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…Insists masses, not NASS will decide
From: Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The All Progressive Congress (APC) may be on collision course with President Muhammadu Buhari over the ragging issue of restructuring.
The party’s Committee on True Federalism, on Thursday, said that the resolution of Nigerians on the issue will be considered not that of the National Assembly as directed by President Buhari.
The Mallam Nasir el-Rufai Committee made the disclosure at a press conference to announce the commencement of its consultative tour of all the geo-political zones to interact with Nigerians on the party’s position over the controversial issue.
Speaking in Abuja, on Thursday, the committee told journalists that the position of President Buhari that all restructuring agitators should channel their grievances to either the National Assembly or the National Executive Council (NEC) does not foreclose the process.
While insisting that it was the masses that would determine their fates and not the National Assembly, Secretary of the APC committee, Olubunmi Adetumbi, disclosed that the consultative meeting with Nigerians would begin next Monday in selected cities.
Asked whether the new APC position would not contravene the position of President Buhari on restructuring, the secretary noted: “l don’t think that is the case. If he says the NASS has powers to take decision, l think he even opened up the frontiers. We have representatives in the NASS and if today there is a position in the party, the party can call its members in the NASS and direct them to act according and constituents can also direct their representatives.
“There is nothing foreclosed. l think l will take the statement of President Buhari as an acknowledgement that the issue is opened for debate. As interface between various segments of the society. We cannot under any circumstance foreclose dialogue, public consultations to understand issues as a bases of intervention and that is exactly what the party is doing.
“Whether we ought to have done it earlier than now or not is opened for debate. But the principles of asking the public what do you think, what is their view is not something we should shout down in any democracy and coming from a political party, it is something that we should encourage and promote,” he said.
The secretary also noted that although the word restructuring is contained in the APC manifesto, the party did not envisage that it would attract the volume of debate that is in the front burner.
“Well, there are two issues in terms of the debate when the party Manifesto was worked out. I think everything was debated but we must be honest to acknowledge that as at that in 2015 when the manifesto was worked out, the content of the debate was not as it is today.
“In 2015, nobody was drawing map, today maps are being drawn and in 2015 there was some level of rationality and you could assume some broad recommendation and that was what went into the manifesto of APC, that is what we are saying that there are dynamics to the issue because there are new element to be debated, new anger has set in.
“We are opening the frontiers of the debate and inviting people with anger to come and express their grievances and we hope to make sense out of it in such a way that everybody would locate his or her bearing,” he said.
He further added that the committee will collate all the memoranda from the zones to guide it in taking its position, which will be submitted to the party’s leadership.
“First and foremost, we must recognize the fact that the work of nation building is an on-going process, in which every stakeholder has a role to play to make his or her own contribution, in which case, APC’s as national political party is an institution that has a role and is also a stakeholder in making its own contribution.
“So this exercise is the party’s own way of making that contribution and it felt that it is necessary not just to think among ourselves but to actually also tell the members of the public what they think. And that is why whatever this committee comes up with, is not its own opinion but about harvesting opinions of the ordinary people that we want to talk to in order to from an opinion because no political party exist just by its own but it’s people,” he said.
On whether the committee’s work will not clash or be seem as duplication of the the same exercise by the Northern Governors Forum, he argued: “The northern governors are also stakeholders in the project, Nigeria. They have every right to contribute on the future of Nigeria”.
“I don’t think it is a matter of monopoly and I think that is the attitude of the APC, every opinion is welcome and the committee will do its work and the challenge now is for all of us to be positive because what we are looking for is solution.
“There is no monopoly of ideas, adding the APC felt that the ongoing discussions in the country about the state federalism is good for the party to understand what its role is and what the definitions are.
“And in doing so, the party in its wisdom believe that public consultation is necessary and that is what we are doing and it does not foreclose any other body within the country to do its work.
“What the south west has just done is to put something in the public domain as a body of information and knowledge from which ideas can be gathered in the best interest of the country,” he said.
On whether the committee’s terms of reference would not clash with the ongoing constitutional amendment process by the National Assembly, Adetumbi continued, “Conflict with the legislature won’t arise, because this exercise is not trying to make law but to understand the popular demand of the people that the party can use to advocate within its membership in the National Assembly for necessary constitutional amendments.
“Don’t forget, constitutional amendments is not a one in a lifetime opportunity. It is for every four years. So the fact that the National Assembly is going the process, it does not foreclose public discussion and debate on what should happen and what needs to change, because it is an opportunity in future to take that idea and tun it into law.
He equally spoke on the 2014 national conference which APC refused to participate, stressing: “I don’t think there is anything called rejection, the report of the conference is in the public domain and it is available as literature for the work we are doing, not just that, we have 2005 conference report. So we are looking at all of these in order for the APC to understand what exactly its role should be