ASABA — Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, yesterday, said a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue, Col. Tony Nyiam (rtd) has exposed the planned national conference as a fraud, saying excesses of the former army officer showed the conference was being planned to fail.
Oshiomhole’s assertions nonetheless, several participants at the Benin hearing from across the South-South geo-political zone blamed the governor for exceeding the bounds of official decorum and stoking the anger of the audience with his unsavory comments after holding up commencement of the sitting by three hours. They also blamed those supportive of the administration in Benin for instigating the violence against those who booed the governor that day.
Among eyewitnesses at the Imaguero College venue of the aborted hearing, who spoke on the development to Vanguard, yesterday, was former Minister of Information, Professor Sam Oyovbaire, who described Governor Oshiomhole as tactless in his conduct that day. He also flayed Col. Nyiam for not exercising discipline in his reaction.
But other eyewitnesses at the venue such as the Regional Coordinator, Niger-Delta Civil Societies and Ethnic Nationalities Congress, Sir Casely Omon-Irabor, National coordinator of the Forum for Justice and Human Rights Defence, FJHD, Mr. Oghenejabor Ikimi, a leader of the Edo Youth Congress, Mr. Kola Edokpayi and deputy chairman of Edo State Civil Societies Organization, Comrade Omobude Agho, both of whom were beaten by thugs at the venue and former Secretary of Ijaw Youth Congress, IYC, Mr. Paul Bebenimibo, rose in defence of Nyiam
Reacting to Col. Nyiam’s defence of his action, Oshiomhole in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Peter Okhiria said:
“Our attention has been drawn to the lame and odious response of Col Tony Nyiam to his shameful action at the sitting of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue in Benin City, on Monday October 28 where he fully exposed his hand as a biased member of a committee which should be above political, ethnic and indeed other sentiments.
“We wonder when Nyiam became the President’s spokesman as to want to drag the President’s name into his shameful act. We are, however, not surprised, going by his antecedents; the Benin incident was just another manifestation of Nyiam’s lack of respect for constituted authority and his love for disunity.
“Nyiam said Governor Adams Oshiomhole was “talking down on the people”. We wonder when airing one’s opinion or saying ‘I believe that the outcome of this conference will not be different from that of other conferences we have had in the past’ means talking down on the people.
“Nyiam deserves our pity. He might still be hallucinating, thinking he is an Army officer who must be obeyed. We recognize that no military officer worth his salt would openly disagree with a superior or a governor at a forum such as the one in Benin City, but again, we recognize that the maxim “Officer and Gentleman” does not apply to Nyiam as he has once again displayed to the people in the open.
“We find it interesting that Nyiam has exposed the undercurrent motive of the conference which has also confirmed Governor Oshiomhole’s initial fears about viability, necessity and desirability of same.
“In as much as we believe that Nigeria is in dire straits, the Governor still insists that a talkshop with no agenda is not necessary at this time.”
Oshiomhole, Nyiam were wrong — Oyovbaire
Prof Oyovbaire, who spoke on phone said: “It was wrong for Col Nyiam to have participated in the disruption or trying to stop the governor from continuing with his speech,” adding that he (Oyovbaire) managed to escape when things became rowdy.
He said information that reached him was that the National Dialogue Committee had earlier met with Governor Oshiomhole in his office, where he lectured them on the undesirability of the conference, and some of them were not comfortable with his remarks.
“Having spoken to the committee members in his office, which delayed the commencement of the sitting, I think it was a tactical mistake or tactless on the part of the governor to have come to the sitting to begin to make such statements, as if he is trying to get populist attention,” he said.
Oyovbaire pointed out that whatever Oshiomhole tried to convey with the tone of his statement and sarcastic remarks, “Nyiam as a former military officer, scholar and member of the panel should not have reacted the way he did.”
Oshiomhole got it wrong —Omon-Irabor
Omon-Irabor, who spoke to Vanguard in Warri said: “We were there as early as 9.00 am and the protocol officials told us that the governor pleaded with conference organizers that the conference should kick off at 1.00 pm, instead of 10.00 am and we registered and waited.
“Already, we knew All Progressives Congress, APC, (Oshimhole’s party) had barred the states it controls from participating in the confab and Oshiomhole had told his people not to attend the event. His coming was, therefore, a surprise because the seats reserved for Senators and other top officials were not occupied.
“We expected Oshiomhole to make a remark and go, but he went into a full criticism of the Federal Government with very derogatory remarks of President Goodluck Jonathan and said he was surprised to see eminent Nigerians gathered to engage in an exercise in futility,” Omon-Irabor said.
FJHD coordinator, Ikimi on his part said:
“The Governor’s personal presentation that the proposed Conference was a sham and a deceit by the Federal Government to hoodwink the people did not go down well with the popular opinion of delegates present, the above action provoked a number of delegates who resorted to booing the Comrade Governor who was unable to proceed with his presentation.
“However, for peace to reign frantic efforts were made by eminent personalities, including members of the Presidential Advisory Committee, to persuade the Comrade Governor to discontinue his presentation, but all proved abortive.
“I sat on the front row with some of the personalities and I did not see Colonel Tony Nyam (Rtd) or any member of the Presidential Committee leading thugs or exchanging words with the Comrade Governor.
“I think the Comrade Governor should have tactically beat a retreat since the general mood of all the representatives of ethnic nationalities and civil society groups present was in favour of a national dialogue and the least the people wanted to hear was not how a political party and its members felt about the proposed conference”, he said.
Continuing, Ikimi said: “Immediately, the Comrade Governor was ushered out of the venue by his security aides, thugs entered the venue and queried why their governor was humiliated and in the process one Kola Edokpayi, an accredited member of the Edo Youth Congress at the venue was shot by thugs when he had gone to ease himself outside. The said Kola Edokpayi returned into the hall in a pool of blood, and the chairman had no option than to draw the meeting to an abrupt end.”