Is a war of words brewing between a former Vice President and a sitting Vice President? 

The Vice President of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo, has fired back at a former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, who faulted his statement on the demands from different regions of the nation for the restructuring of Nigeria. 

Mr Abubakar had said Professor “Osinbajo got it wrong on Restructuring”, quoting him (Osinbajo) as saying that  “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 Osinbajo described Atiku as his illustrious predecessor in office, but highlighted that he "really would have expected Alhaji Abubakar to at least get the full text of my comments before his public refutation of my views. But I understand; we are in that season where everything is seen as fair game"!

He admitted making the comment on restructuring, but also gave his reasons while insisting that the former Vice President mixed things up in his concept of restructuring. 

In a letter to Premium Times in response to Mr Abubakar's comments, Professor said: "As the quote shows, I rejected the notion that geographical restructuring was a solution to our national problems.

"Geographical restructuring is either taking us back to regional governments or increasing the number of States that make up the Nigerian federation.

"As we all may recall, the 2014 National Conference actually recommended the creation of 18 more States. And I argued that, with several States struggling or unable to pay salaries, any further tinkering with our geographical structure would not benefit us.

"We should rather ask ourselves why the States are under-performing, revenue and development wise.

"I gave the example of the Western Region (comprising even more than what is now known as the South West Zone), where, without oil money, and using capitation tax and revenues from agriculture and mining, the government funded free education for over 800,000 pupils in 1955, built several roads, farm settlements, industrial estates, the first TV station in Africa, and the tallest building in Nigeria, while still giving up fifty percent of its earnings from mining and minerals for allocation to the Federal Government and other regions.

"I then argued that what we required now was not geographical restructuring but good governance, honest management of public resources, deeper fiscal Federalism, and a clear vision for development".

He gave further reasons geographical restructuring was not the best option, sharing his experience as the Attorney General in Lagos State.

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'Fiscal Federalism'

On what he believes will work in Nigeria, the Vice President further wrote: "We contested the attempts of the then Federal Government to create supervisory authority over the Finances of Local Governments by the signing into law of the Monitoring of Revenue Allocation to Local Governments Act, 2005.

"The Supreme Court also ruled in our favour, striking down many provisions of the law that sought to give the Federal government control over local government funding.

"I have been an advocate, both in court and outside, of fiscal Federalism and stronger State Governments. I have argued in favour of State Police, for the simple reason that policing is a local function. You simply cannot effectively police Nigeria from Abuja.Movie ticket

"Only recently, in my speech at the Anniversary of the Lagos State House of Assembly, I made the point that stronger, more autonomous States would more efficiently eradicate poverty.

"So I do not believe that geographical restructuring is an answer to Nigeria’s socio-economic circumstances.

"That would only result in greater administrative costs. But there can be no doubt that we need deeper fiscal Federalism and good governance".

Does the Vice President believe in Atiku Abubakar's concept of restructuring? 

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Professor Osinbajo described Atiku’s concept of restructuring as "understandably vague", saying he sought to cover every aspect of human existence in that definition.

"He says it means a “cultural revolution”. Of course, he does not bother to unravel this concept.

"He says we need a structure that gives everyone an opportunity to work, a private sector driven economy. Yes, I agree.

These are critical pillars of our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), including our Ease of Doing Business Programme.

"If, however, this is what he describes as restructuring, then it is clear that he has mixed up all the issues of good governance and diversification of the economy with the argument on restructuring.

"Good governance involves, inter alia, transparency and prudence in public finance.

"It involves social justice, investing in the poor, and jobs for young people; which explains our School Feeding Programme, providing a meal a day to over 9 million public school children in 25 States as of today.

"In the final analysis, restructuring in whatever shape or form, will not mean much if our political leaders see public resources as an extension of their bank accounts.

This, I believe, is the real issue," he added. 

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