Eighty three-year old Ben Nwabueze has described his nomination to the 13-member national conference committee by President Goodluck Jonathan as inappropriate, stating that the appointment should be for a younger and healthier person.
“It is an appointment for a younger person, not for an old man of 83 years afflicted by ill-health,” the elder statesman said in a statement signed by him and distributed on Thursday.
According to him, the President should have requested the Patriots to nominate someone to the committee rather than asking him who is battling with a terminal illness at a very old age to come be part of the committee.
Prof. Nwabueze who leads the Patriots-a socio-political association of elderly Nigerians-claimed that the group got a hint of the planned conference during a meeting with President Jonathan in July and expected him to ask the group for someone to be on the committee.
Expressing his displeasure with the nomination, the octogenarian said “I never expected to be appointed chairman or member of the Committee, and would, quite frankly, have considered such an appointment inappropriate in the circumstances.”
“The Patriots would be asked to nominate a member to the Committee.”
The Patriots have long been in the vanguard of those calling for the convocation of a national conference.
Prof Nwabueze, who was announced in the committee list on October 1 was however absent at the inauguration of the committee on the 7th of October. He was absent on health grounds and reportedly nominated Mr. Asemota to represent him on the committee.
In what however appears a snub of the President’s offer, ailing Mr. Nwabueze made his way back to Nigeria on October 12 to attend the Anambra Literary Creativity Festival at Awka.
According to him, he had to “cut short my stay in London for medicals and returned to Nigeria on Saturday 12 October, 2013 to keep a long-standing commitment to chair the Anambra Literary Creativity Festival at Awka on 15 October.”
“It may be necessary for me, after my Awka engagement, to go back to London to continue my medicals,” he added.
He further explained that his medical care and early appointment with his oncologist in London had been compromised a great deal due to a series of postponement of an earlier meeting with the President.
“It is not generally known to people that I have been fighting prostrate cancer for some years now, and have been kept going by consultations from time to time with, and treatment by a Consultant Oncologist at Charing Cross Hospital, London,” he said.
“My appointment with the Consultant Oncologist had been shifted many times because of several postponements in the dates of The Patriots meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan and the National Summit at Uyo, both of which eventually took place on August 29 and September 3 and 4 respectively, leaving me free at last to travel to London on September 8 for my medical appointments.”
Nonetheless, the elder statesman still offered the Patriots service to assist with the planned national conference, stating that he was already working with 13 prominent lawyers in Nigeria to draft a new people’s constitution.
This people’s constitution will soon be presented to the Presidency and the National Assembly as a working paper for the National Conference proper after it is deliberated at a soon to be re-convened patriot’s summit in Uyo, he said.
“This is the area in which I think my contribution to the work of the conference would be particularly useful, and I do not see this as in any way conflicting with the terms of reference of the Presidential Committee, although they (i.e. the Terms of Reference) contain a somewhat vaguely worded item, to wit, “to advise government on legal procedures and options for integrating decisions and outcomes of the national dialogue/conference into the constitution and laws of the nation,” he said.