President Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency and the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) clashed on Friday over the parlous state of the nation, particularly its security and economy.
While the NEF, represented by its spokesman, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, declared that the country was tottering on the brink of collapse due to the lack of effective leadership, the Presidency, through Malam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, to the President, countered that the northern elders were critical of the president because they wished the government to collapse.
Both spoke Friday morning on a Channels Television programme, Sunrise Daily
To the Northern elders, the country has become “extremely insecure” because “we don’t have a leadership that shows capacity” in governance and in securing the nation.
“We are not winning the war against Boko Haram and banditry,” Baba-Ahmed said while berating the Buhari government for claiming success over the terrorists in the North East.
“The people know that the government has failed to secure the nation. We wished that what Malam Shehu is saying is true but it is not true. Insecurity is mutating under their watch,” he said while adding that when Buhari came, Boko Haram was the only problem but today banditry is everywhere.
These he said were in addition to threats against national unity and cohesion. Baba-Ahmed added that “this government does not have thinking capacity. They don’t know that there is a connection between their weakness and the opportunism of criminals. We don’t want to bring down Buhari’s government but we are asking him (Buhari) to work. What do you tell parents whose children are kidnapped?”
The NEF spokesman also said that banditry had become a big industry in the North on Buhari’s watch, declaring that “there is failure of leadership. The presidency has run out of ideas.”
He called on the government to put a stop to kidnapping and pull the country back from the brink.
According to Baba-Ahmed, the country’s condition has become precarious with respectable people now openly declaring that they no longer want to be part of Nigeria, because “it is too insecure.”
“If the presidency does not see this as an existential threat to the nation, then we are in greater trouble,” NEF spokesman declared.
In his response, Garba Shehu reminded Nigerians that the country was in a very terrible shape when Buhari took over in 2015. He added that the president was addressing all challenges, including insecurity, even as he admitted that crime and criminality were mutating in the country.
“We are making progress in all the key policies. It is unfortunate that the opposition is exploiting the crises but the president is not distracted,” he said.
On NEF’s criticism of the Buhari regime, Shehu averred that while the people had the right to tell truth to the government, they “cannot bring down the government.” He stressed that “in a democracy, governments come through periodic elections unless Baba-Ahmed does not believe in what he has been teaching his students all these years.”
The presidential spokesman, who noted that the North East had been stabilised by President Buhari, however, urged Nigerians to give the new service chiefs a chance, lamenting that “we don’t appreciate the sacrifices of our servicemen.”
He stressed that contrary to the picture painted by the Northern elders, “the government is not overwhelmed” by the various security challenges it is facing.
He added, however, that crime was mutating and complicating situations for the system as it kept changing in form and strategy.