LEADER of The Patriots, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, has described his appointment to serve on the National Conference Advisory Committee by President Goodluck Jonathan as inappropriate.
“I never expected to be appointed chairman or member of the Committee, and would, quite frankly, have 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,” Nwabueze said in a statement on Thursday.
He said in the statement that he had been in London since September 8, receiving treatment for prostate cancer but that he had to cut short his medical trip on October 12, “to keep a long-standing commitment to chair the Anambra Literary Creativity Festival at Awka on 15 October”.
Nwabueze had earlier nominated a member of The Patriots, Solomon Asemota (SAN), to replace him on the committee but the nomination was yet to be accepted by President Goodluck Jonathan.
In fact, the President on Thursday selected Prof. Anya O. Anya as a replacement for Nwabueze in the committee.
Members of the national dialogue committee, headed by Senator Femi Okurohunmu, were inaugurated at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on October 7.
Nwabueze said he had expected Jonathan to ask The Patriots to nominate a candidate for the national dialogue project, given the contact the group had with the President prior to the setting up of the committee.
The Patriot, chaired by Nwabueze, is a group of eminent Nigerians who constantly intervene in national issues. The group had been in the forefront of demand for convocation of a national conference.
Nwabueze, a renowned constitutional lawyer, said, “After The Patriots fruitful meeting with the President, a member of our team who has access to him on a personal basis was mandated to go back to get him to set up the Committee on the National Conference of which he had earlier given a hint.
“My understanding from the contacts with him was that The Patriots would be asked to nominate a member to the Committee.”
He explained that though it was not generally known that he had been “fighting prostate cancer for some years now,” he had been kept going by consultations from time to time with, and treatment by, a Consultant Oncologist at Charing Cross Hospital, London.
He added that it might be necessary for him to return to London to continue his treatment after the Awka literary festival.
He said he had expected that his contribution to the national dialogue would have been to help prepare “a Draft People’s Constitution” which he had hoped to send to the President and the National Assembly , without pre-empting the work of the Okunrounmu-led committee.
He said, “While still in London and before the setting up of the Presidential Committee was announced, I wrote to 13 prominent lawyers and political scientists to join me in a committee to prepare a Draft People’s Constitution which will be submitted for deliberation at the Uyo National Summit when it re-convenes in terms of paragraph 7 of the Communiqué adopted at the September 3 and 4 Meeting, and thereafter to be presented to the Presidency and the National Assembly as a working Paper for the National Conference proper.
“This is the area in which I think my contribution to the work of the Conference would be particularly useful, and I do not see this as in any way conflicting with the Terms of Reference of the Presidential Committee, although they (i.e. the Terms of Reference) contain a somewhat vaguely worded item, to wit, ‘to advise government on legal procedures and options for integrating decisions and outcomes of the national dialogue/conference into the constitution and laws of the nation’.”