Adebanjo: A government that cannot provide security has no right to exist
Chief Ayo Adebanjo, an elder statesman and one of the leaders of the Pan Yoruba group, Afenifere, spoke on the crisis in the group and the disloyalty that led to the establishment of Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG). He accused national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu of compromising the interest of Yoruba nation for selfish ambition. SEYE OLUMIDE reports.
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Afenifere seems to have lost touch with the Yoruba nation, which it claims to be advocating for. One of the factors is its irresolvable crisis, especially with the formation of ARG led by Wale Oshun…
I don’t understand what you are saying, but let me correct you that there is nothing like ARG. That group led by Oshun is a combination of rebels, who broke away because they don’t want to respect leadership. When they concluded that Afenifere was not good for them, we told them to drop the name Afenifere and follow their own path. We asked them not destroy the name and the reputation we have built over the years, which they are now condemning. It is better to go and form your own with a different name.
But the narrative given for forming ARG was that there was a crisis in Afenifere and that they tried their best to resolve it to no avail…
Whatever I tell you here is the truth. At above 90, I cannot be calling white black. That was the tainted story from Oshun and his cohorts. The root cause of the crisis is because, after the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, the late Chief Bola Ige lost the primary for the presidential ticket to Chief Olu Falae in 1999, he (Ige) was embittered. He thought those of us who were Afenifere leaders were responsible for it, which is not true.
There was a primary initiated and influenced by Ige for the presidency, which held at D’Rovans Hotel, when former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Olu Falae won. The funny thing was that Ige thought he would win and he actually had the chances to win, from the composition of the Electoral College. About five or six of the members of the college were Ige’s former commissioners. This is the original story and not the tainted stories Oshun and co are telling you. I have told this story to the press before. Ige thought late Pa Abraham Adesanya, Chief Olanihun Ajayi of blessed memory and myself were particularly responsible for his defeat. He also felt bad that Falae, who was a new member in the group, defeated him. But our position was that for Ige to have subjected himself to the primary, he should abide by the result. He was part of the group that nominated members of the Electoral College, which supervised the primary and most of those who participated in the process are still alive, including Chief Ayo Fasanmi. When we were choosing members of the Electoral College, we chose people across the zones and we appointed the late Odebiyi and Lanre Omole. But for whatever reason, Ige rejected the nomination of Omole and that was how we brought in former Minster of External Affairs, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, who is still alive and can testify to what I am saying. In fact, when we were going to nominate the panel, we said Ige as an aspirant shouldn’t be a member, but he insisted on being part of it. But late Pa Solanke Onasanya overruled us and said we should allow him to stay. We went to the primary and Ige lost. He had the impression that we were responsible for his defeat.
After the gubernatorial election and the Alliance for Democracy (AD) won the six states in Southwest, as the party’s acting chairman then, we had a reputation that we carried forward and that was what brought Bola Tinubu and others to power on the principle of federalism. The governors won on the AD platform, but then nobody knew the party. We campaigned for AD and the governors on the influence and reputation of Afenifere. Don’t forget that many parties had been banned by late Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, which brought about the formation of AD. Having brought the governors into power, they wanted to assume leadership of the party, which was the crux of the matter.
Unfortunately, Bola Ige supported the governors just to defy Afenifere leadership. That time, all AD candidates won in Southwest without the party having money or a bicycle. As the chairman, even when we were going to Abuja for negotiation, we went by public transportation to tell you how poor we were. The election we won was on the goodwill of the defunct Action Group (AG) and Afenifere antecedents and records. We advertised and publicised AD as an off-shoot of Afenifere. Whatever you know about AD is attached to the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. It was our records of performance, progressive politics and quest for true federalism that were used to sell AD to the Yoruba people in 1999. And we won all the states in the Southwest. None of them— Tinubu, Segun Osoba, Lam Adesina, Bisi Akande, Niyi Adebayo and Adebayo Adefarati could say they won the election on any other ground, because that was what we used to market them.
