Tinubu worked against Ige’s presidential ambition in 1999 — Okunrounmu
Member of the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Senator Femi Okunrounmu, who also served as the chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on the 2014 National Conference, spoke on how personal ambitions of some Yoruba individuals permanently tore the group apart, to the detriment of Southwest zone. He also said the 1999 Constitution cannot see Nigeria through its present challenges. SEYE OLUMIDE reports.
• Those Who Plot Against Afenifere Are Against Awolowo’s Legacy
• If Buhari Believes In Restructuring He Can Get It done
Why has it been difficult for followers of Chief Obafemi Awolowo to resolve their differences since 1999 and move Afenifere forward in the interest of Yoruba nation?
I don’t believe there is any spell working against Afenifere. People get whatever they work for. What happened is that we have had some disloyal and dishonest elements that Afenifere propped up, but having been brought up by the group, they developed ambitions larger than their potentials and ability. And in doing this, they sought to more or less supplant Papa Awolowo’s legacy and become what they consider the new Awolowo of Yoruba land.
To be very specific, because there is no point being general in an interview like this, we brought up some governors during the time of Alliance for Democracy (AD) after the demise of former Military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, when we formed AD. The governors we brought up then on the platform of the party have been trying since then to destroy Afenifere because of the personal ambition of former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who happens now to be their leader. He took over leadership of AD governors as soon as they were elected in 1999.
Tinubu has been seeing himself as the new Awolowo, who was going to outshine the founder of the Action Group (AG), out- perform him and achieve what the former premier of Old Western region could not achieve and so on. In the process, he has been trying to rubbish Afenifere leaders and projecting himself as the new Yoruba leader, which he has failed to do.
Would it not sound insulting to say that Tinubu negatively influenced the likes of former Governors Segun Osoba, Bisi Akande, Lam Adesina and Adebayo Adefarati, who were by far his seniors?
If this were a sane country, where people are men and are not influenced by money, then it would be insulting to say that. But in Nigeria, money determines everything. It determines who leads and who follows, it makes the man in Nigeria. If you have money, you can be talking rubbish and people will still follow you. So, because of Tinubu’s position as Governor of Lagos State, which is the richest state in Nigeria after 2003, he was the wealthiest among the governors. He has the money and so, he took over the leadership of the governors.
Whatever Osoba said in his interview (last Sunday Guardian), he was being less than honest. Tinubu took over the leadership of the AD governors and because of his own ambition, which he was trying to promote, he organised the rebellion of these governors against the established Afenifere leadership, taking advantage of the cleavage that developed between the former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, late Chief Bola Ige and some Afenifere leaders after the 1998 D’ Rovans Convention.
What did Afenifere leaders do to stop Tinubu, when it was discovered he was creating his empire at their expense? Let me start from the beginning. At the D’Rovans Electoral College, where AD was to pick its presidential candidate between Ige and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SFG), Chief Olu Falae, we had a 23-man Electoral College. Incidentally, Osoba talked of 16 men, but it was a 23-man committee and that shows how much Osoba knows about Afenifere. The former governor of Ogun State was never part of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) struggle. He only came in after Abacha’s death, because he was part of Abacha’s transition. He was a member of one of the political parties that Abacha created. That is just a digression.
We had a 23-man Electoral College, which comprised the eight chairmen of AD from all the six Yoruba states and from Kwara and Kogi States. It also consisted of the six newly elected governors of Yoruba States because we didn’t win Kogi and Kwara. We also had nine elders selected across Yoruba land, those that have been part of the party from the days of Action Group (AG). They are Alhaji Hassan Fasinro from Lagos, Chiefs Solanke Onasanya and Jonathan Odebiyi from Ogun States; Papa Emmanuel Alayande from Oyo and Justice Adewale Thompson from Oyo and Professor Bolaji Akinyemi from Osun. From Ondo, we had Alhaji Adekeye. From Ekiti, we had Papa Ayo Fasanmi and the late Dr. Aina, who was the deputy to late former Governor Adekunle Ajasin.
These were the 23 people that constituted the Electoral College. The chairman of the college was Pa Emmanuel Alayande. Justice Adewale Thompson conducted the swearing-in ceremony. We had our voting by secret ballot and to my surprise, Falae won the election. I never expected it. I voted for Ige because I was one of his boys. We were in a group that we named ourselves Bola Ige Boys. We used to meet regularly in his house every month on Sunday afternoon to discuss politics. I voted for Ige, even though I also had a reason to vote for Falae. But my attachment to Ige was stronger and more political because I am one of his political followers. Falae was my classmate at HSC, and secondary school. That is how close we were right from Government College. But in spite of that, I voted for Ige because he was one of my mentors. It came as surprise that Falae won, because going by every logic; Ige ought to have won the election, given the composition of the Electoral College.
