The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said these in a statement made available to journalists on Saturday.
But groups and prominent Nigerians, including Afenifere and Chief Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), faulted the Presidency on its reaction to Danjuma.
The Presidency, in the statement, urged prominent Nigerians to use their national influence wisely and shun public declarations that could threaten national security.
The Presidency wondered if any country could survive if its citizens rose against its military.
Despite Danjuma’s verdict on the armed forces, however, the presidential aide commended the Nigerian military’s efforts to maintain peace and stability “despite being pulled in various directions by elements determined to destabilise the country and government for their selfish reasons.”
The statement read, “The Presidency wishes to appeal 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 Presidency is very worried that criminal gangs will feel justified in defying legal, governing and democratic institutions, and authorities of legitimately elected democratic government if unrestrained pronouncements are made.
“Silence can be dignified, but sometimes, it can be misinterpreted and exploited. It is both shocking and scary to hear the recent comments by a senior citizen calling for Nigerians to defend themselves.”
The statement added, “What country would survive if its citizens rise against the country’s organised, trained and equipped military?
“We advise former leaders to take advantage of the various fora, where people with a history of national security can offer advice to the government without resorting to the exploitation of emotional sentiments.
“The civil war motto: ‘To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done’, rings very timely at this time in our nation’s history. We must be careful to avoid the mess that destroyed other African countries like Somalia.”
The reaction came exactly one week after Danjuma, while speaking at the maiden convocation of the Taraba State University, Jalingo, and the 10th anniversary of the institution, told Nigerians to defend themselves against killers in the country.
While the former army chief alleged that the military was not neutral in the killings, he added that the armed forces were not ready to defend them.
He had said, “Our Armed Forces are not neutral. They collude with the bandits to kill people, kill Nigerians. The Armed Forces guide their movements; they cover them. If you are depending on the Armed Forces to stop the killings, you will all die one by one.
“This ethnic cleansing must stop in Taraba State and other rural states of Nigeria, otherwise, Somalia will be a child’s play.
“I ask every one of you to be alert and defend your country; defend your territory and defend your state. Defend yourselves because you have no other place to go. God bless our country.”
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