A leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, has provided more insight into why he is opposed to the proposed national conference championed by President Goodluck Jonathan.
A week after he returned from a medical trip, proponents of the national conference have challenged Tinubu's comments and rejection of the conference by the Jonathan administration.
But Tinubu, in a statement yesterday, maintained that he remained an unrepentant supporter of a Sovereign National Conference, but was wary of the rush to embrace the present convocation.
"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," he charged.
Tinubu said he was simply exercising his right as a citizen and would not take back what he had said about the issue on the sincerity or insincerity of the government.
He maintained that the proposal for the national conference be subjected to searching questions, adding: "I will not take anything I have said back on the proposed National Dialogue by this present administration. I insist that the planned national dialogue is a 'Greek gift' and public deception. I say beware of the Greek gift; let us first of all, ask a series of questions."
Tinubu asserted that the "president's epiphany - if epiphany it is and not an expedient calculated attempt 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 towards 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?" The APC chieftain explained that he took the position on the conference despite its seeming unpopularity.
According to him, the Jonathan government must first answer some fundamental questions about the timing, sincerity and most importantly the capability and credibility of the president to deliver a genuine national conference.
"The core questions to ask here is 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?" he asked.
Tinubu warned that the country was about to embark on a similar futile exercise, arguing that until some two to three months back, demands for a sovereign national conference found little sympathy in the executive and legislative branches of government, until some three weeks ago when Senate President David Mark, issued a qualified endorsement.
"Then, in his National Day Broadcast, President Jonathan Goodluck announced to everyone's surprise that the federal government would indeed sponsor a National Conference, at which Nigeria's ethnic nationalists would discuss and negotiate the terms of continued association.
"Within days, Dr. Jonathan named a chairman and members of a committee to advise on modalities for staging the conference and submit a report within one month," he said.
The former governor, nonetheless, welcomed the change of heart by the current administration, but only for a moment, saying, "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 said his objection to the conference was hinged on the twin issues of sincerity and capability.
"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: the Amnesty Programme and the Uwais Panel on Electoral Reforms.
"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 drainpipes, 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?" he asked rhetorically.
He dismissed the government's offer for a national conference as a wingless bird, saying, "It will not fly. The advisory committee set up to design a framework and come up with recommendations as to the form, structure and mechanism of the process will soon find out they are on a journey with no destination, save the wall of futility."