There are three reasons why Ige should normally have won the election. Although people later talked of conspiracy, but that was never the case. When we decided to have the Electoral College, Ige was the deputy leader of Afenifere. He was deputy to Pa Abraham Adesanya, so definitely he took part in appointing the college members. He was party to the decision to appoint members of the Electoral College. Falae was not even present at the meeting, where the decision was taken to have Electoral College, but Ige as the deputy leader was there and we all agreed on it.
Secondly, if you look at most of the college members, you would expect them to vote naturally for Ige. But it was the governors that rebelled, claiming that Afenifere leaders didn’t like Bola Ige. One would assume that most of these governors would have voted for Ige and if that had been the case, the former Minister of Justice would have had six votes.
Let’s look at the eight party chairmen. Let’s assume the one from Lagos didn’t vote for Ige and I voted for him, that would have made seven. The chairman from Oyo was Koleosho, and he was Ige’s right hand man. His vote would have made eight for Ige. Chairman from Osun was Akinfemwa, who was Ige’s Commissioner for Education and would have also voted for him to make it nine. The chairmen from Kwara and Kogi were Ige’s people because Adesanya, Adebanjo and others were not really familiar with Kwara and Kogi politics. So, with the votes from the two states, that would have made it 11.
All Ige needed was two more votes because once you get 12 votes out of 23, you have won. So, he only needed two of the nine elders. The elders included Alayande, who was a commissioner under Ige. Another was Adewale Thompson, who was the Attorney General under Ige. So, if he only got those two, he would have won. This is exclusive of people like Odebiyi and Ayo Fasanmi, who were very close to Ige. This is why I said it was a surprise to me that Ige lost, which also gives the lie to these governors saying they supported Ige. Many of them did not vote for Ige, because from my analysis, if they had voted for him, he wouldn’t have lost. I happened to know and it was widely rumoured then that Bola Tinubu distributed money to some of them to vote against Ige because of his (Tinubu) ambition. He had this overriding ambition to become the Yoruba leader and he felt the person in his way was Ige. He wanted to more or less suppress Ige; he didn’t want him to emerge as presidential candidate. Tinubu worked against Ige.
So, how did Ige come about the conviction that the elders worked against him?
It was Tinubu and the governors that orchestrated the propaganda because of his ambition. The strategy was to knock people’s heads against one another to achieve his personal ambition. Having worked against Ige, Tinubu began to carry the rumour that it was the elders that didn’t like Ige. Shortly after D’Rovan’s election, Ige began to believe the rumour and the conspiracy theory of the so-called Ijebu Mafia. He said it was the Ijebu Mafia that did not want him. Those he considered Ijebu mafia are Solanke Onasanya, Abraham Adesanya, Olaniwun Ajayi and Ayo Adebanjo. He accused them of being the ones that conspired against him and did not want him to become the candidate. Ige took all the vengeance against these four people and they were at the helm of Afenifere leadership. They were the frontline generals of NADECO during the Abacha struggle.
Was there any effort to make Ige understand the fact that the election was free and fair?
There was a lot of effort. It was pointed out to him that these Ijebu Mafia he was talking about, only one of them was a member of the Electoral College and that was Onasanya. Others were not members.
Was Ige by any chance a man with some airs, which maybe prevented the leaders from supporting him, because it was mentioned in one of the interviews that Ige was seen as being cocky?
I don’t know that. I don’t know their personal relationship. But Ige didn’t need to lobby anybody to win the primary then. There was already this friction, arising from the grievance he had against the leadership after losing the election. And because Tinubu already had the ambition of supplanting Afenifere leadership, he saw it as an opportunity to come in between Afenifere leaders and drive a wedge among them. It was an opportunity Tinubu had been waiting for, and he got it. He found it convenient to take sides with Ige against the established leaders of the group.
Was that what made Ige to take appointment under former President Olusegun Obasanjo?
It was the grievance he had against the established leadership that made him decide to go and serve under Obasanjo against the group’s position. Afenifere had already taken a decision that if one was going serve under Obasanjo, he must get clearance from the group. We didn’t say people should not go and serve, there is the need to get the difference clear. We didn’t debar anyone from serving, we only said if you are going to serve under Obasanjo, get clearance from Afenifere.
