Vice President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday named the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as one of those who stood against the restructuring of the country when the party was in power.
Atiku made restructuring a key plank of his campaign in the run up to the PDP national convention where he was nominated as the party’s presidential flag bearer in next year’s election.
But Osinbajo, speaking in Ibadan yesterday, said Atiku who was Vice President between 1999 and 2007, opposed every move made by the Lagos State government at that time to assert its authority.
Delivering a lecture entitled “Developing the nation through youth empowerment”, at the University of Ibadan, the Vice President said: “I am not just an advocate of restructuring as there is no other government in Nigeria that has actively pursued restructuring such as we did when I was Attorney General in Lagos 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 explained 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 argued on one side, while other states of the federation argued on another side because every state wants to 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 a derivation.”
Osinbajo said 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 the onshore and offshore law, “which is fast enabling the 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 today, 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. So, we created 47 new local governments in Lagos. The President then, Chief Olusegun 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 they 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.
“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 in the Federal Government, and they opposed every step that we took on restructuring.”
The lecture was in commemoration of the 68th anniversary of Sigma Club, University of Ibadan.