Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo wedbrdday in Ibadan, Oyo State, said restructuring of the country can be achieved through litigation as states are free to employ litigation instead of waiting endlessly for constitutional means.
He also said no reasonable Nigerian would be against restructuring, stating that the focus should be on what the restructuring should look like, and not just agitations for restructuring.
Osinbajo, while speaking as Chairman of the Bisi Akande Colloquium with the theme: ‘Nigeria: Achieving National Unity Through Peaceful Restructuring’ to mark the 80th birthday celebration of the former Governor of Osun State, Chief Bisi Akande, faulted the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, who promises to restructure Nigeria within six months if elected president.
Present at the event were the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu; governors Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Nasiru El-rufai (Kaduna), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), deputy governor of Lagos State, Idiat Oluranti Adebule, and Senator Biyi Durojaye.
Others are former Senate President, Senator Ken Nnamani; Secretary of the APC Committee on Restructuring, Senator Olu Adetunmbi, and Prof. Adigun Agbaje of the Political Science Department of the University of Ibadan, who were the discussants, while Dr. Usman Bugaje was the moderator at the colloquium.
Also present at the event were the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole; former Governor of Ekiti State, Adeniyi Adebayo; former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba, and former Governor of Osun State, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola.
The vice president, who said Atiku and the PDP government vehemently opposed restructuring when the former Governor of Lagos State, Tinubu, introduced it, but was agitating for fiscal federalism, urged Nigerians to be vigilant and not allow the party to come back to power “as it has not changed its spots.”
Osinbajo, who also outlined the processes involved in restructuring a country, said he, as part of the Lagos State history between 1999 and 2003, used legal means to achieve creation of more Local Council Development Areas (LCDA) in the state, adding that “therefore, such court process could be adopted if truly Nigerians want restructuring.”
He said: “The Government of Lagos State demonstrated that it is positive to have restructuring and devolution of power but by the process of litigation. As of 1999, when I first had encounter with Tinubu, he made it clear to me that one of his most important objectives was for us to pursue fiscal federalism and devolution of power to our state.
“He wanted me to study it and know how to do it. We spent a lot of time and resources to look into how we could do it. We know that going through the National Assembly is just a waste of time. We then decided to use the process of litigation. As a matter of fact, we went to the Supreme Court in 12 different times on what we can describe as restructuring. The federal government at that time of course opposed every such move on our part. Today, our dear presidential candidate of the PDP says he is an expert in restructuring but in those years, when we were fighting for restructuring, he opposed every step we took.
“Every time we were at the Supreme Court, he vehemently opposed it through the federal government which he served. Fortunately for us, we were able to record successes which are tremendous achievements today. The achievements are gains of litigation. We can only get it through the court. As a region, if we are talking of restructuring, we should look at it from the point of view of the court.”
Governor El-Rufai, who delivered the keynote address, said the recommendations of the APC committee on restructuring of which he was the chairman were the best for the country.
According to it, “APC Committee on True Federalism submitted its report last year. Before I conclude this address, it is important to remind us of the major recommendations. The committee recommended that the federation be rebalanced with more powers and responsibilities devolved to the states. The committee also clarified that the federation is a relationship solely between the states and the federal government, and that each state should be allowed to operate the system of local government that best suits it.
“In our diverse country, it is only prudent to concede that one size or structure of local governance does not fit all. Successful restructuring depends also on our national resolve to protect the idea of a common citizenship. The rights guaranteed under the constitution should be enjoyed by every citizen, no matter where they reside or which part of the country they hail from. A restructuring of mentality and values is a key factor in the success of restructuring the governance and political structure.”