SEVERAL elder statesmen have expressed regret at what they call the presidency’s childish response to recent comments by former president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who criticised the government for sowing division among Nigerians.
At a recent book launch attended by socio-political groups, Chief Obasanjo said Nigeria had become a failed state under President Muhammadu Buhari. He criticised the current government, tackling President Buhari, over what he called the mismanagement of diversity and socio-economic development of Nigeria, noting that the country is fast drifting to a failed state under his administration.
In a swift and brutal response, however, presidential spokesman Mallam Garba Shehu, described Chief Obasanjo as the country’s divider-in-chief. Mallam Shehu added that Chief Obasanjo’s criticisms of President Buhari were devoid of good intentions, claiming that the former Nigerian leader was jealous of the incumbents achievements.
Expressing concern at the refusal of the presidency to take any criticism, a group of elder statesman under the aegis of the Nigerian Elders and Leaders, said it was regrettable that responsible and constructive efforts to douse tensions, build bridges and restore hope Nigeria would attract the type of childish vitriol from the presidency. They added that they have no regrets or apologies to offer for making ourselves available to dialogue.
In a statement signed by Yinka Odumakin (Afenifere), Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed (Northern Elders Forum), Chief Guy Ikokwu (Ohanaeze), Senator Bassey Henshaw (Pan Niger Delta Forum), and Dr Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt Forum), they added that they are not the mouthpiece for Chief Obasanjo. However, they said it is unfortunate that the current government is not open to any form of criticism.
Their statement read: “To say that the presidency chose to react in the manner it did to a responsible and credible initiative by our groups and a former president, is, to put it politely, deeply disappointing and worrying. Our groups are not mouthpieces of President Obasanjo, and we will leave it to him to choose how he responds to the lamentable response of President Buhari to his initiative.
“For us, it is sufficient to say that we have no regrets or apologies to offer for making ourselves available to dialogue with each other, exchange ideas, and re-commit ourselves to pulling our nation from the brink of precipice of no return. The communiqué released at the end of our meeting, which we are confident is only the first of many, is a loud testimony to our levels of responsibility and maturity.
“We have received countless commendations from many responsible Nigerians for supporting and participating in this initiative to make our country a democratic and united entity. We are even more worried at this stage that a responsible and constructive effort to douse tensions, build bridges and restore hope in the potentials for the survival of our country as democratic and united entity will attract the type of childish vitriol from the presidency, including labelling us as terrorists.
“Clearly, our current leaders are living in very deep denial if they do not recognise that our current situation represents an existential danger to the nation.”