By Emmanuel Aziken, Clifford Ndujihe, Okey Ndiribe & Dapo Akinrefon
Colonel Tony Nyiam has formally resigned his membership of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue and given further details of how Governor Adams Oshiomhole provoked him into the controversial shouting match in Benin last week.
In his resignation letter to President Goodluck Jonathan, Nyiam said he decided to withdraw his membership of the committee in order not to be an obstacle to the long desire of many Nigerians for a national conference.
President Jonathan, yesterday, promptly replaced Nyiam with Chief Solomon Asemota (SAN), in the committee yesterday.
It would be recalled that other members of the Committee, led by Senator Femi Okorounmu, had asked Nyiam to withdraw his membership after he engaged Governor Oshiomhole in a verbal war following the governor’s criticism of the planned dialogue.
Oshiomhole, in line with the position of his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, expressed dissatisfaction with plans to hold the confab. However, Nyiam, a retired army officer, who was a prominent participant in the attempt to overthrow former military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, in 1990, had challenged the governor on the way he was expressing views on the issue.
The exchange between both men led to a disruption of the proceedings of the committee during their sitting in Benin, the Edo State capital.
Nyiam’s conduct attracted widespread condemnation thereby casting doubts on the integrity of those President Jonathan selected for the assignment.
Other members of the panel, therefore, advised Col. Nyiam to resign.
Since the incident occurred, Nyiam only partially complied with the request of other members of the committee by refraining from participating in its public assignments until he turned in his resignation letter yesterday.
Chief Asemota is to resume with the committee immediately.
Asemota was earlier nominated by Professor Ben Nwabueze (SAN), who declined to serve in the committee because of ill-health. But the Presidency opted for Professor Anya O. Anya to replace Nwabueze.
With Asemota’s appointment, The Patriots, whose advice informed President Goodluck Jonathan’s u-turn on national conference, now have a member in the committee.
In his letter dated November 3, 2013, made available to Vanguard, Nyiam said:
“Some of us have, all our lives, been fighting for the oppressed people of our mother- land, and to be given an opportunity to use dialogue to resolve our myriads of problems was too good a moment to be ignored. I took up the appointment with great enthusiasm and dedication, working as hard as my colleagues, to give our very best to our country.
“Mr. President, I will like to put the Benin event in its proper perspective so that evil propagandists bent on derailing the dialogue train will not continue to fabricate falsehood to confound Nigerians so as to achieve their devilish intentions.
“It all started in the Benin consultations with us being made to be twice late for important appointments. First, we were made to be over an hour late to the 12 noon appointment we had the privilege of getting at short notice, from the palace of one of Africa’s most reputatable monarchs, the revered Oba of Benin.
“Secondly, we were made to keep critical South- South stakeholders, and other people’s representatives, waiting for over three hours. The two occasions of lateness to important appointments which are against the ethos of our duty, were caused by the twice, and sudden, shifting of the time we had earlier agreed to pay courtesy call to the Executive Governor of Edo State, His Excellency, Comrade Adams Oshiomohle.
“When eventually he granted audience, the Comrade Governor proceeded to give us a background on why he is vehemently opposed to the initiative of any leader daring to convene a National Conference. The back ground story was essentially a lecture on how the Governor of Edo State was, ironically, more a Kaduna- made man than an Edo indigene.
“This was followed by a tutorial on how we were deluded to see anything of significance in the opportunity Nigerians are being given to dialogue amongst themselves.”