But after they assumed power, they wanted to operate without guidance from party leadership. For instance, in Lagos, Tinubu chose his commissioners, excluding the supporters of Alhaji Ganiyu Dawodu, who was chairman of Lagos AD then, because Dawodu was opposed to Tinubu’s nomination as the party’s candidate for Lagos. He supported late Funso Williams. And in doing the Lagos primary, we didn’t allow the state leaders to conduct it, so that it would be free, fair and independent. We brought in leaders from other states to supervise the primaries.
For Lagos, we invited leaders from Oyo and Ondo States. At the end of the exercise, Tinubu was declared winner, but there were issues because the votes from Ikorodu and Mainland were not counted. If those votes had been counted, Funso Williams would have won. However, INEC observers said they were not at Ikorodu and Mainland, and Pa Adesanya said where there was doubt we should leave out. Once INEC representatives said they were not in any place, we left out. Before we started the primaries, there was an agreement that wherever there was crisis or violence, the result should be cancelled. We understood that there was confusion at Ikorodu and Mainland; we therefore left out the areas. Although Alhaji Dawodu had already sent Funso Williams’ name to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), based on the result from Ikorodu and Mainland, but as the national chairman, I had to counter him by forwarding Tinubu’s name to INEC. That is why you hear people saying Afenifere leaders imposed Tinubu, which is not so. The former governor won a clear and free primary.
If anybody says I am guilty of anything, it is that of due process. We had Tinubu, Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele and Funso Williams. Today, I am not Tinubu’s friend, otherwise if I had wanted to boost myself, I could have said he didn’t win, but the truth is that Tinubu won the primary then.
Dawodu was very furious because he belonged to the party’s inner circle, but this is not a game of college children. If I were to be partial, I should have been on Dawodu’s side because I had known him for years before I met Tinubu. It took Dawodu about two weeks to recover from that shock, but he didn’t resign from the party.
However, after Tinubu won the governorship election and he wanted to choose his cabinet, he excluded all Dawodu’s supporters, including Bucknor-Akerele and we said that was not possible. We told him he was now the governor of everybody and could, therefore, not discriminate. We told him if you want to use technocrats in your government that did not mean you couldn’t include two or three politicians that are party members. Indeed, as at that time, it was only Dr. Leke Pitan, former Commissioner of Health, a supporter of Dawodu that Tinubu willingly included in his cabinet. That was the beginning of the crisis. He didn’t even want to choose Bucknor-Akerele as his deputy. We pressurised him to use the woman as his deputy and when he eventually accepted, he didn’t assign to her the functions related to that office.
The issue was that, when the governors came into office, they no longer wanted to accept the principle of party supremacy. Some of them were doing a lot of things that Afenifere leadership was not satisfied with, including their performance. We set up a panel of enquiry, which included Gen. Alani Akinrinade (rtd) to do a report on the governors’ performance and the outcome was not satisfactory to us. We were only trying to maintain the type of discipline we had in the Action Group days.
It was in anticipation of second term in 2003 that Tinubu started to recruit members from outside the purview of Afenifere, to the extent of inviting the Igbo groups in Lagos to come and join him, so that he could supplant Afenifere leadership. He did that deliberately to whittle down Dawodu’s influence, as Dawodu was in full control of Lagos politics in those days. This dichotomy was there all along until the approach of 2003 elections and there was the need to do primary. Oshun was appointed to head the primary committee for that election. He was a fantastic member then, but unfortunately as it turned out, the same Tinubu had compromised Oshun. When the time came for the primary, Oshun gave different venues to Tinubu’s supporters and another to Dawodu’s faithful. There was crisis after the election, but when Oshun brought the result to us, Pa Onasanya asked him why he gave different venues to both groups, but Oshun denied it. The old man then said Oshun should choose another date for the exercise and communicate with the two sides, but Oshun never did. This was how he lost his integrity and the respect we had for him, otherwise Oshun was a fantastic member of Afenifere.
Because these governors now had the power to choose commissioners and Board members, with enormous financial power, they were able to defy the leadership and we were isolated. All the while, Bola Ige was encouraging them because of his disappointment of having lost the presidential ticket to Falae. I want anybody to come and dispute that. If not so, the governors wouldn’t have had the courage to defy Afenifere leadership, especially Tinubu.
