National Conference: Analysts Advise Nigerians To Focus On Real Issues

Sunrise UrantaA member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue, Tony Uranta has asked Nigerians to give the upcoming National Conference a chance to start before criticizing its chances of serving the purpose for which it was convened.

He was speaking on Channels Television weekend programme, Sunrise, where he stated that the composition of the delegates to the conference had only 72 nominated by the Federal Government, which is less than 15% of the total number of the delegates and nullifies the chances of manipulation by the Government.

The programme focussed on the activities preceding the conference and the issue of older people making up majority of the delegates came to the fore, as many Nigerians have pointed out. A member of the Editorial Board of National Newspaper, Sanya Oni, agreed with the sentiments but believed that the issue showed the level of capacity of the Nigerian youth.

He added that the youths were doing well in business and in the corporate world on their own “so why is it in politics that they want to be helped?” He said that he didn’t believe things like leadership would fall on the laps of the youths as it was their responsibility to seize the initiative.

Uranta added that the Nigerian youth today was more knowledgeable especially in the digital age, and they have the responsibility to make themselves relevant in the politics of Nigeria.

Legal Practitioner, Malachy Ugwummadu also said that the youths lacked the kinds of robust activities that would position them for leadership. He refused to accept the claim that the present political configuration of the country shuts out the youth.

He cited the National Association of Nigerian Students as an example. He spoke about times in the country when serious national issues were mainly driven by the Students’ body; a situation which he said had degenerated into quest for self-gratification from the current young people.

Northern Elders’ Declaration

The Northern elders have expressed negatives views on the conference, claiming that the delegates were not representing the North, and Sanya feels that this was an unfortunate situation.

He preached that Nigerians really need to understand that there was dire need for the country to talk. He berated what he termed the off-the-curve discussions, the manner in which they dismissed the National Conference, and the provocative statements made during the Northern Elders’ Forum.

He singled out the claims of ownership of the Nigerian oil by the North as highly provocative.

Mr. Uranta, shared the view that the declaration of the Northern Elders’ Forum was a reaction to being left out of the main activities of the National Conference. He argued that they are just a faction of elders as the main elders of the North had warmly embraced the idea and also have delegates attending.Sunrise Natl Dialogue

Mr. Ugwummad, however, believed that the Northern Elders’ reservations should not be totally condemned as many Nigerians including himself were also hard critics of the whole idea.

He asserted that the issues have moved on from agreeing with the idea into the issues of implementation of the resolutions, the large budgets being earmarked for the talks, and the controversies surrounding the subjection of the issues being discussed at the conference to the National Assembly.

Mr Sanya also added that there were too many problems in the country and accepting that reality was the best way forward for Nigerians. He asserted that the need to decentralise power and empower traditional authority were among the issues that needed to be addressed.

Finance And National Security

While explaining the importance restructuring the leadership of the country, Mr. Uranta said “You cannot but have federalism such that the different federating units will have coordinate powers.”

He added as an example that primary education should not be part of the job of a Federal Government as the primary education structures in Nigeria are different in different regions.

He said that the claims by some Nigerians that the groundnut pyramids in the North funded Nigeria would be among matters to sort out, as he argued that in the early 1960s and according to the constitution, each region in the country funded itself and had its own economy, its own flag, anthem, and ran its own affairs.

He stated that discussing such structural issues would determine how well the other matters like fiscal federalism and national security would be treated. He added, “Let that be decided by the people.”

Why Should Anybody Get Paid?

Sanya had to contend with the question asked via social media by a Channels Television viewer. Although he admitted that there was need to cater to the needs of the delegates as they were not expected to be exposed to risks in Abuja, but added that the figures being mentioned as the delegates’ allowances and the total budget of the project were indeed outrageous.

Mr. Uranta, however, shared the view that the budget could be justifiable.

He explained “You don’t expect a Chief Olu Falae to come to Abuja and stay in a Motel or a drive by hotel”

He said “I stay in the Hilton and a room can go for like 58,000 Naira” and Nigerians have to think of all these things as many of the delegates are also retired and old; while some of them would have to come with their wives for the 3 months exercise. He added, “We cannot deny them their conjugal rights”

Mr Ugwummadu added that he hoped that the conference would not ending looking like nothing had been done.

National Conference: Buy The Idea, Ignore The Intention – Ojekunle

Public Affairs Analyst and Criminologist, Professor Femi Ojekunle has described the proposed National Conference as one that is truly needed, considering the acute problems the country is currently facing.

He said this while appearing as guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily.

Welcoming the initiative, he also expressed his understanding of the scepticisms of many Nigerians about the motive behind the plan but advised that Nigerians should buy the idea and forget about discussing the Government’s intentions.

“Definitely, the king may have a particular intention but the people can use initiative to serve their purposes. I believe that this initiative, we should seize it to serve the purposes of the long suffering public good of Nigeria.”

