•Says they squandered their chances while in office
•We won’t bandy words with APC; I’ve been on restructuring since 1995 —Atiku
•My position, my people’s wish — David Mark; •APC shuns its promises — PDP
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Dirisu Yakubu
ABUJA—Verbal sparring over the issue of restructuring of the federation continued yesterday with the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, describing top opposition presidenrial aspirants as playing to the gallery on the issue.
Also yesterday, the party said the Federal Government was considering practical approaches to implementing the report of the Committee on True Federalism set up by the party under the chairmanship of Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State.
The party said: “With emphasis on practicability, constitutionality and reality, we are confident that true federalism or restructuring, as some will like to call it, will be better achieved under the President Buhari-led APC administration.”
Both Atiku and Mark are presidential candidates for the 2019 elections on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
APC in a statement signed by the National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, yesterday, wondered why the former vice president did not champion restructuring of the country for the eight years he held sway as vice president.
Similarly, it also berated the former Senate president for not compelling the governments of the day to restructure the country for the period he served as Senate president.
The APC statement
The APC statement read: “Prof. Osinbajo in his well-articulated response to Alhaji Atiku submitted that what Nigeria requires now is not geographic restructuring but good governance, honest management of public resources, deeper fiscal Federalism and a clear vision for development. The All Progressives Congress, APC, cannot agree more with Prof. Osinbajo.
“It must be said that the calls for restructuring by many politicians are oftentime a populist and opportunistic ploy to latch on and politically exploit simplistic public narratives on the panacea to Nigeria’s problems and not necessarily for its realism and practicability.
“We must never succumb to ethnic champions who promote campaigns to break up the country into tiny bits or other unrealistic and unpatriotic proposals in the name of restructuring to solve our problems as a country. It is simplistic and unconstitutional.
On Atiku and Mark
“For instance, Alhaji Atiku was Vice-President and Chairman of the National Economic Council throughout the eight years of the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration. “How did he use his office to correct the imbalance in our federation he expresses today? Senator David Mark was Senate President for eight years and never sponsored a motion on restructuring. Today he is promising to restructure the country.
“We must be wary of latter-day converts to the matter of restructuring, exploiting the issue for populist political campaigns.
“As Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo submitted, good governance involves transparency and prudence in public finance, it involves social justice, investing in the poor and providing jobs and opportunities for the people, particularly young people. This remains the focus of the current administration as seen by the several social intervention programmes currently being implemented.
New Minimum Wage
“Commendably, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is committed to implementing a New National Minimum wage.”
PDP fires back
The party’s assertions were, however, immediately countered by the PDP which accused the ruling party of deceiving Nigerians, saying the party was calling its integrity into question because having promised to devolve powers away from the centre in the course of its presidential campaign promises, it was only natural that it would keep those promises to earn the respect of Nigerians.
PDP spokesman, Mr. Kola Ologbondinyan said: “Why are they running away from their promises? It is not enough to ask what former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar and ex-Senate President, David Mark, did on restructuring while they were in office. They (APC) promised Nigerians restructuring, and they should walk their talk.
“If they believe in restructuring, they should go ahead and implement the 2014 confab report. The whole answers are there but like we have always said, the APC is afraid of the fate that awaits them and their likely Presidential candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari. They have been rejected by Nigerians.
“The PDP is optimistic of its chances, and by the grace of God, this country will be restructured to give every citizen a country he or she can be proud of,” he said.
We won’t bandy words with APC— Atiku
Atiku, responding through his campaign spokesman, Segun Sowunmi, yesterday said: “We are not going to bandy words with the APC neither are we going to allow them to use semantics to cover up a major issue that is very important. “The fact of the issue is that they put their campaign on restructuring and they have been here for more than three years, they have not been able to do anything on restructuring.
“Everybody in the country knows that Atiku Abubakar has been on the restructuring agenda since 1995 and he has been consistent on it.
“The kind of restructuring that Atiku Abubakar is talking about is the restructuring that gives more power to the states. All we know is that the APC unfortunately for them is playing to the gallery.
“Our position on restructuring is very much known and what we are saying is that the APC cannot pretend and after three years they are now beginning to wake up to the restructuring argument. We have had enough of the deceit, we have had enough of their make-belief, and we have had enough of their propaganda.”
No populist agenda — Mark
Also responding to the attack on him, Senator David Mark, speaking through his media aide, Mr. Paul Mumeh, said contrary to the notion that Senator Mark was capitalising on the populist agenda, that he has listened and galvanized the views of various ethnic nationalities in Nigeria and submitted that restructuring is now.
“It is understandable that the APC would accuse me of being a new convert to restructuring in view of their many failed promises to the Nigerian people. I will not make promises like them. My antecedent over the years, especially during my tenure as Senate President, is a testimony that I will always act in the nation’s best interest.
“My position is anchored on the feedback from Nigerians, and as a leader, in my own right, I have to act in consonance with the wishes of the people.
“My experience in the last few years shows that a leader is only effective if he listens to the people. The issues of insecurity and the dwindling economic fortune of Nigeria makes it imperative that something has to be done by way of restructuring.
“Rarely has our country been faced with such a state of uncertainty, despair, suspicion, and division. If restructuring is the answer, why not now?
“I am a pan-Nigerian, I believe in the sanctity of our unity. Anything that will unite and prosper Nigeria would be my interest and concern. I believe restructuring is the way to go.
“For once, Nigerians across the geopolitical zones and various ethnic nationalities are of the consensus and, indeed, united on the subject, restructuring.
“I believe restructuring anchored on fairness, equity and justice would strengthen our bond of brotherhood and unity. I will always act in the nation’s best interest.”