ELDER statesman and one of the leading voices in the South West zone, Chief Ayo Adebanjo is afraid that Nigeria may break up if she is not restructured soon. He also expresses doubts on the possibility of holding the 2019 general elections under the nation’s present structure. In this interview with PLUSMILA.COM, he was in his elements and spoke on various national issues.
What are your reflections in the New Year with regards to Nigeria? With what happened in 2017, should Nigerians embrace 2018 with hope for a better life especially in view of the fact that this is a year before another general elections in the country?
As far as I am concerned, President Buhari is the problem of Nigeria. Any sincere leader that wants this country to stay in peace and ignores the question of restructuring, we should write him off. It means that such a leader does not either understand the problem of the country or he does not love the country. There cannot be development of any nature in the country without restructuring. Nobody should doubt that. The South and Middle Belt will not continue in peace under this obnoxious constitution and until the national question is settled, nobody should talk about a peaceful co-existence. And the fact that the Head of State who is supposed to be the president of all does not appreciate that fact means he is the problem of Nigeria.
But it is not as if President Buhari has completely shut the door against restructuring. If I understand him, what he is saying is that the right process of restructuring the nation should be followed. Is that position the same as shutting the door against restructuring?
What is the right process; it is just because we are approaching another election. If restructuring is not done before the election, forget it. They will rig the election under the present system and Nigerians would continue to suffer if the system is not restructured. How many times has he promised to do it before an election? He promised it in 2007; he promised it in 2011 and he promised it in 2015, but what has he done. He is not reliable again; do not let anybody deceive you. We are in a country where the Fulani herdsmen are killing, raping women and burning people’s houses all over the country. Everybody has been complaining about that and you now deliver a New Year speech and you did not make any reference to it, about the solution to the problem. The people are carrying arms openly against the law of the country. You close your eyes and when some people complain, you send military helicopters to destroy them. Is that the way the president of the country should behave? And people are now saying give us a constitution that would give us freedom and that would allow every state to develop at its own pace, you say no. We say let us go back to the constitution that was handed over to us, you say no. Anybody still trusting Buhari is still deceiving himself. The recent broadcast really exposed Buhari that he really wants to rule Nigeria by force. And because he has all the instruments of his position, all the security officers are Muslims. But as I said, they believe in all these forces and all that but we believe in God and God is not a supporter of anybody who does not believe in justice.
The restructuring you are talking about, do you think it is realistic now considering that it is barely one year to another general elections?
My dear, what is sacrosanct about the 2019 general elections if there is no peace? If it requires postponing that election to have peace in Nigeria, so be it. You want to conduct the election and the country would tear to pieces. The man is not made for the law, rather the law is made for man. Anything you can do to bring peace in the country, you should do it even if it means postponing the general elections. You want to go on and do the elections and the country would go into pieces. What is the sense about that when everybody is opposed to what you are doing; you are saying there is going to be Nigeria after the election. That is the realistic view. If President Buhari loves the country, why is it that across the country, everybody is talking about restructuring except himself? Does it mean you are seeing everybody as a fool? As far as I am concerned, if it requires postponing the election to put the country in a stable condition and to get Nigerians together, it is worth it. And all the whole talk about constitutional impediments to amending the law does not mean anything be- cause we made the law. Make the provision for the amendment for the unity and peace of the country. We want to stay together and there is no doubt about that, but we cannot stay together where a section of the country continues to oppress others. That is impossible and that is just the matter. If Buhari is sincere and loves the country, he should restructure the country and when everybody is satisfied, we can then go to the election.
Why do you think that the All Progressives Congress(APC) is reneging on the is- sue of restructuring after it took over power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015?
Are you asking me or you should ask them. Let the truth be said; they are not reliable. President Buhari’s integrity is diminishing day by day. Anybody saying anything to the contrary is just playing to the gallery. If they want government appointment, they would be saying he is doing this and that. That New Year broadcast has exposed Buhari more than anything else and it is a pity for those around him. They are a big disappointment to Nigeria. How can anybody in this country with all we went through in Nigeria last year about restructuring, come and talk about it in the flippant manner that he did as if he was not in this country. That is why I am saying that restructuring is not the problem; Buhari is the problem.
