We don’t hate Buhari, but he doesn’t understand the demands of his office —Adebanjo
Elder statesman and chieftain of pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, speaks on issues of national interest, including President Muhammadu Buhari, June 12, the late MKO Abiola, the rampaging Fulani herdsmen, state police, future of democracy in Nigeria, among others, in this interview with BOLA BADMUS. Excerpts:
The June 12 celebration has just been concluded. What is your assessment of what President Muhammadu Buhari has done so far to honour the late MKO Abiola, winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election?
Well, we thank him for doing what is right at long last by having the courage to do what is necessary for the departed soul. I only don’t buy all the noise they have been making about it, as if he has done something extraordinary. He has done something special because his predecessors could not do what is right, because they hadn’t got the courage. Maybe because it was a military man that annulled the election, providence has said that another military man should restore it. But he should go further to recognise him (Abiola) as a former president of the country, so that all the honours and benefits of office will be given to him to ameliorate the persecution he went through, because putting another Yoruba man in office instead, as they did then, was just begging the issue.
Furthermore, to really symbolise what the man stood for, which is for democracy and good governance, they should practise what he lived for: one, the rule of law, which includes obedience of court orders, free speech, free association and a clean government. In the absence of those, the government will just be trying to pay lip service to what democracy means.
We are all saying we have democracy and they are celebrating the man who symbolises it, yet, they are practising and promoting anti-democratic things.
Look at the man, (Sambo) Dasuki, he has been there for years, in spite of the fact that several court orders have been given for his release. Ditto (Ibrahim) El-Zakyzaky and his wife.
Also, we have witnessed the breaking into the offices of top judiciary officials, all because you want to get rid of corruption. Corruption has become endemic. Of course, nobody supports corruption. But don’t do the right thing the wrong way. You don’t avoid a crime by committing another crime.
Looking at what Buhari has been able to do so far, what do you think make them to delay the honour now given to Chief M.K.O. Abiola?
They didn’t want to do it; they only tried to play politics out of it. They didn’t want to do it. It’s a pity that the man who had the first opportunity to do it, that is (Olusegun) Obasanjo, he had the opportunity, but failed to do what was right and that is why all the honour on that issue should be given to Buhari. He did what others failed to do. He did the right thing which others failed to do; he did it. But he should go further to do more in the context of democracy. What the June 12 symbolises must be demonstrated in the actions of the government.
If Abiola had been installed as president of Nigeria, he would have practised democracy. He wouldn’t have disobeyed court orders. So, all that he stood for should be brought into governance, not just making him a symbol. Naming institutions after him and practising what he was opposed to or not practising what he stood for. So, to me, that is just eye service.
Now, since this honour was bestowed, we have had claims and counter-claims that some people who actually stood for June 12 and on the side of Abiola had been sidelined, while those that were on the other side were the ones claiming the glory. How do you see that?
The only thing now is: how can those who surround him (Buhari), who know those who fought for June 12 and for democracy and who know that those who spearheaded the struggle are still alive but chose not to invite them? If one is emphasising that, it would appear as if one is looking for personal aggrandisement, but a sincere person should have looked into all this to identify those who stood for June 12. After all, it was the Alliance for Democracy (AD) governors that first of all started to recognise that day as Democracy Day, since they were in government.
So, at least, even if Buhari does not know who fought for it, those people who are in alliance with him know those who stood firm. Everybody is now saying Buhari and Buhari.
I don’t want to emphasise those who took part, because it would appear we are looking for something. But what I am emphasising is that what the symbol of democracy (Abiola) stood for must be demonstrated by the government that recognises June 12 as Democracy Day. If they are all sincere about the fact that this is what this man stood for, we are recognising it however late those who did the annulment of the election made a mistake’ then, they should rectify the situation completely and not by half or playing to the gallery because of elections. That was what they did when they first announced June 12 as Democracy Day in lieu of May 29.
It is on record from the word go, Afenifere has never recognised May 29 as Democracy Day, because our governors, from Bola Tinubu to Niyi Adebayo and Segun Osoba, had always been celebrating June 12 as Democracy Day, which was equally declared as public holiday by our governments at that time.
Sir, do you still hold the belief that Nigeria is more divided now and that the citizens live in fears?
There is no doubt about that. Nobody should be in doubt about that. This morning l was going through the newspapers and the Army chief says the officers are not committed to the fight against Boko Haram. If they are no more committed, then, the man should sack them. They have only told us what we already knew, that they are not competent, that they are not committed to fighting the menace.
Then, if that is the case, the Commander- in-Chief should sack them. If he fails to sack them, he will be acting against his oath of office to defend lives and properties of the citizens and then, he has no moral right to stay in office.
But does he believe that they are not working well, because I can recollect that the president told the whole world that the new Inspector General of Police (IGP) was working well and had become lean since he took over the job? Could it be that is the same impression he has about all his service chiefs?
