The Presidency yesterday described as shocking and scary, comments by a former Minister of Defence, Theophilus Danjuma, calling on Nigerians to defend themselves from attacks.
It appealed to prominent Nigerians, who have national influence, to use their influence wisely and not continue to engage in public declarations that are likely to inflame emotional passions and threaten national security.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement, said silence can be dignified, but sometimes it can be misinterpreted and exploited.
Shehu, who did not mention any name, stated: “It is both shocking and scary to hear the recent comments by a senior citizen calling on Nigerians to defend themselves.”
Danjuma, who is also a one-time Chief of Army Staff, at the maiden convocation of Taraba State University, Jalingo, on March 24, accused the Armed Forces of aiding attacks by bandits on communities across the country.
He explained that “The armed forces are not neutral. They collude with the armed bandits that kill people, kill Nigerians. They facilitate their movement. They cover them. If you are depending on the armed forces to stop the killings, you will die one by one,” he said.
The elder statesman, who was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Science degree at the convocation, warned that if such attacks continued, the consequences would make what happened in Somalia a child’s play.
According to him, the military could not be relied upon for the security of the citizenry and advised Nigerians to rise up to defend themselves or risk massacre.
The former defence minister spoke against the backdrop of incessant attacks in his home state of Taraba, stressing that everyone should rise up and defend themselves.
Danjuma described Taraba as a mini Nigeria with multiple cultural heritage that bandits are trying to destroy.
But Shehu said the Presidency was very worried that criminal gangs would feel justified in defying legal governing and democratic institutions and authority of legitimately elected democratic government if unrestrained pronouncements are made.
He said the Presidency commended the military’s efforts to maintain peace and stability despite being pulled in various directions by elements determined to destabilize the country and government for their selfish reasons.
“Which country would survive if its citizens rise against the country’s organized, trained and equipped military?, the presidential spokesman asked.
He said the Presidency advised former leaders to take advantage of the various fora where people with a history of national security could offer advice to the government without resorting to the exploitation of emotional sentiments.
The statement noted that the Nigeria civil war motto “To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done” rings very timely at this time in the nation’s history.
“We must be careful to avoid the mess that destroyed other African countries like Somalia,” Shehu cautioned.
The Nigerian Army had also commented on Danjuma’s convocation speech, urging Nigerians and especially citizens of Taraba State to disregard the statements.
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brigadier-General Texas Chukwu, in a statement also warned that whoever is found with arms will be arrested and prosecuted in accordance with the laws of the land.
He noted that the army views Danjuma’s statement as unfortunate since it was made at a critical time when the military had embarked on demilitarization of the north