“In demonstration of my avowed belief in the positive power of dialogue, in charting the way forward, I have decided to set up an advisory committee whose mandate is to establish the modalities for a national dialogue or conference”. These were the words of president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan during his national broadcast on the occasion of Nigeria 53 years on independence day celebration (October 1st ,2013). The above statement also, was the first official pronouncement of the president towards the organizing of the on going national conference.
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan set up a 13 member advisory committee on national dialogue under the chairmanship of Dr. Femi Okuronmu and Dr. Akilusani Indabawa as secretary. This committee among other things was mandated to come up with an appropriate name/nomenclature for the propose national dialogue. They were also to come with the framework of the national dialogue by consulting widely with all Nigerians.
The committee visited twelve locations namely; Akure, Jos, Minna, Calabar, Benin, Enugu, Umuahia, Lagos, Sokoto, Muaiduguri, Kaduna and Abuja in the course of its work. The committee received a total of seven hundred and eleven memorandums (607 during interaction sessions, 57 through online and 47 were submitted to their secretarial). A total of six thousand, six hundred and fifty people were in attendance during the visits to the above mentioned locations. Four hundred and twenty one presentations were made.
The committee which was set up on the 7th of October, 2013 submitted its report to the president in Dec. 2013. The committee chose “the national conference” to be the name of the gathering that should be held between February and July 2014. Four hundred and ninety two delegates were selected by the government to come together to brain storm and come out with ways through which the country can effectively be moved forward. Eighty percent of the chosen delegates are old people that are people that are above 50 years old.
It is worthy of note that many of the delegates that were selected for the discussion of how to move the country forward, had in one way or the other served the nation in one capacity or the other. It is either they had been former governor(chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha), former minister (Olu Falae) retired military men (Ike Nwachukwu) former lawmakers, former local government chairmen, various union leaders, security officers, hence we can say that there is no common man in the conference because even the physically challenged in their midst are the leaders of physically challenged people.
It is just like as if, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan selected those that had been ruling the country into destruction to come together and provide solutions to the problems that they had caused. No wonder some of the delegates have admitted the fact that they were actually the creators of the problems that the nation is facing today. As mentioned above, Eighty percent of the chosen delegates are old people that are people that are above 50 years old. Only few slots were left for the youths who are the leaders of tomorrow. Many state governors that should have looked the way of the youths, nominated old men. The case of Dr.Emmanuel Uduaghan nominating Prof. G. G. Darah (the only Urhobo man in the ongoing national conference) is a clear example.
This brings us to the question, are our youths not good enough to chart the way forward for our nation? Why should majority of the delegates be people that are very old to the point that they now sleep while sessions are ongoing? Is it that Nigeria don’t have vibrant youths that can be entrusted with such obligations? Then when and how can we build and develop our youths? The most annoying thing is that many of these delegates had been the ones that had been directing the affairs of the country since she got independence in 1960 from the British government. No wonder, so many Nigerians, most especially the opposition party (All Progressive Congress) doubt the fact that something meaningful would come out of the conference.
I would wish to draw our attention to few people that are delegates that have been rotating from one position to another in the name of leadership in this country.
Chief Olu Falae who happens to be the chairman of the ongoing conference, had been a minister. He was the minister of foreign affairs during the regime of Gen. Ibrahim B. Babagenda (rtd). He also at a point, severed as the secretary to the federal government. He was the joint candidate of the defunct All People Party (APP) and Alliance for Democracy (AD) in the 1999 presidential election that was eventually won by Gen. Olusengu Aremu Obasanjo (rtd). The old man was born Sept. 21 1938 (76years).
Chief Richard Abimbola Akinjide is another old man in the ongoing conference that has been moving from one leadership position to another. He was born in the early 1930s which makes him a very old man. He had been an education minister in the second republic. Also, he was the minister of justice during the regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari. He was a member of the constitution drafting committee in 1975-1971.in 2005, Chief Richard Abimbola Akinjide was a member of national political reformation conference. Ike Nwachukwu,old man that was born in Sept. 1st 1940 he is a retired army general. He had been a governor of the old Imo state. He had been a minister of labour and productivity, foreign affairs minister and also, he was once a member of the armed forces ruling council (AFRC).
As if that was not enough, he also represented Abia north senatorial district as a senator between 1999 and 2003. Other delegates in this category of always ruling are Chief E.K Clark, Jerry Gana, et.c The wisdom of the elders are needed but more youths should been given the opportunity to discuss how the country would be. We must not forget that it is the future of the youth that is been discussed. If this was how only elders were given appointments in the past, then obviously the “old men and women” in the conference would not have been able to get to were they are today.
The youths are the foundation upon which the development of the development of the nation must be built. They should be carried along for effective and meaningful planning of the future because nobody can argue the fact that they are the leaders of tomorrow. I wish to enjoin all Nigerians, young and old, poor and rich, believers and non believers in the on going national conference to please pray for divine wisdom and understanding for all the 492 delegates that would be smiling home with the sum of 12 million naira in less than three months time. We must not fail to pray for them because they are discussing the way forward of our dear country Nigeria.