The Presidency yesterday shrugged off threats of Nigeria’s balkanisation by advocates of Biafra and Oduduwa Republics, saying that President Muhammadu Buhari cannot be bullied into giving in to their demands.
It also dismissed calls for the convocation of a national conference to address perceived imbalances in the nation’s structure, with a call to agitators to take their grievances to the National Assembly.
Besides, the federal government has rejected the alleged plan by the United Kingdom to grant asylum to members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, while giving a scorecard of the Buhari administration at an event organised by the All Progressives Congress (APC) Professional Forum in Abuja, described the secessionists as mercantile agents who are only out for pecuniary gains.
Shehu said Buhari would not open the treasury to share money with anyone.
He added that with the National Assembly in place, the clamour for the convocation of a national conference is a misnomer.
Shehu also said Boko Haram terrorists were currently fighting for survival as the federal government had cut their supply chain.
Speaking on the unity of the country and the calls for secession, Shehu faulted the insinuation that the presidency was not talking, as it has been doing so.
He said: “And our position is clearly that this country is one, is united, and by the grace of God, will continue to be united.
“Look, one thing with this president and the national secretary of the party has said a bit of that, you cannot intimidate Buhari. You cannot bully him. A lot of these people who are calling for secession are the problem of this country and I am happy that reasonable opinion, reasonable voices are now rising. Is it not only yesterday we were reading Afenifere, the most credible faction of Afenifere, saying they were not for secession?
“The Ohanaeze Ndigbo has said this over and over again. So this thing about secession is, they had used it in the past. You create secession and break up Nigeria and then you intimidate the sitting leader and then he opens the vaults 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.”
Shehu stated that while criminals are fighting to gain the upper hand, no criminal or terrorist would be bigger than Nigeria.
According to him, none of them is mightier than the Nigerian armed forces.
“This structure has been there. They were certificated and praised for World War One, World War II; they stabilise the entire West African region. Without Nigeria, would there be Liberia in its present form? Would there be Sierra Leone in its present form? Even the Gambia? So just give it time and support and pray we will win against these forces.
“The governors in the South-west, we have all heard them, they have denounced all of these things. So it is a sham, Nigerians want to be one, they want to continue,” he added.
He cknowledged that there were challenges in the country but as people united and love one another, the problems would be solved.
On the question of whether or not there should be a national conference, he said: “What can a national conference do more than a parliament? Anyone who is a democrat at 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 another. We have an elected parliament, which mandate is to be the custodian of the sovereignty of the Nigerian people,” he said.
Shehu stated that many of those clamouring for secession are unelectable.
“If you think you are electable, go around for a parliamentary seat, whether House of Representatives or Senate and come and table an amendment to the constitution. The 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. If your member representing you has failed to present this request that you want; whether it is a change of the structure at the state, local government or national level, pull him out four years after. Don’t vote for him. Put another representative who will do what you want. This is how democracy works, periodic elections,” he stated.
He also described Buhari’s onslaught against corruption and other social vices as total and unsparing, saying not even his family members who run afoul of the law would be spared.
Also speaking, the National Secretary of the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the APC, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, said Buhari would never shy away from the problems of the country.
“The president is a listening man that many of the things you complain about, he already knows them. Once you bring anything or those issues before him, he will take it with commitment. Another thing we have achieved recently is the issue of the pump price of petroleum. The party said no to it even though they had discussed it. It doesn’t matter the circumstances. The party said the time was not ripe. That is the position of the party. And they listened. We have tabled the matter,” he stated.
FG Kicks against Granting Asylum to IPOB by UK
The federal government yesterday took on the United Kingdom over alleged plans to grant asylum to the members of IPOB accused of undermining Nigeria’s security.
Newsmen had reported that the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) had released new guidelines on how to treat asylum applications by members of Biafran secessionist groups.
In the guidelines, asylum would be granted to “persecuted” members of the proscribed IPOB and the MASSOB.
But reacting to the development at a forum organised by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja yesterday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the decision amounted to sabotaging the fight against terrorism.
Mohammed said the the decision was unacceptable and disrespectful 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.
“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 the 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.
The minister said IPOB had been alleged to be behind the recent attacks in the South-east — “in spite of its denials.”