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DIVISION IN AFENIFERE: I dare Tinubu, Osoba to publicly declare stand on restructuring – Adebanjo

DIVISION IN AFENIFERE: I dare Tinubu, Osoba to publicly declare stand on restructuring – Adebanjo

Sun, military rule, Adebanjo
Adebanjo

…‘Under present Constitution, Buhari is most powerful President in the world’

…Says Mr. President deceiving ‘Jagaban’ on 2023

..On Nigeria’s 60th anniversary: It was a day of mourning

By Yinka Ajayi

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Brickbats over division in Afenifere just expanded as one of the leaders of the influential Yoruba group, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, accused of masterminding the division by a former governor of Ogun State, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, gives a reply.

Osoba, in an interview with Sunday Vanguard, last Sunday, had said the activities of some leaders of the group, including Adebanjo, led to the break-up of Afenifere.

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The former governor also denied Adebanjo’s charge that he sold out on the issue of restructuring which Afenifere holds so dear in line with the philosophy of the late Yoruba leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Osoba narrated how Adebanjo had opposed virtually everything he represents politically.

Sunday Vanguard sought Adebanjo’s response to the charges. At the start of the interview, the Yoruba leader said he would not reply to claims bordering on personal issues but nonetheless spoke on the demand for the restructuring of Nigeria and the Buhari administration’s position among other claims of the former Ogun State governor.

What is your stand on Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary?

It was a day of mourning. As somebody who fought for independence and looking at how far we have gone 60 years after, we should be mourning. We are not where we should be. The Constitution that brought us together has been abandoned by the military and that is why we are where we are today. There is nothing strange about restructuring.

Restructuring is not a political philosophy. All we are saying is restructure the country back to federalism. It was because of federalism that the late Chief Awolowo fought for this country and we achieved it in 1954 when we went to the London Constitutional Conference. It was that Constitution that gave us autonomy in form of premiership in the Western Region until we got independence on the same basis. It was the military that changed it in 1966.

And that has brought a lot of conflicts. Even the question of revenue allocation, people don’t understand that it engenders a lot of conflicts presently. South-South people are talking about resource control. There is nothing called resource control, what they should be talking  about is revenue allocation on the basis of derivation which we achieved in 1954. Awolowo warned them about it. Even before independence, he told them the James Madison Constitution or Wilson Constitution would never work in a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society like ours.

And when they went to the London Constitutional Conference, he (Awolowo) restated that. And that got the late Dr Nnamdi Azikwe (former premier of Eastern Region) to say federalism was imperative. It was on that note that we got independence. Even after independence, the regions were competitive.

All the things we achieved in the Western Region today were achieved under self-government led by Chief Awolowo.  That was the time we had the first television station in Africa, the tallest building in Africa. Awolowo built Liberty Stadium, Ahmadu Bello (then Northern Region premier) built Ahmadu Bello Stadium. Since then, what have we achieved as a nation?

All those achievements were made possible because of the autonomy we had. All the achievements you have read about Awolowo on free education, free health service, there is no record that Awolowo had to go to Tafawa Balewa as prime minister for subsidy because of revenue allocation. Imagine if we had continued to develop on that basis, if there had been no interruption by the military, which was the bane of our drawback…

Where did we actually miss it as a nation?

The military intervention was where we missed it. Even the corruption that they are talking about, it was the military that heightened it.

But we later returned to democracy in 1999…

We only returned to civilian rule not democracy. It was from that time till now that I am crossed with these gentlemen (Osoba, Tinubu and co). When we were supposed to go back to democracy, the Afenifere, leading the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO (the political movement used to fight the Abacha military dictatorship), called for Sovereign National Conference but many could not understand what that means because when you ask those in government now, they will say you are asking us to go back to the drawing board, or going back to the Constitution which united us. Up till now, I challenge Buhari to say “this (1999 Constitution) is our Constitution”.

That is why I oppose it whenever they say the National Assembly is amending the Constitution we didn’t make. How can you amend a Constitution we are criticizing? That is why we are calling for a Sovereign National Conference so as to go back to the Constitution we had before. We don’t want to go back by force. Let’s be together again and agree on how to stay together in a constitutional manner.

