Chief Ayo Adebanjo is an elder statesman and chieftain of Afenifere and one of the pillars of the June 12 struggle. In this interview, he bares his mind on the declaration of the historic date as Democracy Day by President Muhammadu Buhari and lessons for Nigerians. TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI brings the excerpts:
After 25 years of June 12, what lesson have we learnt?
We have not learnt anything. It was because of June 12 that we are where we are today. It is a pointer to the wicked annulment of an election adjudged to be free and fair. That election was the wish of the people. The reason for the election was to return the country to true federalism. And until we return to true federalism and restructuring of the country, that is when a better Nigeria will emerge.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo gave the backing to May 29 as democracy day and he never did anything to honour the late MKO throughout his tenure. What is your perspective on that?
Obasanjo never believed in what the Yoruba believed in; so he was not one of us on that struggle. He was a government for himself. He had never championed the cause of the Yoruba people. That is why the Yoruba people never voted for him and he knew that very well. He rigged the election, so you should not count him as one of the crusaders of the Yoruba interests. He sacrificed the interest of the Yoruba people and he satisfied the North to put him in office. So, Obasanjo is not one of us; he never championed our cause.
Apart from Obasanjo, who are those from the Southwest who made the struggle for June 12 unattainable?
The combination of Tinubu and Buhari are some of the efforts that made June 12 unrealistic. I say this because they are working against what June 12 stand for. And June 12 stands for is that we want federalism, where every state will have its police, resource control and all that is expedient in the cry for a sovereign national conference (SNC). The SNC is not a magic word; it is just a solution in solving our problems peacefully. The SNC that we were asking for conference was based on the 2014 National Conference recommendation. It was agreed that whatever recommendation the people made, it was going to be final and there would be no amendment. Just like Obasanjo did in the 1979 constitution, where he included the Land Use Decree and it will come into operation as soon as we agreed through referendum.
Are you still in touch with the Abiola family and how are they faring?
I am in touch with the family. Three days ago I was with them on the Kudirat Abiola’s remembrance. When the family has anything to do, I attend and when I have something to do they equally attend. We have been telling government to do something to perpetuate his name. A lot of things could be done to immortalise the man, the symbol of June 12. And for instance, that Democracy Day which they currently mark of May 29 should be reverted to June 12. May 29 has no significance and without June 12, there cannot be May 29. You don’t need a crystal ball to prove that because the people are ruling us by force. Sometimes, I wonder whether Buhari believes he is wiser that Sadauna, Awolowo and Azikiwe. Today, we operate with a military constitution imposed by a section of the country.
That is simply the wickedness going on in the country that we are talking about. What we have is not our constitution; it was a military constitution dominated by northern Muslims. It is the constitution that encourages Buhari to stubbornly appoint all the security chiefs from his village or his region, yet Tinubu and Osinbajo kept looking.
Is that part of democracy? And you say you are in alliance, using all the security people from a section of the country. Later, he said he is carrying out fight against bribery and corruption. Is that how to fight corruption or you are carrying out a vendetta against your opponents? It is so unfortunate that this is done this way. I must say that everybody that stole money must be punished, today if it is Adebanjo, he is a rogue, but if it is a Buhari man, he is a saint. That is my quarrel with him and that is the only thing he can get credit for, if he fights corruption without discrimination. In his cabinet, people have been indicted for corruption.
He even appointed a Secretary to Government who was indicted. He told us that he has zero tolerance for corruption, yet nothing tangible happened apart from just removing him from office. He would not have removed the man, but for pressure that was being mounted on him. When the EFCC said the man was corrupt, he said no and he asked Osinbajo to investigate the matter. Like I said, I don’t have personal grudge against him, but his method is faulty. Afenifere had supported Buhari before, but many people don’t know that. We supported him in 2007. I’m saying this just to show him that I don’t have anything personal against him. We supported him, because he promised that he was going to restructure. Just like he deceived Tunde Bakare, he also deceived Osinbajo and Tinubu who has his eyes opened.
• Source: Daily Independent
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