President Muhammadu Buhari’s Democracy Day speech, television interviews, and claims that he has made the country better than he met it in 2015 are still raising dust in the polity.
The Pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, said the President’s comments and positions were short of expectations, and exposed his administration as one bent on taking steps that are not in the best interests of most Nigerians.
Afenifere was reacting to the speech made by the President to mark the June 12 Democracy Day and the interviews he granted on Thursday and Friday on Arise Television and the NTA respectively.
Also, the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, asked President Buhari to apologize to Nigerians for ruining Nigeria’s economy and plunging the people into hardship due to his bad policies, even as the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, said it is focused on assessing realities on the ground concerning the living conditions of citizens across the country, rather than whether President’s Democracy Day speech was good or bad.
However, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and former Commissioner for Information in Edo State, Chief Charles Idahosa, gave President Buhari plaudits in his Democracy day speech and dismissed the June 12 protests in many parts of the country as sponsored and uncalled for.
‘Nigerians better off in 2015 than now’
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Jare Ajayi, Afenifere said Nigerians were better of in terms of living conditions in 2015 than now, and expressed its disappointment at the President’s disclosure that he had directed the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation to recover and re-open grazing routes throughout the country.
On the President’s claim that his administration has not done badly as he challenged Nigerians to compare what is obtainable now with that of 2015 when he took over, Afenifere said: “Nigerians were far better off in virtually everything in 2015 than they are presently.
“For the President to claim that the country is better now than in 2015 clearly shows that he is not in touch with reality or that he has a different measurement when comparing the two eras.
“It also regretted that the President confessed the seeming helplessness of his administration in combating insecurity that is consuming the country.
“The president had said that he was ‘more pained than anyone can imagine with the ongoing security challenges because they have increased the hunger, pain and anger in the land.
“President Buhari needs not tell us all these as we are already aware and are feeling it. What is expected of him is to take concrete steps to tackle the challenges he enumerated so perfectly.”
Afenifere also criticised President Buhari for not addressing issues governors took to him.
“To Afenifere, President Buhari seems to derive pleasure in shifting blames and responsibilities when pressed on what his government ought to do.
“Were this not to be so, he would not have hidden his inability to confront the insecurity problem on the excuse that state governors are allegedly pocketing allocations meant for the local government councils in their respective states.
“Also, he would not have sent two South-West governors back to go and face the insecurity problems in their states when he knew perfectly well that the tools to tackle the problem are not within the control of these governors.”
Issues on grazing routes
On grazing routes, the group said: “We have some questions for Mr. President and the Attorney-General in this respect. Who created the so-called grazing routes? At what time in our history did our founding fathers gather to designate specific routes from the North to the South as ‘grazing routes’?
“Two, assuming without conceding, that there were so-called grazing routes, what would now happen to structures that have been built in areas where the so-called routes are to be re-opened? Would such structures, including residences and factories, be pulled down so that cows would have places to graze?
“Compared to what would be lost economically, socially, politically and in security terms if these structures are to be pulled down, is it not better to encourage the building of ranches?
“The President’s pronouncement on this issue as well as his confession on how he determines who occupy positions at the national level seems to indicate that Buhari’s government is operating a constitution that is different from the one that we all are aware of — the 1999 Constitution.
“For instance, Section 2 of the Land Use Act, the law governing land matters in the country, vests the administration and control of lands in a given state in the hands of the state governor. It is such that even when the Federal Government wants to use a portion of land, it has to seek the consent of the governor of the state concerned.
“Since most governors in the country have outlawed open grazing in their respective states, on which land does the Federal Government want to open or re-open its vaunted grazing routes? Why talking of grazing routes in this age when ranching is the fad in all civilized climes?”
Besides, Afenifere faulted the President’s claim that he appointed the new Chief of Army Staff on merit and because of his experience.
The Yoruba group said that the appointment “like many others made by the Buhari government are in flagrant defiance of the federal character clause in the Constitution as well as Section 5 subsection 2 of the same Constitution which states that national integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited.”
It said: “From all indications, only in a few instances does the Federal Government allow equity, fairness and empirical merit to characterize the appointments he made. Thus, most of the appointments being made were done in such a way that some sections of the country were being alienated.
“Afenifere further challenged President Buhari to, as a matter of urgency, send a bill to the National Assembly on restructuring and devolution of power if he wants Nigerians to believe that he meant what he says.”
He did not speak his mind– Ohanaeze
Reacting to President Buhari’s democracy day speech, Ohanaeze Ndigbo through its spokesman, Chief Alex Chidozie Ogbonnia, said: “An extempore speech from President Muhammadu Buhari makes more meaning to us than a prepared speech.
“He bares his mind when he speaks off guard. In a prepared speech, he waxes patriotic, humanistic, elegant and does not speak from his heart.
“We are looking forward to when he will realise that it is the aggregates of dots or microcosms that comprise the bigger dot, the macrocosm called Nigeria. If one part or the microcosm is sick or dislocated, the entire macrocosm will surely be affected.”
Touted achievements in face of reality– PANDEF
To the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, umbrella group of traditional rulers, leaders and stakeholders of the coastal states of Niger Delta region, President Buhari’s Democracy Day speech was “hollow and lacked substance.”
National Publicity Secretary of the regional body, Ken Robinson, said: “President Buhari’s Democracy Day speech was hollow and lacked substance. Clearly, it is either they are not in touch with reality or taking Nigerians for granted.
“Most of the achievements touted by the president fly in the face of the goings-on in the country. For instance, the claim that they have lifted 10.5 million people out of poverty, in the last two years, may be only on paper.”