Are you saying Bola Ige was more influential than other Afenifere leaders for him to have singlehandedly instigated the governors against his colleagues?
No, it was the collegiate leadership of the Yoruba nation, which Awolowo bequeathed before he died that Ige undermined because he lost the presidential ticket to Falae. Bola Ige was among the few followers of Papa Awolowo that supplemented Awolowo’s kind of leadership qualities. When Obasanjo formed his cabinet in 1999, he appointed Ige, and I was one of those who were opposed to it and Ige knew. One of my reasons for objecting was that we didn’t believe that Obasanjo defeated Falae in the 1999 presidential election, which was why we went to court. And why I opposed Ige joining the cabinet was that, while we were conducting the papers for the Election Tribunal, the late Samuel Aluko came to me in Abuja to hint me that Ige had joined Obsanjo’s cabinet. That was the first hint I heard.
Obasanjo said he was going to have a coalition government and on that basis, he said he nominated Ige. Our own view was that, if you are going to form a coalition government, you have to consult us and not for Obasanjo to impose any name on us. But Ige went round saying I opposed his presidential candidature and was also opposing his nomination into Obasanjo’s cabinet.
We summoned a meeting in Ijebu Igbo, headed by Baba Emmanuel Alayande, who asked why I refused to support Ige. And I replied that since there was a coalition force, Obasanjo had no right to nominate a candidate for us. I considered it an attempt to poach our members. I also said after being nominated, Ige didn’t inform the party and they asked him to inform the party.
Another reason for opposing Ige’s participation in Obasanjo’s cabinet was that I believed Ige was going to give credibility to the government. I believed from the composition of Obasanjo’s cabinet, there was no person of Ige’s calibre. I asked where the former Vice President, Alex Ekwueme was; I argued that I would have preferred to send my own second eleven to join the cabinet and not the class of Ige, who was one of our first class brains. If I had been consulted, I wouldn’t have nominated Ige, because of those reasons. Those people talking now, none of them was as close to Ige as I was then.
I’m only tracing how Bola Ige was responsible for the crisis in Afenifere, backed by Obasanjo. The party members knew what we stood for, but because they were getting some benefits from the governors, majority of them neglected us, especially in Lagos, until Tinubu led them to form Action Congress (AC).
There was this assertion that the support Afenifere leaders gave Obasanjo in 2003 cost AD governors their reelection, except Tinubu?
That is another story. Don’t let us bring this into the matter. What I am saying happened during Ige’s lifetime, that he encouraged the governors to break away and it was during that period that Ige died. The crisis has been on. The rebellion had been on by these young men, who were compromised by Tinubu. They now said there was a quarrel among the elders, so let us form ARG. They didn’t want to take instruction from the leaders.
What many people don’t know about Obasanjo’s second term is that we had a rumour that the northerners wanted to deny the Yoruba two terms in office and we wondered why. If that was the condition they were going to give, we decided to take a stand. You see, the northerners have been showing their colours in Nigeria politics long ago, but only that our bread and butter politicians from the South couldn’t see it. Having won the election for them (North), they wanted to jettison Obasanjo. Remember that they used Obasanjo to douse the tension of June 12, when they stole Chief MKO Abiola’s mandate.
Anyway that was the main reason we supported Obasanjo’s second term. It was Segun Osoba who came to us and said Obasanjo was seeking our cooperation. But Cornelius Adebayo said if he wanted our cooperation, we would give him on the condition that he would convene a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) for the restructuring of Nigeria. This is a very important point and I want anybody to refute it. Obasanjo invited us and we agreed to meet him, but we decided that Adebayo and Senator Femi Okunrohunmu would speak on our behalf.
Don’t forget that the crisis before 2003 was still there, and it was on that basis that Tinubu and co tried to blackmail us that we met with Obasanjo. Immediately after the 1999 Constitution, Afenifere leaders went round all the six states in Southwest to address the State Houses of Assemblies to urge them to pass a resolution for sovereign national conference, which is now called restructuring.