The reason was that we wanted whoever was to serve to go with the full knowledge and approval of Afenifere; and not that the person was just poached. We didn’t want the former president to poach us one after the other. If that were allowed to happen, he would divide our ranks. But if we all knew whomsoever he had approached, we would declare it, but the person would understand that he or she was still responsible to Afenifere, even while serving under Obasanjo. It was consensus agreement among us and Ige knew that, but he accepted to serve under Obasanjo without getting approval from Afenifere, just to irritate the leadership because of the grievance he had against them. Tinubu did not cause the friction between Ige and Afenifere, he only and smartly exploited the situation by taking sides with the late Minister. He sided with Ige to make the cleavage wider to his own advantage. These were the strategies he adopted to achieve his scheme.
For instance, as soon as he got into government in 2000, we were to have AD convention, where we were to elect party officials, as all the officials before the election were provisional. Because of Ige’s decision to spite Afenifere leaders, he took directives from Obasanjo, who gave him a candidate that was to be made AD national chairman. This candidate had never been our member. No AD leader knew him, and even Ige himself had never met him or knew him until he was introduced by Obasanjo. I am talking about Alhaji Ahmed Abulkadir, whom the former president recommended to Ige to be made AD national chairman.
So, Ige thought that was a good way to even spite the leaders more. He then rallied the governors who were already taking sides with him that Abdulkadir must be made AD national chairman. That was the convention held on either November or December 2000. Of course, the party was furious. Papa Adesanya couldn’t understand why his own deputy, Ige, would be supporting a complete stranger to come and become the party’s national chairman.
So, Pa Adesanya gave directives that the national chairman should be Maman Yusuf and that the deputy should be Ayo Adebanjo. He gave the directives to all the governors, but under Tinubu’s leadership, the governors disobeyed him. They even refused to support Adebanjo as the deputy chairman. Instead, they took Koleosho. Reconciliatory meetings were held to resolve the issue, but Ige and the governors remained adamant on their stand and they just didn’t budge.
Consequently, we had two parallel conventions. We couldn’t go and vote for Abdulkadir, whom we didn’t know as our national chairman. Ige, being in government, used his influence to get Eagle Square, where they had their convention, but we went to Abuja Garden, a smaller place.
At their convention, Abdulkadir and Koleosho were elected as national chairman and deputy of AD respectively, while we elected Maman and Adebanjo. All AD governors, except the former governor of Ondo State, late Adebayo Adefarati, remained loyal to the leaders. Osoba has always been double face. He is someone who will run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. He will pretend to be your friend, while cutting you behind. That is Osoba by nature. Osoba is from Ogun and because all the leaders Ige was rebelling against were from Ogun State, he (Osoba) diplomatically came to attend our convention, though he already gave all his support to the one organised by Ige. That is how he has always been playing his game.
From then on, AD had two National Executives: the Abdulkadir- led exco that was enjoying government support through Ige, and the Yusuf Maman exco that had no government backing. And though we took them to court, due to Ige’s legal background, he used all the powers of government against us in court. So, the case dragged on for so long and was not resolved until 2003.
For the 2003 elections, Ige made sure that INEC recognised his own faction, and that was why for that year’s election, we decided to use the INEC recognised faction to contest, though the case was still in court.
Who suggested the idea that Afenifere should support Obasanjo in his 2003 reelection bid?
From 2000 on, the party was split into two factions. These were the governors’ faction and the leadership of Adesanya faction, who led the authentic Afenifere and the AD. Of course, the governors still attended Afenifere meetings, but their loyalty was no more with Adesanya. They were solidly with Ige. Even Ige would occasionally attend Afenifere meetings, though not as a loyal member. Between 2000 and 2003 during the governors’ tenure, in pursuit of their ambition, which was more or less to render Afenifere leadership irrelevant to actualise their own independence, they began to court Obasanjo through Ige, who was in government without the knowledge of Afenifere leaders.
The governors were doing this individually and collectively, but Osoba was the arrowhead because he was from Ogun State, like Obasanjo. The camaraderie between Obasanjo and Osoba became so obvious, to the extent that Osoba followed the former president to London, where they wore the same cloth. This was fully displayed on the television. Osoba dragged other governors to Obasanjo without involving Afenifere leaders.
As soon as we returned to democracy in 1999, Afenifere decided to give Obasanjo full support because he was a Yoruba man and using the Yoruba slot. The election had come and gone and whether we liked him or not, he had become the president. We, therefore, had no choice. So, right from the period he took over government, we gave him full support.
