SUNDAY ODE, Abuja
Former governor of Ogun State and chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr Segun Osoba, on Wednesday disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari approved the report of the committee on Devolution of Power and true federalism set up by the APC and chaired by Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-rufai.
Though the President has not shown any enthusiasm on the issue on restructuring as he had often criticised its advocates, Osoba said Buhari was at the caucus meeting where the report was presented and he approved of it.
He disclosed this to State House correspondents after emerging from a meeting with the President at Presidential Villa Abuja.
The former Governor, who said he was in the Villa to present his book – “Battlelines: Adventures in Journalism and Politics” to Buhari, who featured in it prominently, maintained that the APC even had restructuring as devolution of powers from the Federal Government to States, enshrined in its manifesto.
Accordingly, Osoba appealed to Nigerians, especially statesmen and other activists agitating for restructuring of the country, to be patient with the President and the APC, adding that steps would be taken to get the National Assembly to start debate on legalising the relevant aspects of the report.
“But I can tell you, all this noise 0about restructuring, we APC put devolution of power, true federalism in our manifesto and we’ve moved far from there to where a committee was set up headed by the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai. That committee has submitted its report, that report has been presented to us in the caucus and the president was there;, the president endorsed the outcome. 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 National Assembly for debate.
“I would say with all authority that restructuring lies with National Assembly. The president is not a military president, he cannot change anything by decree, sovereignty in Nigeria now is vested in the National Assembly.
“Those agitating for 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 Sovereign National Conference.”
According to the former governor, agitation for referendum, 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, order for referendum.
Explaining further he said that the process must go through the National Assembly.
“That is why “I plead with our elders: Pa Edwin Clark, Pa Adebanjo, Professor Banji Akitoye, 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 cannot move forward until we recognize the importance and the powers vested in the National Assembly. And for restructuring, let us go through the legal route.”
Sir, you came to see the president, may we know what transpired?
He recalled how his relationship with President Buhari started, saying, “The president and I have been close since the civil war; he was a young officer – a lieutenant in the 1st Division.
“It was the first division that started the civil war from Nsuka end and as fortune would have it, I followed the president to when he was a governor in the north eastern region and became the oil minister. From there on he appointed me on June 12 1984 as the Managing Director of Daily Times. It was the crowing peak of my professional life that prepared me for governance.
“I have written a book in which the president featured a lot even with pictures during the civil war.
“So I have now come to present the book formally to the President and to autograph it to him. Part of the book was his riding on the train from the north to Ifo, Ogun State to spend his holiday when he was in Form One in 1946. So, we have had some historical reminiscences not just now. “
On what he discussed with the President at the meeting Osoba said that Mr. President asked about the situation in Ogun State.
“I took the time to brief him on the efforts that the governor is making to ensure peace in the state. I have told him that governor Dapo Abiodun is starting on a very good note and he said the governor has also briefed him,” he said.
On agriculture he said that President Buhari told him that he has given instruction that the central bank should give Ogun State maximum support in agriculture.
On politics, Osoba said that he assured Mr President that the incident that occurred in Ogun state would never ever happen again and the president thanked me.
Speaking further he said that the essence of the visit was to discuss situations in Ogun State and assessment of Governor Dapo Abiodun administration.
Asked to clarify on the claim that late Moshood Abiola supported some members of SDP to join Abacha’s military government, he said: “There have been a lot of blackmail and denigration of people. For example, people like Jakande, Onagoruwa, late Alex Ibru, they said that they went and collaborated with Abacha, which is not true.
“Solomon Lar, Abububakar Rimi and all others were all in a meeting in MKO Bashorun Abiola’s house on a Sunday after Abacha seized power on November 17, 1993 and kicked us out, the following Sunday we met in Bashorun MKO Abiola’s house and we debated with chieftains of SDP and we that produced him as president and made June 12 possible and there we agreed that those that may be invited to come and serve the country, they should serve but remain loyal to the mandate and used their influence to perhaps persuade the military to return the mandate to Abiola.
“So, when people said that we didn’t know about those people…. Iyor chia Ayu was one of them, he was former senate president, I can call many of them who were at the meeting in which MKO Abiola presided.
“So, I have to clear this doubt that Abiola had knowledge and gave approval to serve in Abacha’s government.
Asked if serving in the military government made impact to the return to democracy in 1999, the former governor said the democracy that we are into today is the one in which Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar presided over.
Asked what advised he has for the president regarding the ministerial list, Osoba said, “I have said it, I am one of the founders of APC, I would not discuss in details because I have access, I am part of the presidency because the president is our president.”
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