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Remember when former President Olusegun Obasanjo came into office and we raised the issue and he said there could be no two sovereignties and I told him that we were not talking about the sovereignty of an incumbent President, but the sovereignty of that body to give us a new Constitution such that any decision we make will not be subject to any amendment but will be subject to referendum. That is the sovereignty we are talking about till today but they pretend that they don’t know.  They think we are fools. How did they impose the 1999 Constitution on us?

Chief Osoba said you blocked restructuring plan through the National Assembly. How can restructuring be achieved without the National Assembly being involved?

The National Assembly is a product of what we are criticizing. All the provisions of that Constitution were made by the military, and that is why I said we should challenge it.

The 2014 Constitutional Conference report is the most representative thing that the government has got till date. When former President Jonathan was handing over to President Buhari, he said it was the most important document he was handing over to him but Buhari said “I have nothing to do with it” and he left it in the archives; that is why we are in trouble. And I said “if you are not going to work on the 2014 Constitutional Conference report, gather all the recommendations of the previous constitutional conferences within three months, go through them and do a referendum”.

But a restructuring committee was later set up by the ruling All Progressives Congress and headed by Governor EL- Rufai…

So where is the report? Do you know that Afenifere supported Buhari in 2007 when he said he was going to restructure? He said it several times and I challenged Femi Adeshina (President’s spokesman) to fault me on it. And when he was contesting with Pastor Bakare as running mate in 2011, restructuring was there in their agenda.

Even under this Constitution, General Alani Akinrinade said recently that the number one item on their list is restructuring. Whenever there is an election, they pretend, deceiving the people like they are doing something, but they are not doing anything. Restructuring can’t be fruitful going through the National Assembly that is earning humongous salary.

But we gathered that moves are being made underground to actualize true federalism…

They are just deceiving themselves. How can you do the constitutional conference of a country underground? That is why I said Awolowo is the father of true federalism.  Afenifere and NADECO didn’t want to take part in the General Abdulsalami Abubakar Constitutional Conference. Our stand was that when you get your civilian government, go and do it but the pressure was high and the same thing is what is happening now. So for them to be saying that is what they are doing is just being mischievous and that is the part of the sellout.

How can a man who claims to be a product of Awolowo’s philosophy be saying that they are doing it underground? It’s a pity. Osoba and Tinubu (Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State and National Leader of APC) are doing the Yoruba people ungodly things. I won’t say more than that. After he (Osoba) won that election (Ogun governorship) in 1992, let him deny, Papa Adesanya led us to all the state assemblies of Alliance for Democracy, AD, governments in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and Ondo, among others, for them to pass resolution for Sovereign National Conference.

How can you do public things underground? How can a person like Osoba be saying so? It’s a pretense. When they put it in their (APC) manifesto, why won’t they understand? Why won’t they understand when they set up a committee headed by El Rufai and they came up with recommendations? What did they do with the recommendations?

That is why I said they are just deceiving the people. They (Osoba, Tinubu, others) have sold out and they are marketing Yoruba people for Buhari because they know Buhari doesn’t want restructuring and they don’t want to face him and say it openly! I dare them to make statements publicly in support of restructuring.

Under this Constitution, Buhari is the most powerful President in the whole world. That is why he allowed Fulani herders from ECOWAS countries to be entering Nigeria. If they don’t have a visa, they get it on the spot. Osoba knows that what Awolowo fought for is for the minority. In December 2018, herdsmen reportedly killed 800 Christians in Southern Kaduna, what did they do about it? When they killed Benue residents, many of them church worshipers, Governor Ortom said he knew those troubling him, but they said he should go and make friends with his “neighbors”.

He (Osoba) accused you of always saying they sold out since 1992…

Forget that. This is why I said I don’t want to dwell on personal issues but on restructuring, and I am still saying it. What I mean is that they sold out on the principle on which they were voted for, which is federalism. Restructuring is not a new thing. When you ask for restructuring, it is like when you are asking for Sovereign National Conference.

It is just to set up a body to agree on the new Constitution we are going to have. So when they say they don’t understand, I said they should go back to the Independence Constitution.  They still say they don’t understand. They don’t understand, they took former President Obasanjo to court that under federalism, that he had no right to keep local government funds and the Vice President (Osinbajo) was the Attorney General and he won the case at the Supreme Court. And you still say you don’t understand what restructuring is! You say you want devolution of power; you want state police, among others, what is restructuring?  They are just deceiving the people.

