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EKO HOT BLOG reports that the presidency has condemned a June 2021 comment by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), describing the assertion, which demanded that any section of the country that desired to leave should be allowed to secede, describing the remark as “latest statement”.
Titled “Statement on the call by ‘Northern Elders Forum’ asking a section of the country to leave the federation’, the presidency said in a statement issued on Tuesday, “We are aware of the latest statement from the so-called ‘Northern Elders Forum’.
The Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, asked: “Who gave them the right to ask for the exclusion, or expulsion of any one, group or section of the country from the Federal Republic of Nigeria?”
He wondered why NEF would arrogate to itself the power it never possessed to speak for the people, stressing that the Buhari administration was the only democratically-elected government that could speak for all Nigerians.
But in a swift response via Twitter, NEF spokesman, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed denied that the forum issued such a statement, tweeting, “I am the only signatory to NEF’s communication, and I did not release any such “statement”. I urge the presidency to check its source”.
To justify his earlier statement, Shehu posted a June 2021 video on his social media handle, wherein the NEF spokesman was seen saying that the Igbo should be allowed to secede from Nigeria if that is what they want, leaving many wondering if this was the “latest statement” he earlier condemned on behalf of the presidency.
The President’s spokesman had said, “We are aware of the latest statement from the so-called Northern Elders Forum. We wish to reassure Nigerians that it remains their democratically elected leadership, which takes the decisions that steer our nation – and no one else.
“No self-appointed and unelected group can take this right from Nigerians – no matter how much coverage they might enjoy in the media. Nigerians listen to elected leaders, not opinionated tin gods, who have no traction with any responsible group.
“It is a delusional arrogance that would lead such a group to publicly state terms and conditions for the existence of our nation. Who gave them the right to ask for the exclusion, or expulsion of anyone, group or section of the country from the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
“The Nigerian government does not take guidance or invitations from such groups – only from the Nigerian people, who put governments in office. Any group can refer to themselves as ‘leaders’, but in Nigeria, if you have not been elected by Nigerians to a leadership role, then, you are not – and the government certainly doesn’t recognise you as such.
“Like many other countries around the world, Nigeria is feeling the strain of the current period of volatility and uncertainty. Now is not the time to seek to exacerbate divisions amongst Nigerians. Rather, we call on all Nigerians to come together and work to overcome the challenges we face as one nation, one people.”
‘Garba Shehu Lied, We Didn’t Instigate Any Section to Leave Nigeria’ – NEF
The NEF spokesman followed up his tweets with a statement where he said, “Malam Garba Shehu’s statement did not quote a single word in the ‘statement’, did not mention its signatory or its date.
“As a former journalist, he must know that no self-respecting journalist will take this statement seriously. His statement was entirely a monologue castigating the forum over fiction which only he can understand.”
Baba-Ahmed pointed out that, “When the forum made comments in the past about the challenges to our union, security or governance, it always did so openly and in a responsible manner.
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“It is baffling to see this unfair attribution from the presidency, at a time when calm nerves are needed, and statesmanship should be on display,” the NEF spokesman said.
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