In coining a topic for this piece, I had to be wary of any copyright infraction from the estate of the late Playwright, Ola Rotimi. As a poor poet apologies to the late environmentalist and writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa, my dire financial straits would leave me at the mercy of the Office of the Public Defender whose services could be akin to a parent taking advantage of the free education policy of the Fashola led government to send his or kids to any of the public schools.

In the play ‘Holding Talks’ which also doubles as a comedy, nothing gets done by any of the characters and it ends with disastrous consequences for them all. When President Goodluck Jonathan in his Independence Broadcast announced the formation of a 13 man committee led by Senator Femi Okorounmu and in it renowned Constitutional Law Professor, Ben Nwabueze as one of its members, it was with serious misgivings that I took the message. The antecedents of Nigeria and Committees where it is all flurry activity and reports which either do not see the light of day or its recommendations are never implemented is all too glaring.

The first flaw is the member composition. It is made up of elders with the Octonegarian Nwabueze as its oldest member. The reality is that it is the youths who would live with the consequences of whatever decisions are taken. There are a lot of progressive youths who are making a monumental impact in the country in all fields of human endeavour. Let us zero it down to leadership – we have the likes of Chude Jideonwo, Creative Director of Red Media whose Future Awards has been described by the World Bank as the Nobel Prize for Young Nigerians. He took it a notch higher by making it a continental affair in sturdy partnership with the African Union. We have Toyosi Akerele of Rise Networks whose activities have been endorsed by the United States First Lady, Michelle Obama. We have Japheth Omojuwa who has been a panellist at the World Economic Forum and whose activities have been recognised by International Development Agencies such as Henrich Boll in Germany and Prometheus in the United States which has enabled tranverse round five continents of the world. We have Asiwaju Dayo Israel who is a Childs Right Advocate whose activism has made him speak with World Leaders from Nelson Mandela, Obasanjo, the Queen of England etc. Though based abroad, he would be honoured and would most likely attend such a conference as a way of bridging the gap between Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora.

There are many successful young Nigerians who are entrepreneurs and by extension have absolute control of their time. This group would not mind sacrificing their time for the good of the Nation. One wonders why this critical group was so brazenly excluded! Did the composers heed IBB’s opinion that the youth are not fit for leadership? It was in this same country that we had youthful leaders such as Late Solomon Lar who became a Federal Parliamentarian at 26, Bola Ige who was Organising Secretary of the Action Group at 23, Matthew Mbu who was Labour Minister at 23, Anthony Enahoro entered the Federal Parliament at 28 and moved the motion for Nigeria’s Independence at 30 amongst many others.

Secondly the name of the talk shop is a National Dialogue or Conference. Is this a substitute for the much vaulted Sovereign National Conference which the Progressives have been clamouring for a long time? We still recall the National Political Reform Conference of 2005 which ended up being an insidious agenda for the implementation of the third term bid of Obasanjo through the back door. Is this also a smokescreen to keep the opposition busy since it is headed by a politician in its fold while plans are being perfected for 2015? Can we really guarantee the independence of the panel despite the assurance given that all areas would be open to dialogue?

Thirdly, the timeframe is ridiculously short – six weeks. They are to consult with the relevant stakeholders with the view to drawing up a feasible agenda for a national dialogue, make recommendations to the government as to the modalities and structure, give advice on the time frame and legal framework and on any other miscellaneous matters. If they are to do a thorough job, how realistic is this time frame?

Fourthly, Nigerians have a right to know the cost as it is expected to be borne with tax payers funds. How much will each member get in form of sitting allowances? How much would the travel expenses which are expected to be monumental be? These are many more should be answered to by the authorities as the principle of accountability is a right not a privilege.

Fifthly, is there a subtle agenda to surreptitiously weaken the opposition as the APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu took a swipe at the conference only for him to be countered by Okorounmu. Some pundits then came up and said Tinubu’s utterance was a personal one and not the position of the party. Is this a subtle divide and conquer strategy?

Let us hope time proves my scepticism wrong! I will only be too glad!

I am @ademiluyitony on Twitter

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