•PDP, Ohanaeze, Afenifere, NEF, Middle Belt Forum kick
Wilfred Eya, Sunday Ani, Chukwudi Nweje, Noah Ebije, Kaduna, and Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Prominent Nigerians and groups, including the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Afenifere, Ohanaeze, Middle Belt Forum and Northern Elders Forum, have expressed disappointment at the Independence Day speech by President Muhammadu Buhari.
They criticised him for justifying the increase in fuel price, not accepting responsibility for challenges facing the country, and always passing the buck. They regretted that the president failed to proffer solutions to the challenges confronting the country.
PDP described the economic assertions, in the broadcast as a huge slap on the sensibilities of Nigerians.
The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, charged President Buhari to wake up to reality and take urgent steps to address alleged divisive tendencies and poor economic policies of his administration.
The party said it was worrisome that the broadcast did not address demands by Nigerians that the president should rejig his security architecture to inject new blood that will effectively confront security challenges.
The opposition said Buhari ‘s attempt to justify recent hike in the pump price of fuel by comparing the equivalent of N168 per liter cost in Saudi Arabia was a morbid joke.
It stated the 3,000 Saudi Riyals, an equivalent of N305,113 minimum wage in Saudi Arabia is ten times higher than the ‘paltry’ N30,000 in Nigeria.
“Is Mr. President not aware that on the average, a person working in Saudi Arabia earns around 4,230SAR (N430, 267) to 16,700 SAR (N1,698,693) per month? Our party charges Mr. President to always check his books before making such offensive comparisons including the price in Egypt where monthly average earning is around N222, 841 (9,200 EGP) against our N30,000.
“In comparing our costs with other countries such as Ghana, Chad and Niger where purchasing powers of citizens are much more higher, did Mr. President reflect on the cost of house rent, education, healthcare and average dependence on fuel for daily survival by ordinary citizens as obtainable in Nigeria?
“If the flawed assertions as evident in Mr. President’s speech are a direct reflection of how policies are formulated in his administration, then one needs not wonder why our economy is in doldrums.”
In its reaction, the pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere wondered why the president rather than address the challenges facing the citizens and the country chose to justify the recent increase in the pump price of petrol.
Its spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, said: “In the midst of what Nigeria is going through at 60, the president is justifying the increase in pump price, comparing fuel pump price in Nigeria with Ghana and the rest of them. Has he forgotten the promises he made to Nigerians in 2014 on how he will fix the country’s refineries? How prices of petroleum products will become cheaper? Only for him to be telling us these kinds of things after five years in office? I don’t believe he has done anything.“
He dismissed the accusations against past administrations between 1999 and 2015, saying the accusations were baseless as the incumbent administration has not done anything to improve the situation.
National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, Ndigbo, Uche Achi-Okpaga described the president’s speech as mere window dressing, saying he (Buhari) just wished Nigerians a happy 60th independence anniversary because he did not address any issue.
He also disagreed with the president’s position that after the war, the country forged ahead with focus on the 3R of reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation.
Chairman, Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and former vice chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, said Buhari’s administration has failed.
The visibly angry professor of agronomy said he had little or nothing to say about the government because he had made his position known over the years.
“Well, as I speak to you, I am in Bauchi, I am not in Zaria. But I don’t have much to say because I have made my position known long ago about this government. It is a failed government,” he said.
President of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Bitrus Porgu, described as unfortunate the statement that past leaders between 1999 and 2015, who almost destroyed Nigeria were criticising his administration. He lamented that in spite of the colossal failure of Buhari’s administration, he still chose to criticise his predecessors.
He noted that when former president Obasanjo took over from Abdusalami Abubakar in 1999, crude was selling at $9 per barrel, the lowest ever but that did not deter Obasanjo, rather he pulled the economy up by bringing in competent hands to work with him.
“That was how he grew the economy and handed it over to Yar’Adua. Yar’Adua did his best but he didn’t last long. He resolved the Niger Delta crisis and Nigeria was moving forward until Jonathan came.”
He also stated that Jonathan handed over a robust economy to Buhari, who regrettably has brought hardship upon Nigerians.
“Today, we don’t even trust one another. There has never been this level of nepotism in any government in Nigeria since independence. Everybody has to be Fulani. Even for those of us in the Middle Belt, it is either you are a Fulani or a Muslim but Nigeria cannot work that way.”
Leader of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, Yerima Shettima described the speech as a yearly recycled address that raised issues without proffering solutions.
“He has not said anything different from what we are used to. He keeps saying the same thing over and over. I don’t think Nigerians are impressed with the broadcast, it is so unfortunate. Insecurity and the unity of Nigeria which has been threatened is no story to Nigerians today. The fact that we are more divided which he alluded to was not different from what we have heard. I’m afraid for the country. However, Nigerians should remain optimistic that God will provide a way but we must also take our destiny into our hands because these our leaders have nothing to offer.”
Meanwhile, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has said improving governance and social cohesion will require strengthening of institutions established to fight corruption.
Mr Adetokunbo Mumuni, executive director said the country’s anti-corruption war had yet to be impressive.
“The court system must be strengthened, laws must be strengthened; other institutions such as the police, established to enforce laws, must also be strengthened.”