I don’t recognise Buhari until Supreme Court rules on his election —Adebanjo

Chief Ayo Adebanjo is a chieftain of the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere. In this interview with HAKEEM GBADAMOSI, he speaks on the way out of many of the challenges confronting Nigeria.

DO you think restructuring is the only way out of the current trend of insecurity and other challenges facing Nigeria as a nation?

If the government is honest and sincere about restructuring, about security, about keeping this country together in peace, there is no alternative to restructuring now. It is not about setting up committees; it is about taking steps now to restructure the country and go back to federalism. By the time that is done, all these local government issues, insecurity and the problems of corruption would be solved.

That is why we say if President Muhammadu Buhari is serious and honest about keeping this country together, he should check and revisit the 2014 National Conference recommendations, which he said he was putting in the archive. If there is anything there, he should identify it and let us move forward. He doesn’t like 2014 Confab and he doesn’t set up anything. He wants us to continue under this constitution that makes him an autocrat, that makes him the most powerful president in the whole world. We will not accept that, except he forces us. And when he forces us, we can resist.

There is no long discussion for this insecurity or anything. The bane of this constitution is that the governors of various states are lame-duck governors. They are only chief security officers of their states in name. They haven’t got the instruments for implementing and ensuring security. The moment those powers are released, all the problems are solved. Why should there be a problem, if he (Buhari) is sincere? I have accused him pointedly that he won’t do it, because he doesn’t want to release the powers that he is exercising under the current constitution. The only way for him to refute these allegations is to do what I have said, because it is what he is using to oppress and to be dictatorial in his actions.

He located all the architectural structures of the country in his village, region and among his religious sect.

When you talk of restructuring, the Press has a duty. When you talk of 2014 Confab, go and read it. Many of its opponents have not read it; they will know what we are emphasising is that in the 2014 Confab report, every area of conflict among the federating states in the country are solved there. And I have challenged Buhari before; he can never assemble Nigerians of any hue across board that can be better constituted in dignity and in education than that composition (of members of the conference). I challenge him. Judges were there. Members of the Nigerian Bar Association, members of the Nigeria Medical Association, labour, youths and religious bodies were there. There is no section of the community that is not represented. I have challenged him; let him pinpoint the defect of that composition, other than saying that they are not elected.

And if he says that they are not elected, he should point out what is in that recommendation that is objectionable, that is not good in keeping this country together in peace, that is not consistent with the constitution we had at independence which was agreed on by Sardauna, Awolowo and Azikiwe. I have challenged him. Buhari cannot be more Northerner than the Sardauna. That was what Sardauna agreed to. Let him say no or that he is a better Northerner.

When he couldn’t get over the question, he went over the governors to be talking with the obas, traditional rulers, to organise local communities for security. That is part of the power he is exercising under unitary system. He has no right to contact the obas without consulting the governors. He can’t rule us from Abuja; that is what I’m objecting to.

 

What is your take on the activities of herdsmen in the South-West which seem to have overwhelmed the government and the people of the region? Are the perpetrators prosecuted?

You journalists too are leaving in denial. You said some of the herdsmen. You don’t want to say Fulani herdsmen. As I’m saying it, you should report it. You (Press) have been cowed by [Femi] Adesina and others saying that you are against the government. That is what it is, when this thing started. You pressmen should go back to history. We said these people are Fulani herdsmen. When Buhari came into office, he harassed you [pressmen]; that no, why do you say they are Fulani? How do you know that they are Fulani? Then you people stopped calling them Fulani herdsmen. You started saying herdsmen. But when the evidence became overwhelming, Buhari said they are not local Fulani, that they are Fulani from an Arab country and you people couldn’t take him up. Is that not more serious, that foreign people are coming to our territory to harass your subjects, the security of whom you are responsible? You can’t arrest them, you can’t prosecute them and even when he knows them? Nasir el-Rufai, on his behalf, traced these culprits to their root.

Instead of arresting them, he gave them money. Here is a man that when they invaded Markurdi, Benue State, the governor went to him and said: “Mr. President, I know those people who have come to do damage in my territory, that they are Miyetti Allah and they wrote a letter to me saying they are coming back.” What did he tell him? He said go and make friends with your neighbours!

If Buhari does not know, I’m not stupid. He said he sent an Inspector General of Police (IGP) there (Benue) over this matter in January. As the person in charge of our security, he doesn’t know, for three months, that the IGP never went there. If Buhari is a serious defender of our security, that man (former IGP) was guilty of negligence and dereliction of duty. It was a lot of pressure before then. He even wanted to extend his tenure of office. Such a man demonstrated a lack of competence.

Lately, when the Redeemed Church pastor and others were abducted, you see the speed they went after it. All the victims of the abduction were released, but did they get the people who organised the abduction? You pressmen, if you have not been bought, if you have not been compromised, these are the obvious questions you should ask. You are all intelligent people and if you are not careful, you are going to suffer for it. Ayo Adebanjo is gone already. I am 91. I can die anytime. All this fight is because of you. And if you can’t say it boldly, you will suffer, your children will suffer and your generation will suffer. What do I have to gain from all these things? The head of the country, Buhari, is so defiant to our feelings, telling us that foreigners come into our territory, rape, burned, abduct and he couldn’t say anything, saying that they are Muhammar Gaddafi’s men. That was his excuse. It stands condemnable. What security do we now have? He is the Commander-in-Chief that should protect lives and properties, not only internal security, but now, foreigners are now coming based on his own acknowledgment. He is not competent to even arrest, not to talk of prosecute them. What a shame that someone like that could be in the office for one day. Buhari knows what to be done, if he is serious and honest. They should stop telling us any bunkum.

As one of the disciples of the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, what do you think he would have done differently in handling this situation?

He would have insisted on implementing the federal constitution. In that system, when you say you have state police, it will be the indigenes that will form its components. So, the issue of turning a blind eye to the issue of crime will not arise. Buhari knows. When the daughter of our leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, was killed, the first thing I told Buhari was that he should change the security personnel in this region to indigenes. So, if anything happens in this state, we will hold Governor Rotimi Akeredolu responsible. But Akeredolu hasn’t got the power to do the things that are needful without turning to Abuja. They know what to do, but they have refused to do it, because they want to continue to rule us by force.

 

Some people are of the view that corruption in this administration could be at the heart of these problem,s and that it is more than in the era of former President Goodluck Jonathan. What is your take, sir? 

It is obvious. We don’t need a crystal ball for that. You take Rotimi Amaechi, you take Timipre Sylva and Godswill Akpabio, even the one that was found guilty by the Jonathan-led administration, whose four houses were taken from him by EFCC. He was prosecuted by Festus Keyamo. Buhari, who claimed to have zero-tolerance for corruption, now brought back the prosecutor and the suspect into his government. I implore you, the Press, to be as vibrant as in the era of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). The success of NADECO, I will give 70 per cent to the Press.

 

Femi Falana recently started that Nigerians are being ruled like a conquered people? Do you agree with him?

If Nigerians are not conquered, how can Buhari say that he is not the president, that it is the Chief of Staff that the ministers should be reporting to? That is what they have been doing for long. And we called them a cabal.

 

What is your view of the new set of ministers? Can they take us to the next level? 

I have refused to comment on his ministers, because I don’t recognise Buhari until the Supreme Court decides otherwise. So, if I don’t give him any mandate, I don’t know he is there, why should I question what he is doing? It is those who voted for him that can answer the question. I don’t know he exists.

 

Do you support the move that past leaders should be tried for economic sabotage? 

Anything that will be done to abhor corruption across board is welcomed.

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