Elder statesman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, has come hard on politicians from other regions angling to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.
In this interview with VINCENT KALU, the Afenifere leader, said for peace to reign in Nigeria, the Southeast should produce the next president of the country. According to him, unless the nation goes back to true federalism, Nigeria is headed towards a breakup.
What is your view on the allegation made by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that plans were underway to ‘Fulanise’ and ‘Islamise’ Nigeria and West Africa?
I have been talking about it before, and some people said that I was talking non- sense. When he was in power, he encouraged them to have Sharia. I have been saying it, and I even accused the vice president that, as a pastor, he is serving a government that is Islamising the country, and he came out to say that it was not true, and that the government wasn’t Islamising the country.
All over the country, we have been on it for a long time. When they started around Southern Kaduna, we made the point; there were Christian elements. When they murdered about 800 Christians there on Christmas day, what did the authorities do about it? The vice president was sent there at that time, as the president wasn’t around, and he ordered the military to go there to prevent another attack, but the following day they were attacked again and villages were wiped out, what happened? Not a single arrest was made.
Then they went down to Agatu and other places, and there have been several church- es being burnt in northern Nigeria. So, why are they denying the obvious? Why are we denying the obvious in Nigeria, and just pretending?
Are all these things happening by accident? They kidnapped Catholic bishops, they kidnapped ministers, kidnapped professors, etc. You pressmen, you published all these things, what other evidence do you want?
Somebody is not beefing up security after several harms have been done, where does he want to rule as commander-in-chief? When we say they are Fulani herdsmen, he says they are outsiders. If they are outsiders, does it mean that you cannot protect us from outside invasion, what is your army for? Are you not the commander-in-chief?; Are you not there to protect lives and property? Soldiers, you draft them for external aggression, while police for internal aggression. What has happened to all these?
Few years ago, the international body declared these Fulani herdsmen as terrorists, but you say no.
Obasanjo said the obvious; he just joined some of us who have been calling attention to it. He is a latecomer to the call. Obasanjo is a latecomer in arousing the country on this dangerous trend; I have been talking about it before and he didn’t lend his voice, or was he waiting till all the Christians are wiped off before he would talk?
Look at the problem of the country today; up till now, all the security chiefs are still in place, and they have proved themselves to be most inefficient. His security chiefs are efficient when it comes to attacking the opposition. We are talking about security now, but their spokesman, Lai Mohammed is talking about having evidence that the opposition and Atiku want to disrupt the government.
Their security is never efficient in detect- ing outsiders who are coming to kill people; their security is never efficient in preventing herdsmen from killing people, wiping out villages, raping women and abducting people. The security of Buhari and government is not all that efficient, but when it comes to detecting people who want to topple the government, then they are most efficient; they are just pretending, they are preparing the ground to arrest opposition members on flimsy reasons.
They are talking of people wanting to disrupt the government, is that not a diversion when the country is facing serious se- curity problem? You have not come up with programmes to solve the security problem, but you are talking of the government being disturbed. Why will it not be disturbed when you are not doing your work?
What the people now say about the government is that it is incompetent. The churches, everybody is complaining about the insecurity and you don’t come out with possible programme, telling the people and giving them assurance, you are only talking about those who want to topple you. Do you see how irresponsible and insensitive they are? It is very unfortunate. Your security men are so efficient that they have evidence of the people who want to topple you, but they don’t have evidence of the killing, rap- ing and abduction of people in all parts of the country. The security officers are so inefficient, and are still there. May God save Nigeria.
The North is insisting on keeping pow- er in 2023, what is your view?
They don’t want to rule, they want to dominate. It is not a question of democracy; Buhari by birth is a feudalist and by train- ing is a dictator, and I have given evidence of that before he was voted in 2015. When I gave all the evidence for his dictatorial tendencies that he is not a democrat, and he doesn’t obey the rule of law, I was accused then of whipping up sentiments against him when he was a military officer, but now, it doesn’t follow because he is a civilian. How far I have been proved right or wrong, the rest is history.
I know this Buhari, there is no quarrel between him and I, and I have repeated all over again that Afenifere, where I belonged, campaigned for him in 2011, and he has not refuted it. It was on the ground that he was going to restructure the country to true federalism. I say it publicly, let him deny this, by then Pastor Tunde Bakare was his run- ning mate.
Even the APC he is in now, they are so deceitful, they talked about restructuring and when they came to power they didn’t believe in it and claimed not to know the meaning or understand it. They set up El- Rufai committee on restructuring and the report was produced and they set it aside.
What are you telling me? This is why I said he cannot be trusted, and now he is talking about the type of true federalism, what type of talk is that when Jonathan handed over to him the 2014 confab report? Is it not there, and he said he would not touch it even with a long stick.
