In this interview with ADELEKE ADESANYA, leader of the pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, says sending the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, into the gallows will not suppress the Biafra nation agitations.
According to the nonagenarian, yielding to the demands for restructuring of Nigeria remains the solution to the country’s malaise. Also, accusing the President of giving tacit support to criminal elements with the intent of Fulanising the country, Adebanjo urges all not to expect any election in 2023.
Without let, you have asked that the country should be restructured. What manner of restructuring, really?
I have always made it clear; restructuring is not a political philosophy. I said restructure back to federalism, it is those who want to confuse you, they say what do you mean by it? And I go further to say if you don’t understand it, go back to independent constitution agreed to by Sadauna, Awolowo and Azikiwe, simple. Any other thing is just to confuse. Some people will talk of true federalism. There’s nothing like true federalism, it is because some people are calling this constitution federal, that’s why many people are agitating for federalism, and they now say true federalism. They only introduced that coinage, there’s nothing like that. Federalism is federalism, distribution between the state and the central government, so any other thing is just confusion. Don’t mind them, and those who are in the government too. They know, including the vice president. I can understand the president, there is a limit to his education, I understand.
So what do you make of those calling for self-determination, who are not interested in restructuring?
Those are the people who are impatient, those are the people who are tired of the lie of this government, they are youths like you, that’s why I said those of us that are asking for restructuring, we are the people who want to keep the country together. Our youths are impatient because this government is not performing, because this government is lying, because this government has restructured in its programme and will not implement, because this government set up EL-Rufai committee on restructuring and will not implement, whenever there’s agitation on restructuring, they say ‘oh yes, we are going to do it, just playing for time.
How about agitations for outright secession, which Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu are pushing for, for their respective ethnic groups?
I understand that the youths are calling for secession, even some enlightened men in the Diaspora. When you view all the events in the country, particularly under this current administration, people just say we are tired of these things. For those of us that knew what we fought for, and we knew what is contained in the federal constitution agreed to, you know if they go back to federalism, all the complaints, agitation are resolved there. Many people wouldn’t even bother to read that constitution, many people don’t understand it, many people thought when we say go back to the present constitution, we are referring to the three regions or so, No! after all, politics is dynamic, and so what we are saying is go back to that constitution. Make necessary amendments with the progressive units under it, create more states, more units under the federation. After all, how many states form American Independence? They were not up to 40, later they became 48, now they are 50. People are coming into it on the terms of the federal constitution.
In the event that the county is not restructured before 2023, what do you think it will look like going into another general election?
I’m not a candidate for election before restructuring. I have told Buhari, and I have made it clear, the youths are calling for secession, so you can’t have an election in 2023. They are only deceiving themselves. I am not one of those who deceive themselves. I have told him to restructure before the next election. When we know what constitution to use and under what terms we are living together, we can go to the election, there’s no country now! Do we have a country now? Kidnapping there, raping there, killing there, what part of the country is not calling for secession? It is because of the iniquities in this constitution, which I repeat, have been settled at independence; under the constitution when we had independence, it was the military that foisted this constitution on us. It is the military that inserted all the obnoxious things we are complaining of now. It is the constitution the military made, that made Buhari the most powerful president in the world today. That is why he will not change this constitution, that is why he’s been reluctant, pretending. All this ‘go to the National Assembly’ is all pretence. The National Assembly is a beneficiary of the fraudulent constitution we are complaining of, how can a product of the fraud amend the fraud? This country consists of the intelligensia, lawyers, professors, SANs; how can an elementary school man come and tell us to go to the National Assembly, do you follow? We are saying this constitution, we don’t want it, we are saying we don’t know about it, and you now say we are going to amend this constitution by the terms we are complaining of, you see the illogicality?
The president recently said the citizens should hold their governors account a boe on insecurity, saying that no governor should come to him in Abuja. What will you say about this?
This is one of the deceits of Buhari. I use the word deceit and I’m prepared for Lai Mohammed to come and charge me for hate speech; no I will explain to you! This president, I believe, understands what we have here, and he knows that under this constitution, the governors are lame-duck governors. They have no control over their security, they have no control over the Police or any security organisation in place, no governor can contend even with the commissioner of police or give instruction to the commissioner of police, they will refer him to Abuja. He knows it. This government whose Malami is an Attorney General, just like a Special Assistant to the president, telling us that the Amotekun security network set up by the Southwest region has no right to carry arms? And now the president is saying go to your governors, we shouldn’t carry arms against those who are attacking us with arms? And he has not made any statement condemning these people carrying arms, that don’t carry arms legally, until when they have killed all the people in Agatu, Makurdi? You now say shoot at sight, and I have condemned that, shoot at sight is not a statement in the democratic society, why didn’t you order that, when Governor Sam Ortom came to you and said I know the people who are killing my people, you know about that? They are Miyeti Allah, they told you they are coming back again, what did he say? Did he say that if you see them shoot at sight? He said go and make friend with your people, the same thing he is now telling the governors. He sends those people without arms to face those people with arms, which you have not condemned and when they say Fulani, he will say no, they are not local Fulani, they are Fulani from Gaddafi, is that not more serious? That these are foreign people, and you are supposed to protect the country against foreign invasion. If they are foreigners, how did they enter the country? You are the commander-in-chief, you are in charge of Customs, you are in charge of Immigration, even after entering the country, and you now say this is who they are. Is it because these people are foreigners, you can’t arrest them? You see the man is just taking us for a ride, and I don’t believe he doesn’t understand, he knows what is happening, that is what I have accused him of. He is yet to dispute that, he wants to Fulanise the country, and the evidence is clear, except you don’t want to see. These people enter the country from the southern Kaduna, they went to Agatu, they went to Makurdi, went to Nasarawa and all parts of the country, and the governor of Nasarawa said that when they drove his people away, they put their flag there, you read it. And they are from a foreign country according to you, and I said you want to Fulanaise, yet you said no, how else? They came there, they drive away the local people there, they plant their flag there, you can’t say anything. Not only that, SheikhGumi has access to these bandits, to go and negotiate when they kidnap us for money, but your soldiers have no access to them, you see how Buhari is fooling us? Those in the National Assembly are deceiving themselves. Both Buhari and his government are deceiving themselves. If people believe so, we are saying there should be no election, let’s see.
