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‘Nigerians must reignite the fire of agitation for restructuring’

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Chief Ayo Adebanjo


Worried by the lull in the national agitation for restructuring of the Nigerian federation in the past few weeks, elder statesman and Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, told SUNDAY AIKULOLA in this interview, that supporters of the course must raise their voices once again and that President Muhammadu Buhari must do the needful before 2019 election year. Excerpts:

You recently stated that the problems of Nigeria started when the military tampered with the structure of the Nigerian federation in 1966. Can it be easily reversed?
The issue of restructuring has been resolved in 1954 after the crises following the motion for self-government by Chief Anthony Enahoro. The colonial office invited the leaders of the parties. There Chief Obafemi Awolowo said unitary form of government couldn’t work in Nigeria. They now resorted to federalism. It was as a result of this that they included Premiership into the constitution. That was the constitution agreed to by Awolowo, Sarudana of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, the founding fathers of this country. It was also signed and approved by the colonial office. Each region was independent and autonomous. They even had foreign embassies abroad.

Outside the powers given to the Federal Government, all other powers were residual to the federating states. There was also derivation of resources, which is now referred to as resource control. Then, each region had 50 percent of whatever was coming in. Then Western Region had cocoa, Northern Region, groundnut and Eastern Region, Palm Kennel. It was that constitution that we carried to Independence in 1960 and Republic in 1963. And there was peace.

The coup of 1966 made the leaders then suspend the constitution. They created states and local governments arbitrarily. Almost every general wanted a local government in his state. That is why we have more local government in the North than the South. They thereafter said the revenue of the country would be shared based on the local governments. Even after the discovery of oil, the sharing formula was still 50 percent.

The restructuring we are talking about now is that this government should take us to federalism that was in operation before the military took over in 1966. The Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, once said the unity of Nigeria is non negotiable but nobody is talking about the unity of the country. The condition of our unity was settled in 1954. It was the Army that caused all these confusion and as long as this is not done, it is Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) that want to disintegrate the country.

I have said it before; anybody that opposes restructuring is enemy number one of Nigeria. We have been united before the Vice-President was born; we have been united before Buhari joined the Army. So would Buhari say he is more Northerner than the Sardauna?

So why is government finding it difficult to take the country back to federalism?
It is difficult for Buhari and other Northern leaders to rescind because it is from this system that they cheat the South. For instance, when you talk of Value Added Tax (VAT) and other revenues, Lagos contributes about 85 percent, Kaduna, 5 percent while some contribute nothing. The military now said instead of 50 percent, let’s give them 30 percent. Buhari may think he can use force to keep us together; let’s go back to history. Russia was bound for many years, even Yugoslavia, but today, it’s a different story. And it is only in Nigeria that the nearer you go to the desert, the more your population. We have toured the North, where is the population?  It is this cheating that we are resisting. Buhari is stubborn and he thinks because he has the elements of power he can oppress us, but I tell him we have God on our side. In fact, Nigerians must reignite the fire of agitation for restructuring which has been in a lull in the past few weeks.

 
How would you assess the APC government?
Yes, they have failed.  When I was first interviewed on (Abdulrasheed) Maina, I said for Buhari to be clean, Dambazzau, Malami, Abba Kyari and others that are involved, must be removed immediately. If you want to do enquiry, they should be under suspension while this is being done. I was giving him the benefit of doubt. With the statement of the Head of Service, now saying she briefed the president after the Federal Executive Council meeting, which shows President Buhari was privy to it that the man who had been declared fraudulent and wanted by the police sneaked into the country in spite of the Minister of Interior, Inspector General of Police and Chief of Immigration.

He was reinstated under a government that says it has zero tolerance for corruption. All the people that are involved in these criminal acts are the people that took Buhari six months to appoint. We knew Buhari is dictatorial and partisan. He does not obey the rule of law. He is a tribal jingoist and a conservative. I have said it before he was elected. People said that was under the military regime. Now, he has refused to release Dasuki, the judges’ houses were invaded like gangsters. The moment the rule of law is violated in the country, nobody is safe. Those that elected him said they are surprised. I am not surprised. In fact, I am disappointed that he has not disappointed me. Unfortunately, it is the country that suffers. What have we gained in the last two and a half years? All the principal officers he put in place to address corruption are deep seated in corruption. And he does not make himself clean by being tardy.

PDP is determined to return to power in 2019, what can you say about this?
As far as I am concerned, they are two sides of the same coin, one is six and the other is half a dozen. It is when you want to compare that you will say one is better than the other. From what has happened now, we now see that PDP as a worst element is better than APC, not that they are good. In fact, it was Jonathan that declared Maina wanted for corruption and a zero tolerance to corruption man brought him back and promoted him.

Recently, Niger Delta Avengers vowed to resume hostilities, what can government do to avert this?
Do you blame them? The people said government has not kept to the agreement. Let the government come out and say they have kept to it. They said all the promises cannot be done in a day but they must begin one day. The argument of the Avengers is that Buhari is not sincere. The mainstay of Nigeria’s economy is oil which comes from the South-South, when you go there, you can see the terrain. There is pollution. Also, look at the harassment of Nnamdi Kanu. Under a federal constitution, the Federal Government has no right to go to any region without the permission of the regional governor. And under this present constitution, because of the provisions, our president is the most powerful president in the whole world. Trump is not as powerful as Buhari. If you want us to be together in peace, he should restructure immediately before the election.

There are still problems with herdsmen attack….
There are herdsmen all over the country raping, assassinating, and killing. They carry arms openly. Herdsmen that we know rear cattle with sticks. It is under his regime that herdsmen are carrying arms invading and burning houses and not a word from the president. He is doing things with impunity and very insensitive to the cries of the people.

But why are Yoruba leaders not speaking with one voice?
The reason is that those that came after Awolowo to rule think of themselves more than the people. Most of them are fakes.

 
 


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Ayo Adebanjo

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