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President Goodluck Jonathan has commended former military Head of State and leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Major-General, Muhammdau Buhari, for his statesman-like view on terrorism and insecurity in the country, as expressed in his article, which was published by the media this week.
In a statement issued by the president’s spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, Jonathan said the position taken by Buhari was that of a “true patriot, respected former head of state, revered elder statesman and nationalist”.
“The president welcomes General Buhari’s call on all Nigerians to remain steadfast and work in unity to overcome terrorists and other merchants of death who currently threaten national security.
“President Jonathan fully shares General Buhari’s view that a minority must never be allowed to bring the nation to its knees through terror.
“He has noted General Buhari’s recommendation that the nation’s counter-terrorism strategies be further fine-tuned and welcomes his kind offer of support and cooperation in dealing with the challenge of terrorism.
“The president assures General Buhari of his administration’s sincere commitment and dedication to the successful prosecution of the fight against terrorism and all other threats to national security.
“He further assures the general of his preparedness to work with him and all other patriotic Nigerians, irrespective of their political affiliations, to strengthen national security and end the scourge of terrorism,” Abati said in the statement.
In the meantime, the meeting of the Northern Governors’ Forum slated for today is expected to be moved forward by a few hours to enable the governors from the region to deliberate ahead of the expanded National Security Council (NSC) meeting also scheduled to take place at noon today.
The president, 36 state governors and the security and service chiefs are to meet this afternoon to discuss the deteriorating security situation in the country and forge a way forward on how to tackle the Boko Haram menace.
According to security sources, the need for the northern governors to meet ahead of the enlarged meeting between the president and all the governors, as well as the letter written by the Adamawa State Governor Murtala Nyako to his northern colleagues, in which he had accused the federal government of genocide in the North, necessitated the postponement of the security council meeting to today.
THISDAY had exclusively reported yesterday that the expanded meeting of the security council had been postponed by the presidency for the second time in one week to today.
It was originally slated for Thursday last week but was rescheduled for yesterday and postponed for a second time to take place today.
But a top security source disclosed to THISDAY yesterday that the “nasty” letter by Nyako largely altered the original agenda and arrangements for the meeting.
It was also reasoned that on technical grounds and following the serious issues stirred by Nyako's letter, it would be wrong to hold the Northern Governors’ Forum meeting, also slated for today, a day after having a comprehensive security meeting with the president.
The source explained to THISDAY that officials in the presidency, top security brass and some governors consider today's meeting as the apex body where all the regional, geopolitical and ethno-religious issues should be collectively discussed and thrashed out.
Accordingly, the meeting of the Northern Governors’ Forum is expected to be held this morning before the enlarged security council meeting, or at the very worst, it might be shelved immediately after the meeting with the president, all the governors and security chiefs takes place.
It was also revealed that top on the agenda of today's meeting, will be Nyako’s letter, which was said to have angered, shocked and surprised many among the northern elite, who are desperately trying to do damage control.
According to some concerned northern policy makers, the recent interventions by Buhari, and former military administrator of Kaduna State, Colonel Dangiwa Umar (rtd), were borne out of the need to “assuage the embarrassment caused by Nyako's letter”.
“For the postponement, there was a consideration, technically and as a result of Nyako’s bombshell, that it will be wrong to hold the highest security meeting before that of the Northern Governors' Forum. It was decided that it will be better to first have other sectional or regional meetings, where the northern governors' position could be tabled at the enlarged security council meeting.
“Already, a lot of northern leaders have been put off by Nyako’s letter and have been doing damage control like Buhari's intervention this week. So there was a technical consideration in that regard,” the source explained.
Other than Nyako’s letter, other major issue that would be high on the agenda is the uncertainty over the extension of emergency rule in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States, as well as the abduction of scores of female students in Chibok, the Fulani herdsmen crisis, and possibly, the controversial Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) project for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
However, the most volatile and divisive agenda, which has presented the president with a dilemma is the raging issue of emergency rule, with the security agencies, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership and moderate elements of APC rooting for its extension, and in extreme cases for the full-scale declaration of emergency rule that would lead to the removal of the three governors of the affected states.
Despite the support the extension of emergency rule has, the governors from the north have kicked against it on the premise that it has been ineffective.
“However, this is fiercely being opposed by the governors of the three states, the APC leadership and Northern Elders Forum (NEF), meaning that any decision that will be taken in that regard would have to juxtapose security/military considerations against political calculations,” the source said.
However, before today’s meeting, THISDAY gathered that an exhaustive meeting of the security chiefs was held at the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) on Tuesday to deliberate on the recent security challenges across the country, especially the Nyanya bus station's bombings and general terror threat in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
A top military source disclosed that the DHQ meeting also looked at the disturbing issue of the schoolgirls’ abduction as well as the, Wukari clashes between Fulani herdsmen and locals in the North-central zone.
It was however revealed that the most passionate discussion centred on Nyako's letter with the security chiefs under the leadership of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), in liaison with the National Security Adviser (NSA), brainstorming on the content and implications of the letter.
“There were many considerations and implications of the letter. Was he (Nyako) actually planning subversion. Had he a deep connection with the terrorists? Was he trying to ruffle feathers in order to stop the extension of emergency rule, fearing that he might be removed, or is this a question of old age and its attendant setbacks?” the security source asked.
