An elder statesman and one of the leaders of Afenifere, the apex Yoruba socio-political organization, Chief Femi Okurounmu is not happy ahead of 2019. Why? He believes Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and former governor of Osun State, Chief Bisi Akande are deceiving the Yoruba ethnic region. In this interview with TUNDE THOMAS, he spoke on various issues and warned the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that it will set the nation on fire if it fails to conduct free and fair election in 2019.
What’s your reaction to the recent suspension of Senator Iyiola Omisore for one year by the Afenifere over his alliance with the APC in the recent Osun State gubernatorial election?
First, let me set the record straight. It is only those that are not well informed about Afenifere or what the group stands for that will say that Afenifere should not be seen to be political in its views or take part in politics.
Afenifere from the foundation in the 50s during the days of the defunct Action Group has always been a social-political organization. Afenifere has always been taking a stand on any political issue or what some will call national questions.
Even in recent times during the evil days of Abacha’s infamous dictatorship era, it was Afenifere that led the others that fought Abacha to a standstill, until victory was won and the nation returned to democracy in 1999. It was then when the nation returned to civil rule that Afenifere formed the Alliance for Democracy, AD which is a political party.
Afenifere has always been taking definite positions on several national issues no matter whose ox is gored. Therefore, Afenifere is in order by suspending Omisore, and there is no going back on his one year suspension.
But what is the justification for Omisore’s suspension. Doesn’t he have the right to support or go into alliance with anybody or party of his own choice like he did in Osun State for which Afenifere now suspended him?
It is true that Omisore as an adult and a citizen of Nigeria has a right and freedom of association but where he erred was when he disobeyed Afenifere’s collective decision that no member of the group should work with APC in Osun State.
Omisore is a member of Afenifere, and he was at that meeting where the decision was taken that no Afenifere member should support APC either in Osun or in the next year general election because our position is that since APC and President Buhari are against Restructuring, then APC and Buhari should be voted out of power.
When this decision was taken, Omisore didn’t object but surprisingly and to Afenifere leaders’ shock, Omisore went into that alliance with APC in Osun State. To us that was a betrayal, and we can’t allow Omisore to go unpunished. That’s why we suspended him for a year. Omisore is a betrayer. Afenifere has no apology for suspending Omisore. His suspension will serve as a deterrent to others. That was the same way Bola Ahmed Tinubu betrayed Afenifere when he became Lagos State governor in 1999. Tinubu used Afenifere platform to get political power, but he later betrayed the group. We don’t want Omisore to turn into another Tinubu before we sanction him.
Afenifere asked Osun State people, and also our own members to support PDP candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke in that Osun governorship election because Afenifere will never support any party that is against Restructuring. Forget all those propaganda being peddled by Oshiomhole, VP Osinbajo and some APC chieftains that APC supports Restructuring. They are all lying.
They are peddling the falsehood because they want to deceive Nigerians to vote for APC in 2019. President Buhari has never hidden his opposition to restructuring. In fact, Buhari has buried restructuring, and this is why Afenifere wants Nigerians also to bury APC and Buhari’s second term bid in 2019. Buhari and APC have been a bad omen for Nigeria.
But Omisore claimed that Afenifere didn’t give him a fair hearing.
Omisore is a liar. He is lying and being dishonest with the truth.
Afenifere being an organization that believes in equity, fairness and justice gives Omisore an opportunity to defend himself. When he was asked why he chose to go against the position of Afenifere on Osun State election, what Omisore told us was that he acted in self-interest. He told us that he betrayed Afenifere to protect his own interests. He made this shocking confession to us during a caucus meeting of Afenifere on Monday, October 29. We were all shocked by his comments, and some of us reprimanded him for betraying a collective decision of the Afenifere in order to protect his own interests.