President Muhammadu Buhari has said someone in Lagos cannot determine what will happen in Abuja concerning Zoning in APC. How do you see this statement?
Those who thought we are just criticising Buhari for nothing, that interview should have shown them the lies. I’m not surprised, but only you will be surprised. I warned you before you voted for this man in 2014, and I often refer people to my interview with Vanguard newspaper at that time, so go and check, what did I accuse him of at that time that is not taking place now? He is a born federalist, trained dictator, he does not believe the rule of law, they now claimed he’s a born again democrat, you know how long Dasuki has been in prison? You know how long the Shiite leaders have been in prison? In spite of several court judgments? And see the way he cheated the former Chief Justice In a truly democratic society, can people break into the judges’ house and do all sorts of things? In a better climate, there’s no doubt that law and order are broken down in Nigeria, and when they say we are becoming a failed state, Lai Mohammed will open his mouth wide and say they are talking nonsense. How much more does a state be regarded as a failed state? When the court will give order and the president who should see to it that the orders are met, just treat it with contempt. People say when there is an issue between you and your fellow man or government, you should get a lawyer and go to court, and you now render the court useless. He was bold enough, he went to the lawyers’ assembly and said the rule of man would take priority over the rule of law. unfortunately, our lawyers then didn’t know what had happened to them, they didn’t deal with it on that spot, to talk against the rule of law in an assemblage of lawyers? That is the time I gave up about this country, they fear man, not God. When a president under constitutional democracy addresses an assemblage of lawyers? Condemning the rule of law?
The federal government recently suspended Twitter operation and this has been generating ripples among the people, especially the youths. What is your view on the decision?
To my understanding, the president doesn’t understand, he is not exposed, and you can’t give what you haven’t got. When you are talking about all these things, does he know what is happening in the outside world? And the people who gather around him are people who want to tell him what he wants to hear, hasn’t he got a supposed SAN to be his attorney general? Does he not know the implication of that all over the world?
In a more civilised country, he would have withdrawn that ban, you know it changes the country’s equality and he believes he will get away with it, there’s a limit to human ignorance. I said a few weeks ago in an interview that all the religious leaders in the country should pray, that is where we have got to now, because nobody can talk to Buhari, he’s an elected person, he doesn’t listen to his electorate, when a president can ignore a whole southern part of the country demanding something to be done, passing a law and then you are saying you are going to have a law to counter that, is that not a pity? And when they talk to him, he doesn’t care, you know why he does that? He has all his security architecture in his hand. The army is with him, police are with him, he controls everything, but he has forgotten that we have God. I want to repeat that, when Goliath was talking to David, he said you small boy, and David said I come against you in the name of God. The whole of the country now is praying to God to save us from Buhari, and God will answer our prayers.
The president recently referred to the Igbos as a dot in the circle, do you think he is showing the kind of respect he has for them?
Yes, you people are surprised, that is the type of person he is, he has never hidden his hatred for the people of the East. Only people are hesitant to tell him, he doesn’t like them. The man whose government can negotiate with bandits, cannot negotiate with subjects, then, what’s your trouble? Even with Nnamdi Kanu, why do you want to go? They said there’s partiality, no there’s no partiality, you count 1,2,3,4, explain to them. You can’t sit down with them, even his colleagues, the southern governors said ‘look, call us for a dialogue, he just put it aside, he is playing God.
Are you saying he should have called Nnamdi Kanu to negotiate with him?
That is what I’m saying, what is wrong? If he can negotiate with bandits, those who are raping people, kidnapping, he is sending Gumi to them, paying ransom. Even at that, in certain states, the bandits are so powerful, dictating the chance of negotiation, you must buy us motorcycles. God come and save Nigeria. President of the country, bandits are telling you this is the condition we are going to lay down our arms, he doesn’t say the army should go there and fire them, it is only the armless people in southeast Biafra. I wish the aggressiveness and the aggressive nature that he has, he should use it against the Boko Haram people, to wipe them out, not against the people who voted for him.