Elder statesman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, has warned that anarchy looms in the country. In an interview with VINCENT KALU, the Afenifere leader, emphasised that the constitution foisted on the people has been the cause of the nation’s problems, insisting that if the country cannot restructure, it should be broken to its original units.
With the year coming to an end, how do you assess the state of the nation?
The nation is passing through terrible times and there can never be any progress or movement unless we change this constitution. All the atrocities being committed can only be stopped by changing the constitution to truly federal system, where all the federating units will be autonomous, and the functions of the federal government will be confined to what is its duty.
State police, local government police and other things that give the region autonomy that will make the governors more effective than being the lame duck governors, where the security will be better, the economy will be better and other programmes will be better than centralising the government in one hand, and using it to terrorise people will be addressed with true federal system.
What atrocities are you referring to?
Are you asking me, that is why I blame you pressmen; you don’t know the atrocities? When a court gives an instruction, and you don’t obey; when you ask people to be detained without trial, you obstruct the rule of law? That is unfortunate.
We are moving towards anarchy, except we want to deceive ourselves. The court that is supposed to be the sanctuary of the common man has been desecrated, and yet the people who should protest keep quiet. We are already in anarchy.
In our last interview, which has been long now, you bemoaned the situation in the country, the inability of the government to work towards restructuring the nation for progress, more so, as you emphasised that Nigeria has been turned to the horse and the rider, where a section is the rider, and the other, the horse. You concluded that this country should be broken so that each group goes to its place and enjoy peace. Have things changed, and have you changed your position?
Have I not been vindicated? I have not changed from that position at all. Anarchy has taken over in this country. We must return the country to true federalism, where the regions should be autonomous, and let everybody be ruled according to the dictate of his place, then, this culture of autocracy and authority over everybody would be stopped. It is because of this culture of autocracy that the president doesn’t want to do anything to change the constitution.
Since the president doesn’t want to go back to a constitution we agreed on at independence, it is better everybody goes to his area and enjoy peace. I have said it and I have challenged him and he has not denied, and I said why should he hesitate to go back to the constitution we had at independence, which was approved by Azikiwe, Awolowo and Sardauna, and I said, he can never be more intelligent, more educated than Sardauna, and he has not told us why he would not go back to that constitution.
So, what is the problem, if he is serious about keeping this country together in unity, in peace? Let’s restructure and go back to true federalism and every other thing is just going round the clock. That is where I am; that since it has turned this way, let this country break and let everybody go to his place and have peace. I have told the president to go back to the interview I had with Vanguard before he was elected and I have been vindicated in all that I said in the interview.
Tenure elongation came up recently, but the House of Representatives threw it away, what is your opinion on this?
I don’t discus people who want to bring dictatorship through the back door. Change this constitution to true federalism, so that everybody would decide whether it is five years, six years, and seven years in his region. The tenure elongation is an attempt to bring third term through the back door; thank God the House of Representatives killed it on arrival.
You see, that is why I blame the pressmen, the Fourth Estate of the Realm. All these things said about Buhari before his election, you pressmen ought to be bringing them out and see how they are coming to pass. I have even said that how can anybody ask me to believe Buhari now, and I gave my reasons.
Afenifere and myself, we campaigned for him in 2011 because he said he was going to carry out restructuring if elected. Adesina and Garba Shehu have not denied this. They should have told me that I was telling a lie that the president never said so. He promised restructuring while Pastor Tunde Bakare was his running mate; Garba Shehu and Adesina have not denied this.
Restructuring is in the fourth paragraph of APC manifesto under which they are running this government; they have not denied this. Which one has he done? And you want me to believe whatever he says. How many of his words has he kept? All these that I said before he was elected have come to pass, and then people said he was then a military man, and that he is now changed, and a democrat.
I have said it that I don’t believe in any economy, road construction––just change the Constitution. The change, which APC was talking of, is change of the constitution, that is the solution to the problem of Nigeria. Change the Constitution to end the agitations resonating across the country; as well as the stagnation the country is experiencing.
The Miyetti Allah still insists that RUGA should be established in every state for the herdsmen to settle and do their business, as a way of ensuring peac––
By the time we change the constitution they would not be talking like that. It is because the president is supporting them in their evil acts, that is why he turns a deaf ear to the question of restructuring.
He can’t deny it; he is supporting them because the Constitution makes him the most powerful president in the whole world. I have said it repeatedly and his media people have not written to say, “No, Chief Adebanjo that is not correct.” Buhari is supposed to restructure the country back to true federalism, which Sardauna adopted before our independence, and I have challenged him that he is not more clever, he is not more intelligent, he is not more knowledgeable, he is not better exposed and he is not a better Fulani than Sardauna, while should he be opposed to that?
Under a federal system, every region, every group will develop at its own pace. Under that system, you can have your Sharia court, there is no problem and I can have my customary court in my side and the people in the East, theirs, there is no problem, but you want to have a constitution under which you control the police, the army, the DSS, the Customs, the Immigration and be dictating to everybody, and the moment anybody disagrees with you, you clamp him into detention, and when the court says do this, you say no, that the rule of law is subject to you. He is enjoying it and that is why he doesn’t want to hear of restructuring.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria recently made a case for the amendment of the Constitution to make provision for Sharia in the constitution. What is your view on this?
I have answered you. If anybody wants Sharia, go back to the Independence Constitution. We are not opposed to it, so long as you have it in your area, and you don’t impose it on other areas.
If he wants to make it at whatever level that he likes he can have it. That is the essence of the federal system, but when you are operating a unitary system of government and you want to impose your religion, your culture on others then you are looking for trouble.
Nobody is opposed to Sharia, so long as we have true federalism and you practise it in your region, and not trying to impose on others whether they like it or not.
That shows the hidden agenda of Buhari and others, and when it is said that they wanted to Fulanise and Islamise the country, the authorities denied; they want Sharia here and there, they want RUGA here and there, and now they want to open our border to all the Fulani all over West Africa to come here.
What else will they do before you know they want to Fulanise and Islamise the country? Do they think we are blind? And now they have entered Southeast, and they are fully settled in Abakaliki. Because you have the control of the security, you think you can do anything that pleases you. That is why I say the press is not doing enough; they are keeping quiet while all these things are going on.