National Conference: Okunrounmu blasts Nwabueze, Igbo group over criticism of report

The presidential advisory committee on the proposed National Conference on Wednesday accused the Concerned Igbo Leaders led by Ben Nwabueze of going beyond the bounds of decency by making false statements to discredit the committee’s report which is yet to be made public.

The Committee Chairman, Femi Okunrounmu, said this at a press conference held in his private residence in Abeokuta on Wednesday. He reacted to the Igbo leaders’ criticisms of the committee’s report, still being reviewed by the presidency.

The Igbo leaders had faulted some of the recommendations of the committee. They criticised the committee for recommending an amendment of the Nigerian constitution, whereas the people desired a new constitution. They also said the committee recommended that the findings and conclusions of the conference be passed to the National Assembly, whereas what was preferred was for a referendum to be held.

In his reaction, Mr. Okunrounmu noted that the criticisms have done very little credit, or brought much respect to the group. He said the criticisms were meant to be a setback for the conference by injecting a crisis of confidence between the committee, the people and the government.

“These allegations show clearly that members of the group have neither seen nor read the report that they are criticizing and merely acting on hearsay; because the Presidential Advisory Committee, under my chairmanship, made no such recommendations as alleged,” Mr. Okunrounmu explained.

“Without doubt, the critics have added more fuel into the fire of the opposition to the conference, who may now be reveling in a feeling of vindication. That is why the chicanery of the critics must be exposed at once because by the time their unethical and unprofessional conduct is fully grasped by the public, they would merely have succeeded in destroying their own credibility, lowering their own esteem in the eyes of the public and eroding from whatever respect they may have hitherto enjoyed.”

Mr. Okunrounmu said the criticisms would not make him disclose the content of the report, which was only delivered to the president.

“This is because it is the President who appointed us, as it was to him that we submitted the report,” he said. “It is therefore up to the President to decide whether or not to make the report public.”

The former senator, however, said the allegations were false; describing them as “wild, mendacious, obfuscatory, and ill-intentioned.”

“As Africans, we respect elders, and Prof Nwabueze is not only an elder but a seasoned academician. It is therefore amazing that he would be part of a group, much more lead the group, that would be criticizing a report they have neither seen nor read. That is very much unlike how elders and leaders behave,” he said.

The Ogun State-born politician said the presidential committee was not opposed to plans by the Igbo leaders to go see President Goodluck Jonathan over contents of the report.

“We have no objection to that but we advise that its visit will surely be more productive if it awaits the government’s publication of our report before proceeding, assuming of course that it has no other agenda to pursue with Mr. President,” he said

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