Foremost constitutional lawyer and leader of The Patriots, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, yesterday explained that he opted out of the National Conference
Advisory Committee because of long battle with prostate cancer.
The elder statesman was nominated by President Goodluck Jonathan as a member of the 13- man committee to formulate modalities for the convocation of a national dialogue, but he excused himself in a letter to the President on October 2. Nwabueze explained that he would be abroad “for medicals and may be away from Nigeria for some time,” and suggested another elder statesman, Chief Solomon Asemota (SAN), as his replacement.
Disclosing the nature of his ailment in a statement made available to National Mirror yesterday, the former Minister of Education and Youth Development said he had to cut short his stay in London for medicals and returned to Nigeria last Saturday to keep a long-standing commitment to chair the Anambra Literary Creativity Festival at Awka scheduled for today. He added that he would be back in London after the Awka engagement to continue his medicals.
The statement reads in part: “It is not generally known to people that I have been fighting prostate cancer for some years now, and have been kept going by consultations from time to time with and treatment by a Consultant Oncologist at Charing Cross Hospital, London.
“My appointment with the Consultant Oncologist had been shifted many times because of several postponements in the dates of The Patriots meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan and the National Summit at Uyo, both of which eventually took place on 29 August and 3/4 September respectively, leaving me free at last to travel to London on 8 September for my medical appointments.
“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. 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 assured the commitment of The Patriots to work with the committee and to give it all necessary assistance, if called upon to do so.
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 3/4 September 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.”