The following day, October 30 which was for general meeting of all Afenifere members where he would have been asked to repeat what he told us at the caucus meeting, and where a decision would have been taken on him, Omisore ran away. He didn’t show up at that meeting because he knew majority of the Afenifere members were angry with him. I publicly challenge Omisore to deny what I’m saying here. Omisore is lying that he wasn’t given an opportunity to defend himself.
Should Omisore apologise, will the one-year suspension on him be lifted?
No way. Omisore will serve out his one year suspension. To lift his suspension is to encourage more betrayers.
What Omisore or his apologists should remember is that as long as you belong to an organisation, you are honour-bound to abide with the rules and regulations of that organisation. Omisore willingly joined Afenifere, and therefore he is bound to abide with the rules and regulations of the group, and the moment he deviated, sanctions await him, and that’s why he has been suspended for one year.
You described Tinubu as a betrayer but some people see him as a good political strategist that has been able to achieve a lot for the South-West especially in the current political dispensation where a Yoruba man is the Vice-President?
Tinubu is a betrayer, and I still stand by that. He rode on the back of the Afenifere to become governor of Lagos State, and whatever political relevance he has today but he betrayed Afenifere. He rebelled against Afenifere.
What has Tinubu achieved for the South-West under Buhari? Nothing. Tinubu has led Yorubas into slavery in this political dispensation. Like I said earlier, Buhari is a failure, and it is under his watch that Nigeria has now become the poverty capital of the world. So what has Tinubu achieved? Talking about VP Osinbajo, that one is Buhari’s puppet. He is nothing but Buhari’s errand boy. What are the benefits the Yoruba people are getting from Tinubu/Buhari alliance? Nothing. Talking about some projects being commissioned by Buhari now, they are not his own projects. They are projects started by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. There is nothing to write home about Buhari’s government. His administration has been a big burden on Nigerians. I hope by next year, Nigeria will have a new government different from APC and Buhari. Buhari’s government has been a nightmare to Nigerians. For Nigeria to have a breakthrough, Buhari must go.
But some Nigerians, especially from the South-West are saying that Afenifere leaders ought to close ranks with Tinubu, Osinbajo and others that are working with Buhari in the overall interest of the geo-political zone, what’s your reaction to that?
Afenifere is not opposed to anything that will promote good governance, take care of the interests of the South-West and Nigerians generally, but some of these people are betrayers, and what they are doing today are not in the interests of Yoruba and Nigerians generally.
Look at the issue of restructuring, some Yoruba like Tinubu, Bisi Akande, Osinbajo and others have always been on the same page with us on the issue of restructuring but now that they are with Buhari, they are singing a new song. They have become turn-coats just to please Buhari their leader and master who is known to be publicly against restructuring.
Human beings are indeed very funny and unpredictable. Look at Bisi Akande, somebody that even wrote a book on the need for Restructuring in Nigeria. He has now recanted. He is now speaking with double-mouth on restructuring. What of Tinubu and Osinbajo – they have all betrayed restructuring because they are now in Buhari’s camp. Tinubu and some of these people have become serial betrayers.
If it were to be in the olden days, people like Akande, and Tinubu would have been banished from their towns. As I said earlier, Akande and Tinubu working for Buhari are leading the Yoruba into slavery. I appeal to the Yoruba, and Nigerians in general to vote out Buhari in 2019.
Is Afenifere’s open support for the former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar as a result of this restructuring issue or just because Afenifere doesn’t like President Buhari?
For the Afenifere, Atiku Abubakar is more preferable. Although Atiku is not an ideal president but we prefer him because he promised restructuring. He has openly restated his commitment to restructuring. Atiku is unlike Buhari who has buried restructuring. Afenifere has no personal hatred for Buhari but we opposed him because some of his policies are anti-people and anti-Nigeria. Buhari is a parochial leader. He is not a true Nigerian leader but what I will describe as President of the North. Not only that, Buhari has never hidden the fact that he is pursuing a Hausa-Fulani agenda. Buhari doesn’t see the whole Nigeria as his constituency and that’s why his appointments have always been lopsided in favour of the North, especially his appointments of service chiefs and other security personnel.
