The Presidency on Saturday described the recent call made by a former Minister of Defence, Lt.-Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd.), that Nigerians should not rely on security agencies but defend themselves in the face of killings across the country as shocking and scary.
It said unrestrained pronouncements were capable of encouraging criminal gangs to defy legal governing and democratic institutions.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba, Shehu, said these in a statement made available to journalists.
Shehu urged prominent Nigerians to use their national influence wisely and shun public declarations that are capable of threatening national security.
He also advised former leaders to take advantage of the various fora where they can advise the government on security matters without resorting to the exploitation of emotional sentiments.
Shehu wondered if any country can survive if its citizens rise against its military.
He said Nigerians must be careful to avoid the mess that destroyed other African countries like Somalia.
Despite Danjuma’s verdict on the armed forces however, the presidential aide commended the Nigerian military’s efforts to maintain peace and stability, “despite being pulled in various directions by elements determined to destabilise the country and government for their selfish reasons.”
The statement read, “The Presidency wishes to appeal to prominent Nigerians, who have national influence, to use their influence wisely and not continue to engage in public declarations that are likely to inflame emotional passions and threaten National Security.
“The Presidency is very worried that criminal gangs will feel justified in defying legal governing and democratic institutions, and authority of legitimately elected democratic government if unrestrained pronouncements are made.
“Silence can be dignified, but sometimes it can be misinterpreted and exploited. It is both shocking and scary to hear the recent comments by a senior citizen calling for Nigerians to defend themselves.
“The Presidency commends the Nigerian military’s efforts to maintain peace and stability, despite being pulled in various directions by elements determined to destabilise the country and government for their selfish reasons.
“What country would survive if its citizens rise against the country’s organised, trained and equipped military?
“We advise former leaders to take advantage of the various fora where people with a history of national security can offer advice to the government without resorting to the exploitation of emotional sentiments.
“The civil war motto: ‘To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done’ rings very timely at this time in our nation’s history. We must be careful to avoid the mess that destroyed other African countries like Somalia.”
The reaction came exactly one week after Danjuma last Saturday while speaking at the maiden convocation of the Taraba State University, Jalingo, and the 10th anniversary of the institution told Nigerians to defend themselves against killers in the country, saying the armed forces were not ready to defend them.
The former Chief of Army Staff had stated, “I am not a politician and politics is one profession I don’t want to belong to because if I am a politician, I will not say what I am going to say to you now.
“When I arrived in this arena, I saw rich cultural display and I was amazed at the rich cultural heritage of our people. Taraba is a mini Nigeria with diverse ethnic groups living together peacefully, but the peace in this state is under assault.
“There is an attempt at ethnic cleansing in the state and of course, some rural states in Nigeria. We must resist it. We must stop it. Every one of us must rise up.
“Our Armed Forces are not neutral. They collude with the bandits to kill people, kill Nigerians. The Armed Forces guide their movements; they cover them. If you are depending on the Armed Forces to stop the killings, you will all die one by one.
“This ethnic cleansing must stop in Taraba State and other rural states of Nigeria otherwise Somalia will be a child’s play.
“I ask every one of you to be alert and defend your country, defend your territory and defend your state. Defend yourselves because you have no other place to go. God bless our country.”
The Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, and other individuals have since supported Danjuma’s call.