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Sunday Mirror


Man in the News NOVEMBER 3, 2013

Col. Tony Nyiam (rtd)

Is ex-Army officer a stormy petrel? THE COUP, NOW




ol. Tony Nyiam (rtd) who is a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue last Monday created a scene when he shouted down the Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, during the South-South pre- conference hearing in Benin City, the state’s capital. As Oshiomhole was making his contribution at the pre-conference event where various ethnic nationalities, including the Ijaw, Urhobo, Benin and Isoko made presentations, Nyiam became the arrowhead of the disruption of the scheduled talk as he shouted down the governor while making his contribution. The governor, who took the stage to make his contribution shortly after the Isoko ethnic group had spoken, said he objected to spending huge public funds on a wasteful venture, saying, money was spent on a similar conference and at the end, nothing came out of that conference. “I will be surprised if anything changes. Sincerely, I have no business to deceive or mislead anyone. I believe that the outcome of this conference will not be different from that of other conferences we have had in the past.” But as soon as Governor Oshiomhole made this statement, Nyiam jumped on his feet and would perhaps have lunged at the governor were he close to him. He was, however, restrained by other members of the Presidential Advisory Committee who were taken aback by his action. Even while Oshiomhole was still making his contribution, Nyiam started screaming at the top of his voice for the governor to shut up and sit down. He was then joined by the party thugs, who disrupted the proceedings and many scampered for safety as a result of the rowdiness that followed. The governor, who insisted on concluding his remarks, however stopped when the thugs were getting violent. Shocked by the attitude of Nyiam, the Presidential Advisory Committee apologized to Oshiomhole “over the unruly behavior of Nyiam.” In a letter by the chairman of the committee, Senator (Dr) Femi Okurounmu, titled, ‘Dialogue Committee Condemns Unruly Behaviour’, the committee apologised to Oshiomhole over the incident. Nyiam was absent as the committee sat in Enugu mid last week to meet the South-East people at a similar event and this has given credence to the speculation that Nyiam might have resigned his position due to pressure from other members over his unruly behaviour at Benin or that he might have been told to stay away to prevent a recurrence of the Benin ugly incident. Condemnation has trailed the action of Nyiam since last Monday with the main opposition party, APC condemning the disruption of the South-South zonal public sitting of the Committee in Benin during the presentation by Oshiomhole. The party said that the incident vindicated its refusal to be part of the proposed conference. Describing the incident as despicable, the opposition party said it was sponsored by some persons, but failed to name the persons. In a statement by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, the APC said the committee should be thoroughly ashamed of itself as one of its members led the show of shame that was put up in Benin. The party demanded an unreserved apology from the


committee to Mr. Oshiomhole, and a public caution or outright ejection of the member “who acted so unruly and irresponsibly. ”The truth is that in proposing the conference, the government has no sincerity of purpose, does not believe in engaging in any dialogue with anyone but itself, and has only used it to distract the attention of Nigerians from the total absence of governance and sense of direction by the Jonathan administration. ”This is why we refused to participate in what is nothing but a sheer deceit. We have already been vindicated even before the start of the conference,” the party said. APC pointed out that since the essence of democratic discourse was for all sides to be allowed to have their say, it was wrong for anyone to be shouted down because their stand did not tally with that of the committee or the organisers of the meeting. “What a contradiction that a member of a panel set up to help forge national discourse does not even believe in the plurality of opinions. Does anyone need any further evidence that the committee has already made up its mind on the direction their so-called assignment will take? “How can you sincerely hope to midwife a dialogue with Nigerians when you cannot even oversee a dialogue in a town hall meeting?” It asked rhetorically. The opposition party expressed total shock and disgust that the governor of the state that was hosting the advisory committee “was treated so primitively by hired thugs. ”Even if they have no respect for the person of Governor Oshiomhole, couldn’t they have at least shown respect for the office he is occupying? If a person in the calibre of the governor, with his antecedents and prominent role in the national political discourse, cannot be allowed to air his opinion on any issue, what then will happen to ordinary citizens?” The party asked. It commended Oshiomhole for his maturity and decency, which showed through in his handling of the whole situation despite the indignity meted out to him. ”By his comportment, from which his security and other aides apparently took a cue, Governor Oshiomhole averted what could have been a violent confrontation and left no one in doubt that he is a true democrat. In the end, those who conspired to humiliate him have unwittingly

played up his tolerance, his decency and his democratic credentials.” The Edo State branch of the Coalition of Registered Political Parties (CRPP) has called for an outright disbandment of the committee, describing the verbal attack on the governor as a threat to Nigeria’s nascent democracy. State chairman of the CRPP, Dr Samson Isbor said, “The purpose of the PACND, we were made to understand, is to collate the views of individuals, ethnic nationalists, interest groups and other stakeholders ahead of the so-called National Conference. But the CRPP was taken aback with characters that form the committee of fundamental issues that affect the development and the corporate existence of our dear country. “The action displayed by the members, particularly one Col. Tony Nyiam (rtd), at the South-South pre-hearing conference during which he shouted down Comrade Adams Oshiomhole when the latter was making his presentation just like every other Nigerians, is untenable.” Edo Reps caucus in the House of Representatives was joined by traditional rulers and youths from the state to declare Col Nyiam persona non grata in Edo State. Nyiam, despite the spate of criticism, has defended himself, saying Governor Adams Oshiomhole made “sarcastic remarks” against the proposed National Dialogue, asserting that, “governors who are in the habit of kicking against the laudable efforts of President Goodluck Jonathan should wait for the response of Nigerians.” Nyiam who was asked if he has resigned, said, “The situation is that I have not told anybody in the public that I have resigned.” He explained that the governor was “talking down on people and he is not supposed to do that because our job is to meet with the people and not the governor since we have paid him a courtesy visit earlier.” His words: “Governors who have a penchant for insulting the President or making sarcastic remarks against the sense of judgment of the President of Nigeria should be ready to tolerate response from Nigerian citizens to tell them ‘no’. The committee’s role is advisory, we need to consult with the people to advise us and we will then synthesize the peoples’ opinion and use that to advise the President because we believe that we need to work towards a peoples-driven constitution which we never had in our history”, he said. Nyiam was the most senior officer in the April 22, 1990 coup, which tried to topple the government of General Ibrahim Babangida.

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