Osoba: Restructuring Only Possible through Judiciary, N’Assembly

Olusegun Osoba
Olusegun Osoba

Gboyega Akinsanmi

A former Ogun State Governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba, has faulted the approach of the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, to the demand for restructuring, saying Nigeria can only be restructured either through constructive engagement with the National Assembly or judicial pronouncement.

Osoba has also suggested that if the nations that constitute the Federal Republic of Nigeria choose not to engage the National Assembly or institute litigations at the Supreme Court to achieve devolution of powers, they can go the way of the USSR, Yugoslavia, Czecho-Slovakia or the United Kingdom.

He explained the options Wednesday evening at a session with journalists in his Bourdillon residence, citing different litigations the Lagos State Government instituted at the Supreme Court on behalf of other states of the federation and won.

At the session, Osoba noted that as a political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) resolved not to convene national conference, though a clause was inserted in the APC Constitution that addressed the party’s position on restructuring.

“We inserted devolution of power in our constitution. Our leaders in Afenifere are calling for restructuring. It is in the APC constitution. Restructuring is also devolution. Today, power is being devolved from the British Parliament to Scotland and Wales centuries after being together. It is a reality we must address.

“I am not saying all is well with Nigeria. I will be a fool to say everything is well with Niger. It cannot be well with any government. Even in Britain today, Theresa May was shown out over Brexit. Governance and politics are dynamic.

“I am for true federalism, which we have been fighting for and which we have tested in courts. We will continue to test more and more in courts. I disagree with our Afenifere leaders on two issues. I am for sovereign national conference.

“I am also for referendum. Only the military can decree it. That can never take place unless we have a coup. Nobody prays for coup in Nigeria again. If we want sovereign national conference, the National Assembly must pass an Act to set up that National Conference.

“That means the National Assembly cede part of its own power to that National Conference. In that Act, also, it must be started that any conclusion from the National Conference will be binding on different nations in the federation.

“Also, referendum must also be passed by the National Assembly. I have asked them: How many members of the House of Representatives did they produce in the last election? How many senators did they produce in the last election?

“At the tail end of the Eighth National Assembly, they met the principal officers of the Senate. Chief Edwin Clark led them to the Senate. I knew what the Senate did in terms of the amendments to the 1999 Constitution and many of these resolutions were passed by the State House of Assemblies.

“When the leaders met Dr. Bukola Saraki, they should come out and tell the world what they found out at the meeting with the principal officers of the Senate. Why did they not follow up from there? That is the question I asked them and they started calling me names. I have asked them to tell me the way out.”

Unlike Obafemi Awolowo, Osoba noted that Afenifere leaders “have not respect for dissenting voices and dissenters. They do not have the ability to listen to other opinion. They do not have the heart to accommodate conflicting opinion.”

Under the Bola Tinubu administration, Osoba noted that the Lagos State Government “instituted major cases in the name of all the states. On the local government, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, then Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General of Lagos State, went to the Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court ruled that the federal government had no power to interfere with the local government administration and that the local government areas are totally under the federating units. Is that not restructuring? Also, President Olusegun Obasanjo was spending money anyhow.”

Under the Tinubu administration, Osoba noted that Osinbajo “approached the Supreme Court. And the court ruled that all money must go into the Federation Accounts. In 2014, the Forum of Former Governors under the leadership of Jim Nwobodo nominated me to represent former governors. And I did.

“We came to many conclusions. A lot of them should be implemented through Executive Order. The report was submitted in August 2014 and President Goodluck Jonathan left office nine months after the submission of the report. He never executed one executive action. After he lost the election in February, he had two or three months to execute parts of the executive actions.”

Apart from the engagement with the National Assembly and judicial pronouncement, the former governor suggested four other ways restructuring could be achieved, noting that the nations that constitute Nigeria “can choose to go the Yugoslavia way. Marshall Josip Tito held Yugoslavia together for years.

“We thought it was a united country. Suddenly, neighbours were killing neighbours. These were neighbours that had been living together for 40 years. Till date, they still have cases in the International Criminal Courts. God forbid that in Nigeria.”

He, also, said the federation “can choose the option of the USSR. We thought the USSR state was one united body. We thought communism was everything. Until the USSR broke, we now have a state like Ukraine where a comedian just won election.”

“You would think Ukrainians have been practising democracy for years after the Soviet Union was dissolved and the USSR broke into pieces. Russia now remains. That is an alternative for Nigeria. It was negotiated under Mikhail Gorbachev.”

Osoba, also, cited the Czecho-Slovakia option, which according to him, allowed both the Czech and Slovakia negotiated their separation and parted peacefully.

He said the last option before Nigeria was that of the United Kingdom, noting that the kingdom “is not united any more. About two years, there was referendum in Scotland to break away from the United Kingdom. They lost narrowly.”

However, the APC leader said the difference “has not been settled. We used to hear of the United Kingdom. But the Kingdom is not united anymore. Power is being devolved regularly from the British Parliament to Scotland and Wales.

“These are all options open to us. I want them to let us engage in intellectual discussion. I want our leaders in Afenifere to listen to me. I listen to them. But they will not do. Instead of engaging the vice president, who is tested or the National Assembly, they resort to the use of unprintable language.

“In national dailies, an elderly leader described the vice president as a dishonest intellectual and that the vice president is a disgrace to the Yoruba race. Those are the unprintable words with which they used to describe the gentleman, a pastor, a man of honour, intellectual and a success in his own career.”