Ahead of next year’s general elections, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, one of the foremost Yoruba leaders, has explained his preference for the candidature of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar in the 2019 race. In this interview with WILLY EYA, he advised that people should not be deceived by the propaganda of the present administration.
All the political parties have concluded their primaries ahead of next year’s general elections. What are your thoughts on the outcome of the primaries and quality of candidates that emerged from the various parties?
I am for anybody preaching restructuring. I have no time for anybody talking about infrastructure, building of roads and all that. The fundamental problem that Nigeria needs to address is restructuring. The change that we need is to restructure the country to create justice and equity. I have said it many times that once the foundation is bad, you cannot put anything on it. The foundation to development in this country today is to restructure it. That is when Nigeria can take off but without that, we are just wasting our time. Today, you have problems in all parts of the country and what do they want. You have the Avengers in the South-South and all they want is the control of the resources which God has given them. People of the Middle Belt, South East, South West, what do they want. All the agitations all over the places can be resolved through restructuring; everybody should control his revenue. Restructuring would bring political stability. All the confusion that we have in this country are the components of the 1999 constitution which is unsuitable for a multinational and multicultural society like Nigeria. Restructuring would take care of all these problems I am talking about so that there will be stability. When there is no stability, the country can never have peace and if there is no peace, there will be no progress.
President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar are the two major candidates in focus ahead of the 2019 poll. What is your assessment of the chances of both of them?
What is there to assess; it is clear; Atiku is the candidate to beat. President Buhari is a non-starter. Buhari has ruined Nigeria. All the promises by the APC and Buhari in 2015 and what they say he is doing are all fake. All those lies they brought in 2015, the wind has blown the fowl and we have seen the bottom. Tell me all those things they said Buhari would do right from when he came in 2015, what has he done. How much was the value of the Naira and how much is it now? What was the level of unemployment in Nigeria in 2015 and what is it now? Everything now is in the negative. Tell me what progress has Buhari made since he was elected in 2015. What change has he brought to Nigerians? On security, when he came, many people believed that he would be able to fight it because he is a retired army General but look at the situation in Nigeria today, has he been able to solve the problem of insecurity. There are more killings by Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen since Buhari came on board. Herdsmen are killing people in their villages even sometimes when they are sleeping. What is the level of security on the Plateau and all other parts of Nigeria? The primary responsibility of any government is the security of lives and property. How many people have died since President Buhari took over power in 2015? How much has Nigeria borrowed since then and what have you used that for? All those talking about what Buhari would do if he is elected for a second term, should shut up. We cannot be deceived again because we have known him. They told us that he has integrity but what kind of integrity. That is when we did not know them. In 2019, Buhari should not come to the show at all. There is nothing that he would tell us about himself that we do not know already. There is nothing he would promise that he has not failed us. Go and read my interviews on Buhari before the election; I have nothing to add and I have nothing to subtract. What did I say about Buhari that has not happened? Buhari is a damn dictator. He is a chauvinist. He has no respect for the rule of law. I said all these before and has he not proved me right. This is a president who does not obey court orders under a democracy. He wants to seize the properties of political opponents now by issuing executive orders. We are now under a civilian dictatorship but if the people are stupid enough to vote for him, fair enough. I am old enough to die; it is you people that would be suffering. If Buhari has done all these and he is given another four years, no, it would be terrible.
I am only concerned about my grandchildren. Nigerians should brace up and until they do that, the country is not going anywhere. Many of you, if you are not careful, may not have jobs again because he does not believe in press freedom and when there is no press freedom, where is democracy. We have come to an election now but they are not going to campaign on issues. If you think they would campaign on issues, you should tell me what they have done.
You were in former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s house during his reconciliation with his former vice and presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, what was your role in the whole arrangement?
Why are you talking like that as if you are not in Nigeria? The people have not been in talking terms. They now decided to reconcile and we have settled it. Is that your problem? What Nigerians gree is that some people should come in to save Nigeria and that is why Atiku is there. Anybody who is opposed to Buhari and who supports restructuring is my candidate. Atiku has been talking about restructuring even before the 2015 election. He has preached and written about it and he has been the most consistent Northerner in the call for restructuring. When he was talking about it, some people said it was because he wanted to contest elections. He is not a restructuring apologist because he wants to contest elections. If we must save and develop this country, we must go back to regionalism. As a matter of fact, the campaign should be based on issues. You cannot this time be campaigning that you would fight corruption when all the people around you are corrupt. Nobody would listen to him. One of the closest persons to you used about N200 million to cut grass where the IDPs would stay and that is how to wipe out corruption. They caught somebody from the Ministry of Health and the Minister sacked him for corruption and you sent him back. That is how to wipe out corruption. Let us not talk about Buhari; he is a tragedy for the country.
What is your position on Atiku’s choice for the former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi as his running mate?
My position is that Atiku has made his choice and it is the right thing. It is not a matter of some people want Obi or not; that would be settled; it is part of politics. The people that are opposing Obi, they did not say the thing should not come there; they are saying that they were not consulted. As far as I am concerned, that is not a major issue.
But the emergence of Atiku may divide your zone, the South West considering that some of the main backers of President Buhari are Yoruba. For instance, former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu holds a contrary view with you on the 2019 presidential election.
My dear, some of you are confusionists. Tinubu is the one that sold the Yoruba interests to Buhari. Is that not known to you? How many times have I told you that Tinubu should get out of that alliance. From the first time he went to endorse Buhari, I condemned it and I made him know my position. You can see that the Yoruba have been shortchanged under the Buhari administration.
One of the narratives the ruling party has been pushing against Atiku is that of corruption. With the tag on Atiku as a corrupt person, do you think Nigerians would vote for him?
When Buhari told us that he was not corrupt and that he had integrity and Nigerians voted for him, what have we got. Don’t let us talk about the issue at all. The issue is we want this man and what have you done that makes you better. What has Buhari done to warrant a re-election? He could have been telling us we have built so many roads, education is now better, there is light and so on. These are the issues that Nigerians could have been hearing from Buhari by now.
The Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode has been denied the opportunity for a re-election, how do you see the development?
I am not in their party; I am opposed to their party. You know I am opposed to Buhari and I do not care what they do there. My advice to Nigerians is to vote out Buhari. We should vote out the APC both in the federal and in the states. If you want the progress of this country, all the elements supporting Buhari should be wiped out in 2019.