opportunity to bring Nigeria back on track.
“The only way Nigeria will not disintegrate under him (Buhari) is for him to begin to lead the conversations around the need to restore Nigeria to better federalism as promised in the APC manifesto. “He still has the opportunity to bring Nigeria back on track. The call for restructuring is the call for a better Nigeria, the call for restructuring is to avoid a breakup.”
The Eastern Consultative Assembly (ECA) said in a statement that the president, helped by his kitchen cabinet, had continued to see Nigeria from an ethnic prism. It secretary, Mr. Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko, while reacting said:
“Mr. President has finally confirmed to all and sundry that he is light years behind global trends and far away from the political reality of the Nigerian situation. This is exactly what happens when a leader surrounds himself only with his kinsmen. “They erroneously mistake their sectional worldview as the national interest. Gen Buhari has clearly misread the resolve of the younger generation to change their lot in Nigeria through any means necessary.
“His kitchen cabinet is obviously living in an ancient world where the fear of the inevitable restructuring forced them to take solace inside the cocoon of an outdated, unrealistic northern daydream of forcing Nigerians to head to a National Assembly which was created by a discredited military constitution.
“The obstinacy of those scared of the inevitable new people’s Constitution, regional autonomy, and true fiscal federalism gave birth to the agitation for secession; this same obstinacy will ultimately destroy Nigeria.
“As the agitation rebounds and re-surges, time will unveil the price we all will pay for delaying the return of Nigeria back to regional format.”
However, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and former governor of Edo State, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole welcomed the president’s speech.
The ACF said through its publicity secretary, Muhammadu Ibrahim Biu that the president’s speech was “a score card of the Buhari administration on security, economy and corruption which was the hallmark of his campaign promises.
“ACF advocates peaceful and meaningful dialogue on all issues of national importance and the use of our democratic institutions to achieve better results. Agitations that come with threats and intimidation have no place in our present democratic dispensation.
“ACF would, therefore, support any restructuring that comes with clarity of purpose and is just, fair and equitable to all sections of the country,” he said.
Similarly, Oshiomhole said Buhari deserves applause.
“I think the President’s speech made it clear about what is being expected and the progress made so far. The president has emphasized that the unity of this nation is non-negotiable and that is the stand of most of us.
“That is sending a message to all those who are plotting one evil or the other against this nation. The President also emphasized plans to create more employment for our youths to check restiveness. So I see hope because if you look at where we are coming from you will know that we are on the right track with President Buhari as President. He deserves applause for this,” he said.