Jonathan’s motives suspect, says Tinubu

All Progressives Congress (APC) leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu yesterday justified his opposition to the national conference proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan, insisting that the President’s motives are suspect.

He said although he is an unrepentant supporter of a Sovereign National Conference, he was wary of a “rushed embrace”, owing to President Jonathan’s antecedent as an antagonist of the idea.

The former Lagos State governor opposed the proposed conference when he returned from a medical trip abroad. His comment drew criticisms from some proponents of the conference.

Tinubu faulted the proposal, based on its timing, stressing that government’s sincerity is questionable.

He said: “Though I remain an unrepentant supporter of a genuine Sovereign National Conference, I am suspicious of this present concoction because it is half-baked and fully deceptive. Government’s sincerity is questionable; the timing is also suspect. Now that this government is sinking in a pool of political and economic hot water of its own making, it seizes hold of the national conference idea as if it were a life jacket.”

In a statement in Lagos, the APC leader urged Nigerians to beam the searchlight on the proposed conference, insisting that it is a ‘Greek’ gift and public deception.

He stressed: “President Jonathan’s epiphany–if epiphany it is and not an expedient calculated to enhance his 2015 re-election bid – should be subjected to searching questions.

“It is difficult to lay aside the suspicion that his sudden conversion is all about 2015. Otherwise, why the sudden endorsement of a national conference, not merely in principle, but with a rush toward some form of implementation? What has happened that was not already in play in all those years during which the authorities rejected demands for a national conference?”

Justifying his opposition to the conference, despite its seeming popularity, Tinubu maintained that the Federal Government should address “the fundamental questions about the timing, sincerity and, most importantly, the capability and credibility of the President to deliver a genuine national conference”.

He went on: “How credible, reliable and capable is the current President to be able to midwife a critical conference, such as this? Will this President be sincere enough to let all the issues that are on the agenda be exhaustively discussed at the conference? Will this President have the guts to implement fully all final resolutions of the conference, without fear or favour or any pandering”?

The former governor alluded to the events that heralded the announcement of a conference by the President, recalling that despite the previous opposition to it by the legislative and executive arms, the President suddenly made the announcement, following its endorsement by Senate President David Mark, who had also criticised the agitation, barely three months earlier.

Noting the change of heart by the President and the Senate President, he said: “I, like other well-meaning Nigerians, must welcome this shift. It is an admission, at last, that the wide cracks in the national fabric can no longer be papered over, and that the time has come for fresh thinking on fundamental problems, the existence of which has for too long been denied.”

Tinubu’s opposition was informed, according to him, by historical experience and the government’s shortfalls in sincerity and capability.

He said: “This is an administration that has been known to have flip- flopped on so many critical issues of national importance. President Jonathan was part of two issues of national importance in the recent past; amnesty and the Uwais Panel on electoral reform. We all know what has happened to these two issues.

“The amnesty conceived from inception has been corrupted and hijacked by the President’s clique. It is one of Nigeria’s drain pipes. A slush fund for political expeditions and a conduit to siphon money to the boys. The Uwais Panel report gathers dust and suffers from constant cherry picking. What about the much-publicized SURE-P initiative of this administration? “Another ill-conceived and fraudulently implemented programme of this administration. Billions of naira have so far disappeared into private pockets and the treasury still bleeds. I can go on and on. Is this the leader we want to trust with organising a national dialogue or is it conference they call it? Where is the capability? Where is the sincerity? Where is the presence of mind?”

Stressing that sincerity is fundamental, the APC leader added: “It is difficult to lay aside the suspicion that his sudden conversion is all about 2015. Otherwise, why the sudden endorsement of a National Conference, not merely in principle, but with a rush toward some form of implementation? What has happened that was not already in play in all those years during which the authorities rejected demands for a National Conference? This government cannot hold a National Conference anymore than a comatose man can stand and hold up a candle that the rest of us might see our way to a better Nigeria.”

Tinubu also raised some posers for the organisers of the conference at a time the polity is preparing for the next elections. He asked: “Would staging a National Conference in such a setting not overheat the polity? Would it not be better to defer the Conference until after the general elections? There is still so much to do to ensure that the election is free and fair, conforms to best practices, and represents the will of the people.”

Tinubu suggested some conditions for the convocation of the conference to prevent it from becoming another public relations ploy to whitewash government’s tarnished record.

He said: “If the conference must be held now, we must return to the spade work already done by the Obasanjo government in the aspect of constitutional review. Let the Jonathan government bring it out, remove the third term toxic component and set up a technical review committee to examine the 118 recommendations therein. The process came up with 118 recommendations, most of which were far reaching and dealt with critical and the contentious issues of nationhood. We must continue from where we disagreed. Nation building is a progressive work and to totally jettison the considerable spade work already done will set back the hands of the clock.”

Secondly, Tinubu advised that the Uwais recommendations on electoral reforms be implemented. “That report was the work of eminent Nigerians and it was done after widespread consultations with constituencies far and wide. We all know that our electoral system is broken and unfair. If the President has done nothing to fully implement this corrective report that would fix a system so blatantly broken, why would he implement recommendations of national conference if those recommendations do not suit his narrow purposes?

“The government should first implement this important work in order to demonstrate to Nigerians that it can hold and honon the outcome of a National dialogue. This government should do so to show that it has nothing to hide and is willing to engage in the upcoming electoral contest on a level playing field.”

Tinubu said while he agreed that “Nigerians need to talk, the midwife must be trustworthy”, adding that “if we get this wrong, the future will be fraught with dangers”.

He also said that “Nigeria is adrift and unless we start a discourse aimed at updating and improving our political economy and its structures, we might wake up one day from a night devoid of dreams because we have turned into a nation devoid of hope”.

Source: The Nation

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