By Adekunle Adekoya, Dayo Benson, Daniel Idonor & Monsur Olowoopejo
ABUJAâ€” PRESIDENT Umaru Yarâ€™Adua may have decided to sheath his sword over the recent renewed war of words between the Federal Government and the Lagos State government on the issue of the 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) with a commitment to pursue dialogue as an option towards resolving the issue.
Speaking with State House Correspondents at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport shortly before his departure to Brazil, on a three-day official visit, the President hinted that the bottom line in the whole issue is that the constitution cannot be compromised, but hoped that the issue will be resolved once and for all through constructive dialogue.
He however warned that where dialogue fails, the Federal Government will be forced to take measures that will ensure that the Lagos State Government, its State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) and other Agencies are compelled to abide by the Constitution.
The 37 LCDAs were created by the Lagos state Assembly in 2002 under the last administration; and it was for the same reason that the Olusegun Obasanjo administration withheld the stateâ€™s council funds.
The President had on the 14th of July written Governor Babatunde Fashola, asking him to revert to the 20 local governments because the 37 councils were yet to be ratified by the National Assembly in line with a Supreme Court verdict.
In his reaction to the presidentâ€™s request, Fashola stated that the state was awaiting the National Assemblyâ€™s amendment of the First Schedule of the Constitution, after sending to it processes relating to the creation of the new councils to enable it make the consequential amendments.
Speaking on the knotty issue that has triggered negative reactions against the Federal Government, President Yarâ€™Adua said he is awaiting advice from the Attorney-General of the Federation, Michael Aondoakaa.
â€œWhat has happened was that I wrote to the Lagos State Governor drawing his attention to the fact that both himself and myself have sworn to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of this country and that the action of Lagos State Government and the State INEC was unconstitutional because the Constitution provides for only 20 Local Government in Lagos State and I advised the Lagos State governor to take steps to rectify this unconstitutional act.
â€œHe replied me, quoting the State Statutes and putting forward his legal position that they did not violate the Constitution.
I have referred his reply to the AGF to study the reply and advise me. What I am determined to do is that what is constitutional must be adhered to. So, if the argument put forward cannot stand on the violation of the Constitution, I will invite him to discuss further with him and dialogue so that this can be resolved peacefully.
â€œBut the bottom line is that the Constitution cannot be compromised. The Constitution must not be violated. If at the end of the day, dialogue fails to resolve the situation, then, the Federal Government will be forced to take measures that will ensure that the Lagos State Government, itâ€™s INEC and other Agencies are compelled to abide by the Constitution.
This is a process that will take some few months and I hope that we will be able to resolve the issue through constructive dialogue.
â€œOur democracy is still young, we are bound to make mistake here and there but the important thing is that we must work hard to ensure that the Rule of Law in this country. We know it is not easy but it is important to our survival.â€
Time for true federalsim â€”Tinubu
Meanwhile, former Governor of the State, Bola Tinubu, has lent his voice in support of the state governmentâ€™s refusal to revert to the old 20 local government areas.
Tinubu, who spoke just as Lagos Council of Obas has scheduled to meet the president over the matter, said there is no going back on the 37 local council development areas LCDA.
According to Tinubu who has just returned from a trip to Dakar, Senegal, â€œwhat we have done in Lagos is our future and it is proper.
A baby has already been born what we are waiting for is the naming ceremonyâ€.
He posited that if truly the nation runs true federalism, â€œno president can give order to a state. There is no superiority of the Federal Government over a state, both the federal and state are subordinates. It is time we stood up to true federalism because our present federal system is faulty to the letterâ€.
Monarchs, traders support Lagos gov
Also, traditional rulers and market women in the state rose in defense of the governor and advised President Yarâ€™Adua to â€œseek redress in court rather than unilaterally employ coercive means in resolving a purely legal matter against the law and the wishes of the good people of Lagos State.â€
At a meeting which held at Regency Hall in Ikeja yesterday, presided over by the Oba of Lagos, HRH Oba Rilwan Akiolu 1, the royal fathers noted that â€œthe issues involved were purely a matter of law and not raw display of power as the ultimatum portendsâ€.
The meeting ended with a resolution to send a delegation of the stateâ€™s traditional rulers and eminent persons to the President on the matter.
In a communique at the end of the meeting, the obas frowned at â€œthe use of the word â€˜ultimatumâ€™ under a civilian democracy and noted that such action portends a dictatorship in all ramifications.â€