(From Vanguard (Nigeria) - AAGM)
Byline: Celestine Okafor & Chioma Anyagafu
ALHAJI Atiku Abubakar, the Vice-President, gave the first indication some months ago that the much-desired national conference would be conducted next year. He did not state the time, format and criteria through which delegates to the conference would emerge. He simply gave a hint.
But President Olusegun Obasanjo gave the needed confirmation, Tuesday, when he inaugurated an eight-member committee he put together to work out the necessary framework for what he termed a "national dialogue" that is billed to hold next year.
The Head of State said that "to ensure public ownership of the envisaged reform process, the proposed national committee will reflect the various social forces and interests, community interests and political tendencies within the nation."
Among other reasons, the dialogue (call it sovereign national conference or national conference) is expected to re-orientate Nigerians from politics of patronage and materialism to politics of service, and to also transform the political parties from vehicles to pursue power into viable weapons for political stability and development.
Governor Ahmed Makarfi of Kaduna State is the chairman of the committee which equally has Ondo State governor, Dr. Segun Agagu, Prof. Jerry Gana, the political adviser to the President as well as Senate Chief Whip, Senator Udo Udoma and Communications minister, Chief Cornelius Adebayo. Others are Prof. Joy Ogwu, the director-general of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Prof. Okwudiba Nnoli of the University of Nigeria and Alhaji Aliyu Yahaya, the special adviser to the Vice-President on Political Affairs.
Makarfi said at the inauguration that his committee is empowered to make criteria for the selection of participants and delegates to the conference. The committee has up till December 31, 2004 to complete its assignment.
Ordinarily, advocates for the convocation of a national conference should see a ray of hope with this move. From Pa Anthony Enahoro to Dim Emeka Ojukwu, Chief Abraham Adesanya, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), Col. Abubakar Umar (rtd), The Patriots among others, it seems the precise accomplishment of their dream.
But do the agitators think so? Does this not meet their anticipations? What are the views of other Nigerians concerning the setting up of the committee for the national dialogue that had been so vigorously campaigned for? Will the Makarfi-led body live up to its expectation and come out with a document worth its time? Your soar-away Saturday Vanguard spoke with notable Nigerians on the issue.
Gani: This is arrant nonsense
Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), Lagos lawyer and Human Right activist punches holes into the setting up of the committee by the Federal Government.
What President Obasanjo is doing is not a serious move because, first, there is no law to set it up. It's mere administrative device which will …