While some chose to approach the news with caution, others dismissed it outrightly as another one of the Federal Government’s diversionary tactic.
While the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) welcomed the convocation of a national dialogue, warning that its outcome should not go the way of others before it, former House of Representatives member, Otunba Dino Melaye questioned the president’s capacity and capability to conduct a national dialogue or conference.
The ARG in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Kunle Famoriyo, said although the group had been a consistent advocate for a Sovereign National Conference, it would cooperate with and support the Advisory Council set up by the President where necessary.
Mr. Jonathan did not categorically state whether the conference will be ‘sovereign’ or not.
The ARG said it believes that “the committee chairman, Senator Femi Okunrounmu, who has spent a significant part of his life in the struggle for democracy and true federalism, will work to produce a guideline that we can all be proud of, provided the government has not dictated a “No Go Area” to the committee.”
The group called on Mr. Jonathan to ensure that this latest move was towards sincere ending of the country’s many problems. It recalled that many conferences had been constituted in the past that never yielded any dividend for the people of Nigeria.
“We also urge him not to place any restriction on the committee’s term of reference and the proposed conference should have no prohibition clause like Senate President David Mark suggested.”
In his own reaction to the news, Melaye, who is also the Executive Secretary of the Anti-Corruption Network, said the president cannot conduct an acceptable national dialogue at this time because he has divided the country along “ethnic and religious lines.”
His words: “This government is a government of lies, ifs and committees. They have not implemented recommendations of the committees.
“The white paper on the post electoral crisis committee by Sheik Ahmed Lemu, where is Prof. Femi Odekunle and company?
“The Civil Service Reforms Committee headed by former Head of Service, Steve Orosanye’s report is there, nothing has been done on it. The Nuhu Ribadu’s committee was set up again, they have submitted their report, nothing has happened.
“The NEITI report is also available, nothing has happened. The Aig-Imhokhuede’s report is there, nothing has happened. As far as we are concerned, the setting up of the committee is just to economically empower some individuals.”
Melaye further said that what the country needs is a father-like figure in the mould of Nelson Mandela of South Africa to conduct a national conference.
“Goodluck Jonathan cannot conduct a national dialogue. I said Goodluck Jonathan does not have the capability and capacity to organise a national dialogue”, Melaye stressed.
“To organise a national dialogue, you need a fatherly-postured President who will bring all parties without rancor. But Jonathan has further divided this country on the grounds of religion and ethnicity which has made it practically impossible for him as a President to organise a national dialogue,” he said.