By Simon Ebegbulem & Emman Ovuakporie
BENINCITY—A member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference Col.Tony Nyiam (rtd), who engaged in a shouting match with Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole at Monday’s sitting of the committee in Benin, which led to his resignation from the committee, gave reasons for his action yesterday.
His explanation notwithstanding, Edo Reps caucus in the House of Representatives were joined by traditional rulers and youths from the state to declare Col Nyiam persona non grata in Edo State. The All Progressives Congress, APC, on its part said the disruption of Oshiomhole’s presentation before the committee has vindicated the party’s decision not to be part of the proposed conference.
At the committee’s sitting last Monday, Col Nyiam was said to have joined some people who heckled Governor Oshiomhole while he was making his presentation which eventually prevented the governor from continuing with his speech.
In his defence yesterday, Nyiam alleged that Governor Adams Oshiomhole made “sarcastic remarks” against the proposed National Dialogue, asserting that governors who are in the habit of kicking against the laudable efforts of President Goodluck Jonathan should wait for the response of Nigerians.
Nyiam who was asked if he has resigned, said: ‘’The situation is that I have not told anybody in the public that I have resigned”.
Reacting to his altercation with Governor Oshiomhole, he explained that the governor was “talking down on people and he is not supposed to do that because our job is to meet with the people and not the governor since we have paid him a courtesy visit earlier”.
His words: “Governors who have a penchant for insulting the President or making sarcastic remarks against the sense of judgment of the President of Nigeria should be ready to tolerate response from Nigerian citizens to tell them no. The committee’s role is advisory, we need to consult with the people to advise us and we will then synthesize the peoples’ opinion and use that to advise the President because we believe that we need to work towards a peoples-driven constitution which we never had in our history.
“We thought we should start a bottoms-up approach from the grassroots to the top. The attitude was that there should be no talking down on the people we are supposed to engage. Based on this principle, the key feature of our consultation was to meet with the people but out of courtesy we pay courtesy calls on the governors or the royal father in the city. We have followed this procedure starting from Akure where Governor Mimiko gave us audience in his office.
“Governor Mimiko came to the venue and kept quiet throughout. We left Akure and went to Jos, we went through the same procedure where the Middle Belt people, the Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba community and all the major tribes of Plateau, all aired their views including Tivs, Idomas, Igala and others. In all these meetings all of them wanted a conference which is ethnic nationalities-led.
What Oshiomhole told us — Nyiam
“We left Jos and went to Minna, we went through the same experience with Governor Babangida Aliyu and most people there too spoke in terms of ethno nationalities representations. We went to Calabar, we went through the same experience. So we came to Benin, where Governor Oshiomhole shifted the timing and that changed the time we were supposed to meet the Oba of Benin. We saw the governor for at least 40 minutes and he started giving us tutorials as if we are children; he told us that he was a product of Kaduna, that he had his children in Kaduna.
“He went on to now attack the idea of ethno-nation. He argued that we are going to celebrate 100 years next year so what are we going to talk about? I countered that. He argued that we don’t need a conference, but with all the troubles we had, for a leader to say we don’t need a conference is very sad. It is an insult on the intelligence of Nigerians. In Kenya recently after the elections, there were lots of killings that led to a constitutional conference which turned Kenya from a unitary system to a true federalism.
“With that background, he now came to the venue after the Benin Development Forum spoke. He came late and after listening, he asked for an intervention, he took the micro phone and then decided to repeat the lecture, treating people like students and castigating the Federal Government. More offensive for me was that he was talking down on the elders there, that the idea of them coming together there was a waste of time.
“These two things, one talking down on people is contrary to the philosophy of our people. We had former governors there, elders, traditional rulers. Secondly when we are in an interactive session with the people, it is not for a governor to come and take over the stage, grandstanding. This is a governor that spoke over 40 minutes when we were with him. This idea of governors trying to run down the President, a governor abusing the office of the President to make insinuations against the office of the president, to criticise people’s ability for self expression, is unacceptable.
“So when people started booing the governor, I went to the chairman to remind him about the rules of our committee. The chairman said we should give him a chance to continue. He carried on with his derogatory remarks and it was at that point I then said no, not again. When I said that, by this time, his aides tried to come at me, but when I suspected that one was at my back I stood up, then sat down.
