As reactions continue to trail President Muhammadu Buhari’s Independence Day broadcast, the Director General of Voice of Nigeria, VON, Mr. Osita Okechukwu has declared that the President’s uncommon bond with the masses remains firm.
President Buhari is receiving knocks for his stance on restructuring as well as the agitation for Biafra.
However, reacting to these negative perceptions, Mr. Okechukwu noted that, “the uncommon Bond between President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian masses was once more on the front burner yesterday.
“The bond was renewed in the early morning independence anniversary speech, where Mr President took time to explain how he expended N1.6 trillion on salary and pension arrears of civil servants and retired ones – N200 billion 2015, N441 billion 2016 and N1 trillion 2017. The bond remains intact, no matter whatever anybody says.”
Reminded that Ohaneze Ndigbo took exception to Mr President’s swipe on Igbo leadership, Okechukwu said, “Ask my big brother, Chief Nnia Nwodo, President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, whether he replied the profound congratulatory letter President Muhammadu Buhari wrote to him immediately he was elected before he joined Nnamdi Kalu?
“The same Buhari wrote a letter on 7 November, 2014, to the then President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief Gary Igariwey calling for dialogue before the election. It was never replied.
“Gentlemen of the Press, let’s talk peace aspect of the speech.
It will be recalled that on assumption of office on 29, May, 2015, Mr President was confronted with the crisis of hunger and dire situation in some states, controlled incidentally by both major political parties – All Progressives Congress (APC), and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and minor ones, owing salaries ranging from 6 months to 18 months and pension arrears of God knows how many years.
“One remembers vividly how opinion was divided in the presidency. One school of thought cautioned Mr President to leave the states and their burden, that Nigeria is a federation and each federating units should use their allocations and internal generates revenue to solve routine items like salary and pensions arrears.
“Capping it up with the fact that it is better to utilise the money in physical infrastructure like construction of federal highways, which they reason is politically more correct. They even said that the totality of the civil servants Mr President will be addressing is less than 20% of the population of the country.
“Mr President sharply differed with the aforementioned school of thought saying that yes the civil servants at states and local government councils units may not be up to 20%; but what of the provision stores traders, electricians, carpenters, doctors and teachers being owed by the unpaid civil servants and pensioners over some months if not years?.
“He said collectively they maybe over 50% of our population and brushed aside the issue of whether it was politically correct or not, to dole out such humongous amount, maintaining that his primary concern is the alleviation of poverty of uncountable families.”
Reminded of the lopsided appointments of the Buhari’s administration, Okechukwu said, “appointments are transient and temporary, and in no distance time Mr President will rectify it, one understands that some service chiefs are heading to retirement, lets wait and see.
“I challenge Ohaneze to spare a minute and call a meeting to ask either Geofrey Onyeama, or Okechukwu Enelamah, Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Investment respectively, how best to attract foreign investment to our region?
“They are busy with Afenifere while the main faction of our South-West brothers are coasting home with major foreign investment at Abuja. My appeal is that we join Mr President in revamping our decayed physical and social infrastructure.”