Tinubu Says No To National Confab • Afenifere, OPC, Braithwaite, Support Jonathan • Presidency Studies Comments.

It was a mixed bag for the proposed national dialogue/ conference Saturday as former Governor of Lagos State and leader of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, dismissed it as a diversionary step taken by a sinking ship.
Tinubu, who returned to the country after months of ‘medical rest’ abroad, also reacted to Thursday’s crash, at the Lagos local airport, of an Associated Airlines’ aircraft conveying the remains of former Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Agagu, to Akure, and described Nigeria’s aviation sector as “a huge risk.”
Speaking with journalists in Lagos, he, however, promised to abide by his party’s position on the issue, stressing he personally sees the planned dialogue as a bait.
But the Presidency, Saturday, said it would comment only when it would have read Tinubu’s comments on the issue, as it hopes to make a comprehensive response.
Presidential Adviser on Public Affairs, Dr Doyin Okupe, explained government’s position in a text message.
Tinubu arrived in a private chartered jet at the Executive Jet terminal of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport around 1:32pm and was received by party leaders and loyalists. He wondered why the President is suddenly interested in the national conference after it had earlier rejected the call.
His position was supported by the Northern Civil Society Coalition and Arewa Elders, which expressed pessimism on the efficacy of the conference endorsed by President Jonathan and the Senate in redressing Nigeria’s multi-faceted problems.
The Leader of the coalition, Mallam Shehu Sani, in a statement, said, “the national conference idea of President Jonathan’s government is nothing but a fraudulent exercise mischievously conceived to rubbish and bastardise the genuine idea of a Sovereign National Conference as propagated by other progressive Nigerians over the years.”
But the Publicity Secretary of the Afenifere Renewal Group, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, Founder of the Nigeria Advanced Party (NAP), Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, and the National Coordinator, Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Gani Adams, commended Jonathan for listening to the voice of reason.
They insisted that those kicking against the national conference are people interested in the next election, and not the good of the country.
Odumakin warned that going into the 2015 general elections without the dialogue, might spell doom for the country as it may have no other room for subsequent elections.
He disclosed that when in 1998 some people argued that a national conference be held before the 1999 election, Tinubu was one of those who wanted it conducted.
“…We, in Afenifere, disagree with Bola Tinubu, because there is no better time than now to address the nationality questions in Nigeria. The way the politicians are heating up the polity, if we go into election this way, this country is going to sink completely and Nigeria is going to disintegrate.
“Politicians are only interested in next election and not interested in Nigeria. Those who are benefiting from the present system in Nigeria will not want a change, and that is why they are saying, why now.
“There are two roles for Nigeria to take today, either we go to Yugoslavia or Ethiopia, which is a renegotiated settlement. There is need to renegotiate Nigeria, agreeing on the terms to live in harmony and peace and get proper structure for Nigeria.
“But to insist that the next election is the most important thing is to go the way of Yugoslavia; that election will lead to the disintegration of Nigeria and there will not be another opportunity to conduct another election.”
On Tinubu’s reference to the conference as bait, Braithwaite said the national conference is the only way through which the country could avoid revolution or the possibility of disintegration.
According to him, “Jonathan has, at last, listened to the voice of reasoning and it is necessary for us to give him the possibility of doubt.”
He added that it would be dangerous for the country to go into any election in 2015 without us sitting on a round table to dialogue.
In a similar manner, OPC leader, Adams, commended President Jonathan over his resolve to convene a conference “which would enable Nigerians discuss the issues that have combined to stunt the growth of our country.
According to him, “I think we should praise President Jonathan for setting up a committee for a National Conference. I sincerely believe that the conference will proffer solution to most of the problems that have prevented the country from developing. I am also convinced that most of the problems that we are going through as a nation can be addressed by the conference.
Commenting on his trip, Tinubu said that he was very happy to be back after a major surgery on his left knee.
He also said that it was his longest absence from Nigeria’s political scene since 1993.
“It has never happened that I will be long away except the period I was in exile. Since 1999 that we returned, I have never been away for more than one week, not even (during) personal vacation. I am glad that I am back and fit,” he said.
Dressed in white native attire with a blue cap, Tinubu was initially received by his wife, Senator Oluremi, in company of governors of Ekiti and Osun states, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.
Also present at the terminal were Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji and members of the House, Association of Local Government chairmen in Lagos, former governor of Benue State, George Akume, and some leaders from the North, Senator Ganiyu Solomon, Olorunimbe Mamora, members of the House of Representatives and top shots of the party.
Before Tinubu’s final arrival, a private jet 5Y-WHB had initially landed and many rushed towards the direction of the jet only to discover that he was not in the flight.
Five minutes later, his flight touched down on the tarmac, and it started drizzling as some of the party faithful shouted, “rain of comfort and blessing.”