National Conference: S’south Leaders Say there Should Be No ‘No-go’ Areas.

committee on national dialogue tomorrow, opinion leaders in the South-south have called on him to ensure that there are predetermined subjects that must not be discussed at the conference. Prominent political leaders and groups in the region said the conference should be made open to afford Nigerians a crucial opportunity to address lingering sociopolitical issues that are threatening the stability of the country.
The calls, however, came as former governor of Lagos State and top leader of the opposition All Progressives Congress dismissed the proposed conference as a deception and diversionary strategy by the president.  
Jonathan had during his national broadcast to mark Nigeria’s 53rd independence anniversary announced the setting up of a 13-member conference advisory committee to work out the modalities for a national conference. He said the conference was in keeping with the longstanding desire of large segments of the Nigerian society.   
Part of the terms of reference of the committee is to advise the federal government on a legal framework and procedure for the national dialogue as well as options for integrating its decisions into the country’s constitution and laws.
But First Republic information minister, Chief Edwin Clark, South-south Peoples Assembly, and Ijaw National Congress said at separate forums at the weekend that the planned talks should be held under a free atmosphere, where Nigerians can discuss any issue affecting the country.
A statement signed by Clark, who is the national leader of SSPA, and Air Commodore Idongest Nkanga (rtd), the organisation’s acting national chairman,  said, “We, therefore, wish to appeal to President Jonathan to create a completely unfettered atmosphere where there are no restrictions or no-go areas for Nigerians to dialogue.
“We equally appeal to all Nigerians to actively participate and cooperate with Mr. President to give the project a resounding success. This will justify the many years of our agitation for a national rebirth.”
The statement further said, “The South-South geopolitical zone welcomes wholeheartedly this opportunity to define the terms of engagement with others in the Union. We are not in a hurry to forget the traumatising gang-up against us in the 2005 National Political Reform Conference. Neither are we amused by efforts to make Nigeria ungovernable through constant overheating of the polity by narrow-minded and unpatriotic Nigerians since 2011, when President Jonathan was elected.
“Much as we know that a number of people in this country are persuaded by their overt dependence on the resources (oil and gas) found in the heart of the Niger Delta, such overdependence without due cognizance to equity, fairness and justice would be antithetic to the fundamental essence of true federalism. When people cohabit and federate on the principles of mutual respect, such union would be strengthened and enduring.
“It is based on the forgoing that we wish to express our endorsement for the national conference and preparedness to participate in the ensuing dialogue.”
The group said Nigerians had long agitated for an unrestricted opportunity to discuss the federal union because they shared a common belief that the country’s constitutions, apart from the 1963 Republican Constitution, never derived legitimacy from the people. It said the amalgamation of the different regions of the country by the British colonialists in 1914 also was done without the consent of the ethnic nationalities.
In Port Harcourt at the weekend, president of INC, Chief Tari Sekibo, told a press conference that any restriction of the scope of the national conference would rubbish its outcome.
Sekibo said, “The military-type resort to creating inhibitions by the designation of certain topics as ‘no-go area’ will make nonsense of the express intention of letting Nigerians to express their freedom of speech. The fear that the nation will break up without the designation of ‘no-go areas’ is unfounded and amounts to sheer scare-mongering.”
He said Nigerians, particularly the ethnic nationalities, should be allowed to freely discuss on all issues and arrive at mutually acceptable decisions for the health of their common nationhood.
“To foreclose the discussion of certain topics will cast a shadow of doubt on the fidelity of the conference and the decisions that ‘we the people of Nigeria’ will arrive at when the conference is concluded,” the INC president said.
But Tinubu dismissed the planned conference as a deception, saying the time between now and the 2015 election is too short for any constructive engagement on the issues troubling the country. He queried Jonathan’s sudden u-turn from his position that a sovereign national conference was unnecessary.
“You have a man say it is unnecessary to have a sovereign national conference because sovereignty is in the National Assembly and that was his belief then. And suddenly, you turn a bend and now, when you are confronting a very serious division in your political party,” Tinubu said shortly after his arrival from nearly three months foreign medical. “I see deception here. I see lack of honesty and integrity here.” He, however, said he would abide by the decision of his party on the conference issue.