Friday Olokor, Gbenga Adeniji and Toluwani Eniola
Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, on Monday carpeted Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), for his criticisms of the calls for the restructuring of Nigeria, saying Osinbajo missed the point.
Osinbajo had said on Sunday that the call for the restructuring of Nigeria was not sensible as it would not make any difference in the country.
According to the group, the VP “may have been under pressure” from the Presidency to support “upholders of the status quo.”
Afenifere regretted that the latest comment against restructuring came from Osinbajo, who is from the South-West, which had always made a strong point for the restructuring of Nigeria.
The position of Afenifere was contained in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin.
Also, a former Governor of the old Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, believed Osinbajo lacked a proper understanding of the problems besetting the country.
The ex-governor added, “I am not sure the Vice-President was heard rightly. But if he actually said that, he cannot be right. Does he want to join President (Muhammadu) Buhari against the whole country?
“Restructuring is what will keep us together in view of the prevailing economic challenges. It will reduce the cost of governance. It makes our diversity to be positive. It is either we return to the six(three) regional structures or 12 regional units.
“There have been agitations from the North, the South and even the Middle Belt are all clamouring for restructuring.
Restructuring is an idea in which Nigerians have agreed is the solution to the problems posed by our dysfunctional federalism. All are clamouring for restructuring; so Osinbajo cannot be right.”
Afenifere added, “Yes, there is a minority that is insisting that we must continue the way we are just like the minders of some empires that have disappeared from the world map did.
“The Vice-President is free to cast his lot with this group even when silence could have been golden but he should at least try to acquaint himself with the issues so people are not wondering ‘what are we talking and what is he saying.”
The Yoruba think tank therefore advised people, who seek high offices, to ensure that they were not far from issues that shaped their political environment and pay due attention to civic education.
The statement read in part, “The Vice-President in the faux pas also argued that if states were given half of the resources of the Federal Government, it would not make any difference and that all we need is to diversify into agriculture.
“While we understand that the learned professor, who is from the zone that has been loudest in this call, may have come under pressure to lend his voice to the upholders of the status quo that has brought Nigeria to this sorry pass, we would like to respectfully admonish him to be sure-footed on the subject before he speaks next time.
“He misses the entire debate by engaging in the reductionist argument, narrowing the whole issue to taking more money from the Federal Government to the states. Yes, fiscal federalism is part of the argument but the issue goes beyond the monthly Federal Allocation Committee.”
Odumakin said the central plank of restructuring was for Nigeria to go back to true practice of federalism wherein, mineral resources that abound in all states would be freed from the exclusive list so that states would move into prosperity.
He said this would free the states from “reporting at Osinbajo’s office for bailout from a centre that only corners what belongs to the states.”
Afenifere stated that beyond resources, the country had been reeling under crimes while the single police system currently in place had proved incapable of dealing with the situation.
The organisation said, “When you listen to commissioners of police lamenting at the scenes of crime these days, you will think they are part of passersby terrified by the horrors of crime. It is clear we need multi-level policing to combat crime and have effective policing.
“From the federal, down to states and local governments, we are bogged down with bloated bureaucracies that consume as much as 90 per cent of available resources and with little or nothing left for development. We must address how long we want to travel with this culture of waste and to see if we can deliver better governance with a manageable architecture.
“The question of diversification is a point that advocates of restructuring have canvassed as it makes no sense for a country as vast in resources like Nigeria to depend on a mono-product economy. It is part of restructuring we are talking about and not an alternative to it.”
ACF misleading Buhari, says ARG
In its contribution, the Afenifere Renewal Group faulted the statement credited to the Arewa Consultative Forum expressing support for Buhari’s position that Nigeria’s unity was not negotiable.
The group in a statement by its Chairman, Mr. Olawale Oshun, asserted that neither Buhari nor ACF loves Nigeria more than those advocating the re-negotiation of what bound the component units together to make up Nigeria.
It stated that the unity of the country was only sustainable by voluntary agreement of the component ethnic nationalities.
ARG added, “In our view, the problem has more to do with President Buhari’s conduct – utterances and perceived lopsided appointments – which appears to portray him as a North-centric President instead of a pan-Nigeria President.
“Both the President and the ACF need to take lessons on managing an all inclusive, pan-Nigerian government. We wonder on what consensus or authority the so-termed non-negotiable unity of Nigeria stands. Is it based on government’s ability to silence all dissenters or the capability to manage a diverse society in a manner that makes every component proud?”
The group, which said Nigeria was envisioned by its founding fathers as a federal republic, added that sadly its governance structure, as dictated by its constitution, was akin to that of a unitary state.
“Hence, the insistence of ACF and by extension the President to keep the provisions of Nigeria’s constitution from being renegotiated is a cause of many unsolvable agitations in the country.
These agitations can only be managed successfully and sustainably when all Nigerians appreciate that they need one another to bequeath a strong country to the coming generations,” ARG noted.
Besides, it said the Yoruba would never agree to become slaves in their country, stressing that the peaceful agitation coming from their space on the restructuring of Nigeria, as against the violent agitations coming from other areas, was to carefully underscore their belief in peaceful change.
It added, “All, who wish Nigeria well, align with Prof. Wole Soyinka’s assertion that Nigeria’s unity is “bloody well negotiable and we had better negotiated it…not even at conferences, but every day in our conduct…”