Caption: President Jonathan and members of the Advisory Committee on National Dialogue in a group photograph
President Goodluck Jonathan has inaugurated the 13-man national advisory committee saddled with the task of working out modalities for a national dialogue which he believes will promote understanding among citizens and expand the frontiers of inclusiveness in governance.
While inaugurating the committee on Monday in Abuja, thevPresident emphasised that the national talk is a sincere and fundamental national project that aims to realistically examine and resolve longstanding impediments to the country’s growth and development.
He said as challenges emerge season after season, leaders must respond to them with best available strategies to ensure that the ship of state remains steady in its voyage.
“Nations rise to the challenges that each epoch presents. It is imperative therefore, that in our march to nationhood, we have to be dynamic in our approach and response to the problems, even as we seek solutions to them. We cannot proffer yesterday’s solutions to today’s problems,” the President said.
Making references to several conferences held in Nigeria along with their corresponding benefits which include the present constitution, the President expressed the view that the conference will allow for a robust outcome that would lead to greater understanding and a more cohesive and inclusive union.
“Clearly, every dialogue adds something valuable to our evolving Nation. The urgency of a National Conversation in the present therefore, need not be over emphasized. As we continue to strive to build a strong and virile Nation, especially in the midst of agitations and tensions, we cannot deny the fact that sitting down to talk is one right step in calming down tensions and channelling our grievances, misgivings and suggestions into more positive use for the good of our Country.” he said.
According to him, the concept of participatory democracy is such that even after the people have given their representatives the mandate to make laws and act on their behalf, there is also a space for the governed to make further input into the political processes, without undermining the authority of the statutory bodies.
“Sovereignty continues to be with the people even as the people evolve strategies and tactics to strengthen its foundation for the benefit of successor generations. It is this sort of collaboration between the people and established institutions of government, that this conference aims to promote,” Jonathan added.
He also addressed scepticism expressed in some quarters about the need for a national conference and fears that it would further create division among citizens.
He said: “I will therefore like to allay the fears of those who think the Conference will call the integrity of Nigeria into question. This National Discourse will strengthen our union and address issues that are often on the front burner, and are too frequently ignored.”
Continuing, he said: “I was one of those who exhibited scepticism on the need for another Conference or Dialogue. My scepticism was borne out of the nomenclature of such a Conference, taking into cognizance existing democratic structures that were products of the will of the people.”
President Jonathan urged the committee chaired by Femi Okurounmu to consult widely before sitting down to develop the framework that will guide and guard the proceedings of the discussions.
“In the task before you, no voice is too small and no opinion is irrelevant. Thus, the views of the sceptics and those of the enthusiasts must be accommodated as you formulate this all important framework,” he said.
Other members of the committee are: Akilu Indabawa, Secretary; a former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, George Obiozor; Khairat Gwadabe; Timothy Adudu, Tony Nyiam, a retired colonel; Funke Adebayo, Mairo Amshi, Abubakar Sadiq, Dauda Birma, Buhari Bello and Tony Uranta.
Ben Nwabueze, a senior advocate of Nigeria and named member of the committee has opted out citing health reasons.
The committee has been given six weeks to submit its report.