Confusion as presidency reacts to 2021 NEF remark, describes it as ‘latest statement’


The presidency, on Tuesday, criticised the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) over a “latest statement” it said was released by the forum, asking a section of the country to leave Nigeria.


Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, said only the elected leader of the country can make such a decision, adding that it is “delusional arrogance that would lead such a group to publicly state terms and conditions for the existence of our nation”.


“Nigerians listen to elected leaders, not opinionated tin-gods who have no traction with any responsible group,” he said.


“Who gave them the right to ask for the exclusion, or expulsion of anyone, group or section of the country from the Federal Republic of Nigeria?


 “The Nigerian government does not take guidance nor invitations from such groups – only from the Nigerian people who put governments in office.


“Any group can refer to themselves as ‘leaders’, but in Nigeria, if you have not been elected by Nigerians to a leadership role, then you are not – and the government certainly doesn’t recognise you as such.


“Like many other countries around the world, Nigeria is feeling the strain of the current period of volatility and uncertainty.


“Now is not the time to seek to exacerbate divisions amongst Nigerians. Rather, we call on all Nigerians to come together and work to overcome the challenges we face as one nation, one people.”


Responding in a subsequent Twitter thread, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, spokesman of the NEF, denied that the forum issued such a statement.


“I am the only signatory to NEF’s communication, and I did not release any such “statement”. I urge the presidency to check its source,” the post reads.


“Northern Elders Forum did not release any statement urging a group to leave Nigeria as is being circulated under the handle of @NGRP. NEF urges Presidency to take steps to protect its communication.”

To justify his position, the presidential spokesperson posted a June 2021 video on his social media pages, in which the NEF spokesman said the Igbo should be allowed to secede from Nigeria if that is what they want.


 “Attached here is the video tape in which Dr Hakeem Baba Ahmed, Director Media and Strategy, Northern Elders Forum telling the South East to leave the Federal Republic of Nigeria Peacefully because they don’t want another war,” Garba Shehu tweeted. 

Meanwhile, checks did not unearth any fresh statement — within the past five months — by the NEF asking any group to leave Nigeria. 

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