The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, on live television yesterday (Tuesday, July 12), clarified his position on restructuring of Nigeria and sundry issues.
Here are excerpts…
Nigeria is a major concept, it’s a huge thing, there are many issues surrounding it. For example, I have always been a strong believer in fiscal federalism that is to say, that the states must have more resources and we went to the Supreme Court. I actually went to the Supreme Court as Attorney-General of Lagos State, no less than ten times on issues of fiscal federalism.
As a matter of fact, one of the things we said at that point was that we are trying to structure Nigeria’s federalism by court action. We went to court several times. For example on the issue of whether states have the right to certain degrees of autonomy, we fully supported that and said the state have right of autonomy with (regards) even to their resources.
VAT for example: we believe VAT must be a state matter, sales tax ought to be a state matter. I strongly believe in that and we’ve always fought for those issues.
State police: I strongly believe that we must have state police.
Dividing Nigeria, going back to regions and all of those kinds of things, I do not believe that at all. I don’t think that we need to go back to regions.
So, if there are people who believe that we must structure ourselves again along ethnic lines I don’t accept that that is the right way to go. So, when you say restructuring, even seated there with you (the interviewers on the TV set) I am sure that for many of us there are certain aspects of this restructuring that you may agree with or that you may not agree with.
But as a general position, Nigeria always needs to be re-engineered, we have to keep restructuring, re-engineering.
For example look at (some of the current) questions today, around whether or not a state should have rule over its resources. That is a major point.
Of course, states ought to have a good measure of control over their resources but we must have to agree how do you then ensure that the federal government itself functions. Do you need a federal government or do you not need a federal government?
But to say restructuring, I am sure that even Mr. Otitoju, with whom we ‘ve worked very closely will agree with me, even if he does not agree, I don’t think he wants Nigeria to be restructured along ethnic lines.
Is that the restructure we want?
What do you mean by power sharing, you must be specific. Is it the rotation of the presidency? As far as I am concerned whatever the political arrangement the political party makes, wherever they want the presidency to go should be left entirely with the political parties and should be a political arrangement.
But I don’t believe that we should go and write it in our constitution that there must be… that the presidency must go from zone to zone. I dont think that should be a constitutional issue. I think we should leave that to the parties themselves.
If a party decides that we want zoning its a party thing, let it be so. But I don’t think we should go and write that into our constitution.
And I very strongly believe that the time will come when we will no longer be emphasizing geo-political zone and that is the kind of Nigeria I will like to see. I like to see a Nigeria where we are all able to work together, where we are able to de-emphasize ethnicity, de-emphasize geo-political zone. That is the kind of Nigeria that I’ll like to see.
I believe that sometimes, you know, we pre-occupy ourselves with some of these issues you know, but let’s take a close look at today when we’ve had problems in this country.
Whatever problems we had today, we have serious economic problems. Is it on account of geo-political arrangement that we have serious economic problems?
Corruption for example, which is crippling Nigeria, is corruption a geo-political problem?
Because what I have seen, just looking at the case files, what I have seen is that when there is corruption in Nigeria, any case of corruption, you will find federal character, every geo-political zone is represented.
If somebody steals today, if you find somebody stealing $200m or $2b as we see, you will find that everybody is represented. You will find Yoruba man, Housa man, the man from South-South, you find the Igbo man. There is equal representation. I think we must also interrogate our elites, Nigerian elites.
Let me say that you know, with respect to constitutional reform I’m one for continuously reviewing our constitution especially because there are many faults that are in the constitution. There are many different problems, many different issues.
I believe that we must continue to take a look at the constitution and look for ways of modifying it, we should not be shying away from constitutional amendment or revisiting our constitution but what I am against is anything that is vague.
You know for example, if you take a look at our constitution, and say well let us just look at it again. Some people say it is not our constitution because it does not originate from the people. Most constitutions as you see all over the world, are usually from elites. The elites come together draw up a set of rules and regulations, and everybody accepts it. There are very few places where even a man on the street don’t understand half of what you are saying in the constitutional document.
So what our elites and our representative ought to do is to provide for the people the very best that will ensure the welfare, the safety of the vast majority of the people. That is the responsibility of the elites.
I’m a constitutional lawyer, I know that regarding the constitution, generally speaking, how many people get involved? Even if you do a referendum you, you can’t do a yes or no on a constitutional document.
We have continued to advocate for state police. I continue to advocate for state police, I believe very strongly that we must have state police…Community policing, we can’t achieve it without a constitutional amendment. So I very strongly believe that we must have community policing.
Certainly that is something that I want to see -appellate jurisdiction of the court. Those interlocutory appeals must stop at the court of appeal. So you don’t have somebody because he wants to delay a case from going forward by appealing all the way to the Supreme Court.