President Buhari, in his independence Day speech yesterday said; “as our food production capacity has increased, food prices have been going up due to artificial shortages created by middlemen who have been buying and hoarding these essential commodities for profiteering. To address this, I am hereby directing the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to rehabilitate the National Food Reserve Agency and also work with security agencies, the Nigerian Commodity Exchange, and the National Assembly to find a lasting solution to these disruptive and unpatriotic hoarding activities.”
Reacting, Ambassador Yemi Farounbi was upset at the tone and the channel of the broadcast, saying it appeared that the President did not dwell at all on the root causes of all our problems. According to him, “the president talked about the scarcity of food, he did not talk about the farmer and the herders’ clash. He did not make mention the fact that the herders have made farming difficult in many parts of the country, that herdesmen had driven the farmers from the farm and therefore they have been unable to produce what they ought to have produced. So if he is talking of middlemen, middlemen between who and who, between the farmers that are no longer there, or what, it is sad. I thought this should be his opportunity to criminalize those who have made farming difficult in this country, those who have made it impossible for the farmers to produce what we need to feed our timid population.
Secondly, there was a talk about those who are agitating, and I think that equating Sunday Igboho with IPOB is unfair, it is unjust, because there is no way that we will say that Sunday Igboho had formed an equivalent of an IPOB, or that he formed a violent group. Yes he has spoken, yes he has defended his people, which he is allowed to do under the criminal laws of this country. But I thought that was not in fact the important thing, the important thing is to find what is the root cause. What are people agitating about? They are asking for restructuring, there was no mention about it, they are talking about devolution of power, there was no mention about it, they are talking about a new constitution, there was no mention about it. You are talking about symptoms without going to the root cause of the symptoms. This is sad, absolutely very sad. As it is now, it doesn’t look as if the salvation or redemption will come through him. Perhaps, we will wait for God, who will come to redeem the people from the terrorism, from the banditry, from the hunger, from the criminality, from the inadequacies, from the poverty, perhaps, we have to still wait.
He said, “The President is living in self denial. Does he think that the rest of us are fools? Who doesn’t know that it is the activities of Fulani herdsmen in particular that are causing food scarcity? Has he forgotten that he asked us to accommodate herdsmen. They graze openly on people’s farms, destroy crops and kill farmers in some cases. Then why won’t there be scarcity of food when the farmers are displaced?”
Similarly, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa asked Buhari to stop looking for excuses when he already knew the true cause of food scarcity. According to him, “for two years many people haven’t gone to farm due to Fulani herdsmen menace. If we are not careful it will be worse next year. People are scared of going to farm because Fulani herdsmen can kill them. There is insecurity in the land. This is why the prices of food are going up. He should not blame middlemen because if supply is steady there won’t be any reason for inflation”.
On the alleged sponsors of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Ighoho who the President said had been identified, Ohuabunwa said he should make the list public and stop keeping Nigerians in suspense.
Former Delta State Governorship aspirant, Chief Sunny Onuesoke, said: “President Buhari will always look for ways to give excuses for the shortcomings of his administration. Unfortunately, Nigerians will continue to bear the brunt of an incompetent, corrupt and dysfunctional leadership. Instead of reassuring Nigerians by providing measures that are in place to check the dwindling economic fortune of the nation, he rather chose to absolve himself and pass the blame to the middleman. I wish the same energy that was used against IPOB, Namdi Kano and Sunday Igboho can be deployed to combating the menace of herdsman and insurgents ravaging states across the federation. Unfortunately we have a President and a government that seem to be sympathetic towards such activities, that is why we find ourselves where we are today”.
National Organising Secretary Afenifere, Abagun Kole Omololu said, “this is a familiar sing-song of Mr Buhari. His blame game did not just start now, it’s actually an echo of his military incursion into governance. What has the government done to arrest the grievous attacks on farmers and wanton destruction of farmlands by cows herded by vicious killer herdsmen? The President should disclose the middlemen and let the world identify and shame them. If he can’t, then he should just keep his peace and work to deliver on the evasive promises rather than insult the nation’s consciousness with such lame excuses of an indolent and insensitive administration.
