VICE President Yemi Osinbajo has said that the struggle to restructure Nigeria started several years ago by people who saw the need early and who were sincere about it.
Using restructuring as a major campaign pledge, he said, is out of place for politicians like the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Abubakar Atiku because he opposed it when he had the opportunity to join in implementing it.
In fact, Osinbajo recalled how Atiku opposed the moves made by the Lagos State Government for the country’s restructuring when the PDP candidate was the vice president under Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.
Osinbajo, who chaired Akande’s 80th birthday colloquium in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, recalled that the then Lagos State Government under the leadership of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu made presentation to the Federal Government for Nigeria’s restructuring, particularly the practice of true and fiscal federalism, but that Atiku, who was then vice president, rejected the move.
Osinbajo was addressing the topic of the colloquium, “Nigeria: Achieving national unity through peaceful restructuring”.
He served as Lagos State Commissioner for Justice at the time.
The vice president noted that Tinubu told him straight away when he was invited to be part of his administration that his major aim was to pursue restructuring and devolution of power to the states through legal and political means for the country’s betterment.
He said Atiku’s rejection forced Lagos State to look inward and undertake the struggle alone, a move, which he said, paid off eventually.
According to the VP, Lagos State pursued it through the courts, adding that it succeeded in winning on four major issues.
They are: the power of the states to create local governments, the declaration that the Federal Government does not have the right to withhold federal allocation of any state or local government being jointly owned by the federating units, the right of states to create taxes and the right to issue their own urban and regional plan to which the Federal Government must comply, if it has any property in the state.
The vice president emphasized that there was a general agreement among Nigerians on the need for restructuring, but that the structure it must take was what citizens from different divides were yet to agree on.
In his presentation, Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai, who gave the keynote speech, said in spite of the fact that some Nigerian elite were trivializing the issue, “it is a serious matter for Nigeria because it is needed for the country to move faster on the growth lane”.
He warned Nigerians to be mindful of those using restructuring to deceive. The governor said his position on the need for restructuring had been well-known before he became governor as he never hid his view.