Restructuring : El-Rufai under attack for criticising agitators

Niyi Odebode, Chukwudi Akasike, Leke Baiyewu, Ihuoma Chiedozie, Toluwani Eniola, Godwin Isenyo and Peter Dada

The Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, has come under attack fromsome prominent groups in the country for referring to those calling for the restructuring of the nation as political opportunists.

El-Rufai had, on Thursday, condemned some politicians, who have joined the calls for the restructuring of the country.

Describing such people as political opportunists, el-Rufai noted that they opposed restructuring when they were in power at the federal level, wondering why the agitators had now joined the calls if not for political reasons.

The governor said this when he featured on a breakfast programme on Channels Television, Sunrise Daily, on Thursday and monitored by The PUNCH in Abuja.

El-Rufai stated that the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had restructured governance in practical terms more than the previous governments.

The governor was reminded that prominent Nigerians and groups, including the Progressives Governors’ Forum, of which el-Rufai is a member, had called on the government to facilitate the restructuring of the country.

The governor was asked why restructuring was jettisoned by the ruling All Progressives Congress government despite that it was contained in the party’s manifesto.

El-Rufai stated, “It was not jettisoned. I think, in fact, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has done more in practical terms about federalism than the previous administrations put together.

“Those who talk about restructuring see it as largely political opportunism, in my opinion, rather than practical reality.

“I will give you examples. State governments are now much more involved in economic policies at the national level than ever before. We meet every month under the auspices of the National Economic Council; and working together with the Federal Government, we chart direction for our economic policy. That is part of shifting the federal-states balance.”

El-Rufai added, “As you said, it (restructuring) is in our manifesto and it is specifically stated there that we are going to look at the exclusive (legislative) list and do something about it. But what I’m trying to say is that there are three schools (of thought) calling for restructuring: there are those who are just political opportunists. They are people who, when in power, did not believe in restructuring. When they were at the federal level, they did not believe in restructuring but they have now moved out and are calling for restructuring.

“There are those who genuinely believe that there is the need for us to look at the exclusive list and drop many of the items that are there.”

He added that governors were now more involved in the investigations into the financing of the Excess Crude Account.”

El-Rufai recalled that when the governors met on Wednesday, they decided to nominate six representatives to join the national minimum wage negotiation committee.

He stated that while labour matters were not on the exclusive list, the minimum wage review could not be conducted without the states’ involvement, especially when states like Lagos and Zamfara were not on the same income level.

The Kaduna State governor stated, “There are many issues arising from the Unification Decree of 1966 by (Aguiyi) Ironsi, which progressed through the years of military rule which need to be fundamentally addressed. And it is not an issue of conference or talk shop.

“The Federal Government should not be drilling boreholes in local government (areas); the Federal Government should not be building primary health centres in local government (areas) but these things are all happening.

“There is the need for us to know that even the states, in an ideal situation, the state government should not be involved in primary education; it is a local government matter. Primary education is better managed at the community level.”

When asked what restructuring meant to the PGF, el-Rufai said, “For us, restructuring means to first look at the federal-state balance. We will look at the balance between responsibility and power; between the two tiers of government and ensure that what is best done at state and local level is devolved to the states and what is best done by the Federal Government stays with the Federal Government. That is the first step.

“Once that is agreed, the necessary steps for constitution amendment should kick in. For instance, in our APC manifesto, we have committed to ensuring that we have state police because we believe that a centralised police system is inappropriate for a county as large and diverse as Nigeria.

“We can have federal police just as we have it in the United States, dealing with particular kinds of intra-state and inter-state crimes. But most of the criminal laws should be under the control of the states.

“There are arguments that in the First Republic that some regional governments abused the police but I would say that even today, state governments are in the position to use the police to abuse political opponents because state governments carry the substantial burden of running the police in their states.

“The third step is to look at the revenue allocation formula and try to inject some kind of balance and equity tied to the responsibilities that each tier of government is going to share. This is our conception; this is how we see it and it is all articulated in our manifesto.”

The National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who also featured on the programme, described restructuring as a contentious word which meant different things to different people.

Odigie-Oyegun said the APC-led Federal Government had yet to give restructuring a priority.

He said, “It is contentious and lot of people talk about restructuring without any commonality. We have stated clearly what we want to do; devolution, true federalism. We really avoided the word restructuring because it means so many things to so many people.

“So, yes (is the) short answer to your question. We are coming to that but our priority for now, for today, is to fix the economy and restore hope, provide jobs to the teaming millions of our youths all over the country.”

Afenifere, Ohanaeze, IYC flay Kaduna gov

But the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisations, Afenifere; the umbrella groups for the Igbo, Ohanaeze Ndigbo; and the Ijaw Youth Council, have launched verbal attacks on el-Rufai for referring to those calling for restructuring as political opportunists.

It’s sad for a governor to speak like area boy –Afenifere

The pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, described the statement credited to el-Rufai on restructuring as an opposition to the progress of the country.

The Publicity Secretary of the association, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said the statement of the governor had further revealed him as one of those who did not want the country to be restructured.

Odumakin maintained that the only way out of the current agitations in the country was to restructure the current set-up of the nation.

He stated, “El-Rufai should tell us his own idea to correct the imbalance in the country, because as far as we are concerned, the 2014 confab report is about the closest to the democratic representation of Nigeria.

“The confab consisted of representatives of all segments of the societies in Nigeria. But for somebody, who occupies a responsible office of a governor to be saying those who are talking about restructuring are irresponsible, it is very unfortunate.

“It is very sad for the governor to be talking like an area boy on the television. In Nigeria of today, we can now begin to take a census of those who are against restructuring – they are President Buhari, el-Rufai, Ango Abdullahi, Lai Mohammed and Tanko Yakassai.

