Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has expressed optimism that Nigeria would emerge from its challenges stronger.
“We have challenges just like any other country in the world but we are going to overcome. Some countries have not even experienced half of what we are going through before they collapsed but everybody must do his own bit.
“It is unfortunate today that many people are waiting for the country to disintegrate and many of them are disappointed that we are still standing on our feet.
“We will continue to wax stronger because these detractors and vocal nay-sayers are in the minority,’’ he said when he featured at a special forum of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, yesterday.
The minister charged every Nigerian to take ownership of the country and ensure it is not plunged into war.
He said Nigerians should resist the temptation by some selfish elites campaigning that Nigeria was better divided.
“It is because there is a country call Nigeria that is why there are journalists, professors, doctors and what have you. If you know what happened during the Liberian war, professors were working in bakeries in Lagos just to survive.
“When you look at some write ups in our newspapers and social media, you begin to wonder whether the writers are patriots. If you don’t live in Nigeria and you are reading what they are writing, you will think every part of Nigeria is at war.’’
Mohammed urged social commentators and critics to be dispassionate in their assessment and judgment on issues.
“We are not saying don’t criticise the government, you are at liberty to do so. However, stop de-marketing Nigeria. Stop setting one ethnic group or religion against the other and have the courage to be honest and forthright.”
Mohammed said Nigerians must take possession of their country because if they did not build it, nobody would fix it for them.
He described allegation that the Federal Government is pampering bandits and being hard on self-determination groups such as the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a misconception and fake news rolled into one.
“I want to say without any hesitation that this is a fallacy. It is a misrepresentation, misinformation and fake news all rolled into one.
“The truth of the matter is that the Federal Government does not make a distinction between terrorists and bandits. As far as the Federal Government is concerned, they are all criminals and they are treated the same way. It is very important to set the record straight. Why do I say this? Because, it is a continuation of the destructive rhetoric of some commentators.”
The ministercautioned against politicisation of security issue.
“Security is security. Bandits kill soldiers; they kill policemen and innocent people. So, why will the military be softer on one set of criminals than the other?”
He said government is winning the war against insurgency in the North East, adding that the military has heightened assaults and attacks against insurgents which have enabled it to reclaim more territories.He insisted that the surrendering of Boko Haram insurgents shows that peace is returning to the war-ravaged region.
“A few years ago, when we came in 2015 — of the 20 local government areas in Borno, about 13 were under the effective control of Boko Haram.
“On December 5, 2015, we travelled to Bama, Konduga, Kaure and Maiduguri. The distance from Maiduguri to Bama is about 78 kilometres, but no single vehicle is on the way. It was like a suicide mission.
“The week after we left, a commander was killed on the same route. When we got to Bama, of the over 6,000 houses in Bama, not one was standing. They have all been bombed by Boko Haram. Today, go to Bama and see for yourselves. And when we went in 2015, you couldn’t travel more than a few kilometres outside Maiduguri metropolis. So, there is no doubt in my mind that we are winning. And thousands of insurgents that are surrendering speak volumes.
“We were in Maiduguri two weeks ago for another very successful town hall meeting where all stakeholders were in attendance like the traditional rulers, the military, police and CSOs. The governor confirmed that the heightened assaults and attacks by the military in the theatre had led to the surrender of many insurgents. And again, the military has recently acquired more platforms and these are making life difficult for the terrorists. That’s why any time they attempt to come in, they are being repelled fiercely.
“There is no doubt in our minds that the federal government is winning the war, very very much.
“In some places, the activities of Boko Haram and bandits have dovetailed. This is because of the pummeling they are receiving from the military in the north-east, they are moving toward parts of the north-central.
“And here they are linking up with bandits, so there are some handshakes of some sorts. It is just like if you displace water, it will flow somewhere so that’s what is happening.
“But the military is aware of this and I can assure you that in the next few days; that also will be history. The military is doing its best and we are not giving up at all.”