Many Yoruba leaders boycotted the interactive session organised by the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue in Akure, the Ondo State capital, because of their lack of faith in the process, it was learnt yesterday.
Also, some stakeholders complained about lack of information on the meeting and the “short notice”, stressing that they needed more time to prepare their memoranda. Others said that their groups and associations were not invited by the committee headed by Dr. Femi Okunrounmu.
The meeting, in the view of many, failed, as it was attended mainly by Ondo State stakeholders.
Many political leaders from Ogun, Osun and Lagos states told our correspondent that they were still studying the process.
They hope to submit memoranda at next month’s interactive meeting in Lagos.
Some All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftains said they were waiting for their party’s position on the proposed conference before taking any action.
The Interim Chairman of the APC in Ekiti State, Chief Jide Awe, said that the perception of the process may have discouraged many from attending the meeting. He also said that the information about the meeting was not well circulated.
Said Awe: “Are we duly invited? If people are not invited, how can they come? When I saw the discussion on the television, I wondered.”
Former Southwest Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) leader Senator James Kolawole also complained about hour the meeting was organised. He said: “I was not invited. I did not get the information.”
Afenifere chieftain Senator Ayo Fasanmi said the meeting was hasty, adding that it did not give room for extensive preparation. He said: “I have my reservations. I want to watch first. I want to watch, wait and see. I am not comfortable with the timing. I know Okunrounmu very well. He is handling a difficult task.”
Our correspondent gathered that the pro-National Conference groups in the Southwest were still deliberating on the items to be included in their memoranda when the meeting took place. Sources close to the Yoruba Assembly chaired by Gen. Alani Akinrinade said that the group was still consulting with the stakeholders in the zone on their views on the conference.
A member of the Assembly, Mr. Ayo Afolabi, said: “Gen. Alani Akinrinade is not in the country. He is expected back this week. The time of the meeting was too close for us to submit any serious memoranda. The Yoruba Assembly has to consult, update materials so that we do not talk against the wish of the people.”
Lagos APC leader Oba Olatunji Hamzat said: “Since we know that they are still coming to Lagos, we have decided to wait till they come.”
A social critic, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said those who attended the Akure meeting and made presentations may have gotten wind of the meeting before the notice was sent out.
He said: “Within that short time, no serious group and organisation would have been able to make any serious and meaningful presentation, if the group or association had not prepared for it. May be, before the announcement of the conference, some people had got the information.”
First-class traditional rulers in Oyo State, including the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi 111 and his Ibadan counterpart, the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Samuel Odulana, were not invited to the consultative meeting preceding the National Conference, it was learnt yesterday.
The Akure meeting was attended by interest groups, monarchs, individuals either of Ondo State origin or based in the state. Virtually all first-class monarchs in the state attended the meeting.
Alaafin’s media aide Prince Azeez Fehintola said the monarch was not aware of any invitation for the meeting.
A member of the Olubadan Council, High Chief Lekan Balogun, also said he was not aware of any invitation letter sent to the Olubadan.
But Balogun, who is a former senator, said he received a personal invitation from the committee through a text message in the morning of the day the meeting was held.
He pledged to attend the meeting slated for Lagos.
The Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII) also said that it did not receive an invitation to the meeting.
The president of the council, Chief Bayo Oyero, however, told our correspondent last night that CCII would sent its memorandum to the committee.
He said: “We were not invited, but that is not the end of the story. We are preparing our memorandum and we will send it to them. We don’t have to present it. All interest groups can’t be there. We heard the announcement on the electronic media. Public presentation is not the only means of reaching them. We will send our memo to their office.”
The interim Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oyo State, Chief Akin Oke, also said the party did not receive an invitation for the meeting.
After the Akure sitting, the panel moves to the Northcentral region with a sitting in Jos, Plateau State capital today and Minna, Niger State on Wednesday.
The train moves to the Southsouth with sitting in Calabar, Cross River State on Friday and Benin, the Edo State capital on October 28.