By Erasmus Ikhide
VICE President Prof Yemi Osibanjo has further debased the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government’s worsening image with his peripheral subscription to and his narrow-minded prescription to the vague, vaporous and nebulous concept of restructuring that entrenches the old order and tightens the noose around the sociopolitical neck of the failed state called Nigeria.
Without mincing words, the professor of law and the scion of the progressive Chief Obafemi Awolowo dynasty — a supposed — should I say pretentious restructuring crusader has lost his sanctity, consciousness in the labyrinth of President Buhari’s protectionist, irredentist, and northernisation status quo government that celebrates antiquity, poverty, social strife and bloodbath. Professor Yemi Osibanjo’s response to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar on restructuring was ill-advised, as it was a depiction of crass revisionism. Who will rescue Nigeria now that one of her brightest has been lost to partisan political blindness?
What the Vice President canvased in the unfortunate response to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his earlier position on restructuring at a Town Hall meeting in Minnesota, USA is antithetical to the APC two volume documents on how to restructure Nigeria, presented to President Muhammadu Buhari by Governor Nasir El-Rufai and his team in their “Reports of the APC Committee on True Federalism” submitted on January 25, 2018.
In far away the United States of America, a nation that celebrates the rule of law and humanity, Vice President Osibanjo was quoted as saying, “the problem with our country is not a matter of restructuring… and we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into the argument that our problems stem from some geographic re-structuring”. Professor Osibanjo is not the first bluster to take Nigerians for a rollercoaster ride on the decoupling of the failed national structures. President Buhari has done so — repeatedly.
From the very beginning, before the merger of ACN and CPC in 2013, President Buhari pointedly told Senator Bola Tinubu that restructuring Nigeria under his watch is out of the question if he becomes the president. He even threatened to stage a walkout from the merger than to accept restructuring. Even after Governor El-Rufai and his team had submitted the APC reports on true federalism, President Buhari daringly and blighted told Nigerians to go hug a huge transformer — because he would not restructure the country to pave the way for equity, justice and fairness.
Nigeria is in for greater trouble and imminent danger since Vice President Osibanjo has reduced restructuring to the merest of his party “providing a meal a day to over 9 million public school children in 25 States as of today”; or the APC “NPower is now employing 500,000 APC graduates”; or “TraderMoni that will be giving microcredit to 2 million petty APC traders”, or “Conditional Cash Transfers giving monthly grants to over 400,000 of the APC members poorest in Nigeria”.
Now, Nigerians are wont to ask specifically what has happened to the APC reports on true federalism since the vice president is caught in the bind of restructuring somersault. A probe at the document revealed that the committee engaged about 8,040 persons during 14 sittings nationwide; held 12 public consultations in all the six geopolitical zones in the country, while 409 memoranda were received from respondents. The committee initially started with 10 members but was expanded to 23 members.
The APC committee on restructuring found that Nigerians showed interest in 24 issues including: the creation of states, merger of states, state police, the derivation principle, fiscal federalism, local government autonomy, devolution of powers, type of government, independent candidacy, public holidays, the land tenure system, power-sharing and rotation, type of legislature, affirmation for vulnerable groups like the physically challenged, women and youths, the minimum wage, border adjustment, secular statutes of the country, and the conduct of referendum. Of those issues, the panel made recommendations on 13.
‘Merger of states’: The panel proposes a draft bill that will allow states to merge if they so desire. The report shows that just 36 per cent of those polled by the committee wanted more states to be created and since there is already a procedure for creation of states in the constitution.
‘Derivation Principle’: The panel recommended that the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission RMAFC Act be amended to vest it with the power to periodically review the derivation formula and make recommendations to the President who shall table the same before the National Assembly for necessary action.
‘Fiscal federalism and revenue allocation’: Panel wants a constitutional amendment to give more revenue to the states and reduce the Federal Government’s share.
‘Devolution of powers’: The panel recommends this based on popular demand for there to be devolution of powers to the states from the FG. “We have recommended that the first schedule, part one and two be amended to transfer some powers to the states,” said el-Rufai on the day he submitted the document.
‘State Police’: The committee recommends that state police should be moved from the Exclusive list to the Concurrent list. “We are recommending that police should be both federal and state”, the committee chairman said.
‘Resource control: exploitation and revenue sharing of resources from oil minerals’: The committee proposes that mining, minerals, oil revenues should go to the states but that it should be limited to onshore areas, not offshore ones which would still be owned by the FG. “There will be certain constitutional amendments. The Petroleum Act will be amended to show that states can now issue oil mining licences; the Land Use Act, Nigeria Minerals and Mining Act, the Petroleum Profit Tax Act, 2007, would all need to be amended. So, we have proposed amendments that will ensure that minerals, mining and oil are vested in the states except for offshore minerals,” El-Rufai also noted.
There are other significant recommendations including the ones on ‘Local Government Autonomy, Referendum’, ‘Independent candidacy’, ‘Citizenship’, ‘Public holidays’ and ‘Judiciary’.
Nigerians would have expected Vice President Yemi Osibanjo — because of his acclaimed intellectual robustness — to deconstruct the dubious military-imposed unitarism heritage in a democracy and its attendant vices that have rewarded laziness and punished productivity.
Prof Yemi Osibanjo and the APC may yet redeem his image and that of his party by sending an executive bill to the national assembly to alter the Provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended to accommodate his party’s recommendations on restructuring in the interest of all. Anything short of that is self-abnegation, self-pillaging and pure fraud on the part of the Vice President and his discordant, incoherent political party.
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