“Winning wars is not a matter of tales spinning as this administration has made its fulcrum. The President and his handlers had at a time in recent years boasted of crushing insurgency and that the war was won. Whatever that meant is right in our faces now. Whoever believes these packaged insincere diatribes of the President is surely wasted already. I had expected the President to mention names and inform the nation that such sponsors were already arrested and undergoing interrogations, rather it was a play to the gallery with veiled and blanket insinuations which lead nowhere. The nation and our people are wiser than these shenanigans of the chalk circles. It is rather interesting to note that the President chose to keep mute on the activities of insurgents and the sponsors of the terrorists, while being pre-occuppied with self-determination figures who are standing for the emancipation and protection of their people.
Also, the National Publicity Secretary, Afenifere, Comrade Jare Ajayi, said, “the Independence broadcast by President Muhammadu Buhari further showcases the dishonesty on the part of those governing the country and the disconnection between them and the people they govern. According to Afenifere, the picture painted by President Buhari of the Nigeria situation was at variance with what is on ground. He said, on the economic front, Nigerians have never had to pay through their noses for services and commodities as they are now forced to do. As at the time President Buhari assumed office in 2015, a bag of rice was about N7,000 while a US dollar exchanged for about N180 even in the black market. Today, a bag of rice is almost N30,000 while a dollar exchanges for nearly N600. The situation was so bad that Nigeria has been declared as the world capital of poverty. What is the justification therefore for the president’s claim that the lot of the poor in the country is better under his administration than it was under the previous administration.
On his part, National President of Middle Belt Forum, MBF, Dr. Bitrus Pogu said the bad policies of his government were responsible for the economic hardship Nigerians are facing and should stop blaming middlemen. He argued that “on the issue that middle men are hoarding food which is spiking food inflation, the President should know that our Naira has been so devalued and to use others as excuse is an irony. Whoever wrote that speech for him has not done him good because Nigerians have been laughing at the speech. So the inflation in the area of food, goods and services is because our currency has lost its value. If the food stuff is not available out there, his argument may hold sway, but go out there the food stuff is all over the place but the problem is the price. Naira is devalued, price of fuel is higher than when he came in, price of vehicles and their parts as well as transportation fares are on the increase and the prices of food are now beyond the reach of the ordinary man because of these factors. The president has refused to talk about the activities of herdsmen chasing farmers away from their farms because we have always said this government is complicit in some of these things; so will he stab himself in the foot or tommy? No, he doesn’t want to talk about them. He even refused to call them terrorists but prefer to call them bandits. So the issue is, he is still practicing nepotism even on the issue of insecurity. He is ready to talk about insecurity caused by others which for me is not insecurity. To seek self actualization which is what Igboho, Kanu and others are doing is not a source of insecurity.
“You can see that nepotism is being displayed clearly, the herdsmen and bandits are clearly and predominantly the Fulani from the north and he did not mention them but he is willing to pick on Igbo and Yoruba nationalists. That is unfortunate.
Also reacting, former South West Publicity Director of PDP, Hon Ayo Fadaka, said, “the idea of a cartel described as middlemen hoarding food is a throwback to his days as a military Head of State when rather than holistically identify problems sincerely, scapegoatism was the order of the day. If President Buhari can hear me very well, food is scarce and expensive because he has failed as President to provide security for the nation. Farmers are out of the farms on account of the activities of the bandits though the Government at last is now applying the big stick, but it lost time and allowed the crisis to get out of hand”. Fadaka noted that while the President Buhari’s independence speech “sounded tough on the issues of Kanu and Igboho who both represent a reaction to the many lopsided actions and inactions of the Buhari Presidency that are detrimental to the South, it merely pussyfooted on the issues of banditry and Boko Haram. Buhari hinted at the prosecution of identified sponsors of the aforementioned guys and their movements and remained deeply silent on the issues of the sponsors of Boko Haram, said to have been arrested and kept or released without trial, thereby continuing his double standard approach to administering our nation, this is sad and this import is not lost on us.
A political analyst, Zadok Akintoye said, “I think the President is either not aware or he is just being insincere. As a farmer, I can tell you first hand that production cost is at an astronomically high level. For fish farmers, we have seen a jump in feed prices of about 80% in some instances. Farmers have largely been chased out of farms by the growing insecurity in the land. On security, a government that refused to be bothered about publishing the identities of alleged sponsors of Boko Haram, should not be taken seriously when it begins to point fingers at those it seeks to classify as funders of local agitations for independence and self determination within its shores”.