He disclosed that in order to get to the bottom of the motive behind the letter, investigations have commenced and the governor would be invited for questioning very soon.
“But as you know, the invitation and questioning would be done in a diplomatic manner because of immunity clause and also with a view not to embarrass him,” he said.
THISDAY had also reported that the presidency and security agencies, led by the Office of the National Security Advisers (ONSA), are working on a plan to probe and possibly prosecute Nyako when his immunity is lifted over alleged links with Boko Haram and the scathing statement in his letter.
In a related development, the federal government yesterday came down hard on Nyako over his comment alleging genocide against northerners by the government, saying the statement was inciting, the height of irresponsibility and anti-Nigeria.
The federal government said to hear the kind of things being said by the governor at this period was very unfortunate.
Information Minister, Labaran Maku, made the decision of the federal government over Nyako's allegation known, when he fielded questions from State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.
“Nyako is the former Chief of Naval Staff, he is someone that has worn uniform before, but to publicly incite the people against the security forces of this country is the height of irresponsibility.
“And I believe that for someone like that who is old enough to appreciate the kind of crisis this country is going through, we expected that there should be greater understanding, politics aside.
“When people reach a certain age, they should watch their utterances and the kind of things they are expected to say. Maybe when young people like you and me speak recklessly, we can blame it on lack of experience.
“But when someone who knows the difficulty this country is going through and the kind of effort that is being made by the federal government, for them to come out to make those statements that divide the country, even at a point that when we need national unity and national healing, is grossly irresponsible.
“We are expecting that as we move forward, this nation will definitely defeat terror. This is a war of criminals against the entire nation and they know that this crisis originated at local level,” Maku said.
He noted that the responsibility of maintaining vigilance goes right down to the village level, as well as every hamlet, adding: “But these responsibilities have been abandoned as people no longer organise themselves to fight terror.”
The minister added that “the challenge for all of us in the north is unless all of us act together, this part of this country is going down and down, while the rest of the country is experiencing growth. And the responsibility of security must be taken seriously.
“People grandstanding, people playing to the gallery, people making inflammatory statements that divide public opinion, that cause confusion, will appear to me as people that are anti-Nigeria.
“This is the time we expect all our people to speak with one voice, and speak with a voice that gives our people hope that we the leaders are united in finding a solution.”
He said the divisive statement must be condemned, as all Nigerians have a responsibility to the country.
On the traffic gridlock in Nyanya, the scene of the recent bomb blast in Abuja, the minister said government feels the pains of its citizens, saying: “Our hearts go out to citizens who under the present circumstances are compelled to endure long queues because of the road blocks that have been set up following the terror attack at Nyanya last week.
“We understand the pains our citizens are going through, we have indeed tried to find out from security services how we are going to manage the road blocks. I know a lot of man-hours are lost as a result of the roadblocks but we want to appeal to citizens to appreciate the challenges we are going through. Nobody is doing it to punish the citizens.”
Maku added that the government was looking at alternative ways of managing the road blocks.
In addition to the criticism from the federal government, former military administrator of Lagos State, Brigadier-General Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd), joined others to condemn Nyako, asking him to “shut up”. According to Marwa, “Enough is enough. You are setting an unheard of precedent for the younger generations by those inflammatory statements.”
Speaking at his residence in Yola, Adamawa State, Marwa said Nyako had embarked on a single minded and self-appointed misadventure of being the enfant terrible of the Nigeria's political class.
The former military administrator said as a native of the state and former governorship aspirant on the platform of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in the 2011 elections, it was imperative to respond to Nyako disparaging his country and its leadership in far away America.
He further explained that he was unhappy with the letter Nyako wrote to the northern governors, warning that it could scare away foreign investors.
“I want to state very clearly that Nyako’s letter does not represent the opinion of the Adamawa State citizenry. Nyako’s statement, apart from its incoherence, was disgraceful, shameful, embarrassing to the military constituency and was a behaviour unbecoming of a retired admiral, former service chief and executive governor,” he said.
He said the current security challenges in Nigeria called for a non-partisan approach towards finding a lasting solution, adding that the blame game was not the way out of the difficult circumstances the country finds itself in.
“We must come together and be united in confronting the challenges in front of us. Nyako should be quite clear that President Jonathan did not pronounce himself president.
“Even our two scriptures of the Holy Bible and Quran said God made leaders and gives leadership to whom he chooses. Whether Nyako likes it or not he must recognise and respect him as the leader of Nigeria.
“It is therefore in bad faith and setting a bad example for the younger generation in the armed forces for Nyako to bad-mouth his president in the way and the manner he has been doing of recent.
“It is this reason that I have never uttered a word of disdain, insult or indecorous language against Nyako because he is my senior in the armed forces. In the same manner, he must respect the office of the president,” he observed.
Marwa said the governor’s current antics had portrayed Adamawa State in a bad light and he was looking for a way to explain his non-performance by blaming the security challenges for eating into the state’s finances.
He held the view that APC and Nyako could never form the next government in Adamawa State, adding, “We were the roots, trunks and branches of the APC and we have left the party, we are gone and Nyako is left with the shell.”