It was on the agreement of restructuring that made Afenifere put Tinubu and others as governors then. Osoba, Bisi Akande, Niyi Adebayo and Tinubu are still alive, they can dispute this. We told them that, having won the mandate, don’t go to Abuja for anything; that they should refuse to be part of Abuja, until the government yielded to the demand to organise SNC. This is fundamental. I told them not to go to Abuja for anything; that the Independence Constitution was as a result of Action Group’s efforts for self-autonomy. But because of power of office, the governors defied our orders.
The so-called young men, now in their late 60s and early 70s, said they organised a retreat in Ibadan, with the aim of resolving the crisis, but that you particularly granted an interview after the three-day meeting, which later escalated the crisis…
They are only trying to be clever by half. Yes, there was a retreat and we agreed that if it was aimed at resolving the crisis, we were ready. Prof. Wale Adebanwi was the guest speaker and many others attended, but the conference was inconclusive. However, we stood on principle, which the governors whom we sponsored and put in office didn’t want to abide by. Unknown to some people then, ARG was sponsored. They wanted to use it to supplant Afenifere leadership and elect new leaders. That was what Yinka Odumakin realised later, which made him to back out. I regarded them as rebels till today. Till today, I challenge Tinubu and his cohorts to say categorically what we (the leaders) did. Tinubu should tell the whole world whether I ever sought any favour from him. What is our sin?
I had been hesitant to discuss Tinubu, until recently, when I heard that he was saying he built this house (in Lekki) for me. I did not believe that Tinubu could say so, until I heard it from Awujale of Ijebu land, Oba Sikiru Adetona. I asked the monarch to ask Tinubu who was the contractor that built the house. It is unfortunate, and that is one of the things that made it very difficult to work with Tinubu. He once said he placed many of us on level 17 in the civil service until late Pa Abraham Adesanya had to confront him over that. He even claimed he bought a house for Adesanya in London, until the man called him (Tinubu) in the presence of the late Alhaja Mogaji, whom he claimed to be his mother to resolve the nonsense. The only house Adesanya had in London was bought before Tinubu was born, and that was the only one he had, until he died.
I don’t have any reason to quarrel with Tinubu because he used to accord me the necessary respect I deserve. I have never asked him for any favour that he refused. And even if it was true that he gave us money, was the money meant to bribe us or to stop us from saying the truth? What is the money for? If that is correct, it goes to show the kind of character he is. That is the reason the likes of Akande are following him about.
Considering your age and those of your colleagues involved in this saga, as well as those you refer to as the ‘so-called young men,’ can’t you all sheathe the sword and come together in the interest of Yoruba nation before your exit?
If you want to hear the fact, Tinubu has sold the Yoruba nation. All that we opposed in feudalism and in President Muhammadu Buhari is what he has sold out. The restructuring we are clamouring for and which he used to make a case, when Obasanjo seized the council funds meant for Lagos even up to the Supreme Court, is what he has sold out. And the fact that this current Vice President who took Obasanjo to court is with Tinubu is saddening.
The same Buhari wanted to ditch Tinubu, just as the North wanted to do to Obasanjo in 2003. I had to speak on behalf of Tinubu because I understand that he (Tinubu) is not the target, but the Yoruba people. I spoke in the interest of Yoruba nation and not necessarily for Tinubu. I tell you, many of his followers told me to remain silent and allow Buhari to deal with him, but I said no.
Tell me, a man who professes to be Awolowo’s follower, who says he’s progressive, he is now working with a man who says he does not believe in anything federal, cheating the Yoruba race. You sacrifice Yoruba interest to seek your own elevation because you want to become president or vice president.
Under restructuring, more money will come to Lagos and Yoruba land than is the case now. If you have principle of derivation and resource control, a lot can be achieved and he knows that. That was how we were able to run our government with the Old Western region without aid from Balewa. We had free education and free health services, among others. It was the military that changed it.