But AD challenged the 1999 presidential election result in court…
That was before he was sworn in as president, but immediately he was sworn in, Adesanya gave us directives to support him, most especially those of us in the National Assembly. I was one of the senators who cried out, when plans were being made to impeach Obasanjo in the National Assembly, and I was suspended for the action. Our loyalty to him was based on the principle that he is a Yoruba man and we didn’t want him to be shamed by the Northerners.
But our governors were already flirting with him way beyond just giving him support without Afenifere leaders’ knowledge. As 2003 approached, we wanted to have local government elections in the Southwest, but because Obasanjo wanted to run for second term, he appealed to the governors without our knowledge that we should not have the council election, because if we did, PDP would score almost zero, which might have affected his chances of getting nomination at the PDP convention.
Without the governors revealing the secret behind this to us, they came to Ijebu Igbo to appeal to us not to hold council elections before the PDP convention, so that Obasanjo could get the chance to be re-nominated for second term. And since we had already decided to back him, we suspended plans to hold the council elections. They came again to appeal to us to support Obasanjo’s second term bid, which was very easy, because we had no plan to field any candidate in 2003. So, we went along with them. Osoba came to us again and said for Obasanjo to be sure that we would support him, he (Obasanjo) would like to hold a meeting with us and we agreed.
Four of us were nominated to go and have a meeting with Obasanjo. They included Cornelius Adebayo, Pa Adesanya, Chief Adebanjo and I. We met Obasanjo at his Ota Farm. At the meeting, I was asked to speak and I told him that he was using the Yoruba slot and we were giving him support, that it was in our interest for him to have a second term. We, however, demanded that he should restructure Nigeria through a national conference. We also asked him to conduct true census for Nigeria, as well as rehabilitate all dilapidating structures across Yoruba land. These were the three demands, and he responded very favourably.
We had a stop at Gateway Hotel to assess how the meeting went and we concluded that it was good. But unknown to us, the governors had gone beyond what we did to negotiate with Obasanjo that they would support him in return for his support for their re-election in their various states. The former president promised to support. So, we all supported him and true to Afenifere’s promise, we all campaigned for Obasanjo and he won, but he went and undercut the governors. He didn’t only undercut the governors, all AD members were also pushed out of the National Assembly in all the Yoruba states, except Lagos.
If AD governors and lawmakers lost in Southwest states except Lagos, does that mean Tinubu is politically smarter?
Sometimes, there is a lot to these things than meet the ordinary eye. In 2003, some crisis was already brewing between Obasanjo and Atiku, and the former vice president was already courting Tinubu’s support. In fact, Tinubu was taking some members of Lagos chapter of the AD to have meetings with Atiku. Tinubu believed he was going to be Atiku’s running mate in 2003. Atiku was in charge of the rigging of the elections, which was why he spared Tinubu in Lagos, because he needed Tinubu for his own presidential contest. This is what most people didn’t see, but we saw it and we even accused Tinubu of taking AD members to meet with Atiku at the Lagos House in Abuja. This was one of the allegations Adesanya leveled against Tinubu. That was the reason Lagos was spared.
Was the allegation that Afenifere leaders were collecting money from Obasanjo through the former Director General of the Nigerian State Security Service (SSS), Col. Kayode Are (rtd) true?
Who made that allegation? Tell me the person. Who ever said that was a born liar and I will confront him any day, if you tell me his/her name. I know Are, but I have never taken a dime from him. I can confront Are any day and even go to the extent of swearing with my life if I ever collected money from him. Whoever said that is looking for self-justification for his bad deeds. Look, Obasanjo was not innocent. He gave bribes to the National Assembly members under different circumstances and for different purposes. He gave bribes, which I know about but not from Kayode Are. That was a reckless and irresponsible lie.
At what point did Afenifere and Tinubu begin to have direct confrontation? We have been talking about Ige and the governors, but at a point Tinubu became the centre of focus…
That is the next stage. I have discussed the 2003 elections, that the governors were defeated except Tinubu. In December 2003, another AD national convention was to take place and up till then, we were still in court over the 2000 national convention between Abdulkadir and Yusuf factions. It was time for another convention because we all contested under Abdulkadir faction. Interested candidates sent notices around and Senator Akinfenwa and Chief Bisi Akande indicated interest in running for AD national chairmanship. The preparations were on and the then incumbent national chairman fixed the date for the convention in Abuja.