I was coming to this. When Buhari mentioned true federalism as the way to go, is it in line with your aspiration?
I don’t believe him until he puts it into action. The federalism we know is the one known all over the world, as America, Australia and others practice it. Its dictates and the principles are the same. It is prac- ticed according to the locality of the nation whether it is ten states, five states, etc.
When we tell people that we should go back to the Independence Constitution, they ask, are we going back to the three or four regions? No, the principle there is the type that Zik, Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello had at that time, which made Awolowo to be able to give free education. If it is going to be on three, four or 10 states that is another matter.
Go back to the constitution we had at independence. Go back to history, when there was crisis, when Chief Anthony Enahoro moved for self-government, Northern leaders led by Sardauna said they were not ready to go. The West withdrew and said without self-government, they were not going to take part. The colonial masters invit- ed the leaders to come for a meeting and the government then collapsed. This is a matter of history. That is when they accepted federalism and they came back to create pre- miership in all the regions with autonomy. Every region at that time had the same constitution. Under that constitution, they had embassies abroad. The Western Nigeria embassy in London was where I got mar- ried in 1960. That is the constitution we had until 1966, when the military imposed this constitution on us. This is nonsense. The constitution we have was not subjected to any referendum, and it doesn’t take a long way to do it. Take the 2014 constitution, and if there is anything you object about it, take it out and if there is anything you want, put it in and subject it to referendum.
They resort to subterfuge that there is constitution, which constitution? You want to tie us down with the constitution we have jettisoned that is not ours?
Can’t the man for once be serious about Nigeria? If he is serious about peace, if he is serious about keeping this country together without violence, though he just wants to keep us together by force, he should go immediately to restructure the country on true federalism then there will be peace, and he would go down in history as the maker of the new Nigeria, but if he continues like this, he is the destroyer of Nigeria.
The more Buhari and his party hesitate to create true federalism immediately, the more they go down as destroyers of Nigeria.
Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, in an interview recently asked the Southeast to forget about 2023 presidency, what is your position on this?
This is just the propaganda we are talking about. The Southwest has said it is for them, and we have been hearing things like this long ago.
First, the constitution, before any other thing must be revisited, and if the president doesn’t do that, this country will break up. Let us get constitution first, not to continue with this injustice.
Why is IPOB saying they want to break away? Because they said they were not included.
The West has been president, the South-South has been president and the North has been president, while the Southeast has not, but you want peace.
I don’t believe any region or any section is to be given the presidency on sufferance; you are not doing anybody any favour, the constitution we are asking for is for anybody to become president constitutionally as applied, not out of sufferance or favour that you vote for me. Is that why and how we were amalgamated, is that the condition for our unity? Absolute nonsense and deceit!
Those of them they are deceiving are deceiving themselves. The North doesn’t want to leave power. There are sensible people in the North, even among the Fulani. We are talking about unity, peace in the country, and you are talking of people wanting to disturb you, is that the immediate thing, while the economy is going down? There is no progress until the constitution is rectified. Senator Sola Adeyeye came down with the problem of this constitution and told them that until we change it, there can be no peace and there can be no progress. What is the problem? If there is any change this country needs now it is the change of this nebulous constitution that is imposed on us by the military.
Assuming the presidency comes to Southwest, between Tinubu and Osin- bajo, who would you consider?
I don’t buy into this propaganda. It is dishonest and invidious for anybody to be talking of the presidency coming to the Southwest, then you are not serious about keeping the country together. For unity, for peace and equity how would you exclude, Southeast, a part of the country from the highest position of the country, as if it is not a part of the country?
Are we dominating or overruling them? We have to be together in peace and in unity. All those who are gathering because they want to be president in 2023 are cheats and dishonest people, and they are deceiv- ing themselves by trying to keep us to be disunited, so that they come to rule again, and say because we don’t agree. I don’t beg anybody to give me presidency, but give me the right constitution.
It will be stupid of any Easterner to be thinking of joining Buhari or APC so that they can be president, or any Westerner for that matter to be stupid and foolish enough to be welcoming the idea he can be president in 2023. Arrant nonsense. That won’t be fair. How can you deny the presidency to a unit of the federation when we are equal partners? Is there sense in that? That is the question we should ask ourselves if we are honest in this country.
That is why I say, let us have a constitution, which will guide us. We don’t want to be ruled by the favour of a section of the country, that is, you are my friend, and I give you your right. It will not happen, but if it comes to that, everybody will go to his father’s land. There is no doubt about that. We can’t be forced together and be ruling the units of the horse as the rider; they are the rider and we are the horse. No unit will accept it.