■ As leaders see honour as bait for 2019
Leaders of the pan-Yoruba social-cultural group, Afenifere, have said that the Yoruba nation would not support President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term ambition despite the recent honour bestowed on the late MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election.
Two prominent leaders of the group, Senator Femi Okunrounmu and Chief Supo Shonibare, who spoke with Sunday Sun in separate interviews, described the president’s action as opportunistic and a bait.
The Yoruba leaders said that Abiola deserved the honour, which they said was long overdue, thus the Yoruba nation’s show of appreciation to the President, but insisted that the South-West would not fall for the bait.
Senator Okunrounmu pointed out that the source of the honour was suspicious, saying that it was meant to be used for selfish political interest in 2019.
“We welcome the honour because Abiola had been long overdue for it. In the first place, the election should not have been annulled. And then there had been compounding injustices against him. The first one was the annulment of his election; the second one was his detention for a long term while the third one was to have had him killed while he was in detention. These are all compounded injustices.
“It was his sacrifices that made democracy possible and gave birth to the fourth republic. He should have been honoured long ago, especially by the principal beneficiary of that sacrifice, Olusegun Obasanjo.
But since Obasanjo failed to honour him and subsequent administrations also failed to honour, we appreciate the fact that the honour has finally come, no matter where it comes from. The issue of where it comes from is secondary.
“Secondly, the source from which the honour has come is suspicious because we know he is just trying to use that for his own selfish political interest in 2019. We believe he is just trying to politicize it because he is losing support in the South-West and he wants to return for second term.
But because he believes he needs the South-West for his second term ambition, he has been advised by his Yoruba handlers to use it to win the support of the South-West. So, this is plainly an opportunistic action on his part to win the support of the South-West not because he believes in Abiola’s sacrifice, nor because he believes in democracy.
“From that point of view, we hold him suspicious. The Yoruba are not as cheap as he thinks. We cannot just be hoodwinked. By this, we can recognize that he is just trying to bait us and we will not fall for that bait,” he declared.
Okunrounmu said Afenifere’s principal concern was that the current administration has not been beneficiary to Nigerians.
“His government has been very oppressive to Nigerians and his government has ruined our economy and the security of the nation.
“In many ways, his government has been trying to enslave greater part of Nigeria for the benefit of the Fulani. It has been a very nepolistic and sectional government. So, we cannot have him for a second term. He cannot get a second term from the Yoruba,” he said.
Asked if Afenifere was planning to officially write the Presidency in showing appreciation for the honour given to MKO, he said: “We are not going to do that.
Why should we write to show appreciation? Abiola was long overdue for the honour. What he has just done, as I told you, this is purely opportunistic on his part. Why must you thank a man that is trying to bait you and use you?”
Chief Shonibare on his part pointed out that Abiola and the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi were both iconic and as such deserved to be honoured.
“The germane issues in the nation’s polity now are issues of security, restructuring, economic growth and political stability. These are fundamental issues that need to be addressed by any administration in the country.
“These issues are at the front burner of anything we do. Issue of the honour given to the late MKO is ceremonial. And we thank the Presidency for being bold to do that.
“I wish he takes the counsel of Prof Soyinka because he can’t be celebrating the efforts democrats like Abiola and still be exalting his chief-tormentor, General Sani Abacha.
“Restructuring is what we think is important now. If Buhari accepts regional structure, accept devolution and agrees that states should keep 60 per cent of the revenue they derive within their boundaries, of course, we will support him. We won’t support him on tokenism or ceremonial issue.
Afenifere stands on policies, and that is consistent with what Chief Awolowo, our founder established”, he said.