Vice President Yemi Osinbajo took a swipe at former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, over his plot to turn Nigerians against the present government on restructuring of the country.
The vice president spoke against the backdrop of statements attributed to Atiku, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in next year’s general elections that he would restructure Nigeria if Nigerians elected him as president in 2019, saying when Atiku was the vice president and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was the president between 1999 and 2007, on PDP platform, they opposed restructuring.
Osinbajo disclosed this when he answered questions on the state of the nation from the audience after he delivered the ninth public lecture, entitled: Developing the Nation through Youth Empowerment, as part of activities marking the 68th anniversary of the Sigma Club, University of Ibadan.
The lecture, chaired by a legal luminary, Dr. Wale Babalakin(SAN), and held at the International Conference Centre, UI, was attended by Deputy Vice Chancellor, Administration, UI, Prof Idowu Adebowale, on behalf of the Vice Chancellor, Prof Idowu Olayinka; deputy governor of Oyo State, Otunba Moses Adeyemo, who represented Governor Abiola Ajimobi; and leader of the Sigma Club, Valentine Igbonekwu.
Osinbajo said the ruling All Progressives Congress started advocates for restructuring since the 2000 when Atiku was the vice president and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was the president of Nigeria.
They both administered the country on PDP platform from 1999 to 2007. He accused them of opposing restructuring when they were he in power, asking why Atiku should be talking about restructuring he fought against then
“If you ask those people now talking about restructuring, none of them has done anything compared to what we have done. So, I am not a latter day convert to restructuring. I am an active practitioner of restructuring, and I have gone to the Supreme Court 12 times to test restructuring.
“If today, somebody is talking about restructuring, ask him what does he mean? And where was he when we were going to court? Were they not opposing restructuring when we were going to court? We were in the opposition then. They were at the Federal Government, and they opposed every step that we took on restructuring,” he said.
Osinbajo continued: “Let me explain my position clearly. I am not just an advocate of restructuring, there is no other government in Nigeria that has actively pursued restructuring such as we did when I was Attorney General in Lags State.
“People talking about restructuring, if you ask them ‘What do you mean by restructuring?’ They won’t even know what it means, and that is the problem we have and that we have to face.
“Let me tell you what it is. When I was the Attorney General in Lagos State, we pursued in the Supreme Court, all of the issues of restructuring. We started with fiscal restructuring, which is more of resource control. Should states control their own resources? We went to the Supreme Court. They argued that each state should control its own resources.”
Osinbajo stated that the states that argued in favour of autonomy of states to control their resources were the oil producing states in the country and Lagos State, and they argued on one side, adding that other states of the federation argued on the other side because every state wants share the oil money.
“So, our own argument was that each state should control its own resources. We lost at the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court said no, that you cannot control your resources. If you are an oil producing state, take 13 per cent extra, which is derivation,” he stated.
Osinbajo said the Lagos State further argued that it has ports and the ports serve the entire nation, so the state should also take 13 per cent derivation. The Supreme Court, he said, said no, adding that the argument was pursued further, which has led to the introduction of onshore and offshore law, “which is fast enabling our state to share from onshore resources…
“All this time, this was 2000, some of those people, including the presidential candidate of PDP, who is talking about restructuring, was the vice president then; they opposed every step that we took. Of course, we were taking the Federal Government to court then. They opposed every step.
“The next thing we did was that the states should be able to create their own local governments, which is autonomy of states. So, we created 47 new local governments in Lagos. The president then, Chief Obasanjo, seized our local government funds and said we could not create new local governments. So, they seized the funds they were supposed to allocate for our local governments.
“We challenged the seizure by going to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court held that the president had no right to seize the funds meant for local governments of the state, and that we have a right to create local governments. But after hey have created the local governments, the process is not complete. They must still bring the list of new local governments to the National Assembly and the National Assembly will then amend the whole list of the local governments in the country.
“So, our local governments remain. But we could not get the National Assembly’s endorsement. So, we passed the LCDA Law. We created 47 and made them local council development areas.
Chairman of the occasion, Babalakin stated: “I know that the most significant thing we must address is how to give our youths qualitative education. The time has gone to continue to play the blame game but do the needful to salvage the youths.
“The influx and foray of our youths to foreign universities must be checked to help provide more fund for Nigerian universities. There is no shortcut to it that the government must provide affordable education at all levels.
“We must find a way of funding education robustly and sustainably to salvage the future of the youth and the nation. We cannot but educate Nigerians and we must find a way of doing it in a robust and sustainable fashion.”