Speaking further, he identified the development of the country as the top agenda that Nigerians should focus on.

“Even the World Bank recently has come to recognize that we are growing but we are not developing. Developing refers to the continuous improvement in the conditions of living of the majority of the population and such improvement must be evenly distributed in the population.”

He posited that in a society where there is no justice, equity, and fairness, there cannot be peace and progress. He suggested that this has been the cause of insecurity in the North-East, new patterns of crime in the South-South and the South-East.

Citing examples of current happenings in the aviation and education sector, Prof. Ojekunle stressed that the National Conference should serve the purpose of restructuring our values and our development plans and strategies for the benefit of the majority.

He also expressed fears that ethnic sentiments might overtake these developmental issues at the conference. “I’m aware of a state in the North that has about 10 ethnic groups that are at each other’s neck. So when you talk about a conference of ethnic nationalities, it creates its own problems.”

He advised that all those who are going to represent their different nationalities, professions and institutions must be people who have bought into the Nigerian project, as failure to ensure this will be one of the major obstacles to the conference achieving its purpose.

Oshiomhole Replies Nyiam

The Edo state government has accused Col. Nyiam of being a biased member of a presidential advisory committee on national dialogue which ought to be above political, ethnic and indeed other sentiments.

In a press release issued by the chief press secretary to the Edo state governor, Mr. Peter Okhiria, the governor said, going by Col. Nyiam’s antecedents, the Benin incident is just another manifestation of Col. Nyiam’s lack of respect for constituted authority and his love for disunity.

The statement also alleged that Colonel Nyiam’s ambition for power led to the death of many officers and men who owned up and faced the sentence for their treason in his military days.

The Edo state government added that it finds it interesting that Col Nyiam has exposed the undercurrent motive of the conference, which has also confirmed governor Oshiomhole’s initial fears about the viability, necessity and desirability of the national conference.

Edo Caucus Condemns Disruption Of CONFAB

The Edo state caucus in the House of Representatives are demanding that retired Colonel Tony Nyiam be sacked from the Presidential Advisory Committee on National ‎Dialogue for shouting at the governor of Edo state, Comrade Adams Oshiomole at the town hall meeting in Benin.

The caucus expressed their condemnation of the attack on the governor, saying the incident was a sign of things to come in the proposed national conference.

They added that they are in agreement with governor Oshiomhole that ‎10 previous conferences had not yielded any positive result, and  what is needed in Nigeria is a leadership that can break barriers in national development.

The enlightenment session by the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference, on Monday turned rowdy following comments made by the state governor, Adams Oshiomhole which did not augur well with some of the participants.

While addressing the gathering, Governor Oshiomhole, had said that he did not believe that a National Conference is needed.

Prior to the meeting, the Committee, led by Femi Okorounmu, had told the governor that the proposed dialogue would foster a strong bond amongst citizens.

However, Oshiomohole informed the group that he had no faith in the process and that he had no reason to believe that the Conference would be different from all the other ones organised by previous administrations, which yielded no result.

He also wished the Committee well.

At the meeting with the citizens, Oshiomhole reiterated his position but this did not go down well with many of them who in their rage, shouted him down.

Efforts by security agents and peacemakers did not yield much as the rowdiness got worse.

In order to restore calm, the National Anthem was rendered during which the Governor left the hall accompanied by his security detail.

Following Oshiomohole’s exit, the people who were demanding that he leaves, broke out in Bob Marley’s hit song, One Love, which was streaming from the sound system.

Edo State is the fourth state the Committee has visited as part of the enlightenment tour.

National Dialogue Committee Apologises To Oshiomhole

The Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue has apologised to Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State over the unruly behaviour of one its members, Col Tony Nyiam (rtd).

Col. Nyiam (rtd) led some participants at the conference held in Benin City on Monday, to shout down the Governor when he was making his presentation.

In a letter signed by Chairman of the Committee, Senator (Dr) Femi Okurounmu, and entitled “Dialogue Committee Condemns Unruly Behaviour”, it said:

“The Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue wants to put it on record that we noted the sad incident at today’s (Monday’s) Interactive Session with Nigerians from the South South held in Benin City, Edo State.

“The Committee wishes to state its unequivocal commitment and that of its members to the principles of democratic discourse. Although we take special exception to the unruly conduct of one of our members who joined the crowd in shouting down the Comrade Governor of Edo State, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, while he was giving his remarks, the session continued and ended peacefully.”

In the letter dated October 28, 2013, the committee continued:

“We want to emphasize that the Committee will listen to all shades of opinions in the areas of its mandates and will not henceforth condone the kind of unacceptable behaviour we witnessed in Benin City.

“The Committee wishes to express its sincere appreciation to the Government and people of Edo State for providing support to the Committee in its assignment in the state.”

You Cannot Legislate A National Conversation – Legal Practitioner

A Legal practitioner, Ismail Ahmed, has said that he does not think the National Conference, as proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan, should hold as it is not possible to legislate a conversation which has been on-going for many years, in public places.