Buhari is living in denial; we all know that. The whole world has been telling him that these people have been incompetent for the past four years that he has been there. That is not new; but he turned a blind eye. That is not a new thing at all. Buhari has all along been guilty of negligence in protecting lives and properties. People have been clamouring that these security chiefs, heads of Army, Navy and Air Force, should be changed for lack of performance. He didn’t change them. But now that he has been told that the officers are not committed, what is he doing.
If he is really sincere about protecting lives and properties? He should sack them and put competent officers there and then, if he fails to do what is right to be done, then, he has no moral right to be in office. He is the Commander-in-Chief; he should appoint those who should do that. Now that officers are no longer committed, he should change them. If you had employed an officer who is not doing your job, you sack him and employ another officer; your inability to do that shows that you are also not competent.
The issue of kidnapping, killing, among others, is dominating the polity. But the IGP came out to say the rate of crime in Nigeria is dropping. Do you also share that view? Also, only recently, we learnt that the son of a former minister was kidnapped, though he has been released, what is the correlation?
If you view all the crimes all over the place, we have never had it this way. For the past two years, law and order have broken down in this country, only that these people are living in denial. For a police officer to now say that crime rate has dropped, with the rate of kidnapping, rape and all, well, the less we talk about it, the better.
Let’s come back to the South-West. Fulani herdsmen have been in the news with the kind of atrocities they have been committing, and these appear to be on a daily basis now, to the extent that some South-westerners could not travel home anymore with the situation on hand. How do you see this?
We are living in this type of society because of the type of government we have. The question of Fulani criminality in South-West is a reflection of the crime rate in the country. Boko Haram and all these things were limited to the North before Buhari came in. Now, it is happening in all parts of the country and in the face of that, an Inspector General of Police has the effrontery to insult us by saying that the rate of crime in the country is reducing. What does the man take us for?
Now, what is the solution, because if the solution is not coming from the federal level, something has to be done. What can be done?
No other solution than we restructure this country. I am one of those who believe that if we keep on talking about development, we are just deceiving ourselves. Now, the police, the Army and everybody are now saying you should have state police to counter insurgency. State police is one of the ingredients of federal system.
Unfortunately, some of the well-known and your knowledgeable governors in the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South are now saying we have not all agreed, because some people cannot afford it. I am ashamed of the governor who said it, because I know he is knowledgeable enough to know that the question of state police is not a question of financial viability. It is a sine qua non of federalism which we are clamouring for. And there is nothing like restructuring other than that.
Under restructuring, you have your own autonomy. You rule yourself. And when you are talking of financial viability, the moment you bring in state police, all the votes the Federal Government has been using for the police would devolve to the states. You don’t need a crystal ball to know that, and for a knowledgeable governor to be telling Nigerians of our own age that, with all the professors and legal luminaries that you have around, it is a shame. It is not a question of anybody doing us a favour. If this country wants to stay together, we must stay together under a constitution that is acceptable to everybody and that constitution that is acceptable to us has been decided at independence by the founding fathers. It was the military that de-structured Nigeria; that is why we are in this trouble.
That is why we say restructure the country; go back to where you met us and all these problems would not be there. It is the excess money in the hands of the Federal Government that makes it easy for it to spend money where it is not necessary. This thing is simple.
They are just making mountain out of a mole hill.
Sir, if the governors are not ready for state police, what is the way out, for now, in the South-west?
I don’ t buy the question that somebody is ready or not ready. The question is: Do we want to stay together? You can’t force a constitution on a country. There was this agitation about de-amalgamation before. That was what we were fighting for before we got to this question of federal system. They should look back at what happened in the past. All the leaders of the country were summoned to London and it was where they agreed on this federal constitution that the military changed and I continue to say Buhari cannot claim to be more Northerner than Sardauna. It was Sardauna, Azikiwe and Awolowo that agreed on what we are now asking you to do. It is not a favour.
If Buhari really loves the country and is sincere about keeping the country together, he should restructure the country immediately. All these units in the federation should be autonomous enough to take care of security.
As it is now, the governors are subordinate to the Federal Government, which should not be. The state governments are coordinates and independent and that was what we had in the First Republic. Like the Western Region then, they were so independent, they had an office in London. That’s what we are asking for. Nobody wants the country to separate. And that is why the country is so disorganised, because the man at the helm of affairs doesn’t understand the issue; that is Buhari.
We don’t hate him, but he does not understand the job he has taken upon himself. If he understands it, what does it take him? The question of alienating South-South, the South-East and South-West will be solved by the time he does this thing. If he is, indeed, serious about keeping this country together, what is his problem in doing that? You wanted to continue under a constitution where you have the power to keep the security architecture in one village in your region and that’s why the Middle-Belt has been savaged by the Fulani elements without you doing anything about it.
You went to Makurdi; the governor wrote to you, saying ‘look at these Miyetti Allah people; they are disturbing me. This is what they are doing.’ And you (Buhari) said ‘go and live with your neighbours.’
I have said it before, Buhari is reluctant to change this constitution because of the powers he has under it. He is the most powerful president in the whole world and by the time the constitution is changed to federalism, those powers would go.
