Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF), an umbrella union of leaders of Southern Nigeria and the nation’s Middle Belt, on Monday berated The Presidency for its “very uncouth and rude warning” to supporters of the growing call for the restructuring of Nigeria.
The SMBLF, in a joint statement endorsed by Yinka Odumakin (South West); Chief Guy Ikokwu (South East); Senator Bassey Henshaw (South-South) and Dr. Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt) said that despite the belligerent posture of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, they and other protagonists of restructuring cannot be cowed to silence.
Presidential Spokesperson, Malam Garba Shehu, had warned groups and individuals including the SMBLF, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye and others calling for restructuring that the President Buhari government would not succumb to threat by groups saying Nigeria would break up without restructuring.
Said Shehu: “The Presidency responds to the recurring threats to the corporate existence of the country with factions giving specific timelines for the President to do one thing or another or else, in their language, “the nation will break up.”
“This is to warn that such unpatriotic outbursts are unhelpful and unwarranted as this government will not succumb to threats and take any decision out of pressure at a time when the nation’s full attention is needed to deal with the security challenges facing it at a time of the Covid-19 health crisis.
”Repeat: this administration will not take any decision against the interests of 200 million Nigerians, who are the President’s first responsibility under the constitution, out of fear or threats especially in this hour of health crisis”
But according to a statement by the SMBLF, “The attention of Southern and Middle Belt Leaders has been drawn to the very uncouth and rude warning issued by Garba Shehu against patriotic organizations and responsible individuals like the respected Pastor E A Adeboye that this government should restructure the country to avert a break – up.
“Sounding like spokesman of Pharaoh in Ancient Egypt Garba dismissed the recurring agitations as unpatriotic outbursts. ”The Presidency responds to the recurring threats to the corporate existence of the country with factions giving specific timelines for the President to do one thing or another or else, in their language, “the nation will break up.
“We are perturbed that instead of giving assurances about rebuilding the country towards inclusivity, the regime is talking down on Nigeria in very intemperate language.
“We want to make it clear to the regime that it cannot cow us by using cantonment approach to national issues. We will not accept turning us to second class citizens on our land not even with threats of arrests or assassinations.
“Should we be clapping for the government and not talk when the Customs appoints 8 Deputy Comptrollers from a section of the country? Are we expected to be saying well done when DSS recruits 535 cadets from Northwest and North East and only 93 from the entire South and North Central?
“Are we to keep quiet when the law setting up PENCOM was clear on succession at Directors level, you go and bring somebody from North East to replace a South East eased out DG?
“If Garba Shehu is not lexically challenged, he should know that those calling for restructuring are more patriotic than those running Nigeria towards implosion , Patriotism is to corporate Nigeria for all and not the sectional idea of Nigeria by the nepotists.
“We will not succumb to their narrow idea of Nigeria fully assured that this too shall come to pass. Therefore, let us restructure now and withdraw from the path of implosion forewarned by patriots at home and abroad.”