I didn’t support former President Jonathan because he is in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP); we supported him for what he stood for, that if you truly want a united Nigeria, no portion of the country should be excluded from the highest position in the country. That is what Awolowo stood for. Osoba is a latter day Awoist.

Why didn’t he mention that I supported Buhari. He is not an ideological politician. What they are doing with Buhari is a gang-up, sharing offices. What is the connection between Awolowo’s policy and Buhari’s policy if they have not sold out? There is no comparison in both policies. We always ask, “On what principle are we going to work together?” If there is no principle similar to Awoism, why work with APC?

The contraption they call APC is not a political party but a gang-up to share offices.  On revenue allocation, why will they go into government that has reversed it? All the achievements of Awolowo, which people like us are calling for now, the question of autonomy, to the extent that, in the First Republic, the Western Region had an embassy abroad under restructuring before independence, the one that he’s bragging about dinning with Awolowo, I had been dinning with Awolowo since 1954 as a student.

Is it on the basis of restructuring that Yoruba groups such as the Afenifere are divided?

Yoruba are not divided; you see, that is what they are selling to the public. Alright, let them come out and say the Yoruba don’t want restructuring. So, talking about who divided Afenifere is a diversion and ploy to deceive the people. What we are saying is if you believe in what Awolowo said, talk about restructuring and don’t talk about any other thing! I am accusing him that he cannot do it because Buhari doesn’t want it.

Because Buhari is deceiving Jagaban (Tinubu) that he will make him President in 2023, and Jagaban wants to be President and he doesn’t want to say anything that is opposed to that. That is why I accused Buhari of not wanting a united Nigeria. Are the Yoruba divided to the level that they don’t want restructuring? We are not opposed to the Yoruba Council of Elders because they are also talking about restructuring. That is why some of us are saying if you don’t want to split this country, restructure now. If you don’t restructure, there will be no end because you are encouraging Prof Banji Akintoye’s group (calling for self-determination) the more. Those of us asking for restructuring are those who want to keep Nigeria together.

And that is what eminent Nigerians are talking about. Yoruba are not going to beg to be with Nigeria but we will not be the first to say “break Nigeria”. But we will not be in Nigeria under a subjugated arrangement as second class citizens which the Yoruba in Buhari’s government are making the Yoruba to be by not talking against the things affecting Yoruba. All the heads of security agencies in the country, the Yoruba are not there. Even the nominations Jagaban (Tinubu) made into Buhari’s government, how many of them are in the cabinet?

Fowler (former Federal Inland Revenue Service Chairman) that he recommended, has he not been removed and replaced by a northerner? The Federal Ministry of Finance that was given to the Yoruba before, has it not been removed, what is their reaction? But as long as they promise Tinubu to be President, all is well.

hey have sold out, I am repeating it. If they have not sold out, let them talk publicly the way Pastor Enoch Adeboye (leader of the Redeemed Christian Church of God) has spoken, Chief Afe Babalola has spoken, the way former President Obasanjo has spoken, the way Chief E.K Clark has spoken among others.

You have also been accused of not taking your time to call the powers-that-be on the way to achieve a restructured Nigeria. What do make of that?

I don’t have to call them because that is the basis on which they were elected. That is a pretense. Osoba was seated in my house when we called for the rally for restructuring in Ibadan and I accused him of not making a contribution to the discussion. I remember I was angry and I said, “Segun, you are not saying anything on our discussion”. Anything about politics, I will answer him but anything personal no. Saying I don’t like him from the beginning is a diversion. So I hated him that much and he became the Chairman at my daughter’s wedding in 1994, ask him to deny that? My children, male and female, call him “uncle” and he calls me “uncle” until this issue that I have been complaining about! I have nothing personal against him.

What is the way forward?

The way forward is restructure the country now before anything. I have said it in previous interviews that if you make my son the President of Nigeria under the 1999 Constitution, I will oppose him. This Constitution is slavery constitution for the South and was so loaded by the military regime. It is under this Constitution that Buhari is able to make all the security agencies’ heads to come from a section of the country and the country has been shouting against it for the past five years and these people say they have not sold out? Even the recent promotion in the Customs, all those that got promoted were Muslims. Is that why they are in the ruling party? These are the issues I want them to take up with me and not anything personal.

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