The Presidency yesterday tackled the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) for asking a section of the country to leave the federation.
It said the body’s action was driven by delusional arrogance.
The Presidency, in a statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said it was reacting to a statement by NEF, in which it allegedly advised the unnamed section of the country to secede.
The statement reads: “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?
“The Nigerian government does not take guidance nor invitations from such groups – only from the Nigerian people who put governments in office.
“Any group can refer to themselves as ‘leaders,’ but in Nigeria, if you have not been elected by Nigerians to a leadership role, then you are not – and the government certainly doesn’t recognise you as such.
“Like many other countries around the world, Nigeria is feeling the strain of the current period of volatility and uncertainty.
“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.”
But NEF, in a statement by its Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, faulted the Presidency.
It said: “Malam Garba Shehu’s statement did not quote a single word in the ‘statement’ and did not mention its signatory or its date.
“As a former journalist, he must know that no self-respecting journalist will take this statement seriously.
“His statement was entirely a monologue castigating the Forum over fiction which only he can understand.
“The Forum believes in the rights of all Nigerians to live in peace and aspire to their dreams.
“It believes in the utility and desirability of a united and strong Nigeria which will meet the aspirations of all citizens.
“When the Forum made comments in the past about the challenges to our union, security or governance, it always did so openly and in a responsible manner.
“It is baffling to see this unfair attribution from the Presidency, at a time when calm nerves are needed, and statesmanship should be on display.”