It seems Afenifere is too concerned about restructuring; are there no other issues that should be the object of focus also as 2019 general elections draw nearer?
We are concerned about other issues like security also but restructuring is the key to resolve all these problems. If Nigeria restructures, it will be the beginning of a new dawn. Restructuring will launch Nigeria unto path of greatness. It will enhance faster socio-economic development. It will facilitate a return to true practice of federalism.
As the general elections draw nearer, Nigerians have only been talking about Buhari and Atiku as if there are no other presidential candidates …
Nigerians are talking about Buhari and Atiku because the two are the major gladiators. And for the parties, PDP and APC are the main contenders.
But we still have other presidential candidates like former governor Donald Duke, former Minister for Education, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, Omoyele Sowore and others.
Duke, Ezekwesili and others are just attention seekers. They should forget 2019. They are going nowhere. They should not waste their time.
My advice to Duke, Ezekwesili and others is that they should not waste votes. They should all come together and join Atiku to defeat Buhari. If Duke and Ezekwesili insist on contesting the presidential elections, they will be helping Buhari because the votes from their supporters which they should have asked them to give Atiku will be wasted.
Duke and Ezekwesili should join hands with PDP to defeat Buhari and APC. The idea of a coalition being mooted by some political parties is a good one. They should all come together to chase out Buhari from office. None of these smaller political parties including ADC can defeat Buhari and APC on their own.
How would you assess the chance of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar against President Buhari in 2019?
In a free and fair election, Atiku will defeat Buhari. Even in the North-West, which some people use to describe as Buhari’s stronghold, Atiku will defeat him there. Generally, Nigerians are tired of Buhari and APC’s bad government. Nigerians are hungry and angry. Under Buhari’s leadership, poverty has become a companion to millions of Nigerians. Lives are no longer secured. Fulani herdsmen are having a field day killing Nigerians, and Buhari is not doing anything about it. Nigeria is under Buhari’s bondage, we need to liberate ourselves.
I’m happy that millions of Nigerians have realized their mistake of voting for Buhari in 2015. Although some of us that knew that nothing good will come out of Buhari’s presidency warned Nigerians that time. We warned them not to vote for Buhari, and now we have been proved right. Now that millions of Nigerians have learnt their lessons, they are now waiting for 2019 to come so that they can vote out Buhari. But I’m not happy that Tinubu, Bisi Akande and Osinbajo are still deceiving the Yoruba that Buhari is the best for Nigeria.
But this time around, Tinubu’s deceit will not work. Yoruba will reject him and Buhari. Tinubu is very selfish. He is deceiving Yoruba to support Buhari because of his own personal interests. Other geo-political zones are rejecting Buhari, and South-West will also reject him in 2015.
What is your advice to INEC on 2019?
I don’t have confidence in INEC to conduct free and fair elections in 2019. Look at how INEC compromised in Osun State gubernatorial election. How INEC favoured APC.
Again, President Buhari’s niece, Mrs Zakari is a top member of INEC. All these will make Nigerians to doubt INEC’s neutrality. Even international observers, and members of the international community condemned INEC’s conduct in the Osun elections. But my warning to INEC is this, INEC should not play with fire. INEC should not set Nigeria on fire. Any attempt to rig the election will be resisted. A word they say is enough for the wise.
What Nigeria needs in 2019 is a leader who can unite all Nigerians. We don’t want a parochial or divisive president like Buhari. INEC should allow the will of Nigerians to prevail. The election should be free and fair.
We need a leader that can keep Nigeria secured. Under Buhari, Nigeria is bleeding. Human lives are no longer sacred as herdsmen are now on rampage killing and maiming innocent Nigerians at will, and unfortunately, these murderous herdsmen have become sacred cows, and are being protected and shielded by President Muhammadu Buhari.