“Aside from those people, everybody in Nigeria supports restructuring; that is the song everybody is playing all over the country as of today, whether we like it or not. Those who are against it are insignificant.’’

El-Rufai’s opposition, display of irresponsibility, opportunism –IYC

The President, Ijaw Youth Council, Mr. Eric Omare, however, described el-Rufai’s opposition as a display of irresponsibility and opportunism.

In an interview with The PUNCH, Omare stated, “In the first place, it is el-Rufai that is displaying political opportunism and irresponsibility.”

He said those calling for the restructuring of Nigeria were people who were genuinely interested in the development of the country.

It’s unfortunate for anyone to oppose restructuring –Ohanaeze

Also, the Deputy Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, Mr. Chuks Ibegbu, described the views expressed by el-Rufai as “unfortunate”.

Ibegbu, who spoke with one of our correspondents in Enugu on Thursday, said Ohanaeze would continue to insist on the restructuring of the country.

“Ohanaeze has not changed its position; we stand for restructuring and we stand for the implementation of the recommendations of the 2014 confab, especially the aspects that would ensure the development of this country.

“Ohanaeze has not changed its position. If anybody has a contrary view, that is unfortunate,” Ibegbu said.

 Nigeria overdue for restructuring, state Yoruba leaders

Also on Thursday, some prominent Yoruba leaders called on the Federal Government to begin the process of implementing the report of the 2014 national conference.

The leaders made the call in Ibadan at a retreat organised by the Yoruba Leadership and Peace Initiative.

The leaders, who emphasised the unity of the Yoruba race, said Nigeria was overdue for restructuring.

In their various submissions, the leaders called on the Federal Government and the National Assembly to ensure that the process of reviewing the constitution take place before the 2019 general elections.

A former National Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Bode George, warned that the mistakes of the past should not be repeated to truncate the unity of the Yoruba race.

He said the thoughts of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, former Premier of the defunct Western Region, should be revisited in administering the South-West states.

“I have read Awolowo’s methodology on education, health, politics and others. If it is utilised by any governor in the region, it will help in managing the states.

The former governor of Ogun State, Chief Gbenga Daniel, who described the report of the 2014 confab as “a good document,’’ urged the Federal Government to begin the process of restructuring the country.

The convener of the retreat, Chief Deji Osinbogun, said Nigerians must come together to agree on the modalities for restructuring the polity.

Osinbogun stated that the National Political Reform Conference convened in 2005 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo did not douse the agitation for restructuring.

He added, “The 2014 dialogue was acknowledged to have made far-reaching decisions on the required constitutional reforms that would lead to restructuring.

“The conference addressed major issues of concern such as devolution of power, autonomy, resource control and fiscal federalism, among others.

“Today, there is no doubt that there is a national consensus that Nigeria is overdue for restructuring.”

Other Yoruba leaders, who attended the retreat, include Sen. Bode Olajumoke, Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN); Chairman, Afenifere Renewal Group, Mr. Olawale Oshun, and the Proprietor, Lead City University, Ibadan, Prof. Jide Owoeye.

Also in attendance were Dr. Olapade Agoro, Rev. Ayo Ladigbolu and the Secretary-General, Yoruba Council of Elders, Chief Kunle Olajide.

CAN, PFN demand confab report implementation, back restructuring

Meanwhile, the Christian Association of Nigeria in the 19 Northern States and Abuja has asked the Federal Government to revisit the report of the 2014 National Conference.

This was part of the outcome of the Northern CAN emergency meeting in Kaduna. The group noted that the report of the last national conference would end regional agitation in the country.

The Chairman of northern CAN, Rev. Yakubu Pam, read the communique of the group at a press conference in Kaduna on Thursday.

“The government should, as a matter of urgency, start considering the best ways that will address issues that have led to agitations by revisiting the last national conference’s report and get the National Assembly to begin legislative processes of addressing contentious matters,” the group added.

The organisation condemned the notice to quit issued to the Igbo in the North by a coalition of northern youth groups.

It described the three-month ultimatum issued by the youth leaders as ill-informed.

“We also wish to make it clear that we are stakeholders in the region called North or Arewa. We, therefore, condemn the hasty and ill-informed display of lack of thoughtfulness by a group by the name Arewa Youths and their sponsors asking Igbo to leave the north of Nigeria with a timeline,” it stated.

Also, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, on Thursday, expressed concerns over agitations for secession in the South-East, urging the Federal Government to yield to calls for the restructuring of the country.

The PFN also condemned the killings being perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen, warning that failure to bring the criminals to book would cause more problems.

Addressing journalists after the National Executive Council meeting of the organisation in Lagos, the PFN President, Dr. Felix Omobude, stressed that the increasing calls for the country’s break-up should not be taken lightly.

“We urge the government to pay attention to the calls for restructuring and find a way to push for further devolution of powers, while adopting an all-inclusive approach to governance and development in the country,” he said.

Speaking on the controversial basic education curriculum, the group condemned “the unnecessary collapse of Christian Religious Studies as part of an omnibus subject known as Religion and National Values.”

The PFN called for the immediate reversal of the change of curriculum so that CRS could stand on its own as a separate subject as it had always been.

On the compulsory study of foreign languages in the revised curriculum, the PFN urged that other languages, apart from French and Arabic, be accommodated.

The statement added, “We are aware of the orchestrated plans to subtly use this policy as a means of forceful religious indoctrination and we maintain our stand against it.

“We urge the Federal Government to take the issue of security more seriously, especially the spate of kidnappings all over the country.”

The PFN restated its position that nomadic cattle-rearing had become outdated, and called on state governments to build ranches and develop reserves.

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