President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday said his Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, would lead senior government officials to various parts of the country and directly engage with traditional rulers as part of the process to address the concerns raised by #EndSARS protesters.
He said the team would be reporting back to him on the various perspectives of the traditional rulers.
Buhari spoke at a meeting with a delegation of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria led by the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji (Dr) Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, at the State House in Abuja.
The president, however, asked the traditional rulers not to compromise their neutrality on national issues “because this is what significantly confers on you, your moral authority and legitimacy.”
He thanked them for their role in calming down our youth with wisdom and authority.
“By instilling hope and keeping the peace, you have rendered the country great service. We cannot allow anybody or group to threaten the peace or sabotage these efforts,” he said.
The president said strong, transparent efforts were underway to address “those rogue elements of the Nigerian Police Force.
“Simultaneously, the Nigerian Police Force will also undergo much needed reform that covers welfare, working conditions, and code of conduct. That will usher in a more professional workforce.”
He sought the support of traditional rulers to address the demands of the youth.
“There is no hiding place regarding how we should address insecurity concerns, youth unemployment, job creation, boosting industrialization and preparing for a transition into a digital economy.
“We’ve heard the loud cries of our youth and children, and we’re attending to their concerns.”
He said the success of his administration in the ongoing engagements would require support and voice of traditional rulers to help amplify the message, adding that “Your proximity to the people places you in a unique position to communicate and ensure that our response is targeted and impactful.”
Buhari, who received the recommendations of the traditional rulers, pledged to study them and take appropriate action.
Buhari had earlier drawn the attention of the eminent delegation to the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic on the world.
He said: “We find ourselves in very turbulent times, with a global health pandemic that has been incredibly challenging. Economies have been crippled as the response to the pandemic has forced businesses to shut down or devise new means of transacting. For a country like ours, with a large informal economy, our citizens have been particularly hit.”
He noted that his administration had “designed various schemes and taken many measures to soften the impact, despite our own revenue struggles as government,” while recognizing that “more needs to be done to cater to our fellow citizens, not just those in the urban areas but also those in rural areas.”
The Sultan of Sokoto and the Ooni of Ife, His Royal Majesty Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, spoke at the meeting, while two foremost traditional rulers representing each geo-political zone also attended the occasion.
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, while presenting a communique issued after the meeting, said the youth were angry because they were hungry.
“The proactive nature of our northern traditional and religious leaders by sensitizing and discussing with our people in order not to allow the protests to take over the whole nation is noted.
“Whenever there’s anarchy, we always know the problems that come out of it. We don’t pray for anarchy. The little we have experienced in this country, we pray it’ll never happen again.
“We know there’s a lot of anger among the youth because they’re hungry, most of them with good intentions,” he said.
He asked Buhari to give the traditional rulers opportunity to take Nigeria to an enviable height in the comity of nation, saying that they were currently underutilized.
The Ooni, who said the traditional rulers played active role to address the fallouts of the recent #EndSARS protests across the country, said they were better positioned to handle societal problems because “they are closer to the people at the grassroots with adequate knowledge of their issues and preferences.”