The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Thursday expressed disappointment with the national broadcast by President Muhammadu Buhari, saying his speech was uninspiring.
The president had addressed the nation as the country marked its 60 years anniversary.
The PDP described the economic assertions in President Buhari’s speech as a huge slap on the sensibilities of Nigerians.
It charged the president to wake up to reality and take demonstrable urgent steps that will address the divisive tendencies and poor economic policies of his administration, which are fast decimating the nation under his watch.
The PDP, in a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, said President Buhari’s attempt to justify the increase of fuel price in Nigeria by comparing it to the N168 per litre cost in Saudi Arabia is a morbid joke, noting that the minimum wage in Saudi Arabia is N305,113 (3000 Saudi Riyals), ten times higher than the paltry N30,000 which is largely unimplemented 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.”
PDP, therefore, urged Mr. President to engender harmony and productivity by allowing for more robust discourse that will lead to affordable prices for fuel and other essential commodities in our country.
“Our party also holds as ludicrous that President Buhari is hyping his ‘better together’ theme when the administration he heads, runs on nepotism, disregard for rule of law, human right abuses, corruption, political intolerance, suppression of free speech and aggression towards dissenting voices,” it said.
Speech Lame, Devoid Of Presidential Gravitas— Ozekhome, Others
Equally, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) said the president’s broadcast was lame, defensive, lacklustre, uninspiring and devoid of presidential gravitas.
He said the president is out of tune with the stark reality of 208 million people he governs by comparing the country with some of its neighbours.
“I disagree with Mr. President. Do many of them produce oil? Are we not the 7th oil producer in the world? Is Buhari aware that most of our industries have relocated to, and found solace in these countries? Those economies he compared us with are better, more buoyant, less peopled and more focused and productive than Nigeria. They do not glamourize and celebrate corruption as a national fundamental objective and directive principle of state policy as we do. It is also about credibility, integrity, honour and dignity.
“Did Buhari not join other Nigerians, including the major players in his government, in January, 2012, to castigate and demonstrate on the streets against Jonathan’s minimal increase, arguing that it was corruption – laden and amounted to thievery? What has changed?” Ozekhome queried.
Former president of Aka Ikenga, an Igbo socio-cultural group, and delegate to the 2014 National Conference, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, said the comparison to countries like Saudi Arabia is not encouraging.
According to him, “How can the president compare Nigeria to the countries he mentioned in his speech?
“If you want to compare Nigeria to those countries, you have to consider how much the minimum wage is in those places before he starts doing the comparison.
“Our leaders are lazy in their thinking if not, we won’t be exporting petroleum products and you will bring it into the country to sell for higher price.
“Our leaders don’t face realities on security and other issues facing the country.
“The truth is that I am not impressed in the country at 60.
“Our real problem in this country is gloating over nothing.”
Also, former National President of Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu said: “That insistent from our dear president is both sad and unfortunate in the least.
“You cannot compare the price of fuel in both countries and leave out the underlying factors of standard of living in both countries and/or compare the minimum wage differences in both countries.
“A quick search of what the minimum wage in Saudi Arabia is SAR3,000 which is equivalent of US$800. Meanwhile, the minimum wage in Nigeria is N30,000 equivalent of about US$79.
“How does one now compare the purchasing power of the average Saudis to that of a Nigerian?”
Presidential Broadcast Rekindles Hope — APC
The Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom, Mr. Nkereuwem Enyongekere, said President Buhari’s speech to the nation has rekindled hope that Nigeria will be a great nation.
Enyongekere made the assertion in an interview in Uyo on Thursday while reacting to the president’s speech to commemorate Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary.
He said that the presidential broadcast was all embracing and a call for all Nigerians to shun what divided us and embrace the ideals of what unites us.
“The president’s 60th anniversary address to the nation is all embracing because it reflects the past, present and future, with a clarion call to all to come together to build a new Nigeria.
“It goes a long way to strengthen and brighten the prospects and expectations of Nigerians in spite of military incursions for 29 years.
“It shows maturity and sincerity of a leader who is willing to make every Nigerian a team player.
“The president’s speech indeed justifies that Nigeria is in a diamond age,” he said.
He urged Nigerians to embrace the president’s call for reorientation of our values, think first of the country Nigeria before our individual regions.
Buhari’s Broadcast Uninspiring, Mere Sound And Fury— SMBLF
Similarly, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) on Thursday expressed disappointment with the national broadcast by President Buhari, saying his speech was uninspiring and much like the tale full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
The forum expressed this view in a joint statement by Mr. Yinka Odumakin for South-West, Chief Guy Ikokwu (South-East), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South- South) and Dr. Isuwa Dogo (Middle-Belt), saying the president, who said he was engaging in self-reflection, never even remembered how the country’s founding fathers negotiated a federal constitution which put the nation on the path of development in the early years of independence until military came to disrupt things.
In a statement titled, ‘60 Years Anniversary Broadcast: Mere Sound and Fury,” the leaders said Buhari in his speech treated the whole nation to the usual bland sermons and empty rhetorics in the midst of all the troubles the country was going through that required the leadership to summon the constituent units to the roundtable with a way to resolving them.
“The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum has examined the broadcast of President Buhari to mark the occasion of the 60 years of Independence of Nigeria and disappointingly concludes that it was like the tale full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Nigerians Unhappy Under Buhari, Says PANDEF
Meanwhile, as Nigeria marks its 60th Independence anniversary, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) has criticised President Buhari for his inability to make the citizens happy.
