The Northern Elders’ Forum has debunked reports that it had decided to boycott the forthcoming national conference proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan.
A section of the media had last week reported that the elders’ forum threatened to boycott the conference because it suspects the conference was designed to protect the political interests Jonathan.
Reacting to the report, the Deputy Chairman of the forum, Dr. Paul Unongo, said that the group had not made such a decision, but noted that the northern elders had misgivings about the recently released modalities of the conference.
Unongo noted that the modalities of the conference showed that it was a mere talking shop meant to play an advisory role to the president and added that in view of that, some northern elders were mulling a boycott.
He said, “We have not said we are boycotting the conference. It’s just members that think we should boycott it. But if the president extends to the northern elders an invitation to attend the conference; we will consider it as a house. And if all Nigerians attending the conference believe the conference will help the country, I’m sure some of us will be willing to attend.
“What the Northern Elders Forum said was that if the Federal Government wanted the national conference to be useful and a true representation of the views of the people of Nigeria, it should be a sovereign national conference and the participants should be elected. There shouldn’t have been too many appointed participants. We now understand that the national conference is a conference the President is convening for people to advise him in a public forum”.
The NEF, which has been in the fore-front of calls for a return of the presidency to the North, according to Unongo, would not shy away from offering advice on how the country should be run and therefore would participate in the conference if invited.
“I don’t see any reason why we will say we are not attending, as if we are fighting. If somebody says, I want you to come and advise me in public, why not? That is my attitude towards it and I think that is the attitude I would recommend to the members of the elders’ forum”, he said.