President Buhari’s return speech and unfair criticisms

THE NEWSGHOST, NIGERIA – I have been hearing criticisms of President Buhari’s return speech. Those from the left and the right, those of the center and several other points between both extremes.

On Monday (August 21, 2017), two days after he returned, President Buhari addressed Nigerians in a televised speech. According to report, the speech read:

‘My dear citizens,

‘I am very grateful to God and to all Nigerians for their prayers. I am pleased to be back on home soil among my brothers and sisters.

‘In the course of my stay in the United Kingdom, I have been kept in daily touch with events at home. Nigerians are robust and lively in discussing their affairs, but I was distressed to notice that some of the comments, especially in the social media have crossed our national red lines by daring to question our collective existence as a nation. This is a step too far.

‘In 2003 after I joined partisan politics, the late Chief Emeka Ojukwu came and stayed as my guest in my hometown Daura. Over two days we discussed in great depth till late into the night and analyzed the problems of Nigeria. We both came to the conclusion that the country must remain one and united.

‘Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable. We shall not allow irresponsible elements to start trouble and when things get bad they run away and saddle others with the responsibility of bringing back order, if necessary with their blood.

‘Every Nigerian has the right to live and pursue his business anywhere in Nigeria without let or hindrance.

‘I believe the very vast majority of Nigerians share this view.

‘This is not to deny that there are legitimate concerns. Every group has a grievance. But the beauty and attraction of a federation is that it allows different groups to air their grievances and work out a mode of co-existence.

‘The National Assembly and the National Council of State are the legitimate and appropriate bodies for national discourse.

‘The national consensus is that, it is better to live together than to live apart.

‘Furthermore, I am charging the Security Agencies not to let the successes achieved in the last 18 months be a sign to relax.

‘Terrorists and criminals must be fought and destroyed relentlessly so that the majority of us can live in peace and safety.

‘Therefore we are going to reinforce and reinvigorate the fight not only against;

• elements of Boko Haram which are attempting a new series of attacks on soft targets

• kidnappings, farmers versus herdsmen clashes,

• in addition to ethnic violence fuelled by political mischief makers. We shall tackle them all.

‘Finally, dear Nigerians, our collective interest now is to eschew petty differences and come together to face common challenges of;

• economic security,

• political evolution and integration

• as well as lasting peace among all Nigerians.

‘I remain resolutely committed to ensuring that these goals are achieved and maintained. 

‘I am so glad to be home.

‘Thank you and may God bless our dear Nation.’

Reacting to the president’s speech in a statement issued by its head of publicity division, Chinwe Nnorom, Nigeria’s leading opposition party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), said that, ‘The President and his handlers missed a golden opportunity to reconnect with the people through addressing issues that have direct bearing to their well-being and those of their children and dependents.’

I took this statement apart, piece by piece, to analyse it carefully and scrutinised the president’s speech line by line. What does PDP mean by ‘issues that have direct bearing to their well-being and those of their children and dependents’?

The president, in his speech, called out to Nigerians to ‘eschew petty differences and come together to face common challenges’. The challenges highlighted included, economic security. Now, part of the factors that would translate to economic security are: standard of living, ease of doing business and employment opportunities.

The president also asked security agencies to step up their fight against terrorists and criminals. He specifically stated that this should not be limited to Boko Haram alone, but must extend to kidnappings, farmer versus herdsmen clashes and ethnic violence fuelled by political mischief makers.

So I ask the question, would economic security and fight against terrorists and criminals not ‘have direct bearing’ on the well-being of Nigerian citizens and their children? In fairness, everyone knows it would. PDP’s reaction to the president’s speech is just one of those unfair and senseless criticisms out in the public.

Another one of such criticism is that of Abdulmumin Jibrin, a suspended member of the House of Representatives. Reacting to the president’s speech in a tweet, report says, Jibrin said, ‘Fair for everyone to have ideas and expectations but I did not expect PMB to read a speech this morning like he is announcing a coup d’etat.’

Indeed, President Buhari’s speech reflected a firm stand against forces that threaten the peace and progress of Nigeria. Very much in contrast to the regime of Goodluck Jonathan, the president refused to stay passive and clueless while social problems and influencers trample on the well-being of the nation and its citizens.

I am not a supporter of Buhari. I did not vote for him in the 2015 election. I voted for Professor Oluremi Sonaiya. I am one of those who are tired of seeing the politicians of the old generation elected to office and carry along their age-long tradition of disappointment. But I appreciate the effort and achievement made by Buhari’s administration so far.

To be honest, the president’s return speech is fair enough for anyone who is patriotic and selfless. I believe most of the unfair criticisms going around are largely based on a lack of patriotism and selfless thinking, just as most of the problems facing the nation.

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