By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—-PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has endorsed the report on restructuring Nigeria, presented to him by the Governor Nasir el-Rufai-led All Progressives Congress, APC, committee.
A former Governor of Ogun State, Aremo Olusegun Osoba disclosed this to State House correspondents after meeting behind closed doors with the President at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Wednesday.
Chief Osoba, who is a Chieftain of the APC enthused that he is an ally of the President.
He appealed to Nigerians, especially statesmen and other activists agitating for restructuring of the country, to be patient with the President and the APC, saying that steps would be taken to get the National Assembly start work on legalising the relevant aspects of the report.
Chief Osoba who is also a veteran and one time Managing Director of Daily Times said he was at the State House to present his book – “Battle lines: Adventures in Journalism and Politics” – to Buhari, who featured in it prominently.
He said that the ruling APC even had restructuring as devolution of powers from the Federal Government to States, enshrined in its manifesto.
According to him: “I am part of the presidency because the President is our President. I can tell you, all this noise about Restructuring, we APC put devolution of power, true federalism in our manifesto and we have moved far from there to where a committee was set up, headed by the governor of Kaduna state, Nasir El-Rufai.
“That committee has submitted its report, that report has been presented to us in the caucus and the President was there. The president endorsed the outcome. I want Nigerians to please, give us time. I hope and pray that at the right time, the government or the party would send that report to National Assembly for debate.
“I will say with all authority that Restructuring lies with National Assembly. The President is not a military president; he cannot change anything by decree. Sovereignty in Nigeria now is vested in the National Assembly.
“Those agitating for sovereign national conference must go through the National Assembly and unless the National Assembly surrenders part of its powers by an Act, there can never be sovereign national conference.
“Secondly, agitation for referendum; there must be an act of the National Assembly to create that referendum. It is not the president that would by fiat or by Executive Order, order for referendum. It must go through the National Assembly.
“That is why I plead with our elders: Pa Edwin Clark, Pa Adebanjo, Professor Banji Akintoyin, all across Nigeria, who met the 8th Senate and heard what that National Assembly has done in terms of the review of the constitution – they should come back and tell us!
“We cannot move forward until we recognize the importance and the powers vested in the National Assembly. And for restructuring, let us go through the legal route.”
On his relationship with Buhari, the APC chieftain said, “the President and I have been close since the Civil War, he was a young officer – a lieutenant in the 1st Division, that started the Civil War from Nsukka end and as fortune would have it, I followed the President to when he was a governor in the Northeastern region and became the oil minister.
“From there on, he appointed me on June 12 1984 as the Managing Director of Daily Times. It was the crowning peak of my professional life that prepared me for governance.”
He noted that a portion of his latest book featured Buhari’s riding on the train from the North to Ifo, Ogun State to spend his holiday when he was in Form One (secondary school) in 1946.
Osoba further briefed Buhari on the current situation in Ogun State, saying that “I took the time to brief him on the efforts that the governor is making to ensure peace and in the state. I have told him that Governor Dapo Abiodun is starting on a very good note.
“The President said that he had given instruction that the central bank should give Ogun State maximum support in agriculture. On politics, I briefed him and told him that never again that incident (stoning of presidential entourage) that occurred in Ogun state would ever ever happen again and he thanked me.”
He went further to speak on the claim that late Moshood Abiola supported some members of SDP, which he belonged to as governor then in 1993, to join late Abacha’s military government, explaining that Abiola endorsed the participation of June 12 activists who later joined the military administration of Sani Abacha.
His words: “There has been a lot of blackmail and denigration of people. For example, people like Jakande, Onagoruwa, late Alex Ibru, they said that they went and collaborated with Abacha, which is not true.
“Solomon Lar, Abububakar Rimi and all others were all in a meeting in MKO Bashorun Abiola’s house on a Sunday after Abacha seized power on November 17, 1993 and kicked us out.
“The following Sunday, we met in Bashorun MKO Abiola’s house and we debated with chieftains of SDP and we that produced him as president and made June 12 possible and there we agreed that those that may be invited to come and serve the country, they should serve but remain loyal to the mandate and use their influence to perhaps persuade the military to return the mandate to Abiola.
“So when people said that we didn’t know about those people…. Iyorchia Ayi, was one of them, he was former Senate President; I can call many of them who were at the meeting in which MKO Abiola presided.
“So I have to clear this doubt that Abiola had knowledge and gave approval to serve in Abacha’s government.”