Former President Olusegun Obasanjo (middle); his personal friend, Johnson Oyewole Fasawe (left) and others arriving for the National Elders Council meeting on security in Abuja…yesterday. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA
The peace dialogue organised by the Interfaith Initiative for Peace and other socio-cultural organisations under the aegis of Committee of Goodness of Nigeria (CGN), was, yesterday, forced into a closed-door session by concerns raised by the Presidency over its mission.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, erstwhile Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III and ex-Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, during the meeting at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, deliberated on issues pertaining to the rising insecurity and calls for secession in the country.
The gathering, earlier scheduled for May 27, 2021, was postponed following concerns by the Presidency that some individuals were planning to stage a national conference, where a vote of no confidence in President Muhammadu Buhari would be passed.
The rescheduled meeting, yesterday, also had in attendance one-time National Security Adviser (NSA), Lt.-Gen. Aliyu Mohammed Gusau (rtd), ex-Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Osun State, as well as former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Kanu Agabi (SAN).
Security cordon was tense around the venue, just as stern-looking security agents denied journalists access to the hall, insisting that media personnel were not invited to cover the event.
Checks by The Guardian revealed that the organisers decided to keep their deliberations secret to avoid misguided attributions and ensure the outcome was properly conveyed to Nigerians.
A source at the meeting confided in The Guardian that there were three major areas of concern raised by the attendees, including the need for a proactive leadership, activities of purveyors of secession and need for inclusive dialogue to address the nation’s challenges.
“The meeting was meant to be a private session involving patriots and statesmen to look into the various problems dogging our national unity. As you can see, passions have been inflamed, but we do not want to abdicate our roles as leaders of thought in the country,” he stated.
Further findings showed that although it was meant to be a closed-door affair, details of the invitation to the participants were leaked in a letter addressed to the President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, by the conveners.
The letter noted that issues such as national unity, security, peace, integration, economic revitalisation and development form agenda of the meeting.
The organisers did not give official reasons why the reporters were locked out, but sources added that it might not be unconnected to an alarm raised by the Yoruba Appraisal Forum (YAF) wherein it accused some disgruntled elements of plotting to “scuttle democratic rule in the country.”
In a petition to the President and other notable personalities, the group had claimed that the plot was motivated by “sheer malice” against the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
According to its National Coordinator, Adesina Animashaun, YAF “is privy to information that a former leader of the country and other politicians, working in cahoots with their allies in other parts of the world, has begun clandestine meetings in one of the South West states, with the ultimate objective to achieve the goal.”
He, therefore, urged Buhari and the National Assembly to avert the alleged plan in the interest of Nigeria’s democracy.
In a statement, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, had accused the conveners of planning to pass a vote of no confidence on his principal.
The statement read in part: “Championed by some disgruntled religious and past political leaders, the intention is to eventually throw the country into a tailspin, which would compel a forceful and undemocratic change of leadership.”