The Secretary of Nigeria’s Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue says the group has been encouraged by the cooperation and participation of citizens in the quest to find solutions to resolving the nation’s challenges.
Akilu Sanni Indabawa called on Nigerians to embrace President Goodluck Jonathan vision of creating dialogue and unity that can improve lives and living standards.
The 13-member committee, assigned with developing a plan for the national discourse, is made up of a chairman, a secretary, and 11 other members from different segments of Nigerian society, including civil society, universities and professional groups.
Indabawa said the committee will come up with the framework for a national conference, the duration of the proposed dialogue, the mode of representation, and the legal framework. It will also determine the legal processes and procedures for integrating the outcomes of the conference into the constitution and the laws of the land, and advise the government on matters that promotes unity and stability.
“We agreed that in each geo-political zone, we will visit two major centers so that we accommodate as many views from citizens as possible,” said Indabawa. “We’ve had a fantastic reception, Nigerians came forward -- more than a thousand of them, and we received a number of memoranda through e-mails…some have appeared before us to testify with regard to terms of reference of our committee.”
The areas visited by the committee so far include Akure in the country’s south-west and Jos. Indabawa says Nigerians have demonstrated enthusiasm and hope to unite the country irrespective of ethnic or religious affiliation.
“Yes, with grievances from all parts of the country, people complaining about neglect, about matters that need to be addressed …and that they want to discuss at the conference
The committee is expected to submit its report to the government in November.
But, skeptics have questioned the creation of an advisory committee, saying previous administrations failed in 1994 and 2005 with similar efforts. Indabawa disagreed.
“As far as we are concerned, the reception has been overwhelming, almost intimidating. They have been coming up with suggestions, … because Nigerians are committed to their country and to preserving their unity through diversity,” said Indabawa. “They are also committed to ensuring a stable political and economic order that will launch them into the 21st
century as a vibrant resilient nation.”
Some opposition groups have rejected the formation of the committee, saying it's yet another effort of the Jonathan administration to distract Nigerians from the government’s policy failures. Indabawa disagreed with the criticism.
“Nigerians need to talk to each other as members of one family instead of pointing accusing fingers at each other across geo-political divides and political blocks. So that by the time we come out of the family meeting, we will come out as stronger united family, and that is what is happening,” said Indabawa.