Leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and former governor of Lagos state, Senator Bola Tinubu, has provided more insight and justification into why he is opposed to the proposed national conference. A week after he returned from a medical trip, proponents of the national conference continued to challenge his comments and rejection of the national conference’s implementation by the current administration.
Tinubu maintained that he remained an unrepentant supporter of the idea of Sovereign National Conference, as he is weary of a rushed embrace.
“Though I remain an unrepentant supporter of a genuinely Sovereign National Conference, I am suspicious of this present concoction, because it is half- baked and fully deceptive. Government’s sincerity is questionable; the timing is also questionable. Now that this government is sinking in a pool of political and economic hot water of its own making, it gets hold of national conference idea as if it were a life jacket,” he said.
Tinubu said, however, that he was simply exercising his right as a citizen and would not take back what he had said about the issue of sincerity or insincerity of the government, just as he wants the proposal subjected to questioning and scrutiny.
“I will not take anything I have said back on the proposed national conference by this present administration. I insist that the planned national conference is a ‘Greek’ gift and public deception. Beware of the Greek gift; let us first of all ask a series of questions,” he said.
Furthermore, Tinubu asserts: “President Jonathan’s epiphany –if epiphany, is not expedient; it is calculated to enhance his 2015 re-election bid, as such, should be subjected to questioning.
It is difficult to lay aside the suspicion that his sudden conversion is all about 2015. Otherwise, why the sudden endorsement of a national conference, not merely in principle, but with a rush toward some form of implementation? What has happened that was not already in play in all those years authorities rejected demand for a national conference?” he queried.
An unperturbed Tinubu, in an indepth write-up, explained the reason he took the position he took about the conference, despite its seeming unpopularity. According to him, the Jonathan-led government must first answer some fundamental questions about the timing, sincerity and most importantly, capability and credibility of the president to deliver a genuine national conference.
“The core questions to ask here is, how credible, reliable and capable is the current president to be able to midwife a critical conference such as this? Will he be sincere enough to let all issues on the agenda to be exhaustively discussed at the conference? Will this president have the guts to implement fully all final resolutions of the conference without fear, favour or any pandering”? Tinubu asks.
Tinubu warns that we are about to embark on a similar futile exercise, arguing that some two to three months back, our demand for a sovereign national conference found little sympathy in the eyes of the Executive and Legislative arms of government, until some three weeks ago when Senate President David Mark, issued a qualified endorsement.
Then, in his National Day broadcast, President Jonathan, announced to everyone’s surprise, that the Federal Government would, indeed, sponsor a national conference, at which Nigeria’s ethnic nationalists would discuss and negotiate the terms of continued association. Within days, Dr Jonathan named a chairman and members of a committee to advise on modalities for staging the conference and submit a report within one month.
Tinubu, however, welcomes a change of heart by the current administration, but only for a moment.
“I, like other well-meaning Nigerians, must welcome this shift. It is an admission, at last, that the wide cracks in the national fabric can no longer be papered over and that the time has come for fresh thinking on fundamental problems, the existence of which has for too long been denied,” he said.
Tinubu’s objection to the proposed national conference is hinged on historical experience and the twin issues of sincerity and capability.
“This is an administration that has been known to have flip-flopped on so many critical issues of national importance.
President Jonathan was part of two issues of national importance in recent past —amnesty and the Uwais-led panel on electoral reform. We all knew what happened to the two issues. The amnesty, from inception, had been corrupt and hijacked by the president’s clique. It is one of Nigeria’s drain pipes. A slush fund for political expeditions and a conduit to siphon money to the boys. Also, the Uwais-led panel’s report gathered dust and suffered from constant cherry picking. What about the much-publicised SURE-P initiative of this administration? Another ill-conceived and fraudulently implemented programme of this administration. Billions of naira had so far disappeared into private pockets and the treasury still bleeds. I can go on and on. Is this the leader we want to trust with organising a national dialogue or is it conference they call it? Where is capability? Where is sincerity? Where is presence of mind?” he asked.
For him, the issue of sincerity is fundamental.
While agreeing that Nigerians need to talk, Tinubu insists the midwife must be trustworthy and warns that if we get this wrong, the future will be fraught with dangers. For him, Nigeria is a drift and unless we start a discourse aimed at updating and improving our political economy and its structures, we might wake up one day from a night devoid of dreams, because we have turned into a nation devoid of hope.
“Yes, we need to talk. However, we need a national conference that is truly sovereign and not one dictated by the reactionary and regressive elements of the ruling party. This is not the way to clear Nigeria off danger. This is a selfish ploy that will plunge the nation deeper in darkness and indirection. This government must first show good faith for Nigerians to believe them. President Jonathan is not the man to give Nigerians a true national conference. He can only give us a “Jonathan conference” as bitter icing on the sour cake, his government has become. This government lacks the presence of mind and the decency to implement a national conference.
This government’s offer of a national conference is a wingless bird. It will not fly. The advisory committee set up to design a framework and come up with recommendations as to the form, structure and mechanism of the process will soon find out they are on a journey with no destination save the wall of futility.
Finally, Tinubu suspects we are being saddled by an imposed national conference by individuals, who have shown total disdain for anything nationalistic.
” It will be an empty and expensive futility with no true dividend for a people wanting their leaders to show them a way out of the pit and not a way deeper into it,” Tinubu said.