“Not long, after a group of people came towards the table, it was then that the DSS people advised that my life was not safe and I was taken away for safety. The Director of the Department of State Service, DSS, mounted security around us; the Commissioner of Police came to see me and they brought security. The Police drove us all out of Edo State because of fears of attack. So contrary to what they said that I mobilized thugs, it is not true, it was Edo people that protected me,” he narrated.
The Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue has however apologized to Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State over the behaviour of Col Tony Nyiam (rtd). In a letter signed by Chairman of the Committee, Senator Femi Okurounmu, and entitled: “Dialogue Committee condemns unruly behaviour,” it said: “The Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue wants to put it on record that we noted the sad incident at today’s (Monday’s) Interactive Session with Nigerians from the South South held in Benin City, Edo State.
“The Committee wishes to state its unequivocal commitment and that of its members to the principles of democratic discourse. Although we take special exception to the unruly conduct of one of our members who joined the crowd in shouting down the Comrade Governor of Edo State, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, while he was giving his remarks, the session continued and ended peacefully.”
The Committee continued in the letter dated October 28, 2013 that “we want to emphasize that the Committee will listen to all shades of opinions in the areas of its mandates and will not henceforth condone the kind of unacceptable behavior we witnessed in Benin City.
“The Committee wishes to express its sincere appreciation to the Government and people of Edo State for providing support to the Committee in its assignment in the state.”
Edo Reps caucus blasts Nyiam
Meanwhile, the Edo State caucus of All Progressives Congress, APC in the House of Representatives, yesterday, condemned Nyiam’s reported attack on Oshiomhole even as the caucus identified with the party’s governors in distancing themselves from the planned National Dialogue.
Addressing newsmen, yesterday, the caucus led by the Minority Whip of the House, Samson Osagie said the behaviour of Nyiam when the Dialogue committee visited Oshiomhole showed that the conference was bound to fail.
Other members of the caucus at the briefing include Reps Razaq Bello-Osagie, Peter Akpatason, Jim Adun and Abubakar Momoh. Osagie said the outburst of Col Nyiam at the meeting was uncalled for.
Osagie said “we are miffed that at a meeting convened to listen to the views of Nigerians on the necessity or otherwise of a national conference, a governor could be disallowed for airing his personal views simply because it was unpalatable to some members of the Advisory committee, which is supposed to be an umpire and their uninformed tribal jingoists.
“We wish to condemn in strong terms, the action of Col Nyiam and his co-travellers at the said meeting and to restate the position that their action has betrayed the motive behind the proposed dialogue.
“We however commend Dr Femi Okurounmu, chairman of the Advisory Committee for calling Col Nyiam to order, and urge Nigerians to be vigilant at all times as some persons are determined to coerce others to accept their views and thereby compromise the basic tenets of democracy
Traditional rulers, Edo youths declare Nyiam persona non grata
Also, traditional rulers and youths of Edo State under the aegis of Ariababho Youth Association, yesterday, declared Col.Tony Nyiam (rtd), persona non grata in Edo State, following his outburst at the South South sitting of the confab committee in Benin City, Monday.
They called on the President to urgently replace him if he was yet to resign his position, saying “he has shown that he is unfit for this job given to him by the President.”
In his reaction, the Esogban of Benin Kingdom, Chief David Edebiri, said: ‘’I want to call on the President to remove Nyiam because he almost set the whole place on fire. He misbehaved and we advise the President, if he wants to succeed to replace such a person. If, because he is a member of the committee one cannot air his views, people cannot express their views freely due to his arrogance, it means he is not fit to partake in the business of this nature.”
We have been vindicated – APC
Similarly, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has condemned the disruption of Gov. Adams Oshiomhole’s presentation, saying the action has vindicated the party’s decision not to be part of the proposed conference.
In a statement issued in Lagos, yesterday, by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the Committee must be ashamed that one of its members led the uproar that was put up in Benin on Monday.
‘’The truth is that in proposing the conference, the government has no sincerity of purpose, does not believe in engaging in any dialogue with anyone but itself and has only used it to distract the attention of Nigerians from the total absence of governance and sense of direction by the Jonathan Administration.