Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo has said the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to restructure the country is what has been giving impetus to agitations for secession.
In an interview with VINCENT KALU, the elder statesman stressed that with this orgy of violence in the country, the 2023 elections would be a mirage.
Many people say Nigeria is bleeding. What gave rise to this?
The people in charge have no clue to manage the country. And as long as you are not carrying every section of the country along with you, you can’t win any battle against any enemy. You can’t carry every section of the country with this discriminatory policy of the government. The government of the country is in favour of a particular region, a particular state and a particular religion. People are saying that there is going to be war, but if the North believes now that the way they fought Biafra is the way they will get support for any war, they are joking. They can’t carry the Middle Belt with them, they won’t carry the Yoruba people with them and they won’t carry the South-South with them, because they are oppressing all these people now. They think they have the army, but they should know that army can only succeed when the people support them.
What is happening now in the country is people revolution; the government is no longer in control of the people. I pray it would not be too late for them before they realise this. The only thing that can save the country is to restructure it to federalism, where every region is autonomous. Autonomy means that they are complementary to the federal government and not subordinate. The moment you do that you silence Nnamdi Kanu, you silence Igboho and other agitators for Oduduwa; all they want is self determination. Self determination implies restructuring; it will even solve the question of corruption. You are just beating about the bush by saying that restructuring is not your problem, but the more you delay it the more trouble you get for yourself.
Buhari doesn’t want restructuring because he wants to rule the people by force and what they are selling to the people is to silence them from giving them the type of constitution they require. The moment you delay that you are giving impetus for secession. He has made ridicule of people like me and others who believe in one Nigeria and are talking of restructuring. Those of us who are talking of restructuring are the peacemakers, and who want a change by peace. A slogan says that, ‘those who make peaceful changes impossible make violent change inevitable. He is giving impetus to the Nnamdi Kanus, the Igbohos and others to come out because what they are clamouring for is what will solve their problems. They believe that those of us talking about restructuring are too slow and too pedestrian and they wouldn’t listen and so are deciding to go the whole hog. It is unfortunate that Buhari doesn’t know this and the damage he has done to Nigeria for not restructuring the country and very soon, the country may scatter.
This country won’t stay together under this present constitution, it is obvious and it is not a long story; you don’t need to gaze at a crystal ball to know it. One of the APC senators, Adeyeye, recently said that the problem of this country is this constitution. It is obvious; all the problems we have been shouting were created by this constitution, which was imposed on us by a section of the country, which militate against the interest of the South and the Middle Belt; everything we are talking about is that it is against the progress and interest of the South and the Middle Belt, and that is why the agitations are coming from those areas. Except we want to deceive ourselves we don’t need a crystal ball to know where those problems are, and those who love the country are those who are speaking the truth.
I hope it will not be too late for Buhari to realise that he is the greatest threat to keeping the country together.
Many of us are no more popular in the West again for sticking on restructuring; people no more want that. A delegation came to me today to tell me that I was ‘wasting time’ talking about restructuring that they want to go the whole hog and break the thing and let everybody go. Those of us who have invested in one Nigeria, are telling them, let’s be patient.
You want to run a country where you say a section of the country cannot be president and you say you want to keep the people together and the people say since you don’t want me, let me go and you say no. You beat somebody and you say he shouldn’t cry?
You are an apostle of restructuring, many are confused as to the shape and the form it should take. Some ask, is it going back to the four regions we had during the First Republic, or the six regions we have now, though informally, or the states as the federating units?
When we say go back to federalism and the constitution at Independence, we are not talking of the three or the four regions we had then. We are saying the content of that constitution should be reflected in whatever constitution we are going to have. They know the truth; but if they didn’t know, what about the 2014 Confab report? You said, you put it in the archive. You just prefer your own, which you forced on us. We say we want restructuring, you say no; we say 2014 confab, you say no. Your party agreed on restructuring; even under this government. The party set up El-Rufai committee on restructuring, you say no and you haven’t presented your own alternative. Which means it is this constitution we are objecting to that you want to force on us. You shouted on top of it all by saying go to the National Assembly for amendment. The NASS is a product of this constitution. We are no fools and that shows that you have a private agenda. If you didn’t, why are you quarrelling with all that the people say they want? You say you are a born again democrat, but you are doing everything that is undemocratic. It is unfortunate that the country can’t see the writing on the wall. The man is stubbornly pursuing a private agenda to Fulanise this country. Fulani from abroad are everywhere in this country; how did they enter into the country? You are in charge of security; all the immigration officers, Customs, DSS etc are your own people.
