The Presidency on Monday joined issues with former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, insisting that the Action Congress of Nigerian (ACN) strongman could not claim to be speaking for the entire Yoruba land on the issue of the proposed national conference.
Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, who articulated The Presidency’s position said Tinubu ‘spoke for himself,’ and not for all Yoruba people.
President Jonathan recently set up a committee under the chairmanship of Dr. Femi Okurounmu to organise a national dialogue that many hope would set a new basis for existing together for all Nigerian people.
Tinubu, who only recently returned to Nigeria after a lengthy medical treatment abroad, had described the proposed national conference as a Greek gift and an act of public deception, which was ill-timed because of its closeness to the forthcoming 2015 elections.
However, Okupe, at a news conference in Abuja on Monday, said that Tinubu’s initial reaction on arrival on October 5 was not well thought out.
Okupe noted that Tinubu’s comment has been roundly criticized by a clear majority of Nigerian people, especially “authentic Yoruba leadership” in the South-West.
“It is therefore clear and unarguable that whatever position the APC Leader holds on the issue of the national conference does not represent the views of the majority of Yoruba people in the South-West,” Okupe said.
Tinubu’s assertion that there was an ulterior motive for the conference, according to Okupe, was speculative and without any adding that such a position had no foundations in any reasoning or logic.
The presidential aide said it wrong for Tinubu to cite the non-implementation of the Justice Muhammed Uwais committee recommendations on electoral reforms as a basis for his rejection of a national conference that most Nigerians have long desired.
Okupe noted that Tinubu, like many Nigerians had hailed the conduct of governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states, where the ruling Peoples Democratic Party lost to the opposition.
Said Okupe: “One therefore wonders the mischief that Tinubu intended to play by the alleged non-implementation of reports of the Justice Uwais committee on electoral reforms”.
Okupe also said this was the first time a sitting president would be taking a bold initiative to call for a national conference without “no-go-areas.”
He noted the fact that the President had given the advisory committee headed by Senator Femi Okurounmu the power to determine its nature and or structure.
Okupe also noted that Tinubu was off the mark in his criticism that the President was organising the conference at a time the PDP was embroiled in internal crises.
“The APC leader, as usual, is completely off target. Desperate politicians and self-seeking political leaders tend to believe that their quest for power or insatiable appetite for wealth accumulation through politics is superior to the genuine desires and innate aspiration of the ordinary Nigerians,” Okupe said.
“While the Tinubu’s of this world focus only on the 2015 general elections, most patriotic ordinary Nigerians are more concerned with the emergence of a united country based on equity and justice,” he added.
Okupe also accused Tinubu of taking Yoruba people and especially Lagosians for a ride, deceiving them into believing that he was rendering public service.
He, therefore, called on Nigerians to ignore “the vituperation of the so-called leaders who don’t see anything good in anyone or any programme except they are either in control or that it is tailored to satisfy their inordinate desires and greed.”
However, Tinubu responded swiftly, insisting that his stance on the national conference could not be changed by the Presidency’s “shadow boxing and presidential foul language.”
A statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Sunday Dare, quoted Tinubu as saying rather than deal with his questions, the Presidency only succeeded in reeling out fictional achievements.
“As usual, rather than deal with the salient and substantial issues surrounding the proposed national conference raised, the reaction from the Presidency skirted around them,” the statement read in part.
“In typical fashion, it resorted to abusive language and name calling. Okupe, like a punch drunk pugilist, threw several empty jabs and went on a flight of fancy praising his boss and flaunting fictional achievements of the administration in the face of Nigerians,” it added.