Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan intends to inaugurate an advisory committee on Monday to develop a plan to begin a national dialogue to help resolve the country’s challenges, says Rueben Abati, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Mr. Jonathan.
“It has the mandate to work out the modalities, the form the structure the nomenclature, the agenda for the dialogue or conference,” said Abati. “Part of the function is also advising government on the legal proceeding that may be necessary, the constitutional action that may follow the outcome of the dialogue.”
The 13-member committee is expected to comprise a chairman, a secretary, and 11 other members who are drawn from different segments of the Nigeria society, including the civil society, the academia and professional groups, says Abati.
The committee is expected to submit its report in four weeks after its inauguration.
“The purpose of this whole exercise is to address those issues that continue to cause friction within the Nigerian society. Issues that were left unresolved by previous conferences of this nature,” said Abati. “
Observers have questioned the creation of the advisory committee, saying previous administrations failed in 1994 and 2005 with similar efforts. But Abati says unlike in the previous governments, Mr. Jonathan has pledged to resolve the country’s problems.
“What is different is the commitment of the government of the day, the political will to make a difference and this administration is not going to define no-go areas for the conference,” said Abati. “This is a problem solving unity forging exercises, and it is not surprising that the proposal has received the support of Nigerians across the various ethnic nationalities, and across social political organizations, who have said that indeed a dialogue is necessary.”
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 failures. But Abati disagreed with the criticisms.
“The naysayers are just individual trouble makers who are opposing it for selfish political reasons. Because these same isolated individuals are persons who in the past have demanded an exercise of this nature, who have said this is important for Nigeria to move forward,” said Abati.
“But now that they have been confronted with, and they have seen the administration is committed to really having that dialogue and given them the opportunity to ventilate their own opinion, they are now trying to play politics just to be seen to be contrarian as a habit.”
Abati says the advisory committee forms part of President Jonathan’s effort to ensure the country’s unity as enshrined in the constitution.