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Chief Ayo Adebanjo is an elder statesman who has never hesitated to state his position on national issues, no matter whose ox is gored. One of the leaders of the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Adebanjo, in this interview with The Next Edition.com’s SAKIBU OLOKOJOBI, bares his mind on the performances of the Buhari-led administration. As far as he is concerned, Buhari does not deserve a second term. Adebanjo also speaks on what it feels like to be 90. Excerpts:
TNE: Some opposition parties recently formed a coalition ahead of the 2019 election in order to come up with a single candidate against President Muhammadu Buhari. What is your opinion about this move?
The coalition is a right step in the right direction. Except all the opposition parties agree on one candidate, they cannot defeat the incumbent. We should put on our thinking cap. No matter which party you belong to, except APC, we must be united to defeat the APC. They’ve made up their mind to win the election by all means. They are ready to rig. The only antidote to that is for all opposition parties to be united and agree on one candidate to fight the incumbent.
TNE: Do you see the opposition parties making a success of the move?
We have to make a success of it. I’m not despondent about it. It is a thing we have to do if we mean business. That’s my candid opinion. Every opposition candidate must sacrifice personal interests for the common interest of everybody. This tyrant that is there must be removed!
TNE: But who do you think, among the different aspirants in the opposition, would be able to really give Buhari a run for his money in the election?
That’s why we are coming together. When we come together and jaw jaw, we will sort that out. We cannot say something is not impossible when we have not made any attempt. There must be an agreement on one candidate. If we fail to do that, we have failed from the beginning. This is an oppressive government that does not care about the masses; it is a government that plans to wipe out a generation…. They must be united and forget their personal interests.
TNE: Chief Obasanjo met some of you recently. What were the major issues discussed at the meeting?
Why do you have to know what we discussed?
TNE: Because we learnt you discussed issues that affect the generality of Nigerians.
What I can tell you is that it is all towards being united to remove the incumbent, who is a terror. All of us are sinking our personal differences against one another because the incumbent is a greater enemy from all angles. Look at the killings that are going on all over the country, and he is pretending not to know. And later, he told us he had been doing much. What much has he been doing? They killed people in 2016 in Southern Kaduna. Some people were killed on the eve of Christmas. What has happened? How many people have been arrested? How many people have been prosecuted? From there, they went to Agatu, they went to Taraba… Despite all these, you have the effrontery as the Commander-in-Chief, who is supposed to be in charge of lives and property, to tell us that he gave an instruction to a security officer in January and he does not know in March that he has not carried out his instruction. And that security officer is still in office. What type of Commander-in-Chief is that? Every time, he has an excuse to give. In one breath, he said, they were Ghaddaffi’s men; in another, he said they were sponsored by politicians. If you know the politicians why don’t you name them? We call them herdsmen; herdsmen who carry AK47! The herdsmen that I know carry sticks. You didn’t disarm them; you didn’t say any herdsmen carrying AK47 should be arrested. They burn houses, rape, kill… This man is just taking us for granted in this country. He is just making people weep for us. We can’t live together in that manner.
TNE: The irony of this is that some of these “crimes” of the president existed even during the reign of Chief Obasanjo…
(Cuts in) Don’t sell me that…. Are we talking about what happened in the past or now? Is that not why they are in government? Because Jonathan could not do it, that was why we sent him away. He (Buhari) said he could do it and we allowed him. Should he now give excuses for his incompetence or the inadequacy of the past? We haven’t got cattle brains; he should realize that he is talking to intelligent people. Obasanjo was there he didn’t do it. He (Buhari) said he could do it and we allowed him. Is their own inadequacy his excuse for not doing it? Is that an excuse? Is that a rational thing to say?
TNE: What are the positions of Afenifere on some of these political matters?
Afenifere is in league with Southern and Middle Belt leaders. We are in line with what that body says. Afenifere is a component of the Southern and Middle Belt leaders. That is why we speak with a unanimous voice. Afenifere doesn’t hold a different view from that of the body.
TNE: Aare Onakakanfo, Gani Adams, advocated a security summit in Yoruba land in view of the killings in the country. What’s your position on this?
When people who are supposed to ensure security show slackness, what do you want us to do? When the people that are supposed to take care of us don’t take care of us, doesn’t common sense say we should take care of ourselves? That’s just the answer. There wouldn’t have been no need for that if the president had done what he is supposed to do. But since the present regime has shown crass incompetence and deliberate destruction of a section of a country, then you no longer rely on them. That’s commonsense.
TNE: Is the office of the Aare Onakakanfo working in alliance with Afenifere on this?
We are together on everything that will secure Yoruba land. We are not divided. Everything to secure Yorubaland, we’ll do!
TNE: What is your view about the present government’s anti-corruption war?
The partisan anti-corruption war that Buhari says he’s fighting? Everybody supports corruption to be wiped out, but many of us believe that it must be across the board; not a discriminatory anti-corruption war. A situation where the opposition is being tried and those in his cabinet are left out cannot stand. Shehu Sani has aptly described it. He said he (Buhari) uses a dangerous weapon for the opposition and sprays lavender on his people over the same offence. If the thing has been holistic, everybody would support him. It should not be discriminatory.
