• His understanding of restructuring vague, says VP
• Don’t rewrite history, ex-VP fires back
Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Incumbent Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and former vice president Atiku Abubakar have drawn the battle line over whether Nigeria should be restructured or not.
In open letters, both men have locked horns, as they canvass their different positions and even attacking one another.
While Osinbajo is opposed to the idea, Atiku has remained its proponent.
Atiku drew the first blood when he faulted Osinbajo’s stance on restructuring, who, while fielding questions from a cross-section of Nigerians at a town hall meeting in Minnesota, the United States of America, Osibanjo had said: “The problem with our country is not a matter of restructuring and we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into the argument that our problems stem from some geographical restructuring. It is about managing resources properly and providing for the people properly, that is what it is all about.”
In a series of tweets, Abubakar argued: “It is desirable, in fact, you may even say it is required to establish, nurture and sustain a strong and effective democratic government.
“Restructuring is not just about the devolution of powers to the states, it is about transforming the respective roles of the federal, state and local governments to perform more efficiently in matters of territorial as well as economic governance.”
Osinbajo, in his response to a piece, titled “Osinbajo got it wrong on restructuring,” accused Atiku of promoting a ‘vague’ concept of restructuring.
“Alhaji Atiku’s concept of restructuring is understandably vague, because he seeks to cover every aspect of human existence in that definition,” the vice president wrote.
“First, let me say that I really would have expected Alhaji Abubakar to at least get the full text of my comments before his public rebuttal of my views. But I understand; we are in that season where everything is seen as fair game! He quoted me as saying that “the problem with our country is not a matter of restructuring… and we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into the argument that our problems stem from some geographic restructuring.”
“Yes, I said so.
“As the quote shows, I rejected the notion that geographical restructuring was a solution to our national problems. Geographical restructuring is either taking us back to regional governments or increasing the number of States that make up the Nigerian federation.”
While recalling that the 2014 National Conference actually recommended the creation of 18 more states, he argued that with several states struggling or unable to pay salaries, any further tinkering with geographical structure would not benefit the country.
Osinbajo said the question that should be asked is, why the states were underperforming, revenue and development wise. He wondered why the defunct western region (now South West zone), without oil money and using capitation tax and revenues from agriculture and mining, was able to fund free education for over 800,000 pupils in 1955, built several roads, farm settlements, industrial estates, the first TV station in Africa, and the tallest building in Nigeria, while still giving up 50 percent of its earnings from mining and minerals for allocation to the Federal Government and other regions.
He insisted that what was required was not geographical restructuring but good governance, honest management of public resources, deeper fiscal Federalism, and a clear vision for development.
“Surprisingly, Alhaji Atiku leaves out the elephant in the room – corruption. And how grand corruption, fueled by a rentier economic structure that benefits those who can use political positions or access to either loot the treasury or get favourable concessions to enrich themselves. This was a main part of my presentations at the Minnesota Town Hall meeting.
“In arguing for good governance, I made the point that our greatest problem was corruption. I pointed out that grand corruption, namely the unbelievable looting of the treasury by simply making huge cash withdrawals in local and foreign currency, was the first travesty that President Buhari stopped.”
But unrelenting, the Atiku, opposition presidential aspirant, in a statement he titled: “Restructuring is a necessity, not an option” said for the vice president to say ‘Alhaji Atiku’s concept of restructuring is understandably vague, because he seeks to cover every aspect of human existence in that definition’ is most unfortunate.” He also accused the VP of attempting “to revise history” on the topic and advised him against using “one finger to hide behind semantics.”
Atiku wrote: “Faced with an avalanche of public condemnation for his 360-degree turn on the concept of restructuring, it is understandable that the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has written to Premium Times to douse the tension his comments created. However, in doing so, the vice president should not attempt to revise history by saying that he spoke against ‘geographic restructuring’.
“I have been in the forefront of the discourse on restructuring since the 1995 Abacha Constitutional Conference and to the best of my knowledge, there has not been any term like ‘geographic restructuring’. It is a strange concept, not only because it is not what the restructuring debate is all about, but also because the words of the vice president, which prompted my response where clear, unambiguous and unequivocal. Mr. Osinbajo said, ‘the problem with our country is not a matter of restructuring.’ That I disagree with and so do many other Nigerians. If the vice president has changed his stance, I welcome it, but we should not use one finger to hide behind semantics.”