TEMPERS FLARE AT OPPOSITION LEADERS' MEETING
The much-touted meeting of 46 opposition parties to form an alliance was marred yesterday as tempers rose among the leaders after a disagreement forcing some of them to leave the venue hurriedly to avoid embarrassment.
Among those who stormed out of the Ladi Kwali Hall, Sheraton Hotel venue of the meeting chaired by the second republic governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Abdulateef Jakande, was former FCT Minister, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, who was fuming as he dashed out of the hall into his waiting car.
When Daily Sun ran after him, he refused to talk on the disagreement, saying he had to leave because he needed to be somewhere else.
For some minutes, the hall became rowdy as the high-table guests battled frantically to bring the situation under control with former Finance Minister, Chief Olu Falae, Prof. Pat Utomi, Chief Charles Nwodo, former Yobe State Governor, Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim and House of Representatives Minority leader, Ali Ndume, who represented Chairman of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), watched helplessly.
The ugly incident happened shortly before the arrival of Alhaji Jakande and made the organisers to appoint Chief Rashidi Shitta-Bey as acting Chairman to proceed with the event, which was already two hours behind schedule.
Trouble started when the acting Chairman, Chief Shitta-Bey, rose from his seat and snatched the microphone from the Administrative Secretary of Mega Summit Movement, Wale Okuniyi, who was a joint Master of Ceremony with Dr. Tanko Yinusa, National Secretary of National Conscience Party (NCP), over alleged 'rigging and hijacking' of the meeting by undesirable elements.
Okunniyi, who was recognising guests intermittently, incurred the wrath of Chief Shitta-Bey when he was introducing some politicians, belonging to the Coalition for New Nigeria (CNN), a group of 22 parties angling to present a joint presidential candidate for the 2011 presidential election.
He objected to the constant reference to the CNN, which he said was not known to his group and wondered why members of the CNN were dominant at the meeting, saying he suspected an agenda different from the intent of the organisers of the event.
As Okunniyi tried to explain himself, Chief Shitta-Bey shouted him down the more, saying: 'What is all this, who are these people you are mentioning their names? Who are CNN that we don't know? It seems you people have a hidden agenda. We will not accept that. You are just calling people.'
'I don't when these people you are just calling came into the picture. If anybody wants to join, they should do on individual basis. You are complaining that PDP is rigging, you are also rigging people to hijack this forum, we can't accept that.'
The people seated watched with amazement the uproar as other dignitaries tried to calm him down but which he resisted. Good reason, however, prevailed when the leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF), Alhaji Asari Dokubo, made to take his leave but was begged to stay by the crowd which milled around him.
It was at this stage that the National Chairman of NCP, Femi Falana, took over the microphone and appealed to all to be calm and give peace a chance, saying the problem inflicted by the PDP government was enough burden that the progressives should not get distracted.
He explained how the PDP government had misled Nigerians in the last 10 years with the people almost giving up hope, urging that efforts at forging an alliance to dislodge the PDP should be given a chance.
Alhaji Dokubo, however, left after making a remark during which he chided the leaders for always fighting themselves which had never hepled the course of opposition.
Earlier, Prof. Pat Utomi described the gathering as a landmark and a seed that would grow to give Nigerians the country of their dream. According to him, Nigeria under the PDP had become global embarrassment to the international community and it was high time progresses came together to rescue the nation, hence the importance of the new alliance.
'We should all lay down our ambition for the collective interest. I must give way to us. The message must be sent out. After 12 years, PDP government cannot provide basic amenities that other smaller countries have taken for granted. The mobilisation must start now,' Prof. Utomi stated..