The Chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria (FEHN), Mr. Allen Onyema, Wednesday said former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari, should apologise to Nigerians over his recent comments that the ongoing war against Boko Haram was an anti-north agenda, saying all northern leaders should be circumspect in their utterances in order not to jeopardise the country’s unity.
Reacting to Buhari’s comments, which he claimed was capable of stoking sectarian passions, Onyema described the statement as unfortunate, even as he urged the former Head of State to apologise to the nation, including all those who had stuck out their necks to defend him in the past.
The chairman of FEHN, who spoke during an interview in Lagos, described Buhari’s statement as absurd and unbecoming of a statesman, said: “That was a trip into absurdity, and it is highly unfortunate coming from somebody of Buhari’s status.
According to him “He is someone who has ruled this country in the past as Head of State, and is also aspiring to rule this country again. What he said, if actually he said that, was totally unacceptable to any reasonable mind.
“I don’t want to believe he said so, but if actually he said it, he has disappointed a whole lot of people who must have believed in him. If actually Buhari made that statement, a lot of people will be hiding their faces in shame for thinking of him as a statesman, and that of course means that we have a bigger problem on our hands.
“Again, I want to say that I do want to believe he said that, but if actually he said that, the statement portends great danger for the polity. We should not try to politicise the issue of our nation’s security.
“I keep saying I do not want to believe that Buhari made that statement because in my capacity as the chairman of FEHN in 2003, I defended Buhari. Then the Olusegun Obasanjo regime wanted to use the Identity Card registration to conduct the elections and Buhari kicked against it. The press at that time, was against Buhari and he was being hounded, and being called an ethnic jingoist, a tribalist and some who is anti-South.”
“In our usual we, since we don’t take sides, I researched and found out that what Buhari was actually saying then was that a lot of people in the north would be disenfranchised, if the ID card registration was used for the elections because of the level of education and the lifestyle in that part of the country. When I found out about this, I called a world press conference at a place called the Den in Ikeja, and I defended Buhari. I never met him, and I didn’t do it for money or patronage, but I defended him very well. Now, that he has said something so wrong, I won’t hesitate to condemn him.”
Onyema, however, expressed dismay that people, who were aspiring to rule the country could be so brazenly sectional in their utterances. He further called on Northern elders to stop politicising issues of security, and think more of how to stop Nigeria from disintegrating.
He said: “Over the years, Buhari has said a lot things that have tended to portray him in a negative light. Every leader should allow their statesmanship prevail in their utterances, knowing fully well that they command a lot of followership and if you incense the passion of your followers, they do the wrong thing.
“We saw what happened after the elections in 2011. It is not for me to say whether the elections were free and fair or not, but violence has no say in any civilised engagement. Whether the elections were free or rigged, it is not for any leader to call for the kind of response that might not be civil. So I do not want to believe that somebody who is aspiring to lead this country as President would be that sectional to say that the Niger Delta militancy gave rise to the Boko Haram insurgency.”