The proposed National Conference will kick off early next year, President Goodluck Jonathan said while receiving the report of the Presidential Committee on National Dialogue . In a seeming reference to the letter written to him by former President Olusegun Obasanjo , Mr. Jonathan also said the conference will put an end to the series of letter writing in the country. "I believe that by the time we conclude this conference there will be fewer open letters that Nigerians will read," he said. Mr. Jonathan said he has directed the Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala , to "make adequate financial provisions so that this conference will take off immediately we enter next year." The National Conference was proposed by the president during his Independence Anniversary speech of October 1 . The president also set up a 13-member advisory committee to come up with modalities for national dialogue. The committee was headed by Femi Okuronmu, a former senator, while Akilu Indabawa was the secretary. It was expected to complete its assignment within a month. Speaking after receiving the over 4-000 pages report, the president said the submission of the report marks another milestone in the march towards building a better and more cohesive society for "us and our children". "The proposed dialogue offers this unique opportunity for us to deepen our democracy and strengthen our nation, rather than to destroy or weaken our union," Mr. Jonathan said. "In spite of the circumstances of the birth of our country in 1914 and the several challenges of Nation building, Nigerians have in the last 53 years demonstrated the belief that our diversity notwithstanding, we are a nation with great potentials. "The task before us is to build a strong and united union. In the last few decades, there have been issues that have challenged our determination as a people brought together by God in this great land of promise." Mr. Jonathan commended the committee saying it has "contributed significantly to the process of building a stronger union of the Nigerian family". "I am delighted that the Committee consulted widely in compiling its report and recommendations, reaching out to various socio-political and economic interest groups. " I am told that majority of Nigerians who participated in the Interactive Sessions that you conducted in 13 major cities across the country, expressed agreement with our commitment to an indissoluble, united and stronger Nigeria . I understand, however, that one person demanded an outright dissolution of our federalist structure," he said. The President said that in order to meet the yearnings of Nigerians and provide "our people the platform they desire, Government will study this Report and act on its recommendations. "Nation-building, always comes with challenges defined by the prevailing political, economic, social and cultural mood of the people. We cannot ignore such challenges; rather we must realistically address them". Mr. Jonathan said the federal government would partner with all stakeholders to convene the national conference; and that the outcome would add value to the process of building a stronger, united, more democratic and stable Nigeria . "This discussion process is for the benefit of the entire Nation. Every Nigerian, as individual or as a group, has an important role to play to ensure its success," he said. Mr. Jonathan also noted that he had decided to stick to the nomenclature of 'Conference' since the Chairman of the committee "consistently used the word National Conference. So I assume that is the name the committee has agreed and that is fine". He said he had no personal interest in the dialogue. "I will allow the will of Nigerians to prevail," he said. Mr. Jonathan assured of transparency in handling the committee's report, saying, "I believe that the world is watching us, whatever we will do, we will be very very transparent." He told the committee members that their task was not over as their help may still be needed. He said the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation "call some of you from time to time to help us quickly understand this and set up the team that will carry on with the assignment. "So please we will still request that whenever we beckon on you to come and offer assistance, please oblige us". Before submitting the report Mr. Okuronmu said the consultations held across the states had awakened a renewed patriotic spirit in Nigerians. He also said the report compiled by the committee had the "successful ingredient for a successful national conference". The Chairman, who denied reports of existence of a minority report, said "all members were able to work harmoniously together to produce a unified report, as signified by the presence of all the members of the committee at the report presentation." According to him, the opportunity to work in the committee also strengthened the members' faith in the unity of Nigeria and fired the resolve to continue to protect it. He said the committee had not only sensitized the citizenry, but also mobilized them for the purposes of dialoguing their future. "Nigerians are now only waiting for the dialogue to begin. We have no doubt that you will be endearing yourself to Nigerians by putting the mechanism in place for the dialogue to begin," he said. The National Conference has been welcomed by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and various ethnic and religious groups; but has been opposed by the All Progressives Congress , Nigeria's largest opposition party.
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