The President also said he remains committed to providing an enabling environment for a free, fair and credible electoral system, but recall that a few days ago, during an interview on a TV station, he asserted that anyone who wants to become president should join the APC.
“Nigeria is collapsing under the President’s watch but, unfortunately, he maintains the same old posture of ‘we are already addressing these obstacles and we will soon bring some of these culprits to justice’.
“The last three years and counting may go down as the darkest period in the history of Nigeria, with killings, kidnapping and all manner of horrible crimes, across the country,” he added.
Apologize for plunging Nigerians into hardship — MBF
On his part, MBF National President, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, lamented that the President is still being deceived by the people shielding him from feeling and seeing the reality of what Nigerians are going through as a result of his government’s bad policies.
His words: “The man is still being deceived. I know that he has mellowed down to the extent that he accepted that they have not performed up to expectations.
“To me, other than saying that Nigerians are better today than before, when he said poverty has been reduced, he should have said that they have failed woefully because they thought they would be able to address issues of the economy and that of insecurity and several others but they have failed. And since they have failed, they are asking Nigerians to please forgive them.
“If he had done that, I think Nigerians will be a bit more sympathetic. But whoever wrote his speech for him didn’t take him around that lane. They just made a general presentation saying that there are challenges and all that.
“Yes, challenges are there and challenges were there. When President Obasanjo was elected in 1999, the challenges and situation at the time were worse than what Buhari met.
“But Buhari came at a time the economy was doing well, they just spent four years doing nothing but propaganda. It is now that the reality has dawned on them.
“But what I would have expected is for him to be frank now, and say to Nigerians ‘fellow Nigerians we thought things would have been better, we did what we felt was right but what we did was not good enough.
“And please, Nigerians, we are begging you to forgive us for the inadequacies. But we are promising you that we will do something better.’
“From that point change the technique, change the methodology, reduce the nepotism, check those issues Nigerians are complaining badly about, and take sweeping actions that would set the country on the pedestal of unity, peace, sustainable growth and development.
“So the speech for me is inadequate. He should come out clear and apologize to Nigerians for the inadequacies of his government that propelled the bad policies of his administration.
“And it is those policies that brought us to these economic woes that plunged Nigerians into poverty and hardship because in spite of all the cries and whatever, the source of revenue improved over time. In spite of all that, the exchange rate on which we based everything continues to nosedive. I recall that he came in at a time one Dollar exchanged for about N198. Today it is over N500 in the open market.
“So the economy is ruined under his watch. The prices of everything you bought at the time he came to office have tripled. Yet the take home pay of workers has not improved.
“Everything is bad and with all that, everything people are getting is being taken away by bandits, terrorists and all sorts of people. So his performance is woeful and that speech to me did not meet the standard expected.
“He should stop applying double standards in approaching issues. When Boko Haram started, they started by killing police men and taking their guns. Nobody went after Borno or Yobe people because Boko Haram was killing policemen and burning police stations and taking their guns. So the way he is treating the South-East is improper.
“Because if IPOB says they are leaving Nigeria, Boko Haram on their part said they did not recognize the government. On that basis, did the government move in and start killing Borno people?
“President Jonathan did not do that. We expect him to also do the right thing. You can go after the Eastern Security Network or IPOB if they are attacking government establishments and not dealing with everybody from the South-East as if everybody is involved or are all liable.”
We’re concerned with realities on ground, not rhetorics – CAN
Also speaking, CAN’s Vice Chairman (Northern Region), Reverend John Hayab, who described President Buhari’s Democracy Day address as another effort by his scriptwriters to showcase his score card, maintained that a good speech without concrete actions will not end the insecurity, sufferings, and dwindling national cohesion and integration in the land.
He said: “Some of the things he (Buhari) said were the usual denial of taking responsibility, which we shall allow politicians to analyse. But as a religious body, CAN’s concern is not whether the President’s address was either a good or bad speech, but the reality of what and how Nigerians are faring under his administration.
“A good speech without concrete action cannot stop the bandits from killing and kidnapping citizens for ransom. It will not also stop the poverty, hunger, and lack of cohesion that is visible all over the nation.”
Against that backdrop, Hayab said the national leadership of the apex Christian body directed churches to use their worship services today (yesterday) to pray and bless the country so that God will guide the government to do what is right and in the best interest of the people.
Buhari spoke well – Idahosa
However, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and former Commissioner for Information in Edo State, Chief Charles Idahosa, gave President Buhari plaudits in his Democracy Day speech and dismissed the June 12 protests in many parts of the country as sponsored and uncalled for.
Asked his take on President Buhari’s Democracy Day speech, he said: ‘’I think he spoke well. This time, he didn’t talk as President but like a Nigerian who is feeling the pains of the masses. He acknowledged that there are challenges in the country but he will do his best to address them.
“Overall, what I think is that the security agencies should try as much as possible to go out and fish out those carrying out insurgency in all parts of the country. In Edo, anytime there is any contest for political offices, people will start throwing bombs on their own houses and then claim they were attacked by the other party in order to attract sympathy.
Immediately, the election is over, there won’t be bomb attacks again. Till date, police has never been able to come out with reports of those who were responsible for the bomb blasts. People create this insecure atmosphere in order to get sympathy and make the government in power look bad.
“So, the security agencies need to do a thorough job, arrest these people and prosecute them. Doing so will serve as a deterrent to others. That is the only way to stop these insurgencies and criminal activities going on in the country.”