Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Restructuring; Osinbajo Counsel’s Atiku, SaysDon’t Leave Out the Big Elephant in the Room



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For some of us that is still in the wilderness over various concepts on restructuring essentially in the way political gladiators put it, must still have to continue to observe as many politicians are now using the word “restructuring” as its campaign slogan, leaving many Nigerians in the dark as to the real meaning of their own explanations of how it should look like and in the way  they intend to carry  it out should in case they win their elections towards implementation.


Until recently, Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president and presidential hopeful  coming from the People Democratic Party had also  made "restructuring" as one of its cardinal points in his electioneering campaigns and that which  has been punctured yesterday by Prof Yemi Osinbajo, the current Vice president who disagreed strongly on what the concepts actually means saying there is the need not to leave out the big Elephant in the room.
Atiku has always told anyone who cared to listen that he is an apostle of the proposition. When Osinbajo in a speech, therefore, said “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 restructuring,” Atiku seized the opportunity to lecture him in a publication titled, “Osinbajo Got It Wrong on Restructuring.”
Describing Osinbajo’s use of “vague concept” as “unfortunate”, Atiku summed it up as saying "it very clear and concise” idea on restructuring as: “Devolution of powers and resources to the states; matching grants from the federal government to the states to help them grow their internally generated revenue position; the privatization of unviable federal government-owned assets; a truly free market economy driven by the laws of demand and supply; replacing state of origin with state of residence; and passing the PIGD, so that our oil and gas sector will run as a business with minimal governmental interference.”
The former vice president faulted Osinbajo’s claim to prudence in the current administration’s dealings, saying there is no “wisdom in sharing out $322 million of Abacha funds to the poor only to take a loan of $328 million from the Chinese the very next month.”
Taking the argument further, he said: “While I was vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2006, Nigeria’s Economic Management Team, of which I was a prominent member, paid off Nigeria’s entire foreign debt of $30 billion, at a time when we were earning one third of what the Buhari administration is currently earning from oil.”He, therefore, advised the vice president to “choose whether he is for restructuring or whether he is against it and stick to his choice. This continuous prevarication, this approbation and reprobation, helps no one, least of all true progressives who know that Nigeria needs to be restructured and restructured soon.”
But in reaction, Osinbajo said, “Surprisingly, Alhaji Atiku leaves out the elephant in the room – corruption, and how grand corruption, fuelled by a rentier economic structure that benefits those who can use political positions or access to either loot the treasury or get favourable concessions to enrich themselves.”
He mentioned the “unbelievable looting of the treasury by simply making huge cash withdrawals in local and foreign currency,” saying this “was the first travesty President Buhari stopped.”He also disclosed: “In four years from 2010 to 2014, the PDP government earned the highest oil revenues in Nigeria’s history, USD381.9billion. By contrast, the Buhari administration has earned USD121 billion from May 2015 to June 2018, less than 1/3 of what the Jonathan administration earned at the same period in that administration’s life. Despite earning so much less, we are still able to invest more in infrastructure than any government in Nigeria’s history.”
The difference, Osinbajo concluded, “is good governance and fiscal prudence…as restructuring in whatever shape or form, will not mean much if our political leaders see public resources as an extension of their bank accounts.”Atiku was also unsparing in his excoriation of Osinbajo and wondered how the professor of law came about the term “geographic restructuring,” saying it is a “strange concept, not only because it is not what the restructuring debate is all about, but also because the words of the vice president, which prompted my response were clear, unambiguous and unequivocal.”
He noted: “Faced with an avalanche of public condemnation for his 360-degree turn on the concept of restructuring, it is understandable that the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has written to douse the tension his comments created. However, in doing so, the vice president should not attempt to revise history by saying that he spoke against ‘geographic restructuring’…if the vice president has changed his stance, I welcome it, but we should not use one finger to hide behind semantics.”
 “But I understand; we are in that season where everything is seen as fair game!”.He recounted his past achievements as former Lagos State attorney general towards “good governance, honest management of public resources, deeper fiscal federalism, and a clear vision for development,” insisting these define restructuring rather than some “geographical” notion that holds no “solution to our national problems.”
Osinbajo declared: “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. 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.”
For the professor of law, Atiku’s “concept of restructuring is understandably vague, because he seeks 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.”

Atiku has mixed up all the issues of good governance and diversification of the economy with the argument on restructuring, Osinbajo submitted. Good governance, he continued, “involves, inter alia, transparency and prudence in public finance. It involves social justice, investing in the poor, and jobs for young people.” He found examples in the current administration’s School Feeding Programme, N-Power employment scheme, TraderMoni loan initiative and Conditional Cash Transfers.

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