The Yoruba people must know that what Tinubu is doing is selling them out and we will not be a party to it. After helping Buhari to get into government, ask him if he knows how Buhari formed the government. Does he know how Babatunde Fashola became a minister? Does he know how Kayode Fayemi became a minister? All Buhari is doing is to bring another leader that is in control; he does not like Tinubu again. And Tinubu knows that is what is going on, but because they are still deceiving themselves, Buhari is deceiving him that he will become the president.
Anyone who is opposed to restructuring or federalism is selling the entire Nigeria to the North. The governors are subordinate to the Federal Government instead of being coordinates under the system. They have power without authority.
How can you say somebody is the head of security in the state and he has no control over the police?
If the late Sardauna of Sokoto agreed to the Independence Constitution, can Buhari, who Tinubu is following today be more Northerner than Sardauna of Sokoto? Let’s return to the constitution we all agreed upon at independence.
There is this idea that some Afenifere leaders are very rigid, in that they believe that whatever they say is the right thing, particularly you…
Who is saying that? Rigid on what? What they are saying is we should compromise our principles and we refused. The moment you compromise in any principle, it is no longer a principle.
Today, people might say I’m one of the greatest opponents of Buhari, but did you know we supported him to become the president before? Afenifere campaigned for Buhari in 2007, when he promised to restructure. I’ve been reporting this since 2014 and he has not denied it. We bought the Aso Oke to campaign for him at Adamasingba Stadium in Ibadan. We want to work together in Nigeria, but the issue of the horse and the rider will never happen. One thing that irritates me in some of our members, and Fayemi said something like, we can’t do restructuring alone. So, we have to bend to do equal partnership in Nigeria?
The quarrel we are having with this Constitution is that it was not the Constitution we had at independence, which I say is the condition of living together of the various nationalities in Nigeria. Our being brought together in 1914 was imposed. Nobody agreed to the amalgamation. It was the British that brought us together and declared we are Nigerians, and we should live together. But if that must be, then it must be on agreed terms. And when we talk of the sovereign national conference Abacha did, it shows we don’t want to do this by violence. So, let’s go back to the conference. We don’t want to separate, we want to live together, but what are the conditions? Let us agree on that. And that was what Jonathan did in 2014.
But Buhari says he doesn’t want to look at it. Muslims, Christians, Judiciary, Labour and the best brains in Nigeria came together in 2014. We met for almost three months and agreed on 600 resolutions. Without debate, we were able to convince ourselves, and even when the document was being submitted to Jonathan, he asked what kind of magic we used to agree on things without debate. Buhari can never constitute such a body. I challenge him to do so.
This is what we are saying. If Buhari is honest, I say Buhari, not APC because all those APC members are mere subordinates. If Tinubu was honest to the Yorubas, if he’s sincere to how he came into office, has he got the courage to confront Buhari? This is not the condition we should be now. This is the question young people should be asking.
Tinubu is selling young men’s future for his own glory. He doesn’t care what happens. Presently, how many sections are there in APC? Even among themselves, the people who want to rule the country know the truth; they just believe that because they are in office, they can continue patching it.
If young people know what is good for them, they will do everything to pull Tinubu down, and stop him from representing them the way he is doing. If he’s doing things in the interest of Yoruba, he won’t be supporting what Buhari is doing. Since they have been in the office, they should tell me what they have done for Yoruba land. And because Buhari knows what might happen, he’s now constructing a railway line from Kaduna to Niger. They are now looking for oil in the north. All the gold they found in Zamfara, they haven’t exposed it, but the resources in Niger Delta must come to the central pool; that’s what is causing trouble.
Instead of harassing the Igbos, why don’t they invite them and ask why they want to leave Nigeria. Why do we have the Avengers in the South-South? But they won’t do that because they want to rule us by force.
Any Yoruba man who loves this country should persuade Tinubu to get out of the alliance he’s having with Buhari. And he is doing it in his own interest.
If Nigeria is not restructured in ther next decade, what do you think might happen?
