Olusola Fabiyi and Oladimeji Ramon
A former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has expressed the fear that the 2019 presidential election may not be free with President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired military man, now leading the country.
He said unlike former President Goodluck Jonathan, who was in power during the 2015 general elections and was “much more level-headed” being a “peaceful, (and) very patriotic Nigerian,” the country was now dealing with “a retired general, (who is) very uncompromising, also power-drunk; (and) who will not be ready to leave power without a fight.”
An AFP report quoted Atiku, a presidential aspirant on the platform of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, as saying on Monday evening that these were “some of my fears for the current elections.”
“The characters that are involved this time, as far as the leadership of this country is concerned, are different from 2015,” he said.
Atiku also tasked Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) to explain to Nigerians the decision by the Federal Government to share $322m Abacha’s loot and also begged for a fresh $328m loan from China.
The new loan is said to be for Information and Communications Technology development.
Atiku was reacting to Osinbajo’s response to the former Vice President’s reaction to the need to restructure the country.
Atiku accused Osinbajo of not being coherent in his arguments, saying he was merely jumping from one topic to the other.
He said, “I must say that his dovetailing into the area of the economy does not explain certain facts such as the fact that the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics reported in December 2017 that Nigeria lost 7.9 million jobs in the 21 month period under review.
“If the Vice President cannot see that losing 7.9 million jobs in 21 months while creating 500,000 jobs is a deficit, then I do not know what to say to the honourable professor.
“Professor Osinbajo also harps on ‘prudence in public finance,’ but he fails to show the wisdom in sharing out $322m of Abacha funds to the poor only to take a loan of $328m from the Chinese the very next month. Many Nigerians, myself included, see this as imprudence.
“Finally, while the Vice President is not exactly correct when he says ‘In four years from 2010 to 2014, the PDP government earned the highest oil revenues in Nigeria’s history, $381.9bn. By contrast, the Buhari administration has earned $121bn from May 2015 to June 2018’, let us for the sake of argument say that he is right.”
Atiku further said that while he was the Vice President in 2006, Nigeria’s Economic Management Team, of which he was a prominent member, paid off Nigeria’s entire foreign debt of $30bn, at a time when he said the country was earning one third of what the Buhari administration is currently earning from oil. So, such arguments are puerile at best.
He advised the Vice President to choose whether he was for restructuring or whether he was against it and stick to his choice.
He said it was not in the interest of the professor of law to be jumping from one argument to the other without any clear point.
He rejected Osinbajo’s assertion that his (Atiku’s ) ideas on restructuring were vague, saying restructuring was a necessity, not an option.
In a statement he signed in Abuja on Tuesday, he accused Osinbajo of making a U-turn on the issue of restructuring.
The former Vice President said of Osinbajo, “Faced with an avalanche of public condemnation for his 360-degree turn on the concept of restructuring, it is understandable that the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has written to Premium Times 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.’
“I have been in the forefront of the discourse on restructuring since the 1995 Abacha Constitutional Conference and to the best of my knowledge, there has not been any term like ‘geographic restructuring’.
“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.
“Mr Osinbajo said, ‘the problem with our country is not a matter of restructuring.’ That I disagree with and so do many other Nigerians. If the Vice President has changed his stance, I welcome it, but we should not use one finger to hide behind semantics.
“For the Vice President to say ‘Alhaji Atiku’s concept of restructuring is understandably vague, because he seeks to cover every aspect of human existence in that definition’, is most unfortunate.
“I have been very clear, detailed, and unambiguous about my ideas for restructuring. At several occasions, including, but not limited to my speeches at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), and at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (made in April this year and July 2017, respectively), I gave very clear and concise ideas about restructuring including: “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; privatisation of unviable Federal Government-owned assets.” (Punch)