This week, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, came under attack from the very seat of power he once held sway as the number two citizen in the country. He probably didn’t expect that his vituperations against the presidency would be met by an equally acerbic and acidic response. He got the bashing over certain remarks he made about the Buhari administration.
First was his stance on the burning issue of restructuring in the country. Atiku is an advocate of restructuring, a position that contradicts this administration’s stand on the subject. According to his postulations, once Nigeria is restructured, Nigerians will be on their way to a blissful life. But in the opinion of the Buhari administration which was reiterated by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo recently in the United States, geographical restructuring is not Nigeria’s major problem but a leadership problem.
In a swift response to this, Atiku criticised Osinbajo’s comments that Nigeria doesn’t need restructuring, saying the vice president got it wrong. “It is a surprise that the Vice President would take such a position and, in particular, fail to appreciate the connection between Nigeria’s defective structure and its underperformance.”
Not known to be taciturn or as one who runs away from a debate, Osinbajo fired back immediately at the former vice president, saying Atiku’s understanding of restructuring is vague. The VP reiterated that Nigeria does not need geographical restructuring but good governance, honest management of public resources, deeper fiscal federalism and a clear vision for development.
He maintained that he had been an advocate, both in court and outside, of fiscal federalism and stronger state governments, just as he recalled that he had argued in favour of state police for the simple reason that policing is a local function.
Hiting back at his predecessor, Osinbajo said, “Atiku’s concept of restructuring is understandably vague because he seeks to cover every aspect of human existence in that definition. He says it means a ‘cultural revolution.’ Of course, he does not bother to unravel this concept.
“He says we need a structure that gives everyone an opportunity to work, a private sector driven economy. Yes, I agree. These are critical pillars of our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), including our Ease of Doing Business Programme.”
The VP however, added that if this is what the former vice president describes as restructuring, then it is clear that he has mixed up all the issues of good governance and diversification of the economy with the argument of restructuring.
Just when it would have been expected that he was still recovering from the wash down from his successor, Atiku fired another shot at the presidency when he expressed fear that the 2019 presidential election might not be free under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired military general.
He said unlike former President Goodluck Jonathan, who was in power during the 2015 general election 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.”Atiku’s diatribe on the president was akin to touching the tiger by the tail. Again, the presidency came out with guns blazing, determined to teach Atiku a lesson on public commentary. Special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, said in a statement that rather than use the name of President Buhari to buoy his bid to get the presidential ticket of a party, whose flag has been flying at half-mast since it got roundly trounced at the polls in 2015, the former vice president needs be told that the president is truly uncompromising, but only when it comes to looting the common patrimony of Nigerians and squandering their riches.
According to Adesina, President Buhari is uncompromising in the quest to restore probity and accountability to public office, and uncompromising in cleaning the rot Nigeria was consigned to pre-2015, thus the war against corruption is being fought without fear or favour.
The presidential spokesman added that the president is equally resolute in the determination to ensure that Nigeria is no longer a mono-economy, depending only on oil.
“Yes, President Buhari is single-minded in effecting change in every area of Nigerian life. So, Alhaji Abubakar is right, if that was what he meant by the President being uncompromising.
“But power drunk? No! And being a man “who will not be ready to leave power without a fight?” Never! Not President Buhari, who has demonstrated in many ways that he is a committed democrat, though also a retired military general. He has no apologies about that. Through a sterling military career, he served Nigeria with his heart and might, before venturing into partisan politics.’’
Adesina added that Atiku may want to borrow a leaf from the decorous language employed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in answering his recent press statement on the restructuring debate. He pointed out that it is the hallmark of statesmen, and not crying wolf where none exists, which is what the allegation of being uncompromising and power drunk truly is.
Punching Atiku harder, the presidential spokesman said, “President Buhari is actuated by service to country, and nothing else. So, there couldn’t be anything like ‘not ready to leave power without a fight.’ Indeed, the insinuation of a fight is the mindset of a man who is either undemocratic, or has seen defeat staring him and his party, in the face.
“Let the former vice president be assured that there will be no ‘fight’ over power in Nigeria. Not under President Buhari’s watch. The people don’t want a fight. It is some political leaders we must beseech to eschew pugnacity, and mind their language.”
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