El-Rufai Heads APC C’ttee to Define Its Stance on Restructuring

  •  Govs concerned over delayed convention
  •  Atiku: Country is drunk on easy oil money

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has set up a committee to be chaired by the Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai to articulate its position on the nation’s restructuring.

The party said it was uncertain as to what Nigerians meant by restructuring of the country, hence the decision to set up the committee to come up with the party’s own definition on the concept of restructuring.

The decision to put together a committee on restructuring came just as governors elected on the APC platform expressed frustration over the continued delay in organising the party’s convention.

Addressing journalists after a two-hour meeting of the governors and the leadership of the party, Zamfara State Governor and the Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) Abdulaziz Yari said the leaders discussed key issues including the issue of restructuring and the party’s national convention.

He said they decided that the regular meeting with the governors will be extended to include the principal officers of the National Assembly.

Yari said: “We discussed the issue of the relationship between the governors and the National Assembly and the need to have this meeting between the principal officers of the National Assembly, the governors and the party.
“We also discussed a number of issues ranging from state congresses which will commence on Saturday to elect two delegates for the convention.”

On the delayed APC convention, Yari said that the party had been working on the process but since President Muhammadu Buhari was expected to be in attendance, it was delayed.

He however assured Nigerians that the process would now kick off with congresses at the state level on July 29, leading to the election of three delegates for the convention and also fill some of the existing vacancies.

“We have been on this issue of the convention for sometime. But you know that the president is the leader of this party and before getting to the convention, there is a process.

“The NWC (National Working Committee) must agree on the time and we have to adopt the report of the NWC, send to the NEC and the president must be in attendance as the leader.

“You know the situation of our president today. We have fixed dates, but because of his illness, we have not been able to hold the meeting. However, we have to put a process in place so that we can hold the mid-term convention,” he said.

THISDAY also gathered that the governors told the party leadership that they were no longer prepared to keep delaying the convention and other activities, pointing at the speed with which the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was able to meet and immediately fixed a date for its national convention.

A reliable source at the meeting said the governors resolved to meet with Acting President Yemi Osinbajo Wednesday night to iron out issues relating to the convention and on the outstanding federal government board appointments.

Other than the party’s convention, the Zamfara governor said that the meeting assessed the situation leading to the defeat of the party by the candidate of the PDP in the recently held senatorial bye-election in Osun State and measures to avert another recurrence.

“We also discussed the bye-election in Osun State. We all know what happened and the fact that it was APC all the way and not because PDP had the power to win the election.

“We know what happened there and we are on top of the situation and a committee made up of governors and officers from the national secretariat was formed to revisit the issue.

“Let me say it is a wakeup call on how to deal with things like that in future. We are in a democratic setting and Senator Adeleke is from APC and his late brother was from APC and we all know what happened.

“We have discussed that extensively and measures have been taken to avoid future occurrence,” he said.

Also speaking on the resolutions reached at the meeting, APC spokesman, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, said the reason for setting up the committee on restructuring was to articulate what the APC means by restructuring.

“I have repeatedly mentioned it that when we mentioned the setting up a committee on restructuring, what we are talking about is a committee that will articulate what the APC means by restructuring.

“We have realised for sometime now that when people talk about restructuring, we are no longer sure if they are talking about the same thing.

“People have said that the APC promised restructuring. So we need to sit down as a party to develop a shared understanding of what we mean by restructuring in our manifesto.

“This committee that is set up which will be chaired by the governor of Kaduna State is mainly to define exactly what APC means by restructuring so that every member will know what exactly we mean. It is not a committee to set up the modalities for restructuring,” he said.

Yari also spoke on the party’s outlook for the 2019 elections, insisting that the judgment of the Supreme Court that restored the Senator Ahmed Makarfi leadership of the rival opposition party would not in anyway affect the APC.

The members of the Restructuring committee are el-Rufai (chairman), Governors Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje (Kano), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), former governor of Edo State, Prof. Oserheime Osunbor, and the APC National Organising Secretary, Senator Osita Izunaso.

Others include Bolaji Abdullahi and Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi (Secretary).

However, as the ruling party sought to refine its understanding of the clamour for Nigeria’s restructuring, one of its chieftains and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar had no misgivings about its definition, when he said that he backs the concept because of his conviction that it would guarantee equity and a united Nigeria.

