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Northern Groups Should Be Thankful They Have Freedom Of Speech — Presidency

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President Muhammadu Buhari

Tobi Adebayo 

The Presidency has reacted to the Coalition of Northern Groups’ (CNG) Democracy Day statement addressed to the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration.

The group had on June 12 condemned Buhari over the incessant killings and banditry ravaging the northern part of the country.

CNG in the statement said, “We find it ridiculous for the federal government to be pretending to celebrate a certain Democracy Day while in the actual sense, the nation is supposed to be observing days of mourning.”

In a statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the presidency said “no government had done more to foster democracy and freedom of speech in Nigeria than the current administration.”

The statement read: “The future, it is often said, belongs to the youth.

“For as many times as he met youth leaders, President Buhari has said to them again and again that we are fixing the ailing state to hand it over to you.

“It then amounts to a grave mistake, for this group of otherwise promising northern stars to dissociate themselves from Democracy Day and, in effect de-cognizing democracy as a chosen system of government.

“Nigeria recognises Democracy Day because for many decades since independence, the fight for the right for Nigerians to choose their own government in their own name was not complete. A prominent citizen of the country, Chief MKO Abiola died trying to do just this.

“When independence was won, and then swiftly replaced by unelected government, it was not much of a change.

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“For the challenges Nigeria faces today, lack of universal suffrage or lack of elected politicians is not one of them.

“We are facing severe hardships because of the coronavirus pandemic. And we continue to face the challenges posed by the terrorists Boko Haram.

“Yet when groups such as the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) put out statements claiming that Democracy Day holds no purpose and the government somehow wishes for the northern states to be struggling it is embarrassing not for the government but for the group, its members and their sponsors.

“For a start, if the group dared to issue such a comment under non-democratic method they would have met a swift and harsh retribution from a dictatorial government. They should thank their stars that we are operating a truly democratic government where the rights of free speech are guaranteed and protected.

“This government has done more than any other – elected or not elected – to curtail and beat back the terrorists.

“The fact that CNG is freely able to transmit garbage to the media in the hope they will be widely reported is a testament the freedom of expression and media liberty that exists in our country today.

“Equally, the fact that the government is issuing this statement, in response to the puerile message is a testament that today Nigeria is a country where disagreements can be aired publicly through the press, not through less gentlemanly methods used in the past.

“We hope that CNG will consider the facts and reconsider the unhelpful and inaccurate message their statements contain when issuing them in the future.”

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