Pa Ayo Adebanjo, a veteran politician, speaks on the open letter written by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Muhammadu Buhari. The leader of the influential Yoruba group, Afenifere, also addresses the issue of restructuring, saying it should be clear now to Buhari and all those opposed to it that it is the solution to the key challenges facing the country.
Former Olusegun Obasanjo painted a gloomy picture of the state of the nation under the Buhari administration in his letter to the President. Is the situation that bad?
It is very perilous. We are in a situation where the captain does not have a clue on how to save his ship. Things are so bad and he feels he is doing his best. And his supporters are not helping him. They don’t seem to tell him the true situation of the country. There is no petrol, the roads are bad, electric power is irregular; he promised to create about three million jobs each year but people have been losing about six million jobs every year. And the best his spokesperson will say is that “we are doing our best and you will soon see the result”. One of them said they were doing investigation on the killings in Benue. Buhari has no capacity to defend the people and one of the obligations of his office is to safeguard lives and property. And to imagine that the killings have continued is the worst dereliction of duty on the part of the President. It is so unfortunate that the President has not said a word of condolence to the people of Benue since the herdsmen’s attacks started.
Even when the people requested to see him, he did not invite them. He didn’t consider the situation grievous enough to sympathize with them. When they later decided to see him, he didn’t even feel remorseful to tell them ‘sorry’. What he told them was to go and accommodate herdsmen. It a clear indication that he has no clue that what is happening is ethnic cleansing. The strategy of the Fulani people is to invade the whole country down to the sea just like Utman Danfodio had said. If not, they kill people in hundreds of thousands and there is not a single word of condemnation or arrest made. Sometime in December 2016 when he was away, and the acting President was in charge, there were some killings in Southern Kaduna and the acting President ordered the army to move to the area, and troops immediately resolved the problem. The administration has not been to complete the rehabilitation of the Lagos Ibadan Expressway since they came in.
So there is justification for what Obasanjo said in his letter?
I am not a friend of Obasanjo but, for the first time, I agree with him totally. There is no accusation he made that is not justifiable except sycophants want to play to the gallery. I even congratulate him for confessing that why Buhari was voted for was to unseat anything Jonathan and that he is sorry for that. The only thing missing which I believe he should have included in that letter was to apologize to Nigerians for misleading them. Check your records, I said all the things Obasanjo said in his letter before the 2015 election. In other words, what Obasanjo observed now is what I saw before the election.
What does the letter portend for this administration?
In a civilized and progressive country, he should have been force to resign. And to add salt to the injury, some people are asking him to run in 2019. First, everybody knows that he has no sound health, the situation they have put Nigeria requires competent hands and attention 24 hours and seven days of week. Even his doctors told him to go home, eat, rest and sleep. And you still want to go back in 2019. To show you how callous Buhari and this government are, the day following the massacre in Benue, some APC governors went to the state to declare their full support for his election in 2019. The government was elected on the mantra of anti-corruption. Is it not sad that some of those he appointed into his cabinet which took six month to constitute have corruption allegations hanging on their necks and he turned a blind eye? And was it not until when people began to shout about SGF Babachir Lawal who was indicted for corruption that he was sacked and the EFCC recently went after him? This is an administration that says it has zero tolerance for corruption. The Minister of Interior collaborated with the Attorney-General of the Federation to meet with a suspected looter of pension funds in a foreign country and these officers have remained untouched.
But Babachir Lawal is now in EFCC custody.
Buhari turned a blind eye to it. He was forced to suspend him and not until after Obasanjo’s letter that the EFCC invited him. Is this the type of government we need now? The entire economic indices foreign analysts gave showed that the economy is going down and they are deceiving us. I suspect there plan is to wipe out non-Muslims out of Nigeria. All the areas they attacked recently, are they not Christian communities? You don’t use AK-47 rifle to rear cattle. And the law prohibits you carrying firearms except you are licensed. If herdsmen are not so licensed, have you arrested them? The last massacre that occurred, he said he will send security officials to the scene. So security people have to be directed to do their job only when ordered by the President.
You were in Enugu recently for the Handshake Across the Niger event. Some people say the collaboration with the Igbo was an indirect support for the IPOB agenda. What do you make of the claim?
Is it all the Igbo that back IPOB? That show how ignorant our accusers are. I don’t support IPOB’s violent approach to actualize their goal but I am with them 100% on the fight for the restructuring of Nigeria. It is because the government failed to address the issue of restructuring that they changed their agenda to self-determination. If Buhari has been sincere about keeping Nigeria together in peace, he should have called them to address their grievances but he intimidated and wanted to butcher and kill them in their land. It shows in everything that he does that he is the President of Katsina State and not of Nigeria!
