From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The federal government has said that secessionist agitation in Nigeria is not succeeding due to the failure of secessionists to intimidate and extort money from President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Alhaji Garba Shehu, made the claim during a media interaction at the secretariat of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja.
He maintained that, unlike in the past, calls for secession are failing because the President would not bulge to their intentions, intimidation and extortion.
The presidential spokesman brought attention to the spate of kidnapping and general insecurity in the country, cautioning that it is not a novel development in Nigeria, the country having recorded cases of abduction as far back as in 1966.
The SSA argued that although Nigerians are not helping in the fight against insecurity in the country, President Buhari is however not happy with the spate of killings.
He assured that the disturbing spate of insecurity in the South East will soon be a thing of the past, saying the Nigerian Army will soon bring to heel the criminals terrorising the zone.
‘The first question is about the unity of this country, the calls for secession and the claim that the presidency is not talking. The Presidency has been talking. And our position is clearly that this country is one, is united, snd by the grace of God will continue to be united.
‘Look, one thing with this President is you can’t intimidate Buhari. You can’t bully him. A lot of these people who are calling for secessions they are the problem of this country and I am happy that reasonable opinion is now being, reasonable voices are now rising.
‘Is it not only yesterday we are reading Afenifere, the most credible faction of Afenifere, saying we are not for secession? The Ohanaze Ndigbo, I said this over and over again. So, this thing about secession is, they had used it in the past.
‘You create secession and break up Nigeria and then you intimidate the sitting leader and then he opens the boot and he brings money to settle people. President Buhari will pay no one.
‘He is not going to pay and and now it is clear that having ignored all of that, reasonable opinions are coming from those States and from those regions. We have all heard the governors in the South West, they have denounced all of these things. So it’s a sham, Nigerians want to be one, they want to continue.
‘Yes, there are problems and we are hoping that as people united and loving of one another, we will come together and solve our problems,’he said.
Speaking further about the insecurity in the country, he said: ‘This thing about security that no day passes without media reporting killings. It is tragic, nobody is happy that deaths are being recorded. But, the point I want to make is that, it is in human nature we don’t know any country in the world today that is crime-free. “When the question was raised I was going to my WhatsApp message and interesting conversation recently, was around the publication of a New Nigerian newspaper Tuesday, November 16, 1966, and on the front page of this Newspaper There is a story saying: “Midwest police rescue 10 kidnapped men”. If you open the press today and some people are reporting kidnapping you will think that this is the first time crime in the country.
‘I am not saying it is welcome home, please I should not be misunderstood. Even in the United States of America, two days ago people were shot and killed, eight of them for no reason,’ he said.
‘So, we have problems with infiltration of unauthorized weapons this is why President Buhari ordered that anyone caught with AK-47 that is not law enforcement agent, is not authorize that person should be shot immediately, don’t surrender that weapon.
‘We know where it is all coming, I am not going in the history, all of the things that are happening in the Sahel and Libya, uncontrolled and ungoverned (faces) around us and the terrorists been recruited from our own people and the people from far and near distant places, including those that were displaced in Iraq and Syria and Libya.
‘So is a big challenge, let us cooperate with law enforcement agencies in the country and to curtail these things and a lot of the times and I have said this a number of places,’ he claimed.
Still on security, he said: ‘We also have bad eggs in our own communities who reveal the secrets of our military, they had this one in Katsina and said it before. A tea seller near the airport in Katsina frustrated effort against bandits in Zamfara State. The sponsors of bandits hired him, built a house for him, bought him a golf car and gave him money to do bigger tea business.
‘Each time an aircraft took off from Katsina Airport to go and operate in Zamfara, he will call the bandits on phone and say they are coming by the time they get there, the target have disappeared. So, there are bad people in our communities. What are we doing as citizens to ride ourselves of informants because the military people are as human as we are. They have blood running in their veins.
‘So, Nigerians will sleep with their two eyes open and give a chance to the ongoing exercises that are going on in the country and the thing about law enforcement and it is like journalism also, every day you do good story, you don’t hear anything. The day you publish a bad story MD, everybody, editor is looking your head, that is how it happens. I am not saying that it is time to record that there is success. No, but we are getting there, we are building up to success in all of these operations.
‘Look at what is happening in Benue lately, following the killing of the military men, a whole governor presenting himself there and saying I apologize for the killings of these people. It tells you that people are beginning to say, look, we are all in this together and we just have to work together to rid this country of these elements,’ he said.
Garba, speaking on the insecurity in the South East, stressed: ‘The thing about the South East is that criminals are fighting to gain the upper hand, but I tell you that no criminal or terrorist is bigger than this country. None of them is mightier than our armed forces. This structure has been there.
‘They were certificated and praised for World War I, World War IIA, they stabilise the entire West Africa region. Without Nigeria, would there be Liberia in its present form, would there be Sierra Leone in its present form, even Gambia? So, just give it time, support and pray, we will win against these forces.Thank you very much.’
On the possibility of convening a national conference, he said: ‘What National Conference do we have more than a parliament? Anyone who is a democrat in heart, in practice in their beliefs should believe in the tripartite structure of government.
‘Governments that are democratic, there has to be a parliament, the executive arm of the government and the judiciary, each one being independent and cooperating with the other. We have an elected parliament, which is mandated is to be the custodian of the sovereignty of the Nigerian people.
‘Look, a lot of these people were crying for this secession, they are unelectable. If you think you are electable go around for a parliamentary seat whether House of Representatives or Senate and come and table an Amendment for the Constitution. The process is ongoing as we speak now under the Deputy Senate President.
‘They are calling for memoranda, why can’t you present what you want? So, the issue is that people who are not democrats want a parallel parliament to be set up and this Constitution does not recognise two parliaments in this country. We have one parliament that is sovereign, that is the custodian of the sovereignty of the Nigerian people.
‘If your member representing you has fail to present this request that you want whether it is change of structure at state, local government or national level pull him out four years after, don’t vote for him. Put another representative who will do what you want. This is how democracy works, periodic elections,’ he noted.