He said reordering of the country’s governance structure will take power from the elite and give it back to the people, adding that it would ensure that “everyone has a chance to build and share in this great nation’s potential”.

In a speech delivered Wednesday at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) on the occasion of the Senior Staff Club Lecture Series on Restructuring Nigeria/Award of Excellence in Good Governance which was conferred on him, Atiku said his interest in the restructuring agenda dated back to his days as a member of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Atiku said the party’s manifesto included the following words: “To improve the people’s welfare and fight for social justice.”

He said restructuring might be inconvenient for the elite who are the ones profiting from the oil rent economy and the feeding bottle of our current deformed federalism.

“But I believe we need to speak the truth. And the truth is this: our national wealth is being drained by a select few instead of building a country for all of us. This has to end.

“We need to return the resources and power back to the local level, and from the elite to the people.
“Only by restructuring can we guarantee unity, equity and security for our nation,” he said.

He said except Nigeria moved from being a sharing nation to a productive one, it would continue to totter, noting that restructuring Nigeria to bring it back to the original dreams of the founding fathers to ensure equity, fairness and rapid economic development was a choice the country must quickly make.

At the UNN event, chaired by the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, Atiku added that with the political will, it will not take more than six months to restructure Nigeria starting with the transfer of all the items in the concurrent list to the states, a decision he said will not require a constitutional amendment.
He insisted that Nigeria was drunk with easy money from oil but needed to change that mindset.

He recalled that he had been a proponent of restructuring right from when he was a member of the late General Sani Abacha’s constitutional conference of 1994/1995, but regretted that the 1999 Constitution signed into law by former military Head of State, General Abdulsalam Abubakar, was entirely different from what they agreed upon.

He said the 1994/1995 constitutional conference produced something similar to the 1963 Republican Constitution, which laid emphasis on true federalism, diversification and greater power to the federating units in the areas of agriculture and education, among others, which the federal government has no business handling.

He said oil which has become a distraction to the nation’s leaders, as it encourages rent system, will soon be phased out by many developed countries, thereby making the development of agriculture and diversification of the economy in general, imperative.

Atiku disclosed that when they came into government in 1999, he suggested to his principal then, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on the need to privatise the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), but the idea was jettisoned and he made himself the Minister of Petroleum.

“To me, restructuring means making changes to our current federal structure so that it comes closer to what our founding leaders established, in response to the very issues and challenges that led them to opt for a less centralised system.

“It means devolving more powers to the federating units with the accompanying resources. It means greater control by the federating units of the resources in their areas.

“It would mean, by implication, the reduction of the powers and roles of the federal government so that it would concentrate only on those matters best handled by the centre, such as defence, foreign policy, monetary and fiscal policies, immigration, customs and excise, aviation, as well as setting and enforcing national standards on such matters as education, health and safety.

“Some of what my ideas of restructuring involve require constitutional amendment, some do not. Take education and roads for instance, the federal government can immediately start the process of transferring federal roads to the state governments along with the resources it expends on them.

“In the future, if the federal government identifies the need for a new road that would serve the national interest, it can support the affected states to construct such roads, and thereafter leave the maintenance to the states, which can collect tolls from road users for that purpose.

“The federal government does not need a constitutional amendment to start that process. The same goes for education and health care.

“We must reverse the epidemic of federal takeover of state and voluntary organisations’ schools and hospitals which began in the ‘70s, and also transfer those established by the federal government to the states.

“We do not need a constitutional amendment to transfer federal universities and colleges, as well as hospitals to the states where they are located,” he stated.

Atiku also cautioned those seeking for the breakup of the country in the erroneous belief that their new country will be turned into paradise, saying life is not as simple as that.

He said the regions that are endowed with petroleum or other resources need not see restructuring as their gain, while those that feel less endowed should not see it as their loss, stressing that Japan, South Korea and other countries do not rely and do not have material resources but their brain power, education and technology.

“What is in our brain is more than what is in the ground because while resources in the land is exhaustible, the brain remains inexhaustible,” he said.

Nwodo and Afenifere spokesperson Yinka Odumakin commended the former vice-president for his courage in taking on the restructuring gauntlet, saying that with the voices of Atiku and that of former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, the agitation for restructuring had assumed a national dimension and was no longer limited to what they termed as warlords.