Since the crisis in Southern-Kaduna where hundreds were murdered on Christmas Eve, what has he done to compensate the victims? I believe Buhari has an agenda to use his Fulani people to overrun the country, and that is why all the key security agencies in Nigeria are manned by northerners and mostly from Katsina. At the age of 90, what do I gain from supporting IPOB? Neither Buhari nor anybody has got anything to give me. I have not asked for any favours, and they have no favour to grant me. I am a poor contented old man but I am not satisfied with the way they are running the country. That is my quarrel with him.
Many may not be aware that AFENIFERE supported Buhari in 2007 when he gave the promise that he was going to restructure the country. He renounced that promise on assuming office. Even when Tunde Bakare ran with him in 2011, there was restructuring in their manifesto. Even when I blindly followed him against all opposition to Asiwaju and others, he put restructuring in his manifesto. This is a government of deceit. The Fulani want to over-run the country in accordance with the directive of Utman Danfodio until they get to the sea and Buhari is implementing it. Let him prove us to the contrary. Since people have been complaining about putting his brothers from Katsina as heads of most of the security agencies, has he shown remorse? Even recently when he was appointed the DG of the NIA, what did he do? Buhari has no program to change.
The claim that the APC committee on restructuring has recommended certain aspects of devolution should be taken with a pinch of salt. Which promise have they made and they fulfilled from their manifesto? They said they were going to pay unemployed people; have they paid them three years on? They said they were going to employ three million people every year, we found out that six million people have lost their jobs. What have they told us that we can rely on? We are more educated in this country than all of that. Every year our universities churn out graduates that add to the unemployed force.
The standard of education in Nigeria is continually falling; hospitals, even the one in Aso-Rock are comatose as confirmed by Buhari’s wife. I stand with him 100% on his attempt to wipe out corruption but the attempt is not holistic. It is only those who oppose him that he concentrates on. Fighting corruption should be across the board, not to turn a blind eye when your supporters are involved and they are loaded in his cabinet. When I say he is autocratic, he does not obey the rule of law. He is not a democrat. He claims to be a born again democrat but how far has he shown that? How many times has the court told him to release Dasuki? A man who knows the sanctity of the law will not besiege the homes of judges at midnight in an attempt to curtail corruption.
Is it proper to do the right thing the wrong way? It is because his predecessor was bad that we sent him away and put him there because he said he could do it. We didn’t elect him to give excuses of inability to perform. Buhari and APC were not elected to give excuses for non-performance, they were elected to make our lives worthwhile, that is the mandate we gave them. They were not elected to protect criminals, murderers.
The 2019 elections or restructuring, which one should come first?
It is extreme tolerance to allow them stay till 2019. If they truly understand what restructuring is, they will know that it is the key to all these challenges, even to insecurity. Do you know that under restructuring we have state police and lots of other reformation will be done? There will no room for any section of the country to rule or dominate the other? There will be no need to woo the East with handing over power to them in 2023 if they vote them in 2019.
We would have normalized the role of the presidency under a restructured Nigeria according to the 2014 National Conference Report; in the report, every region knows when it’s their turn. Presidency should not be like doing any region any favours as they are now telling the South-Eastern people and I hope they are not stupid enough to buy that. Restructuring is the only means that will guarantee Igbo’s presidency. And they will have their presidency as a right under the constitution in a restructured Nigeria.
It is like the AFENIFERE has missed it in the politics going by what has been happening since Pa Adesanya died?
We don’t miss anything. The rebels causing confusion in the country did it. It was Tinubu that made an alliance with Buhari. It was Tinubu who came into office on the platform of Alliance for Democracy AD and clamoring for restructuring to become the governor in Lagos State. After that election, he had a lot of respect for me and when it comes to generosity, he was very generous to me. There is no favour I asked him that he didn’t give me.
When he greets me, he accords me respect. I have no reason to dislike him but I don’t like his method of governance. That is the difference between us. When he wanted to parley with Buhari, I warned him. He was later sidelined. What can he say he gained for going with Buhari? I have been in politics since 1949, so I know what I am saying. During the Abacha regime, we were to form a political party with Buhari, Atiku, Pat Utomi and others. We would hold meetings but Buhari would not come personally, he would send representatives. On an occasion, I challenged him at the Abuja airport because he promised he will be attending our meetings. Because of that, I do not see him as a sincere politician.
What do you make of Obasanjo’s call for a coalition to displace the APC and PDP?
When Obasanjo said both APC and PDP cannot take us anywhere, I agree with him. But any party Obasanjo is interested in, I am out of it because Obasanjo will not support anything except he has vested interest. I am interested in the message and not the messenger on this occasion.