Nigeria will break. It’s a matter of time. ‘Omode bu iroko, o n boju wehin, se o ro wipe ojo kan ni oluwere n pani?’ (After cursing the Iroko tree, a child looks back. Does he think the spirit in the Iroko tree will start attacking him immediately?) Are we united? In a normal situation, Buhari should have declared a state of emergency by now. A country in so much unrest, with kidnapping, robbery, herdsmen everywhere; is that a healthy country? Even in Buhari’s village, kidnapping and robbery is going on there.
A government that fails to protect lives and properties has no right to be in office, and the situation in the country today warrants that Buhari should resign now. He has no right to be in office. Kadaria Ahmed said the people in the President’s part of the country cannot sleep with their their two eyes closed. The Boko Haram he told us he would finish when Jonathan was there is waxing stronger. How can insurgents return to the place they kidnapped the children before to carry away another set? Who is he deceiving? Has the country not broken now?
What’s your comment on Prof. Ayo Fasanmi’s support for Buhari in the last election?
Ayo Fasanmi is a sad story. He’s one who should be with me. Those were the firebrands in the Action Group. Can Ayo Fasanmi say the constitution they are running now is what we fought for, or what Awolowo fought for at independence?
If Awolowo were to be alive now, could he have told him he’s supporting what Buhari is doing now as what Awolowo left for us? I want Fasanmi to answer that. Tinubu wants credibility. When last did you hear Fasanmi until recently when he wanted to discredit Afenifere? We publish anytime we hold meeting in Akure. Where do they hold their meeting? These are the people using their names to sell the Yoruba interest.
It’s a shame on Ayo Fasanmi and I’m sure the day he sees Awolowo, he will not be able to look him in the face. I want him to read this and challenge me that this Constitution he’s aiding and abetting Tinubu to support Buhari for is what he and myself fought for.
Do you see a Yoruba man becoming president in 2023?
How is that possible? I will never support it, if you want to keep the country together. These people are not sincere; they are just selling a slogan to be in office.
You want to be in a Nigeria where a section of the country will be excluded in the scheme of things? The North has had its turn. Yorubas have had theirs, just like the South-South. What kind of equity is that? I am not in support of a section becoming the subordinate; it must be equal. And even if we get restructured, it must still go to the east, whether you like them or not. That is why I pitied some Easterners who buy the idea that they must support Buhari to get the 2023 ticket. They shouldn’t get presidency out of such arrangement. My stand for the Igbo is that they should get the presidency as a right in this federation, like any other unit.
How far was the last interaction between Afenifere and former president Olusegun Obasanjo?
Personally, I make friends with all people. Buhari is not capable of keeping the country together. Buhari is partisan and tribalistic by nature. We are talking of corruption now and people are accusing him of selective fight. He didn’t just start. When he came the first time, and he said he wanted to wipe off corruption, it was the most progressive states he attacked.
He set up a commission of enquiry, and the commission absolved Ajasin twice. But Buhari refused to release him until he was disgraced. Instead of Buhari to apologise to the person who his own commission absolved, he pretended as if he has forgotten. That is the man with integrity. The officer who conducted the enquiry later commented that there was one righteous old man who was enquired twice and acquitted twice, but he didn’t know why the power that be did not release him. So, those of you who are now saying he’s selective don’t know it’s in his nature. I’m not attacking Buhari, I’m just saying what he’s.
When I said people should not vote for him in 2015, that he cannot change, people said he was in the military then and he’s now a civilian. Some said I was blackmailing him. I told them, if you want to employ somebody, you’ll ask for testimonial. All I was saying about Buhari then was what he did in the past, and that there was no evidence that he has changed. I said he was a dictator, that he wouldn’t obey the rule of law. He does not believe in democracy and he takes pride in that.
This is the danger we are having in Nigeria. Only Buhari is the bad Fulani president. He is the only Fulani president who refused to be exposed. Is Atiku not a Fulani? Former IGP Yusuf was my friend, he has been my friend since the first republic, and he’s a Fulani. The enlightened Fulani must come out to dissociate themselves from Buhari’s activities, so that they are not given bad names. We want to stay together in Nigeria, but it must be on equal terms.
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