A former governor of Ogun State and a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives (APC), Segun Osoba, has said President Muhammadu Buhari should not be blamed for not yielding to calls for a restructured Nigeria.
“The president is not a military president; he cannot change anything by decree. Sovereignty in Nigeria now is vested in the National Assembly,” Mr Osoba said in an interview with State House correspondents on Wednesday shortly after he met the president.
The former governor said, “restructuring lies with the National Assembly”.
“Those agitating for a sovereign national conference must go through the National Assembly, and unless the National Assembly surrenders part of its powers by an Act, there can never be a sovereign nation’s conference,” he noted.
The Buhari-led administration has been criticized for its failure to yield to agitations for fundamental changes in Nigeria’s political structure.
Critics argue that Nigeria’s current federal system has become too centralised and its expenses have become bloated over time.
They call for a more decentralised structure in which states and local authorities are allowed to keep more of the resources generated within their respective boundaries while remitting only a fraction good enough to keep the federal government running to the centre.
Mr Buhari had in his national broadcast on his return from medical leave in London in September 2017 said the National Assembly and National Council of State were the legitimate and appropriate bodies to handle issues of restructuring.
The president directed all agitations to both bodies “in line with statutory responsibilities they had”.
However, in his New Year address last year, the president dismissed calls for a holistic look at Nigeria’s political structure, saying he does not see it as a priority.
This position was faulted largely by leaders from the southern part of the country.
During Wednesday’s interview, Mr Osoba said the committee set up in 2017 to look into calls for restructuring and prepare modalities for the parties approach to the issue had submitted its report.
The committee was headed by the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai.
“That report has been presented to us in the caucus, and the president was there, the president endorsed the outcome,” the part chieftain explained.
“I want Nigerians to please give us time. I hope and pray that at the right time, the government or the party would send that report to the National Assembly for debate.”
Mr Osoba also urged those calling for a referendum to direct their agitations to the National Assembly.
“There must be an act of the National assembly to create that referendum; it’s not the president that would by fiat or by executive order give directive for a referendum.
”It must go through the National Assembly, and that is why I plead with our elders: Pa Edwin Clark, Pa Adbanjo, Professor Banji Akintoyin, all across Nigeria, they met the 8th Senate, and they heard what that National Assembly has done in terms of the review of the constitution.
“They should come back and tell us! We can now move forward until we recognise the importance and the powers vested in the National Assembly. And for restructuring, let us go through the legal route.”
PREMIUM TIMES reported how Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had reechoed his principal’s position on restructuring, saying it is not Nigeria’s major problem.
His stance was however countered by former vice president Atiku Abubakar, a proponent of restructuring.
Mr Abubakar, the presidential candidate of Nigeria’s main opposition party, PDP, had said he would restructure Nigeria in six months if elected president. He lost the election.