…Ex-VP lacks clear understanding of restructuring- Osinbajo
…Atiku: No, you have a choice to stick to restructuring
As Nigerians eagerly await 2019, a year they will again have the opportunity to decide who rules them and take charge of their affairs for another four years, one issue many believe will be a determining factor in the decision of the elite class of the nation besides the much talked about economy, security and anti-corruption, is restructuring.
There is therefore no wonder that many of the aspirants for the nation’s number one seat, the presidency, are eager to verbalise their positions on restructuring of the nation, especially when they have opportunity of speaking with opinion moulders in Southern Nigeria, because they are the ones that have been at the forefront of the agitation for a restructured Nigeria.
This is why it will not come to many people as a surprise that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the former Vice President and a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential aspirant, Atiku Abubakar are at each others’ jugular over how Nigerians should look at the issue of restructuring.
Incidentally, the issue of restructuring has taken the back seat in recent weeks as the key players were playing the survival game as leading politicians have been jumping from one party to the other.
But Osinbajo recently revived the debate, when he said that Atiku does not have a clear understanding of the concept of restructuring.
Osinbajo at a recent interaction in the United States, was quoted to have said 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”.
But, Osinbajo’s comment did not go down well with Atiku who fired back at him, saying, the vice-president demonstrated “a lack of appreciation of the core tenets of the concept”.
The former Vice President argued that the clamour for restructuring was beyond geographical reshuffling, saying, “It is a surprise that the vice-president would take such a position and, in particular, fail to appreciate the connection between Nigeria’s defective structure and its underperformance.
“It is unhelpful to reduce the construct of ‘Restructuring’ to a geographical concept as VP Osinbajo does, which in itself demonstrates a lack of appreciation of the core tenets of the concept.
“For the avoidance of doubt, re-structuring is not about the re-drawing of state or regional boundaries. The restructured Nigeria that a large number of Nigerians talk about, is a Nigeria that not only provides opportunities for everyone to work, but even more specifically challenges every layer of governance to demonstrate capacity to create wealth and jobs for the citizens.
“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.”
But, as far as Osinbajo is concerned, the former Vice President is mixing up the concept of restructuring with “issues of good governance and diversification of the economy.”
Responding to Atiku’s comment on his stance, the Vice President argued that, “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,” Osinbajo said.
Trying to outdo Osinbajo, who is a professor of law and prove that he properly understands the concept of restructuring, Atiku continued: “When we talk about restructuring, we are not talking about just constitutional tweaks, we are talking about a cultural revolution.
It is not about re-shuffling a few responsibilities or resources, but about disrupting the authoritarian politics our democracy has inherited from its military and colonial rulers of past.
“Viewed this way, Nigeria needs to be restructured. Nigeria has operated a faulty system of federalism especially under military governments.
Both economic and political structures are defective, resulting in weak economic management systems which, in turn, prevent all levels of the Nigerian government — federal, states and local governments, from operating at optimal levels.
“Faced with the reality of non-performance, Nigerians have clamoured for the restructuring of the economy towards a more diversified structure.
To make this happen would require that we establish and sustain a model of governance which would nurture a spirit of participation and consensus on key national issues and accommodate all the diverse segments of the society.
“In other words, if we accept the wisdom behind calls for a restructuring of the economy, we must be ready to build a foundation for its success: we must, in other words re-structure the polity,” he added.
But, Osinbajo believes that Atiku is missing the point, when he said: “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.
“In the final analysis, restructuring in whatever shape or form, will not mean much if our political leaders see public resources as an extension of their bank accounts. This, I believe, is the real issue.”
In another response to Atiku’s response to his position, Osinbajo said: “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 refutal 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 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.”
Speaking further, Osinbajo said: “I then argued that what we required now was not geographical restructuring but good governance, honest management of public resources, deeper fiscal Federalism, and a clear vision for development.
“On the issue of deeper fiscal Federalism or restructuring, I explained how the then Lagos State Government, led by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, decided to fight for greater autonomy of States.
“As Attorney-General at the time, it was my duty and privilege to lead the legal team against the then Federal Government, in our arguments at the Supreme Court.
I am sure that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar would remember these cases on greater autonomy for States that I cite below, as he was Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at the time.”
As if in a battle of who will have the last say, Atiku again responded to Osinbajo’s stance , leaving Nigerians confused on what the intention of the argument is.
According to Atiku, Osinbajo is only trying to have a volte face with his last response. “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 were 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.
“I have been very clear, detailed, and unambiguous about my ideas for restructuring,” he said.
While Nigerians awaits Osinbajo’s next response, many are wondering what the two intend to achieve with their back and forth argument on who supports or does not support restructuring.