An Ekiti-based Human Right Activist and the National President of the Defense for Yoruba People’s Right (DYPR), Otunba Muyideen Olamoyegun, said that President was playing politics with the welfare and well being of the people of the country. ‘’The President should have known that the threat posed by the dreaded Boko Haram and the bandits in the last few years in the country has caused a lot of damages to the development of food production in the country. One thing about Nigerian Politicians is that they love playing politics with everything, there is a glaring fact that the killings of rice and yam farmers by the bandits in some northern parts of the country was responsible for the food inflation the country is presently undergoing.
The Chairman of Ekiti State Council of Elders, Professor Olatunde Oluwasanmi, described the statement made by the President as a deliberate act to deviate from the truth. He advised the president to intensify more efforts in making life more bearable for the people of the country and tackle the menace of food inflation currently ravaging the country.
The Secretary-General, Alasalatu Society of Nigeria & West Africa, Alhaji Kamaldeen Akintunde argued that “the rising food inflation is a product of the worsening insecurity in the country. Failure of the president to mention pastoralists/crop farmers clash, banditry, insurgent activities and other violence being experienced in the South South and the South East regions is deliberate in order not to give the impression that his government has failed in that area.
In his reaction, the immediate president of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide, Eric Omare, said: “As usual, the speech by President Buhari disappointed on all fronts. Only recently, there was a revelation on the identity of those sponsoring terrorism in Nigeria. Therefore, one would have expected that considering the enormity of problem, he would have used this opportunity to reveal their identities. But obviously, he is more interested in identifying the sponsors of Kanu and Igboho”.
The Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, through its National Publicity Secretary, Hon Ken Robinson described the President speech as self serving and the worst ever in the history of the country. .
He said: “This year’s Independence Day speech by President Muhammadu Buhari can easily be deemed the worst independence day speech in Nigeria’s history. The speech was indifferent to the mood of the country; the growing disaffection, dissensions and disillusions, arising from the actions and inactions of the government. Rather, it’s full of hallucinations and wishful thinking, perhaps, based on what might be pleasing to the President, and not the citizens. There is something wrong with the president’s speechwriters and handlers. They offend citizens’ sensibilities in their ridiculous, tenuous justification of the colossal failure of the administration. They are either making excuses or playing the blame game; it’s always someone else’s fault. How can they say it is hoarding by “middlemen” that is responsible for the current food crisis in the country? Unsurprisingly, no mention was made of the killer herdsmen, bandits and insurgents who are destroying farms and hunting farmers away from their farmlands across the country. Of course, they are untouchables!”
Secretary-General of the Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, Dr. Kunle Olajide said President Buhari failed to address burning issues of Nigeria in his address. He said: “the president’s speech was too superficial and did not address the burning issues of Nigeria. The president deliberately glossed over the security challenges, he did not touch the security issues, the challenges we are facing. In fact, he did not even look into the future as there was no assurance. The president kept talking about identifying those funding Igboho, Kanu and so on, without addressing the fundamentals. Why are people disillusioned about Nigeria? We have never been so polarized like this in this country. The last six years has polarized us.”
Also reacting, President Muhammadu Buhari’s kinsman, Abdulrahman Abdullahi said, “the sponsors of Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kalu is not a story. What Nigerians want to hear is who are the sponsors of the Boko Haram insurgents and perpetrators of banditry. If government can find out the sponsors of these two men, what stops them from finding out who are the brains behind all these attacks associated with insurgency, banditry and kidnapping. Almost on daily basis people are being killed, women being raped. So the matter is not about Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu. Government should beam its search light to find out who are those behind the killings happening in the name of insurgency. That is where we want the govt to focus its attention and taking action so that the issue can be tackled head-on.” On claims by President Buhari that middlemen hoarding food were responsible for the current increase in prices of food, Abdullahi said, “I think the President must have been misinformed about this. Our problem has gone beyond the issue of middlemen. We need to know that the value of our currency is deteriorating by the day.