Is it possible to Fulanise or Islamise Nigeria as you have alluded?
You mean, you cannot see? When they come in lorry loads and at the borders, they issue them visas and they come in and start killing the non-Fulani in their areas. They are bringing in foreign Fulani to replace those they are killing. Can’t you see that, am I telling you a story? These people are coming in lorry loads; they don’t come with their wives and children, but only with their arms to kill people and takeover their lands. Yoruba are not ones doing this; Igbo are not the ones doing this and you asked, if it is possible to Fulanise this country? That is the pattern all over the place where the Fulani are causing trouble.
As is done in some countries that have this similar situation like Nigeria, their president usually makes state of the nation address. Why do you think we are not seeing that?
That is what I’m saying, when we are crying about the way things are going in this country, our leader shouldn’t keep quiet. But has the president come out to tell you: No, your fears are not founded; this is what I’m going to do to? As a leader, you don’t keep quiet, but he has kept quiet, and may be saying, ‘keep crying over the constitution I have imposed on you while some people are fooling themselves over whose turn it is and whose turn it is not.’ You rig the election and go to the court that will give you victory. The more he fails to restructure, the more he consolidates his dictatorship. We are not under any democracy now; Buhari is a civilian dictatorship, because he has all the arms in his care, but he has forgotten that God of justice is there. He believes that nobody can dare him; the Yoruba can’t talk, the Igbo can’t talk, but he has forgotten that if God wants to fight for us, there is a way He will do it, and that is where we stand.
With the way you’re talking, are you scared that Nigeria might be headed the way of Somalia?
It is obvious. When the foreign Fulani arrive, they kill the people and take over their land and settle. Those who are killing and raping are not the local Fulani that we know. They want to increase the population of Fulani to occupy our lands. The people hoisting their flag in Niger State, are they Yoruba or Igbo? Most people who refuse to speak up on the evil in the country just want to be politically correct.
In recent times, we have seen governors and senators that narrowly escaped death. With this orgy of violence, killings, kidnappings, do you think 2023 elections will hold?
I have said it that 2023 election cannot happen in the face of the present circumstances, and events have proved me right. Can any politician mount campaigns in this glaring insecurity? Do you need a crystal ball to tell you the result? Will that not provoke many people, especially in a place like Benue? Every day is killing spree. Those troubling them, are they Yoruba or Igbo? They are the Fulani. The president knows what he is doing and if you don’t read the writing on the wall, it is unfortunate.
If 2023 election doesn’t hold, what does it portend for the country because by them the tenure of this administration would have elapsed?
Why do I say we must restructure before the election because there will be chaos; there will be anarchy. Those who are benefiting from this obnoxious constitution will not accept, and that is why those of us who are clamouring for restructuring is for peace to reign. If we don’t do it, there will be no Nigeria. We are warning; we are telling you what to do to avoid it, but you refuse. It means you are not serious, you don’t want a solution, but you want chaos. Well, I’m 93. I can go anytime, and it is you people who are going to suffer. By the time the suffering comes, I’m already in my grave.
If you can persuade Buhari to restructure now, it is better because I don’t see a future for this country if we don’t do it before the election, as you will be having crisis upon crisis. If he is serious about keeping this country together; if he loves us, why don’t you yield to what the people want? What is that your private agenda? We say do this, you say no, and you don’t tell us what you want except the one we are complaining about. We say we don’t want this constitution, but you want to continue to force on us the one we don’t want.
But, not long ago, the president defended the present constitution as being fair to everybody. According to him, ‘a small Bayelsa State has the same number of senatorial seats with a big Kano State.’
Under what constitution are those provisions? Is it not the same constitution made by the military, which we are complaining about? If he said the constitution is fair and there is nothing he can do, let him carry on. We shall see where it ends.
What is your opinion as some Yoruba are agitating for a separate nation, since they noted that restructuring is not in the agenda of this government?
Restructuring is my own solution. If anybody feels otherwise, let him get what he wants. I challenge this government to see if these agitations will not fizzle out by the time the country is restructured. Take a positive step to say, before October, a new constitution would come into being and see what will happen. Let me repeat, for Nigeria to survive we have to restructure this country now. Any further delay means Buhari is looking for trouble. The people that came here to meet with me said they were tired and they don’t want to be in Nigeria under this present constitution, as they have seen that the government is deaf. Their argument is that since the man will not change, that they should break immediately. The moment he delays restructuring, he is helping those who want to secede and breakaway. What we are saying is agreed by over 90 per cent of the country except the Fulani minority, who are benefiting from this evil constitution.