President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday told militants who have continued to destroy oil installations in the Niger Delta that the unity of the country remained non-negotiable.
Buhari also called on those who had looted the nation’s treasury to approach the government and negotiate how they would return their stolen wealth.
Buhari said these when Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Muhammed Bello, led residents of the FCT to pay the President Sallah homage at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
But the Igbo socio-cultural organisation, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and the pan-Yoruba socio-political body, Afenifere, have faulted the position of the President on the unity of the nation.
The organisations, on Wednesday, told Buhari that the unity of the country was negotiable.
Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka had, on Tuesday last week, described the oneness of Nigeria as “very negotiable”.
The President regretted that while the anti-terrorism war was being won, the issue of militancy in the Niger Delta resurfaced.
Buhari said the Federal Government had commenced the process of identifying the number of groups involved in militancy in the region with a view to getting their leaders and appealing to them to give peace a chance.
He said he was in agreement with the slogan made popular by a former military Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, that to keep Nigeria one “is a task” that must be accomplished.
Buhari added, “Please, pass the message to the militants that one Nigeria is not negotiable. They better accept this fact.
“The Nigerian constitution is clear as to what they should get and I assure them that there will be justice.”
The President stated that looters would not know peace if they refused to return stolen funds because his government would continue to be on their trail.
“Please tell those with plenty of money, which does not belong to them, to try and negotiate and return it in peace so that both they and us will be in peace, otherwise we will continue to look for them,” the President said.
On security, the President expressed delight that his government had made a lot of progress in fighting terrorism in the North-East.
Buhari also admitted that despite the change in name and form of the National Electric Power Authority, the power situation in the country had remained unreliable.
“Those who watch television are at the mercy of what is used to be called NEPA. Whichever form it (NEPA) has taken now, it has maintained the tradition of unreliability. It is not every day that the people get the news,” the President said.
Buhari also admitted that there were a lot of problems bedevilling the nation, especially on food production.
He disclosed that the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, were working hard to address food production problem.
He said the CBN was borrowing the minister money outside the budget so that he could assist states, especially the 13 states that could produce rice.
Osinbajo had stated that it had been a tough journey for the present administration because of the clean-up exercise it embarked on since inception.
He said the Buhari administration inherited what he called a “huge financial mess” from the past administration.
The vice-president, however, expressed joy that things had started looking up, adding that things would soon be better for the nation and Nigerians.
“We will place the country on a strong footing,” Osinbajo assured Nigerians.
Osinbajo prayed for Buhari that as he continued to grow older, he would be stronger in strength, adding that the President would have enough strength to be victorious no matter the challenges facing him and the country.
The Minister of FCT presented a giant season’s card to the President while representatives of the Aso Villa Chapel presented him with a big mirror and a giant season’s card.
Buhari not reading the mood of the nation correctly – Afenifere
The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, believed Buhari might not be reading the mood of the nation correctly.
In an interview with one of our correspondents, Odumakin said, “I think the President is a sincere man but he may not be reading the mood correctly. The country is divided under him than before. Amalgamation and armed dialogue are going on all around us over the unity of Nigeria which many sections perceive has treated them unfairly.
“To continue to insist that the unity is not negotiable is aping that bird which buries its head in the sand and believes, because it is seeing nobody, it has become invisible too.”
Ohanaeze says it’s not calling for secession
The President of the Ohanaeze Youth Council, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, aligned with Afenifere’s position, saying the unity of Nigeria was negotiable.
In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, Isiguzoro said the current structure of Nigeria had not favoured all parts of the country.
According to him, Nigeria’s unity should be subjected to periodic review.
The OYC leader noted that the Igbo, as a group, canvassed the restructuring of the country during the last constitutional conference.
Isiguzoro said, “We (Ohanaeze Ndigbo) believe that Nigeria’s unity is negotiable. The principles and structures on the co-existence of the various nationalities that make up the country should be reviewed periodically.
“At the moment, the structure that is in place is not in favour of everybody.
“Those that it is favouring are the ones who want the status quo to be maintained, but those it has not favoured, like the Igbo, are open to a negotiation of the country’s unity.”
He added, “The Igbo demanded restructuring at the last constitutional conference and we are still holding on to that demand. We believe Nigeria’s unity should be subject to periodic review.
“We are not calling for secession, but a periodic review of the terms of the country’s unity is necessary for peaceful coexistence, otherwise agitations for separation would continue to grow.”