Following comments by a former army and defence chief that Nigeria may witness violent break up if a peaceful restructuring is not allowed, the Presidency has reacted sharply and taken exception to his comments.
Presidential spokesman, Mr. Garba Shehu, on Sunday, “This vituperation, coming from a former military Chief speaks volumes about the mindset of groups of citizens who have yet to accept democracy as a form of government.
“It is very important to stress that we as a nation, are a constitutional democracy and changes to the country in structure, its systems, policy and politics must abide by the norms of democracy, otherwise they would be extrajudicial and therefore unconstitutional.”
Former Chief of Army Staff and later Chief of Defense Staff, Gen. Alexander Ogomudia (rtd.) warned that the suppression of the agitations for the restructuring of the country could lead to a violent break up of the country.
Restructuring, he said, would guarantee ethnic harmony, accountability, freedom of speech, independence of the judiciary and a fair electoral process.
The retired General said what was at play in Nigeria is a fractured form of politics, with everyone doing things to hurt the country.
He advised opponents of peaceful restructuring to recall the Yugoslavia and Sudan experiences and other countries, like Spain and Britain, where the Catalonians and Scots are seeking autonomy.
He described as “fake” the federal system in practice in Nigeria, urging the government to embrace national integration and development.
He frowned at the security situation in the country.
Ogomudia, who delivered the keynote address at the Good Governance Lecture organised by the Catholic Church of Warri’s Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) added: ” A country where a former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall Alex Badeh, was killed in the streets like an urchin, and nothing happened, is a sign that the nation is not moving in the right direction”.
Ogomudia caused a stir when he asked for anyone in the audience to step forward to define hate speech. When no one did, he said, “something that no one can truly define, they want to impose death penalty for? Where is this country headed?”
But the Presidency did not agree with Ogomudia, arguing that democracy in the country has subsisted, uninterrupted, for upward of 20 years adding that the country’s law courts, with its armed forces are primed at all times to defend the democracy by all means lawful.
It adds: “The biggest challenge to the country today is not necessarily from perceived regional or state imbalances or conflicts between the government at the centre and states but from the mindsets and entities rooted in the idea of violence as a means to change.
“Such individuals, groups and entities peddling ideologies of violence and hate are closed to the notion of healthy dialogue through popular platforms including elected parliaments, hence only open to violence and destruction as their means.
“This administration under President Muhammadu Buhari is strongly of the view that democracy that is self-correcting under the laws as we have is the answer to growing calls for violence and a means to change in the structure, form and content of the union that binds us as one country.
“Equally important is to deny the General’s assertion that nothing had been done on the unfortunate gruesome murder of Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, a former Chief of Defence Staff. Truth is, the investigation instituted by General Olonisakin, the current Chief of Defence Staff, has led to the arrest of 14 suspects based on their alleged involvement in a report that has been sent to the police and the Nigeria Air Force for further action.”