VICE President Yemi Osinbajo and his predecessor, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, were at each other’s jugular, yesterday, over restructuring, what it meant and how it should be implemented.
The intellectual tango started with Osinbajo’s letter to Premium Times, an online news media, in which he responded to Atiku’s critique of his recent comments that Nigeria does not need geographical restructuring but fiscal federalism and good governance.
Describing Atiku’s concept of restructuring as vague, Osinbajo, who recalled how he fought for fiscal federalism and resource control and devolution of more powers to the states as Attorney-General of Lagos State during Asiwaju Bola Ahmed’s tenure as Lagos State governor, said the President Muhammadu Buhari administration had taken steps to address the problems of the country good governance.
He said: ‘’Alhaji Atiku’s concept of restructuring is understandably vague, because he seeks to cover every aspect of human existence in that definition. He says it means a ‘cultural revolution.’ Of course, he does not bother to unravel this concept. He says we need a structure that gives everyone an opportunity to work, a private sector driven economy. Yes, I agree. These are critical pillars of our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan , ERGP, including our Ease of Doing Business Programme.’
‘’If, however, this is what he describes as restructuring, then it is clear that he has mixed up all the issues of good governance and diversification of the economy with the argument on restructuring.
“Good governance involves, inter alia, transparency and prudence in public finance. It involves social justice, investing in the poor, and jobs for young people; which explains our School Feeding Programme, providing a meal a day to over nine million public school children in 25 states as of today.
“Our N-Power is now employing 500,000 graduates; our TraderMoni that will be giving microcredit to two million petty traders; our Conditional Cash Transfers giving monthly grants to over 400,000 of the poorest in Nigeria. The plan is to cover a million households.’
‘’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 re-structuring.’
‘’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.
“As we all may recall, the 2014 National Conference actually recommended the creation of 18 more states. And I argued that, with several states struggling or unable to pay salaries, any further tinkering with our geographical structure would not benefit us.
It’s a necessity, not an option —Atiku
Replying Osinbajo’s letter via a statement entitled: ‘’Restructuring is a Necessity, not an Option,’’ Atiku said the vice president had made 360 degrees turn on his concept of restructuring because of the condemnations that trailed his posture.
He also countered Osinabajo’s claim that the Jonathan administration made more money from oil and did a little compared to the Buhari administration that earned one-third of what Jonathan got and has invested more in infrastructure than all past administrations.
Atiku said: “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 ‘geographical 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 ‘geographical 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.
“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.”