BY SIMON EBEGBULEM
BENIN CITY— FOLLOWING his outburst against Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State a member of the the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference/Dialogue, Col Tony Nyiam (rtd), was yesterday forced to resign by the Senator Femi-Okurounmu-led committee.
Vanguard gathered that members of the panel were embarrassed by Nyiam’s perceived partisanship and had to apologise to Oshiomhole.
However, in a telephone chat with Vanguard last night, Nyiam refused to confirm whether or not he had quit the job. Asked if he had resigned, Col Nyiam, in a combatant tone asked Vanguard to question the source of the report that he had resigned.
“Who told you that I have resigned? Ask the person who told you to tell you his authority or how he learnt that I have resigned. Thank you!” he said and hung up.
Another member of the committee firther clarified that the committee had to force him to step down in order to redeem the panel’s image.
“ The governor, Oshiomhole was our host. It was unbecoming of a member of a commiitee that was set up to listen to Nigerians to now want to stop Nigerians from talking, no matter what they had to say. We faulted him, he didn’t like it; we told him he embarrassed the committee; he admitted his outburst was wrong and we demanded his resignation.
Authoritative sources told Vanguard that Okurounmu led other members of the panel to apologise to the governor and showed him a copy of Nyiam’s alleged resignation letter.
Oshiomhole reportedly accepted the apology.
This came as suspected thugs disrupted the proceedings of the Committee on national conference in Benin City, when they stopped Governor Oshiomhole and others from making contributions to the ongoing talks.
The disruption came after a member of PAC, Col. Tony Nyiam (rtd) had shouted down the Governor while making his contribution.
The thugs believed to have been imported from neighbouring states heckled the Governor as soon as they realised that his contributions would be different from the expected opinions.
The governor who took the stage to make his contribution after the Isoko Ethnic group had made its contribution said he objected to spending huge public funds on a wasteful venture, saying, during the tenure of President Olusegun Obasanjo, money was spent on a similar conference and at the end, nothing came out of that conference.
While the governor was still making his speech, Col Nyiam stood up to challenge the governor and shouted him down.
But Oshiomhole who had earlier told the crowd that his views about the conference may not be the views of the people of the state but “my personal views” insisted that he must be allowed to air his views publicly and he continued despite comments from Ijaw groups at the conference.
“I will be surprised if anything changes. Sincerely, I have no business to deceive or mislead anyone. I believe that the outcome of this conference will not be different from that of other conferences we have had in the past.”
But as soon as Governor Oshiomhole made this statement, committee member, Col Nyiam jumped up and shouted at the Governor.
He was restrained by other members who were taken aback by his action. Even while the Governor was still making his contribution, Nyiam started screaming at the Governor to shut up and sit down.
Thereafter by the PDP thugs who disrupted the whole proceedings and many scampered for safety as a result of the unruliness of the committee member and thugs.
The governor who insisted on concluding his remarks however left the floor when the thugs were getting violent.
However, the Governor had, at a courtesy visit to him in his office by members of the Committee led by Senator Femi Okurounmu, said he had no faith in the whole process.
Oshiomhole said: “All I owe Nigeria now is to speak my mind. It could be error of my head but certainly not of my heart. As much as I wish you well, I just want to say that I have no faith in this process and I do not think it was necessary at all. I am unable to find any basis to give me some illusion that this exercise will not be different from the others. And I honestly think that in terms of the private sector, when a country keeps debating how we can live together that cannot be one of the basis on which the outside community will invest in Nigeria. They may well wait until we know how we want to live in Nigeria.”
He lamented that fifty-three years after independence, Nigerians still preferred to look at themselves from their ethnic origin rather than being Nigerians, saying, “for me, I am just a Nigerian. I do not think that more than one hundred years when we have set aside billions of naira to celebrate centenary celebrating the fact of amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria, and we have lived together as one country for over a hundred years, and we have gone through independence, we have been free for fifty three years and we are coming back to ask the question, how could we be there.
“I think Nigeria needs to address very serious issues. When I see eminent Nigerians discussing this issue, I am sure they know that Nigeria’s problem is not this politics of sharing which the national dialogue is all about, who is getting what, who has this natural endowment, who should do this or not do this. For me this is the act of perfecting poverty. The real challenge is getting Nigeria back to production. The real challenge is creating industrial base and this cannot be resolved through conferences. We have moved from parliamentary system in our own wisdom to the presidential system. We have test-run it and it was aborted by the military and it has re-incarnated in the present form.”
“Nigeria does need a serious reflection about how to return to those core values that made Nigeria work before. Those healthy competition between the governments, visit the whole question of attitude and unless that changes, I do not see how any dialogue can work. I was discussing with somebody last week and he noted that this is the eleventh conference and I ask what ten conferences could not do, how would the eleventh one do it? Why do we think we can continue doing the same thing the same old way and think that this time the outcome would be different?
The Governor said nobody convened a meeting without stating an agenda and asking others to draw up an agenda for the meeting, saying “one would have expected the Federal Government to make an outline and allow Nigerians make additional input, instead of saying there are no no-go areas and giving the impression the exercise will end nowhere, at which point the governor’s security aides formed a ring around him, just as the arena was getting very rowdy, with shouts of no, yes, the only words that could be discerned. ’Then the issue of fashioning a new political system came up in the past, a lot of money was spent, transporting people all over the whole country and expanding more on related issues but at end, what did we get. To me, this is not meant to work and it will not work. Fconception we know we want to talk but we do not know what we want to talk about.”
Earlier, chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue/Conference, Senator Femi Okurounmu said they were in Benin as part of their tour of the six geo political zones to get their input as regards the content of the agenda, the duration, choice of delegation and legal framework. States of the South-South zone and different ethnic nationalities, including the Ijaw National Council, Urhobo Progress Union, Benin Forum, Ijaws of Gbaramatu, Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, Isoko Development Union, Midwest Consultative Forum and many other groups made presentations.