TNE: In your book, you attacked Obasanjo alleging that he had no moral competence to challenge anyone over corruption. Did he raise any issue with you the last time you met?
That was not the purpose of our meeting. My book is what I write and I stand by it.
TNE: But has he reacted to that at any point?
It was not the purpose of our meeting. The purpose of our meeting is that the incumbent wants to shut every opposition and every opposition must be united to stop dictatorship. That’s the essence. Buhari’s government wants to clamp down on every opposition against the background of the coming election. He has begun with Obasanjo, then Adebanjo can follow, Fasoranti can follow, then Olu Falae will follow, then Danjuma and others can follow. But we say “No.” That’s not the essence of democracy. If anybody is guilty of anything, make him pay for it. So, the purpose is to unite against an imperialist government. It is not a meeting to settle personal differences. It is a meeting to be united against tyranny.
TNE: Sir, you celebrated your 90th birthday recently and it is amazing that you remain vibrant despite your age. What is the secret?
The grace of God (laughs). You may do exercise and eat well, but if the grace of God is not there, then you are finished. The only thing is the grace of God. He has a purpose for keeping my life and I must not shirk in doing that. That’s why I am vibrant. All that I’m saying is for the younger ones to take up the gauntlet so that ignorant people will not lead the intelligent ones. People are afraid to talk to power because they have things to hide. If I have any skeleton in my cupboard, let Buhari say it. All I’m saying is that he is not ruling the country well. He is a dictator and I know he can be very virulent about it. I don’t rule out executive order from his government. I’m not too young to die for the sake of this country. I must speak the truth. I’ve told everybody to expect my death anytime because I won’t stop talking.
TNE: At 90, what are those things you could do in the past that you can no longer do?
I don’t know… May be you can’t do it as properly as you were doing it before (laughs heartily)… Whatever you mean by that and whatever you understand by that (laughs heartily). God has given me the grace to do all the things I’d been doing, only that I can do them at slow rates now. It is God that has given me the grace. It is for young men to take up the gauntlet. If you don’t do, ignorant people will show you… Going to the university doesn’t mean anything. It will be a pity for this country.
So, how do we get out of the problems facing the country?
It is in the hand of the people. Majority of the people, once they are given the crumbs from the table, they compromise. The leaders, who could be speaking the way I am speaking, have compromised themselves. It is not that any attempt had not been made to compromise me, but I’m old enough and experienced enough to know. The moment they are bringing something, I say, “Oh, thank you very much. Let’s carry on.” The good of the country is my concern. So, you young men, the ball is in your court. We can only show you the light and you will have to find the way. You should not allow tyranny to reign in this county. Our forefathers fought for democracy. Nobody should bring in autocracy or dictatorship through the backdoor. We are now in a civilian dictatorship.
TNE: You are so bitter about the situation of things. Sir, how would you feel if, in 2019 election, Buhari wins?
God forbid! There’ll be no peace in this country if he wins! There’ll be no peace because he’s not prepared to restructure the country. We must know why we differ. I’ve said it many times. Iftomorrow Buhari says he believes in restructuring and that we should have autonomous regions with their own police, local government and others, he becomes my candidate. I have nothing personal against him. I’m against him because of the system of governance he’s imposing on the country. This constitution is not our constitution; it is a military constitution, dominated by northern muslims. I’ve been saying it. The constitution our forefathers – Sardauna, Awolowo and Azikiwe gave us in 1960, they turned it down after the coup in 1966, and you want us to continue. That’s the crux of the matter. There is no magic about what they are doing. The constitution we’re fighting for now, we’ve settled it in 1954 at the London conference, and that was what was reflected in 1960. How can Buhari now say he is more intelligent than Sardauna. That was the agreement at the colonial office – that we want to live together on these conditions. Why must you impose one now? We said, no, we didn’t want to fight, let’s go to a conference and agree. We went to a conference and you say you are not going to touch it (the outcome); that we must continue where we are. We should be begging you for our right on every occasion? Something that should be our right, you want us to come and beg for it? You can’t keep this country together by force.
TNE: That is still talking about restructuring the country?
Yes, I don’t hesitate to say that. If you want to keep us together, it must be in peace and on agreed terms.
When you talk about restructuring, they say you want to disintegrate the country. Who said that? We say let the federal government have its own power, let the units have their own powers as given during independence. All the areas of frictions were settled at the conference – state police and other, but this military people brought the problem back and Buhari wants to perpetrate it. It will not happen.
TNE: What advice do you have for Nigerians on the ways to move the nation forward?
The advice I have for Nigerians is to get rid of Buhari and APC and put in place, a stable government agreed to by all. No more, no less. The need to have a new constitution is very important; more important than any other thing. You must have a country before you have development. You can’t have development in confusion.
Source: The Next Edition.com