Recently, President Buhari released a list of Board appointments including some dead people. Since the announcement, many are questioning the capacity of those in the APC-led government. What is your take on the development?
When I said Buhari has lost integrity, those are the kind of things I am talking about. He is no longer trustworthy. How can a government give out a list of people including dead ones? Is it by negligence, is it natural or what? How do you explain that? A government of a country before it sends out even an ordinary letter, somebody has to vet it. If they draft a memo, before you sign it, don’t you read it? That is the right thing.
As a leader in the South West geo-polit- ical zone, what do you think is the kind of politics the Yoruba should play ahead of the 2019 general elections?
My dear, I have a single agenda for 2019.
Anybody or politician in this country who does not talk about restructuring is talking bunkum. We need to restructure and get up. Any other thing is just begging the question.
What is your view on the $1 billion facility that the Federal Government is seeking from the Excess Crude Account to tackle insurgency in the North East of the country?
That shows you that the integrity of Buhari is waning; it is for asking for $1billion to fight insurgency that you said you had won about one year ago. Government said it had won the war and you said you want to mop up and you say you need $1 billion. They want to use the money for the general elections and they should not try to deceive anybody. We are no babies in Nigeria at all. And they have not even agreed on it; the governors said they want to use it to fight Boko Haram but the Vice President said they want to use it for Boko Haram and other security issues in the country. They want to use the money for election and they should not try to deceive anybody. They are giving all sorts of excuses. Is that a government? A government that declares somebody wanted and allowed the Attorney General to go after somebody declared wanted! What do you think about that? You declared the man wanted for corruption and the Director of Security Services now said he had booked the Attorney General to go and meet the fugitive offender under President Buhari who has zero tolerance for corruption!. That is the man who is ruling us. What I said now is known to you; is it a secret. How do you reconcile that? You said somebody is wanted and he is a criminal but your officials now look after him and meet him with the approval of the security people. Then how secure are we because under the same government, two security forces engaged each other in public. Is that a government? Does that show that Buhari is in control? Who appoints the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); who appoints members of the State Security? These are the questions you should be asking and you should help us get out of this quagmire.
You sound so critical of President Buhari’s administration but so many Nigerians are already rooting for his comeback in 2019. Does it not appear to you that he will be re-elected in the next general elections?
My dear, do not believe that. These are all staged statements; these are organized and sponsored statements they say to be politically correct.
Many agree that Nigeria is not progress- ing 57 years after independence and it is ob- vious that the world is not waiting for us to catch up with its pace. Are we going to con- tinue like this; what is really the problem?
Are you in Nigeria or in America? You are part of the problem. In other climes, from his actions, Buhari should not have been there six months ago on the question of the activities of the Fulani herdsmen. The public could have risen against him. These people are carrying arms unlawfully, killing, raping and doing all sorts of things and not a word from the Head of State and he said he is the president of the country? And what are you saying; are you not part of the problem?
So, at this seeming crossroad in Nigeria, what is your advice to the people?
My advice to Nigerians now is that whether you are of the PDP or APC, whether the Sun or the Moon, Punch or anything, rise up and tell Buhari to restructure the country because any other way, you are looking for trouble without restructuring the country. If any leader is saying look any other way, you have to know that the leader is the problem of the country. If you restructure the country, there would be no Biafra, IPOB, Oduduwa Republic. The problem is that we have failed to make people stay in Nigeria on an agreeable condition.
Do you have any fears about Nigeria’s future?
My fear is that the country would break up if we do not restructure Nigeria. I have no doubt about that in my mind. President Buhari is deceiving himself if he believes that he can force unity on this country. It would not work. He may believe in all these forces, but we in the South believe in God and God is not one of in- justice. God would fight for us.