From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo has replied former interim national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former governor of Osun State, Chief Bisi Akande on restructuring.
Chief Adebanjo noted that there is no way to federalise Nigeria without restructuring the system.
Akande had told newsmen in Ibadan at the end of a recent leadership meeting of the APC in the South West that “restructuring is not our language. Go and ask those who are advocating restructuring to define it. What I told you just now is devolution of functions; from the centre to the peripheral government to the states and the local governments.”
He added that “restructuring is a language of other bodies and groups of people. You can always direct your questions to them on what they mean by restructuring; whether restructuring in economy or in politics or whatever, go and ask the advocates of restructuring what they mean by restructuring, that is not in the APC manifesto or constitution.”
But, Adebanjo, who spoke at the fifth Babatunde Oduyoye birthday lecture titled: ‘Imperatives of Nigeria’s survival and development programme of agenda,’ held at the Banquet Hall of Premier Hotel, Ibadan, yesterday, said restructuring is not a strange word as it was the same restructuring that brought Akande to power, as a governor in Osun state, between 1999 and 2003, on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD).
“Restructuring was the basis under which Akande became a governor. I was the chairman of the party, the campaign then was sovereign national conference, to be able to restructure the country to federalism. We filed that resolution in every House of Assembly at that time, including Akande (in Osun), including Bola Tinubu (in Lagos). What then is the problem?
“And, when they said they don’t understand restructuring, I said if you don’t understand restructuring, you understand the constitution Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sarduna of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello and Nnamdi Azikiwe agreed to; that is what we are asking for. Why do we say we want to go back to what your grandfathers agreed to? You said no. Is Muhammadu Buhari more northerner than the Sarduna? That is the problem. Please, let us explain this thing to our people. Nobody wants to separate the country. It is their propaganda to hit us and we are going to stop it.”
Adebanjo also described the national question on the unity of Nigeria as “the basis of our problem” and noted that “until you settle it, there will be no peace in this country.”
He said the unity of Nigeria was negotiated in 1954, when the defunct Western Region opted for self-government, which, he said, led to the collapse of the government at the centre. This, he said, “formed the nucleus of the constitution which was handed over to Nigeria at independence, in 1960, but “it was changed by the military in 1966.”
Adebanjo also said Nigerian intellectuals are responsible for the myriad socio-economic and political challenges militating against the progress of the country.
“There’s no reason why Nigeria should go astray, except the intellectual themselves are not up and doing and that is what I believe. Many of you, you are not up and doing. Intellectuals that we knew in the early ’50’s guided the society. The Action Group, to which I belong, the intellectuals, were the brains behind and others, But, the intellectuals are now silent…”
“The moment you are given a government appointment, you turn your intellectualism upside down and you begin to practise what you never preached, that’s unfortunate. I only hope you’ll take note because we are going, you are the people coming and if it had been the practice of what we knew, we should go and rest with people like you coming up, doing the right thing.”
Former Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on National Planning, Economic Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Senator Olufemi Lanlehin, who also spoke noted that agitation for restructuring and devolution of power are more or less the same, “but it is a question of semantics.”