The National Publicity Secretary of the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin has described abusive and arrogant Presidency’s reply following the revelation by the President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim, that President Muhammadu Buhari told the global institution to focus on the northern region of the country.
He made this known in an interview with Punch’s Tunde Ajaja.
Asked if he was surprised about the statement credited to the World Bank President that President Buhari asked the World Bank to focus on the north where he comes from, Odumakin said: “It was a bit surprising that the World Bank President came to the public to reveal such a discussion, because Nigeria is a multi-ethnic nation and it was a bad revelation about the President, given that when he came into power, he said he was for everybody and he was for nobody. But in terms of now saying that the World Bank should shift focus on a part of the country, I don’t think that was good enough.
Yes, there was devastation in the North that was caused by Boko Haram, it wasn’t as if the rest of the country went to fight a war there and destroyed the place, it was their own sons who were throwing bombs all over the place, destroying facilities and the rest of them. And if such a thing is happening, it should not be at the expense of the rest of the country. However, the worst of it was the statement that had come out from the Presidency, which was very abusive and insulting. It should have been more polite, with the aim of explaining things to the people. Rather, what we had were abuses, insults and attacks on those who are questioning the development.
Do they want the rest of the country to go on their knees, thanking the President for saying that the World Bank should focus on one part of the country? I don’t understand the level of that lack of respect for our people and the arrogance, to think that this kind of thing would happen and people would not be miffed or aggrieved that the President of the country who was elected as the President of the entire country would say such to the World Bank. It’s not acceptable and I think Nigerians deserve a better explanation from the Presidency on what happened, rather than insulting and abusing them the way they have done on the matter. It’s not helpful and it’s not very thoughtful.”
Probed further on his thought about the statement and if it was right for the World Bank President to have revealed details of the statement, he said:
“I think it just escaped his tongue and he may not have deliberately gone out to make that statement, but it dropped from his mouth and he cannot take it back.”
He further added: “If the President does not deny the statement himself, then the World Bank chief must have done Nigeria a lot of good, for people to know the way the mind of their President works and the need to call him out that it is not good for a multi-ethnic nation like Nigeria. It’s not helpful at all, especially when you take it along with the question of lopsided appointments that people have been complaining about. This statement feels like there is a deliberate ploy to play up a section of the country whereas his mandate is for the entire country. He’s the father to all and he should not be seen to be favouring a section of the country at the expense of the others. It was unfortunate.”
Asked if he feels the statement credited to the President was divisive, he said: “Fairly, it is divisive, and that is why I said earlier that what I think the Presidency should do at this moment in time is to do damage control; not to justify the statement or begin to abuse people who are surprised with that statement, which is what they have done; using foul language on people who are surprised. There is no reasonable person who would not be surprised. I’m sure that even people from the north would not want to see their President making that kind of statement.
And I think with what has been done, I would be happy to have a denial that such a statement was not made, or to say it was made such that the World Bank should pay more attention to the area devastated by the insurgency. That should have made more sense. I think that even in a normal time, he should not have made that kind of statement, not to talk of now that Nigeria is in the situation it is, where our unity is so fragile and there is so much distrust in the land. When the President now says go and develop my part of the country, and we know that even if you take a loan from the World Bank, we know where the resources to repay the loan would come from. So, that should not be promoted, it should not be encouraged and the President should not justify that kind of statement.”
Talking about the perception of many people that President Buhari is a sectional leader, he said: “That is the impression that such statement seems to give and that is why we had thought there would be some damage control, rather than the kind of vituperations, insults and abuses that have come from the Presidency. It smacks of impunity and the brazen attempt to say they can do what they like. It’s not helpful for the country. The issue of ethnic consideration is so fragile that you don’t have to shake it. We need to give every section of the country a sense of belonging that he’s our president and not their president.”
Stating Afenifere’s position on the comment by the President, he added: “There should be calm and people should give the President the opportunity to speak on this matter. The story came out today and there was already an abusive response from the Presidency. So, I would say maybe we should wait for the President to speak on the matter. Let us give him the benefit of the doubt and not allow that to cause ethnic crisis. But we should say what’s on our minds so that the President can know that if indeed he made that statement, it’s not helpful for the unity of Nigeria.”