The national chairman of PANDEF, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (rtd), made the assertion during a virtual world press conference on Thursday which was streamed via Zoom from Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.
Nkanga said that under Buhari’s leadership Nigerians were going through “anger and anguish” which had given rise to frequent protestations across the land.
He said Nigeria was celebrating its 60th anniversary “at a time of colossal national upheaval, and disaffection, with several groups clamouring for self-determination.”
Nkanga, who also is former military governor of Akwa Ibom State, said, “People are not happy with the way things are going in the country, with worsening insecurity, unemployment and harsh economic strains on the populace.
“Citizens are losing ever more trust in the political establishments and institutions; sadly, the government seems unperturbed. There are people who are living in abject poverty in this country while others are living in stupendous wealth.
“We are in the middle of a mist; no one can predict what comes next. We can either work together in unity and respect or sink as a country.”
The PANDEF chief noted that the level of injustice being perpetrated against some sections of this country, the Niger Delta region, in particular, was unprecedented.
Nkanga further stated: “Uncouth bias, unfairness and injustice have become the norm in the conduct of affairs of government in Nigeria, under the present administration.
“President Muhammadu Buhari needs to demonstrate and reassure Nigerians of the government’s sincere commitment to the wellbeing of all Nigerians, North, South, East or West, irrespective of religion and ethnicity.”
We Need National Dialogue, Nation On Reverse Gear— PDP Govs
Again, PDP Governors’ Forum said there is need for a national dialogue.
Reflecting on Nigeria’s 60 years after it got Independence, the governors noted that the nation appears to be on reverse gear, in spite of the efforts of the founding fathers.
The governors, in a statement by its chairman and governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, said, “In spite of these enviable strides, the reality on the ground today is neither cheering nor palatable. The nation appears to be on the reverse gear. With the current state of affairs in our country, it would appear that we are living on past glory.
“It is indeed sad to observe that the great promise and potentials which Nigeria represented at inception in 1960 have remained largely unfulfilled, mainly as a result of poor leadership, politics of prebendalism, ethno-religious dichotomies, unabating corruption in low and high places, lack of patriotism and social distrust amongst many other factors.
“The Nigerian condition has continued to worsen with the prevalent social dichotomies widening the country’s existing fault-lines; and thereby posing great challenges to the quest for national integration and inter-ethnic unity and social harmony. It cannot be a measure of development that there is a mushrooming of ethnic and regional organizations and local militias competing with the state for attention.
“Today, Nigeria has to contend with herders-farmers clashes, banditry, terrorism, cultism, kidnappings for ransom, and agitations for self-determinations and militancy which have tended to drive a wedge in the chords that hold us together as one united people. Such indices do not bode well for the future of our dear country. The trend must not be allowed to continue,” the governors said.
Berating the All Progressives Congress (APC) government, the governors noted that since it got into power five years ago, the nation has continued on the downward slide into extreme decay, adding that the APC administration has plunged Nigeria deeper into the debt trap after the country had exited from its initial debt burden from the London and Paris Clubs under the PDP-led administration.
“In the last five years, under the APC-controlled administration, Nigeria has continued on the downward slide into extreme decay, with the country displacing India as the poverty capital of the world, with an estimated 87 million Nigerians living on less than $1.9 US dollars a day (Brooking Institute 2018). We as leaders must strive harder to make sure that poverty is minimised in all parts of the country.
“This is even made worse by the fact that in 2019 Nigeria ranked 93rd out of 117 qualifying countries with a score of 27.9 below Guinea and Mali in the Global Hunger index.
“It is indeed sad to observe that Nigeria’s external debt hit a 16-year high of $27 billion in December 2019, just higher than the $20.8 billion in external level as at 2005 when Nigeria exited from the club of its foreign creditors. Any loan acquired that is not directly tied to meaningful infrastructure that can help Nigeria progress should not be taken.”
Buhari Hindering Nigerians From Celebrating Diversity— Kukah
In another development, Matthew Kukah, bishop of the Catholic Diocese in Sokoto, said President Muhammadu Buhari is making it difficult for Nigerians to celebrate diversity.
The cleric spoke at The Platform, an annual conference organised by Covenant Christian Centre in Lagos, on Thursday.
The virtual event hosted by Poju Oyemade, its convener, was to commemorate the nation’s 60th Independence anniversary.
Kukah faulted the current composition of the Nigerian leadership with Muslims occupying leading positions across various political institutions.
He said the current arrangement where the president, those in charge of affairs at the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the Chief Justice are from the same religion, hinders celebration of diversity and betrays the principle of federal character.
“I think even the most optimistic Nigerian must conceive that we are nowhere near coming to define the real sense of democracy. Beyond just going through the process of cycles of election, we have a very serious problem with recruitment methods,” he said.
“Reflecting federal character should be like viewing ourselves in the mirror and celebrating our diversity because the table is big enough to occupy everyone.
“But when you don’t have that and you put all your apples in one basket, naturally you cannot make headway, because you’re violating the constitution and thinking that we are in a democracy.
“This president (Buhari) in my view in the last few years has made it very difficult for us to celebrate diversity. And Nigerians will concede that a reward system that is so skewed, whether in favour of men, women, Christians or Muslims is unacceptable because when it was time to vote, all of us came out to vote.
“We need to very quickly reset the template if we are to take our place after 60 years of independence. If we are unable to provide our people with water, food, light, security, then it is a tough call. I am not a happy Nigerian but I remain a hopeful Nigerian.”