S/West APC advocates restructuring, free education

· Benefits of govt policies will be reaped soon —Osinbajo

POLITICAL leaders and party stalwarts of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South-West have re-echoed the need for a restructuring of the current geopolitical arrangement if the country is to witness meaningful progress and socio-economic development.

This is just as they said that primary and secondary education should be made compulsory and free in the South-West zone.

The leaders made these observations at the South West Conference of the APC, held in Ibadan, on Thursday.

While also emphasising the need for diversification of the nation’s economy for successful enthronement of true political and fiscal federalism, they pledged commitment towards ensuring that the party claimed Ondo and Ekiti states.

The communiqué at the end of the conference partly read: “Considering the totality of circumstances, meaningful progress and socio-economic development of the Nigerian state is unattainable without restructuring the extant largely unitarian geopolitical arrangement.

“It is by such re-arrangement leading to genuine and true political and fiscal federalism that the innate energies of the people of Nigeria can be released and new vistas of human development opened up.

“The need for diversification of the economy has become mandatory for the successful enthronement of true political and fiscal federalism, with each political zone exploiting its resources for maximum development.

“The primary role of quality education in the progress and development of a people was acknowledged. However, it is most disturbing that the present South-West zone that used to commit as much as 30 per cent of its budget to education is no longer able to achieve such levels of support. The conference then agreed that for starters, primary and secondary education should be made compulsory and free in the zone.”

Some guests at the event were Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, represented by Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu; national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, represented by deputy national chairman (South), Chief Segun Oni; Ministers, Kayode Fayemi (Solid Minerals) and Bayo Shittu (Communications); Governors, Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo) and Rauf Aregbesola (Osun); deputy governor of Ogun State, Yetunde Onanuga; former governors, Dr Olunloyo Omololu and Bamidele Olumilua and the APC national vice chairman (South-West), Pius Akinyelure.

Earlier, in his remarks, Vice-President Osinbajo said Nigerians were bound to reap the benefits of the current policies of government aimed at improving the lot of Nigerians in no distant time.

Osinbajo, who was represented by Ojudu, premised this optimism on the repositioning strides of the Federal Government across the oil and gas, power, health, agricultural, transport and education sectors of the nation’s economy.

Speaking on the oil and gas sector, he said the government was committed to ensuring that the nation no more spend foreign exchange on refined products, while warning pipeline vandals to desist or be prosecuted.

“Though things may appear difficult at the moment, it will not be long before Nigerians start deriving the full benefits of the current policies of government, which are designed to reposition the country and improve on the prevailing economic situation.

“Sector by sector, we have begun the process of introducing lasting and beneficial changes in the country,” he said.

“In the oil and gas industries, for instance, many investors are showing tremendous interest in building petroleum refineries. In no distant time, the issues of fuel scarcity will become a thing of the past and we shall stop expending scarce foreign exchange on refined products. In the power sector, the gradual improvement in power supply that is being experienced around the country is the result of the efforts of the government.

“We are committed to the implementation of the health insurance scheme that our great party promised the people during the electioneering. The diversification of the Nigerian economy is an area that the government is paying close attention to. To achieve this purpose, we have begun to invest heavily in the agricultural sector. It is our hope and aspiration that Nigeria will once again be able to achieve sustainability and self-reliance in food production to the benefit of our people and also for export, in order that the food we produce will be readily available to our people in all nooks and crannies of Nigeria.

“The government has revived the comatose railway systems to transport people and goods round the country. The reconstruction of the death traps that pass for highways across the country is being given top priority by the government.

“The teeming population of youth and women undoubtedly has continued to bear the brunt of the failed economic policies of the past. We are unwavering in our commitment to alleviate their sufferings through job creation which has already begun in earnest.

“The education sector, in dire need of rejuvenation, has begun receiving the attention of the government. The N500 billion social protection fund, which has been created by the government, is geared to caring for our less privileged and institutionalise our social security scheme,” Osinbajo said.

Chief Odigie-Oyegun remarked that the policies of the President Muhammadu Buhari government were geared towards diversification from oil towards agriculture, solid minerals and manufacturing as alternative means of foreign exchange for the country.

Harping on the need for Nigerians to be patient for the seeds of the current policies to germinate, Oyegun, represented by Chief Oni, beckoned on supporters of the APC to focus on ensuring that the party became bigger before the next general election.

“I know that our people are impatient for things to improve in the country, but 16 years of mismanagement cannot be put right in 15 months. We all know it is much harder to build than to destroy. We know that the economy is in bad shape due to years of dependence on oil as the mainstay of our economy.

“The administration of President Buhari has, however, set in motion an enabling environment for diversify of our economy. Policies are being put in place to promote agriculture, solid minerals and manufacturing sectors as alternative means to generate foreign exchange for our country,” Oyegun said.

Guest lecturer, Professor Sekoni, speaking on “The South West and the Challenges of Change in Nigeria,” called for unity of purpose among Nigerian leaders, noting that the APC meant well for Nigeria.

Furthermore, he urged South West APC leaders to constantly negotiate with the Federal Government on ways to improve the nation’s economy.

He said the nation’s leaders should regularly meet to deliberate on ways to attend to the nation’s faulty political and economic system.

Sekoni, a professor of Comparative Literature, decried the relapse of the education sector in the South-West, while advising that primary and secondary education in the zone should be compulsory and free.

“Our region cannot afford to be complacent with the good words of the APC manifesto. APC in our region must mobilise our people to work hard for transformation of the promises of the manifesto into concrete programmes. Leaving the electorate alone after election can be counter-productive.

“Such neglect has the tendency to push citizens to whine and complain about the government, instead of seeing themselves as partners in the business of moving from the page of manifesto to the stage of implementation,” he said.

Former APC national chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, described as ignorant and greedy, the claim that the Buhari’s government was not living up to its change agenda.

Encapsulating the party’s change agenda as creation of jobs, security and eradicating corruption, Akande, represented by Dr Wale Oshun, said the Buhari’s government was attending to these three promises.

Osun State governor, Aregbesola, observed that restructuring had become mandatory, as many states could no more attend to its affairs.

According to him, the executive, presidential system was corrupt and wasteful, calling for an all-inclusive government.

Governor Ajimobi called for the deregulation of the oil sector, while he emphasised the importance of unity and cooperation among party leaders in the zone so that they could come up with positions that would help President Buhari lead the country aright.

The event was also attended by members of the National Assembly, state houses of assembly and party stalwarts from the region.