Unfortunately, the so-called governors from the South-West, who are in alliance with him, are so sheepish. Their hands are so dirty that they cannot talk to him. It is because their hands are so dirty that is why they don’t have the courage to stand up to him.
In the alliance deal they had with him, they put restructuring. Tinubu, the head of their team there, fought for restructuring under the Obasanjo-led government. He did it with the incumbent vice-president who was then his commissioner and attorney-general. They took Obasanjo to court and they won on the issue of local government funds. On what basis did he (Tinubu) take that action and on what basis did he win? What has now changed that is making the vice-president and Tinubu to dilly-dally over restructuring?
Tinubu is now saying it is not restructuring, it is economy. Do you develop the economy for dead people? Do you develop the economy when the people are all dead? It is unfortunate that these people see us as if we are imbeciles.
Ekiti State governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi is the one who said the states have no money to fund state police. What advice do you have for him now?
I have no advice for him other than to say I am disappointment. I won’t say more. For Fayemi to have said that, I think he should be the one to educate them, if those on the side of the Federal Government don’t know that the issue of state police is not a question of financial viability, that it is an ingredient of the federal system where the federating states are autonomous.
How can you be called the chief security officer of your state without the instruments of security being in your hands? The commissioner of police has to take instructions from the Federal Government. You can recall that Buhari sent the IGP to Makurdi, Benue State, to quell the violence in the state and for three months, he didn’t go. As efficient as Buhari is, he didn’t know that the instruction was not complied with and when he later got to know, he didn’t do anything about the IGP. The man was still there. Was it about obeying the body language, ‘let them kill themselves?’
And even when the governor appealed to him, he said ‘go and live well with your neighbours.’
With all these developments sir, what is the future of democracy in the country?
We have no democracy now, particularly with Buhari in government. He is the greatest civilian autocrat under the guise of being a democrat.
Some people will not agree with you on that…
They don’t have to agree with me. I am Ayo Adebanjo. Everybody is entitled to his or her own opinion. What I am saying is that Buhari is the greatest civilian autocrat. Why? I am judging him by his actions. Will a democrat, in a democratic society, disobey court orders on two, three, four individuals? Will a democrat, under the rule of law, invade judges’ quarters under the pretence that he wants to wipe out corruption? These are my reasons I don’t just label him. I call him a dictator by his actions and let people tell me that those actions are consistent with democratic principles. That’s all.
All these people who are living in denial, trying to be politically wise, I tell them that not all of us are dunces. Do you want to tell me that all those governors from the South-West don’t know what is right? It is all because they are afraid of him.
What is your advice to Nigerians?
My advice to Nigerians, until Buhari quits office, I have never minced my words about that. He does not believe in democratic system. He does not deserve to rule us in this country under a democratic system and anybody who is opposed to that statement or wants to refute it, that all these things I said he has done, that he has not done them, let him come out and tell us.
You see, the unfortunate thing is that we are living in denial in this country and those who led us into this mess, I mean Tinubu, the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), are insulting the Yoruba by consistently talking about another thing. I was informed that what Tinubu told the people that approached him about the issue of getting restructuring implemented was that ‘it is economy first.’ The same thing is what the vice-president said.
Can you do economy under the state of insecurity in the country? Which investor would come when people in a small village cannot safely go to farm and grow their produce and when people can’t move from one state to the other without the fear of being kidnapped? When people can’t move safely without armed robbers attacking them? When people can’t live in their villages without Fulani herdsmen raping their wives? These are issues in the country which he (Buhari) has not even said a word about on Democracy Day. We don’t know what Nigerians have done to make us deserve a man like Buhari. The number of people that have been killed under him is more than the number killed during the civil war and yet, the man still has the effrontery to be telling us the security is alright.
How many times has he told us that Boko Haram has been wiped out and yet, two days ago, 30 people were killed and others were injured in an attack in Borno? And everyday, he would be telling us that the situation is improving and the IGP also had the effrontery to insult us by saying that the crime rate has dropped in the country.
Not only foreign countries have warned their citizens about movement in the country, but also the authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, which warned its staff not to travel to Ibadan. I heard this as personal information. It was a professor in Ife who was kidnapped and was asked to pay ransom of N5 million that said he saw the Fulani herdsmen and that their AK47 riffles had inscriptions on them written in Arabic. All these things are there.
You want to tell me that in an efficient country, a crime spot will be located and that area has not been condoned off, and similar crime occurred two or three times after the first one? And the man put in charge of security has the effrontery to tell us security is in order. God help this country.
The man (Buhari) should have declared a state of emergency in Nigeria. Each time he wants to deceive us, he would make a statement that ‘now state police must be attended to,’ but what has he done ever since? Each time he wants to fool people of Nigeria, he talks like that. What step has he taken?
Besides the subject [restructuring] being in their manifesto, they set up a committee headed by Nasir el-Rufai. The report? They put it in the dustbin, as if they didn’t know what to do, whereas the governments are crying for state police. Why are they doing that? How can you do state police without restructuring the country? Why are you afraid of restructuring?