The Presidency, on Tuesday, lampooned the Northern Elders Forum for what it called “delusional arrogance” over its call for some section of the country to secede.
Recall that in a widely-circulated clip, the spokesperson of the Northern Elders Forum, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said, “We said if secession is what every Igbo wants, and this is what the Igbos want, the nation should not fight a war over it. We said ‘if’.
“If every Igbo supports secession, the leaders support secession, then the nation should not fight another war. That’s what we said.”
Asked if the forum supports a referendum, he said “The issue of referendum is not in our constitution. Those who want a referendum in the constitution should canvas for the inclusion of referendum in the constitution.”
But according to a statement signed on Tuesday by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the Presidency insisted that only democratically elected leadership can take decisions of such magnitude, and no one else.
The statement is titled ‘Statement on the call by “northern elders forum” asking a section of the country to leave the federation.’
It read in part, “We are aware of the latest statement from the so-called ‘Northern Elders Forum’.
“We wish to reassure Nigerians that it remains their democratically elected leadership which takes the decisions that steer our nation–and no one else.
“No self-appointed and unelected group can take this right from Nigerians – no matter how much coverage they might enjoy in the media. Nigerians listen to elected leaders, not opinionated tin-gods who have no traction with any responsible group.
“It is a delusional arrogance that would lead such a group to publicly state terms and conditions for the existence of our nation.”
“Who gave them the right to ask for the exclusion, or expulsion of any one, group or section of the country from the Federal Republic of Nigeria?” Shehu further queried.
The Presidency noted that the Nigerian government does not take guidance nor invitations from such groups–only from the Nigerian people who put governments in office.
It said while any group can refer to itself as “leaders”, the government will not recognize it as such “if you have not been elected by Nigerians to a leadership role.”
The statement further noted that like many other countries around the world, Nigeria is feeling the strain of the current period of volatility and uncertainty.
Therefore, “Now is not the time to seek to exacerbate divisions amongst Nigerians. Rather, we call on all Nigerians to come together and work to overcome the challenges we face as one nation, one people.”