Between the VP and Ex-VP - Tola Mobolurin

I do hope those on this platform are not confused by the political fencing game between the VP, Mr Yemi Osinbajo and the ex-VP, Mr Atiku Abubakar. I hold no brief for none but I think it is essential that we do not mistake assertions for facts or promises for covenants. Buhari promised restructuring in 2011 and got Afenifere endorsement. President Goodluck Jonathan arranged the 2014 Confab which created perhaps the clearest roadmap to restructuring. On this score, he got Afenifere endorsement for the 2015 election even when he did not implement anything in the report, (not even recommendations within his Executive power) before the elections that swept him out of power. It is noteworthy that Jonathan's party did not formally endorse the 2014 Confab Report and I cannot recollect PDP inserting in its manifesto restructuring. For the elections in 2015, Buhari and APC promised restructuring, though there are suggestions that what they promised was devolution.

What I think Afenifere and the Yoruba in general need to understand and I find it difficult to understand that we are being played by all these groups. They know our passionately held belief in restructuring and everyone like the sweet-mouthed Cassanova takes us as the foolish lady who on hearing restructuring goes weak-kneed and succumbs to the promises made to be kept in its breach. Now since 1999, don't we have enough experience to see we are being played? And I believe we are setting ourselves up again. Nobody is setting us up. If not for our perception as fairly educated and sophisticated lot, we would be called gullible.

Going into 2019, we are in the market again, both old and the new Cassanovas are on the prowl and we are being wooed with the usual lines. Atiku, we must grant him has been the most consistent advocate of restructuring from the North, though I cannot from my recollection, validate his claim that he has been on our side since President Olusegun Obasanjo days. Nonetheless he deserves our acknowledgement. Our experience of deceit of so many suitors in the past, should in my view, inform us to be very circumspect about all suitors. So between Atiku and the VP, we must demand their "bona-fides".

The VP's party is in power. He should tell us what they have done in the last three years to restructure or devolve power to the states, geographic restructuring or not. We hasten to acknowledge that the party set up a Restructuring Committee, the report of which it has not adopted because the real National Leader of the party soon after the report was released but before and without consideration by the decision making organs of the party singly and unilaterally decided that restructuring is not Nigeria's problem but good governance. The two, to be clear are not mutually exclusive and indeed are complementary and one can aid the other. We must as citizens insist on both. So for APC we know they are no longer facing restructuring. You cannot be looking for a solution to a problem you dont acknowledge exists, can you? The VP has now told us, as if to clarify the President's declaration, that what we need is good governance and not geographic restructuring. I see no problem in understanding geographic restructuring as Atiku stated in his own riposte to the VP. Ask the Northern minorities or the Yoruba trapped in Kogi and in a Northernised Kwara what geographic restructuring is and I am sure both the VP and the ex-VP will get the education of their lives on the essence of geographic restructuring. I am sure they are both playing on words or side-stepping an inconvenient issue which they do not want to candidly address out of fear that they may cause great discomfort for some members of their constituencies.

In replying Atiku, the VP has given us his personal bona-fide on restructuring. We cannot contest his claims. But his current stance is puzzling. Is he, like his other fellow travellers in APC cowed by the real National Leader and cannot push restructuring as a sacred covenant freely made to the people before they were elected? Or have they, since getting to Aso Villa, been shown reason why restructuring needs to be abandoned; just like visitors to Aso Villa in the days of IBB after annulment of Abiola's election saw the "sense in the annulment" or believed the Diya coup after Abacha/Al-mustapha movies? My gut feeling is that the VP is a victim of the political company he has kept. I know he could never, ideologically, be opposed to the 2014 Confab which his political leaders shunned. But he is handcuffed by his association. The same handcuffs, now made golden by virtue of his position, may account for his diffidence over restructuring. So much for the VP.

Atiku has also tried to establish his bona-fide as an advocate of restructuring. As we have acknowledged, there is some validity to his claim. He says he has “been very clear, detailed, and unambiguous about my ideas for restructuring." Why would someone then think his ideas are vague?

In my view, the ex-VP needs to articulate his ideas with more clarity and in a more detailed manner. I made this point on this platform after the ex-VP's Chatham House appearance. His current reply to the VP illustrates clearly the weakness of his position. The ex-VP in defining administrative, political and economic restructuring as follows:

· 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 privatisation 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 ex-VP said "I am hard pressed to see how these clear and specific ideas" can be vague. In my view, they are not only vague but mixed up with economic management strategies.

My advice to Atiku and his handlers is to set out in more detail his understanding of restructuring and how he will go about achieving it. All I can see is an idea reduced to a slogan without a detailed layout and a roadmap. What have not been spelt out will determine what the restructured Nigeria will look like and the roadmap will show if the plan is realistic and what needs to be done or the sacrifices and compromises that will need to be made by various groups. Anyone under the illusion that restructuring will not be without some sacrifices or compromises is living in Dreamland. These must be negotiated to achieve a national consensus.

No one seems to be encouraging this discussion and negotiation. Rather there are groups campaigning to have restructuring before elections. It is clear to me that this is very unrealistic. What is probably achievable is to create a unified electoral platform with a detailed restructuring plan. Currently, the Southern and Middle Belt leaders, are with all due respect, sloganeering and largely not engaging the NW and the NE. Atiku's strength is his possible ability to bridge this gap. He should invest more of his time doing this before the elections.

I pray Yoruba voters will not be seduced by another "Cassanova" with sweet nothings as in 2011 and 2014 or be made to buy a pig in the poke as in 1999. Whichever way, the harvest is the cognitive dissonance of a disappointed buyer.

Would we fall again for empty promises? The answer as they say is blowing in the wind.

• Mr Mobolurin, an Investment banker, is based in Lagos

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