Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Friday declared his stand on the raging issue of restructuring of Nigeria, saying he fully agreed that “states should have more opportunities to develop themselves’’.
Mr. Osinbajo was speaking at a crowded Lagos conference, tagged: “Towards a Better Nigeria,’’ organised by leading Nigerian pastors.
He, however, did not elaborate on his statement on restructuring but recalled that the ruling APC party had two years ago talked about standing for devolution of powers.
“The APC manifesto in 2015 talked about devolution of powers and Nigeria may do more work to ensure that states are generating more income and people are paying more taxes.’’
Mr. Osinbajo identified corruption, tribalism and religion as the key problems hampering Nigeria’s development, decrying the failure of Christian leaders in Nigeria to chart an agenda that would help to rid the country of vices.
“The key to development in Nigeria is the church. It is the church that will begin the process of unity by uniting itself first.
“What Nigeria needs is already written in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Mr. Osinbajo said that to build a new Nigeria, “we need people of integrity, hard work and people with love for the country.
“It is this tribe that can configure the argument for change in Nigeria. The corrupt Nigerian elites are one tribe.
“In sharing their loot, they neither bring in ethnicity nor religion but only use such to create misunderstandings that will benefit themselves.
“The reason Nigeria is where it is today is because people do not really care. It is time people should stand up for what is right and join the fight against corruption.
“Corruption has become the rule in Nigeria and this must stop. It did not start with this administration and it is yet to stop.
On the Fulani herdsmen issue, the vice-president said that “contrary to opinions that it began because the president is Fulani, in 1996, there were issues between herdsmen and some communities in Gombe.
“This issue has been on through the years. Giving the impression that it is a phenomenon because a Fulani man is president is wrong.
“Even in 2014, there were reported herdsmen issues in Nigeria.”
On alleged lop-sided appointments in the country, Mr. Osinbajo said it was time that Nigerians began to look at merit rather than tribe or religion.
“It is easy to say that appointments are lop-sided if one set of appointments come or that it is not balanced. It is on record that Ogun State has the highest number of heads of agencies and parastatals in Nigeria, followed by Imo.
“Borno, Sokoto and Yobe States that voted heavily for the APC in the 2015 presidential election do not have a senior minister in the administration.
“Most people, who think that the north is favoured or better because the president is from there will have a re-think when they visit northern Nigeria.
“The north is the poorest part of Nigeria in every way. There are over 2.3 million displaced people. The north is ravaged by diseases and Boko Haram.
“Many people’s perception will change if they visited the north.’’
On the Ibrahim Magu controversy, the vice-president said that Mr. Magu remained a competent man, saying: “we must insist on merit even when many do not believe in that.
“We are never going to get this country to where we want it to be. In football, we don’t ask where we come from because we want to win.
“It is only in Nigeria that we look for state quotas first instead of merit.”
Commenting on an alleged plan by the present administration to start taxing churches, Mr. Osinbajo said a bill on the issue was sponsored by some civil society groups.
“The bill is currently being debated in the National Assembly. There is no plan by the government to get churches to pay tax.’’
On the Islamic Development Bank, he explained that Nigeria did not become a member of the bank during the present administration.
“Buhari does not own the bank. Nigeria became a member in 2008. The first and present directors of the bank are Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Kemi Adeosun and they are Christians.
“Nigeria is just a shareholder and like any business we make use of the profit we get from there.”
On IPOB and Operation python dance, Mr. Osinbajo explained that everything done was geared towards safeguarding the unity of Nigeria.
“If we begin to have reprisal attacks in Nigeria, we may be facing war. We must be careful to avoid the hostilities degenerating,” he said.
Also speaking, Bishop Mike Okonkwo of the Redeemed Evangelical Mission, advised churches in Nigeria to embark on human capital development.
He said it was time for the church to change its perspective on issues of governance and contribute their quota to nation building.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the conference was convened by Pastor Yomi Kasali of the Greater Nigeria Pastors Conference.
Over 1,000 pastors from across the country attended the event.