North is using the constitution to cow South – Adebanjo

Acting National Leader of pan- Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, in this interview, speaks on the outcome of the recent meeting of Southern Governor Forum and the resolutions they reached on some national issues. FELIX NWANERI reports

What are your thoughts on the recent meeting of the Southern Governors Forum in Lagos?

I was happy with that resolution because that is what they should do. After all, they were all elected just as the President was elected. They are supposed to be the chief security officers of their respective states. As chief security officers, they are now saying this is the cause of insecurity and this is what we will do to tackle it.

But the man, who is supposed to be the president of the country, says no! He said he has one archaic law that counters what the elected people want to do. It is uncalled for and it is a declaration of war against the South. In fact, the southern governors are modest enough to be saying it the way they are saying it. What the President has done is to challenge their authority. They have been kidnapping their people, killing their farmers and raping their women and everybody knows the culprits are Fulani herdsmen, who have constituted themselves as terrors all over the country.

That was why the governors jointly agreed that open grazing should be stopped but the President now equate that to saying all Fulanis should leave the South. But the Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu said it is only those occupying the forest reserve that should leave. Is Aliko Dangote not a Fulani man? Has anybody asked Dangote to leave the South- West? Did anybody ask the owner of BUA, Abdul Samad Rabiu to go? We are only asking those who are injurious to us to go away. Even the person, who is saying that it is only the criminals that we should talk about, has he arrested the criminals? Instead of listening to the demands of the governors who are trying to protect their people, you now raise an archaic law, which all reputable lawyers in the country have rejected, saying the law doesn’t exist.

They said you should produce the gazette, but you have failed to do so. The President is doing all these because these criminals who are wreaking this havoc are from his ethnic group. That is why Afenifere has accused him of doing ethnic cleansing and Fulani domination. What further evidence do we need? The governor of Niger state said Fulani people have taken over about three local government areas and hoisted their flags there. Nobody has said anything to the contrary till today and we have not heard that they have driven the bandits away. All he said is that there are local Fulani and there are Fulani from Libya.

You are in charge of security, immigration and customs, if you have identified the foreign people, why can’t you arrest them? We also remember that Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State complained about Fulani herdsmen molesting his people; they even wrote him a letter saying they are Miyetti Allah and they said they are the owners of all lands in Benue.

He begged the President to come to his aid but he replied him by saying ‘go and make friends with your neighbours.’ You never ordered security agents to shoot at sight then. So, I am happy with the decision of the southern governors. They have behaved as true representatives of their people. They have acted as people who understood the suffering of their subjects against another ethnic group that wants to wipe them out.

The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN) likened the southern governors’ resolution to ban open grazing to prohibiting spare parts trading in the North. What is your take on that?

It is unfortunate. That is why I said Malami is a SAN on quota basis. How can you compare Fulani herdsmen to spare parts dealers? We said Fulani herdsmen should leave, not the ones who are doing legitimate businesses without constituting themselves as threat to others. How can you compare criminals who are raping and killing innocent farmers with those who are selling spare parts in the North? My response to Malami is that if we have spare parts sellers, who are raping and killing people in the North, send them back to the South. That to me balances the equation. It is mischief to try and compare the two.

The southern governors also resolved that security agencies must notify them before carrying out any operations in their states. Do you think this is realistic?

It is the constitutional rights of the governors to say that. Buhari is not doing them a favour. That is one of the reasons we are saying we must restructure the country back to federalism. This is part of the reasons why I described Buhari as the most powerful president in the world. This situation that gave him such enormous power is not in the independent constitution. In the independent constitution, the federating states which were three at that time had their separate constitutions and that is why I will also refer him to what Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo agreed to at the 1954 at London Constitutional Conference.

Those are the terms that Nigeria will stay together. The problem we are having with the killer herdsmen now is the introduction of the constitution introduced by the military of Buhari’s ethnic group, who are mostly Muslims. This question of revenue allocation, local government creation and population, they were the ones who put it there. That is why they don’t want to change the constitution and they are now claiming anybody who is opposed to it wants to divide the country. Buhari is the number one enemy of Nigerian unity. It is clear and I have proven it. If not, having identified what is causing agitations and division in the country, why not address it once and for all for us to have peace? Why has he refused to do that if truly he is sincere about the unity and stability of the country? That is the question I want Buhari to answer.

How did you receive the news on the attack on the residence of Yoruba nation activist, Sunday Igboho?

The attack on Igboho’s residence is a constitutional infringement on his liberty. In a saner clime, it won’t be done. In a federation, all the federating units are coordinates with the federal government, they are not supplementary. Malami should prove me wrong on this. There is a limit to the function Buhari has as president. He has overstepped his bounds and we are in court on this matter. We will see how he is going to get out of that. It is unfortunate when I hear what the vice-president is saying. I can’t say that Yemi Osinbajo is an illiterate, he is a professor.

I can understand if Buhari has said that because there is a limit to his education. But for Osinbajo to say that those asking for secession should forget about it is unfortunate. Nobody is asking for secession. I have said it and repeated it.