“I don’t think we should have it,” Ahmed said. “Personally, I think this government has made a reputation out of creating unnecessary committees. About 70 committees so far in the last 3 years and nothing has come out of it.”

Ahmed, who was a guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, was of the opinion that a conversation which Nigerians have had in their homes and schools for many years cannot be made into law.

He raised doubts that the Goodluck Jonathan Confab would make any difference from the last Conference initiated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Echoing the opinion of a public affairs analyst, Mr Bola Bakare, who was on Sunrise Daily on Wednesday, Mr Ahmed stressed that the Conference timing was inappropriate. He said that it was too close to the 2015 elections.

The legal practitioner posited that President Jonathan should have added the idea as part of his transformation agenda in 2011.

The time at which the initiative is coming to reality is wrong, he stressed.

Although many have criticised President Jonathan’s clause which mandates that recommendations from the National Conference would be verified by the National Assembly, Mr Ahmed opined that it is reasonable since “we are running a constitutional democracy”.

“The President cannot do as he pleases, even though most times, he does, but in this case he can’t. So, it would still have to go back to the National Assembly.”

He supported the argument raised by Mr Bakare that the time given to the advisory committee to present a report to the president is too short.

He said it would be better if the committee would begin work after the 2015 elections with a new government in place.

Advisory Committee Needs A Year To Complete The Job – Bakare

A Public Affairs Analyst, Bola Bakare, on Wednesday said that the six weeks given the advisory committee to submit a report on the proposed National Conference will not be enough as the job cannot be done in such a short span of time.

Mr Bakare’s argument while speaking on Sunrise Daily brought a fresh twist into the on-going discussion on whether the plan for a National Conference is the way to go.

Commenting on President Goodluck Jonathan’s call for a National Confab, Bakare stated that the initiative is good but there are several other things to consider, including the tendency of the average Nigerian to be dishonest.

He also said: “Let’s look at how we got here. Let’s look at timing. Let’s look at the National Assembly. Let’s look at the mode of operation. Let’s look at the aftermath of non-implementation.”

He added that the timing is wrong. This thing cannot happen in six weeks. The best bet is for the advisory committee to put it together and then it should be pursued after a year.

The advisory committee which is currently visiting different regions of the nation for consultations on how the people want the Conference to be conducted is expected to submit its report by the second week of November.

Mr Bakare doubts that the timing would enable the committee to achieve much as the magnitude of the assignment needs a whole year to finish up.

The process of consulting with the people, putting together a report and thereafter submit it to the President cannot be completed in 6 weeks as stipulated by President Goodluck Jonathan. “It won’t get done in nothing less than 12 months,” Bakare said.

He also raised concerns that as 2015 draws near, election campaigns would also overshadow the plans for a National Dialogue.

Although many have argued that good governance and not a Conference is what the country needs, Mr Bakara opined that the problem with the nation lies with the individuals that make it up.

Calling for an inward reflection on the people’s part, Mr Bakare said “we need to look at ourselves. What is wrong with Nigerians is the person (you as a person, me as a person, we as Nigerians). We are highly dishonest people”.

He added that, the orientation which accommodates embezzlement of public funds by public and political officers as long as they leave office so that others can do the same is wrong.

Presidency Replaces Nwabueze, After Declining Appointment

Following the resignation of the Patriots Chairman Professor Ben Nwabuaeze as chairman of the Confab committee on health grounds, the Presidency has approved the appointment of Professor Anya. O. Anya, to replace the 83 year old who is still abroad receiving treatment for prostate cancer.

In a statement released today, the presidency said it has also accepted the resignation of Eze Festus Odimegwu as Chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC) with effect from Thursday, 17th of October, 2013, while appointing DR. Sam Ahaiwe, the Commissioner representing Abia State in the Commission, to act as chairman pending the appointment of a substantive Chairman.

The Presidency also appointed Mr. Pius Olakunle Osunyikanmi as Director General/ Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Technical Aids Corps.

The Chairman of The Patriots, Ben Nwabueze (SAN), declined his appointment into the Federal Government’s Advisory Committee on National Dialogue citing his ill-health and old age.

In a press statement made available to Channels Television, Professor Nwabueze disclosed that he has been battling with prostate cancer and has been surviving by “consultations from time to time with, and treatment by, a Consultant Oncologist at Charing Cross Hospital in London”.

The elder statesman, who said he never expected to be appointed chairman or member of the Committee, added that he “considered such an appointment inappropriate in the circumstances.”

It is an appointment for a younger person, not for an old man of 83 years afflicted by ill-health,” he said.

He however expressed his readiness to work with the advisory committee should he be called upon.

“The Patriots remain willing to work with the Presidential Committee, and to give it all necessary assistance, if called upon to do so.”

He also revealed that he already had plans to contribute to the convention of a National Conference.