8 October 2013

Nigeria: National Dialogue - Why I Changed My Mind - Jonathan

Photo: Vanguard
Jonathan 2015 Bid

President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday said he was hitherto sceptical of holding a national conference because the nomenclature being ascribed to it was capable of undermining existing democratic structures.

But Jonathan said he changed his mind because the need to seek for solutions to the nation's problems created urgency for such conference, which he said would strengthen national unity.

The president spoke while inaugurating the 13-member National Dialogue Advisory Committee at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

His mention of nomenclature as the reason for his previous scepticism on holding a national conference apparently refers to the insistence by advocates for such conference to be 'sovereign'.

"There is a view by some of our people that we do not need to sit together to dialogue over the socio-political challenges facing our country," he said.

"Some believe that because we haveheld several conferences in the past, we do not need to hold another one. 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 cognisance, existing democratic structures that were products of the will of the people."

But he said as challenges emerge, leaders must respond with best available strategies to ensure that the ship of state remained undeterred.

"We cannot proffer yesterday's solutions to today's problems. Clearly, every dialogue adds something valuable to our evolving nation. The urgency of a national conversation in the present, therefore, need not be over emphasised," Jonathan said.

He said the concept of participatory democracy is such that even after the people have given their representatives the mandate to make laws, there is also a space for the governed to make further input into the political processes without undermining the authority of 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," he said.

"It's this sort of collaboration between the people and established institutions of government that will allow for a robust outcome that leads to greater understanding and a more cohesive and inclusive union. For me, there is no alternative to inclusivity, equity and justice in a modern democratic state."

He added: "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 contended that contrary to the fears in some quarters that the conference would call the integrity of Nigeria into question, it would rather strengthen the union and address issues being ignored.

The president gave the committee six weeks to submit its report. In his remarks, the chairman of the committee, Senator Femi Okurounmu, promised that the committee would not fail the nation.

Dr. Akilu Indabawa is secretary of the committee while members are Prof George Obiozo, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, Senator Khairat Gwadabe, Senator Timothy Aduda, retired Col. Tony Nyiam, Prof. Funke Adebayo, Mrs Mairo Ahmed Amshi, Dr. Abubakar Sadiq, Alhaji Dauda Birma, Malam Buhari Bello and Mr Tony Uranta.

But Prof Nwabueze did not attend the ceremony as he was said to be on a foreign medical trip.

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