From Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja
The Presidency has debunked assertions that the President Muhmmadu Buhari-led administration has divided Nigeria along fault lines of ethnicity and religion.
Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity Femi Adesina debunked the claims on Wednesday on a Channels Television political and current affairs programme, “Politics Today”.
The Presidential spokesman was responding to issues surrounding recent comments by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Nobel laureate Prof Wole Soyinka.
He faulted those blaming President Buhari for the division they had pointed out.
Adesina said: “If some opinions concluded that Nigeria is divided, then it is a phenomenon that had been well pronounced over the years, citing past comments of both Chief Obasanjo and Prof Soyinka, identifying the same faults.
According to him, the unity of the country depends on the resolve of all Nigerians to come together to accept each other as equals, with equal rights and admitting that no group could be wished away.
“So, if they say Nigeria is divided today, it’s because Nigeria has always been divided and all efforts to unite Nigeria and Nigerians have not worked.
“When Nigerians come to a decision point that we must live together, we can’t wish anybody away; we can’t wish any ethnicity away; we can’t wish any religion away, then we will work towards being a nation.
“Prof Soyinka delivered a lecture around 2010/2011, when he said Nigeria was not a nation, that at best Nigeria is a conglomeration of different ethnic nationalities, but in terms of the definition of a nation, he said Nigeria was not a nation.
“Now the question is, was President Buhari in power then in 2010/2011 when he delivered that lecture and said Nigeria was not a nation?
“So, Nigeria has always been divided, the onus is on us all to make our country work and those who continue to harp on division are part of the problem because the harmony that we should arrive at as a country will continue to elude us,” he queried.
Adesina said the literary icon had never pretended to be a fan of the President – from the days Buhari was military head of state.
When asked if the Presidency had been fair to former President Obasanjo by calling him ‘Divider-in-Chief’ for expressing his opinion about current happenings in the country, Adesina hit the former President harder by suggesting that he had spoken in recent times like he might be jealous of President Buhari.
“Some time – either late last year or early this year, I watched a programme attributed to the former President when he said that he had ruled Nigeria the longest; that he did three years of military rule, he did eight years as a civilian President, that nobody else can achieve that status and that reputation.
“I think it was beneath the former President to have said that because what do you have in this life that you haven’t been given? There’s nothing you have that you have not been given. All that we have is given us from above. If you rule the country for three years as military and eight years as civilian, it’s nothing to boast about.
“For the former President to have said nobody will attain that status of ruling this country for eleven years, I think it was beneath his status.
“So, the fact the President Buhari himself has done military, he ruled for 20 months, then he’s doing eight years, the former President may be feeling, probably he’s coming close to me. I think he didn’t need to say what he said in the first place, but then, in the history of the country, President Obasanjo has his place. That is enough. He will continue to have our respect.
“Don’t forget, in 2018, when he wrote that letter and he said President Buhari, as a horse rider, must now dismount, the President particularly told me… “he (Buhari) said, Adesina, don’t say a word, don’t respond to him.”
On suggestions that President Buhari might be losing his support base, he said: “That is not supported by statistics. If you look at the margin of victory in 2015 and compare it with the margin of victory in 2019, what you have said is not supported by statistics. The President had a wider margin in 2019. So, that can only be conjectured, it is not supported by statistics.”