Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
One week after former Defense Minister Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (retd) urged Nigerians to defend themselves against killers in the country, the Presidency has called on prominent and influential Nigerians to be wise while engaging the public in order that their declarations not inflame tensions and threaten national security.
Danjuma had made the call while speaking at the maiden convocation of the Taraba State University, Jalingo, Taraba State.
“I am not a politician and politics is one profession I don’t want to belong to because if I am a politician, I would not say what I am going to say to you now,” Danjuma had said.
“When I arrived this arena, I saw rich cultural display, and I was amazed at the rich cultural heritage of our people. Taraba is a mini Nigeria with diverse ethnic groups living together peacefully, but the peace in this state is under assault.
“There is an attempt at ethnic cleansing in the state and, of course, some rural states in Nigeria.
“We must resist it. We must stop it. Everyone of us must rise up.”
The Senior Special Assistant to the Presiden on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement expressed worry that “criminal gangs will feel justified in defying legal governing and democratic institutions and the authority of legitimately elected democratic government if unrestrained pronouncements are made.
“Silence can be dignified, but sometimes it can be misinterpreted and exploited. It is both shocking and scary to hear the recent comments by a senior citizen calling for Nigerians to defend themselves.
“The Presidency commends the Nigerian military’s efforts to maintain peace and stability, despite being pulled in various directions by elements determined to destabilize the country and government for their selfish reasons.
“What country would survive if its citizens rise against the country’s organized, trained and equipped military?
“We advise former leaders to take advantage of the various fora where people with a history of national security can offer advice to the government without resorting to the exploitation of emotional sentiments.
“The civil war motto: ‘TO KEEP NIGERIA ONE IS A TASK THAT MUST BE DONE’ rings very timely at this time in our nation’s history. We must be careful to avoid the mess that destroyed other African countries like Somalia,” the spokesman said.