Atiku: North Not Opposed to Restructuring

By Oladipupo Awojobi
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has debunked the notion that the North is against restructuring, saying a restructured Nigeria will take the country to greater heights.
Addressing participants at a 3-day lecture organised by Political Academy,  Shagamu, Ogun State under the leadership of a former governor of the state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, Atiku said he had been able to convince northern leaders on the need to restructure the country.
At the 3-day workshop with the theme, “Deepening Understanding Of The Nigerian Political Environment,” which ended on Thursday, Atiku, who is aspiring to take his fourth shot at the presidency in 2019, revealed that he had engaged the services of consultants on the contentious issue.
“I have engaged consultants to work on the issue of restructuring and ensure that no part of the country is cheated with restructuring.
“The North is not opposed to restructuring. For instance, our government passed a law  when I was the Vice President of the country that all children must be educated to secondary school.
“With restructuring,  states and local governments would be compelled to ensure this is done. It will not be the responsibility of the Federal Government then.
“I will sit with the state governments and members of the National Assembly on the need to work on our constitution to ensure proper distribution of wealth in the country,” he said.
He said, “I am a product of the First Republic and I had free education,  and my local government sponsored my primary and secondary education.”
On agriculture, Atiku stated that what Nigeria needed was a dual system, where the country would combine subsistence farming with commercial farming.
He said, “Our agriculture has been on subsistence level through small scale farming. The highest potential we recorded in the country was during the First Republic, when we had subsistence and commercial farming.
“Unless we do commercial farming,  we will not be successful in food production. Commercial farming would lead to surplus in food production that would help us in having enough and export agricultural products.”
The former vice president said if elected,  his government would allow private organisations to be key players in the area of infrastructure development.
He gave examples of roads,  power generation, rail system and others, which he said could be best driven by the private sector.
He also faulted successive governments in the country for depending on gas to generate power as he said that gas was an expensive source of energy.
He recalled how he had worked with some foreign investors that were ready to use the resources that were available in the different zones of the country to generate power,  and that the then President Olusegun Obasanjo,  who initially supported the idea, later opposed it.
The issue of the killings by Fulani herdsmen was also addressed by Atiku, who blamed the current government for not handling it properly.
Noting that as a Fulani man with over 1,000 cattle, he is worried that security agents and the Federal Government were not doing enough to put a stop to the killings by herdsmen.
“The creation of local government system eliminated our local administration system. In those days, your name and the number of your cattle would be registered and you would pay taxes on them.
“We can go through the village heads and traditional rulers to handle the cattle rearers. I will also support the creation of state police to handle issues like this,” he said.
Atiku promised to give 40 percent of government appointments under his government to youths,  adding that he traveled abroad to bring youths  who worked with the Federal Government during his time as vice president.
Reacting to corruption allegations being levelled against him in some quarters,  the ex-vice president declared that this was a matter of perception.
He explained that he fought both the military and civilian governments, including when he was serving as vice president, and that he couldn’t have left the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)  for the PDP if he was corrupt as he could have been easily probed.
To address unemployment, Atiku said the private sector would be given the necessary support, saying that the sector is the best employer of labour rather than the state or federal government.
He told the audience that the then PDP-led Federal Government created the Small and Medium Scale Agency, and accused the successive governments,  including the current one, of not utilising the agency, which he said had led to a high level of unemployment in the country.