When we said we want restructuring back to federalism, we want restructuring back to the constitution we agreed to at independence. We have said that times without number. Osinbajo’s father was one of those following Awolowo on the issue of federalism. How can he now say no secession? Who is asking for secession? Those who are now demanding for secession are doing so because of Buhari’s insistence on imposing a unitary form of government on us. Those people are now saying if that is what you are going to do, we are not going to be with you. I also said that if Buhari wants to prove us wrong, let him take steps to restructure to true federalism. When people talk of true federalism, it doesn’t occur until the present administration is saying this present constitution is federal. Those who know it is not federal are saying ‘no, we want true federalism.’

There is nothing like true federalism. Federalism is federalism as you have in in America, Canada, Australia, India and New Zealand. If that is what we have in Nigeria, he can’t exercise all those powers he is using and he knows it.

On the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) that was recently passed by the National Assembly, the southern governors rejected the three per cent approved for host communities. How best do you think that can be addressed?

It is part of what I’m saying. What right has he to be allocating revenue? Is that what we agreed to at independence? When we say we don’t agree to the amendment to this constitution because it is a fraudulent one, this is one of the reasons for that. The National Assembly is a beneficiary of the fraudulent constitution. How can you now ask a beneficiary of a fraudulent constitution to amend it? The National Assembly itself is a product of a fraudulent constitution. All the provisions that they derive right now is under this constitution.

What in your opinion is the solution to the myriads of problems confronting the nation today?

The government needs to carry everyone along and treat all ethnic groups equally. As long as you are not carrying every section of the country along with you, you can’t win any battle against any enemy. You can’t carry every section of the country with this discriminatory policy of the government. The government of the country is in favour of a particular region, a particular state and a particular religion. People are saying that there is going to be war, but if the North believes that the way they fought Biafra is the way they will get support for any war, they are joking. They can’t carry the Middle Belt with them, they won’t carry the Yoruba people with them and they won’t carry the South-South with them, because they are oppressing all these people now. They think they have the army, but they should know that the army can only succeed when the people support it. What is happening now in the country is people revolution; the government is no longer in control of the people. I pray it would not be too late for them before they realise this. The only thing that can save the country is to restructure it to federalism, where every region is autonomous. Au t o n o m y means that they are complementary to the federal government and not subordinate. The moment you do that, you silence Nnamdi Kanu, you silence Igboho and other agitators for Oduduwa; all they want is self-determination. Self-determination implies restructuring; it will even solve the question of corruption. You are just beating about the bush by saying that restructuring is not your problem, but the more you delay it, the more trouble you get for yourself.

The 2023 general election is fast approaching and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is already saying that the security challenge in the country poses a threat to the conduct of a successful election. What is your take on that?

I have said it that the 2023 elections cannot happen in the face of the present circumstances, and events have proved me right. Can any politician campaign in this glaring insecurity? Do you need a crystal ball to tell you the result? Will that not provoke many people, especially in a place like Benue? Every day is killing spree. Those troubling them, are they Yoruba or Igbo? They are the Fulani. The President knows what he is doing and if you don’t read the writing on the wall, it is unfortunate.

What approach can you suggest to curb insecurity in the land?

There is no approach other than what we have been saying. Afenifere has been consistent on its call for state police. By the time they founded Amotekun, they were agitated. They know that they are using the police against us. How can you say you are a better keeper of a house than the owner of the house? To show you how they have enslaved us, when the governors said they are partnering Amotekun, the Minister for Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami had the effrontery to say they had no right. They are using the constitution to cow the South and that is why they are not yielding to restructuring easily. People in the South, led by Afenifere, should put on their thinking cap. There is no solution to united Nigeria except restructuring. And I want to repeat for the record that I don’t stand for anybody that opposes restructuring.

Do you think restructuring will happen before 2023 or it will be another campaign point by those who want votes?

Those talking about 2023 are people who cannot say no to Buhari. We know those talking about the 2023 elections. We know that the moment they talk about 2023, they are trying to divert the attention of the rest of the country. But when we get to 2023, where will the elections hold? Can you be president in a country where they are killing people and bombing places; a country where there is kidnapping, banditry and so on? We don’t want bloodshed in the South-West. That is why we are calling for restructuring. Some people want war in the West, so that they can destroy all our development here. We will not allow that. If Buhari is sincere, he should give us a constitution that we all agreed to; the constitution that our forefathers like Awolowo, Azikiwe and Bello agreed to. Buhari has not answered that.

Since the return of democratic government in 1999, the agitation for restructuring has been on. Is there any hope that the country will be restructured?

It will be and that is what we are fighting for. Don’t forget that the amalgamation of Nigeria was not by our own choice; it was done by the colonial people. This is what people are confusing but having been brought together under the amalgamation, we can appreciate the advantage of the economy of scale. But in doing so, we don’t want to be in a union where any unit of the union would feel cheated, which is happening under the unitary system. So, if we still want to stay together, how do we do it? That is the background to federalism as it is in America, Australia and India. All these issues that are causing problems in the country today are under that constitution. If we sit down and rework that constitution, many of our problems today such as corruption, marginalization, and insecurity and so on would be solved. That is the basic. Whatever anybody may be complaining about at this stage, if the foundation is weak, the building cannot stand. The major cause of disaffection in the country is the constitution. It is the constitution, which concentrates powers at the centre that is making members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) say they want to go. It is the constitution that gives all the money to the centre that makes the Niger Delta Avengers say they want to go. If we don’t solve the problems, there would be no stability. If there is no stability, there can be no peace and if there is no peace, there would be no progress.




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