On the day of the event, everything was held according to our Constitution, but Akande did not show up for the convention and Akinfenwa won. Akande possibly felt he could not win the election. Tinubu scheduled another convention for Lagos, just about a week or two after the one we held in Abuja, where they now elected Akande as national chairman. There were constitutional provisions about how a national convention should be convened. So, this led to litigation because Akinfenwa felt he was the legitimate national chairman, but Tinubu and his fellow governors who arranged the Lagos convention claimed Akande was the legitimate AD chairman.
This brought about another crisis over who was the legitimate national chairman between Akande and Akinfenwa. This again complicated the crisis we had been having since 2000. Adesanya tried to resolve the crisis by inviting Akande and Akinfenwa, but the former governor of Osun State was not prepared for settlement. They called several meetings at which Akande refused to cooperate, because he was acting out Tinubu’s script. Adesanya was on this effort to resolve the crisis until he died. While the crisis continued, Afenifere was permanently split into two. The faction loyal to Adesanya was meeting at Jibowu Yaba, while the other loyal to Tinubu stopped attending our meeting and began to call themselves the real Afenifere. But of course, we have the Secretariat.
Initially, Tinubu had very few people with him, while we had a lot of young men and women with us. This is to dispute what Osoba told you that the leaders didn’t encourage younger ones. It was a self-justifying lie that is very far from the truth. Among the young men were Jimi Agabje, Supo Sonibare, Kola Awodeyin, Gbenga Kaka, Ebun Sonaiya, Funso Alayande, Kole Omololu and others. All our executives were young men, except for the elders. It was a time the young people, more or less, took over Afenifere.
So, what Osoba said was self-justification and looking for excuses. Osoba himself was not an old man. These were the young men to whom the leaders would have handed over the group’s leadership, but some of them rebelled to undercut their leaders. After being made governors, they should naturally have taken over as leaders. But they didn’t want to have any leader ahead of them. It was in an attempt to have his own group that Tinubu began to fund all these young men to form Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), which was Tinubu’s creation. He did it to lure the young men away from the mainstream Afenifere, so that he can use them against the leaders.
But Wale Oshun denied that Tinubu was behind ARG’s formation, that he didn’t fund it, but rather, that the group was formed when the young men couldn’t resolve the crisis in Afenifere after the Ibadan retreat…
Oshun is one of the pillars of trouble in Afenifere. The meeting he talked about in Ibadan came in the middle of the crisis. I went to Ibadan to address that meeting. It was one of the reconciliatory meetings to brief them about the reconciliatory efforts we had been making.
In Lagos State especially, Osun is one of those Tinubu used to rubbish late Ganiyu Dawodu. During NADECO days, Tinubu was not in Nigeria. It was Dawodu that brought the party together in Lagos. He was the one that organised everything up to the election, just that he didn’t want to run for governorship position. It was under Dawodu we had the primary between Funnso Williams and Tinubu. It was because the party felt we didn’t want to use Williams that had worked with the military that we settled for Tinubu.
But as soon as Tinubu got to power, he wanted to get rid of Dawodu. At the next convention in Lagos, Wale Oshun was one of those Tinubu used to manipulate and get rid of Dawodu as the chairman of Lagos.
Osun is part of the problem. But talking about the reconciliation, only anybody who wants to offend God will fault Afenifere leaders over the reconciliation efforts they made since the crisis started. It was while trying to reconcile Akinfenwa and Akande’s factions of the party that Pa Adesanya died and since then, the reconciliation process has continued under Adebanjo, Olaniwun Ajayi and others.
For seven years between 2003 and 2010, there were continuous reconciliation efforts in which I was personally involved. But we didn’t succeed because the governors always sabotaged our efforts, even after they had left power. They were going from one party to another, and were being funded by Tinubu. Today, Tinubu is a multi-billionaire and he can do and undo, but when he became governor in 1999, he didn’t have the kind of money he has today.
When several reconciliation efforts failed, we decided to put together a group of Yoruba leaders and elders, who are not even politicians to help facilitate the reconciliation. This was because a challenge was thrown to us. In 2007, when we were marking 20 years of Awolowo’s death at a Church service in Ikennne, the former Prelate of the Methodist Church, Sunday Makinde, threw the challenge to us that Awolowo wouldn’t be happy at the way we split and the way Yoruba land is split irreconcilably. He said we should be ashamed of ourselves and we accepted the challenge.
After the Church service, we went home and decided to do more than we had done in the past. That was why we brought in people outside by setting up and 18-man committee, headed by Justice Kayode Esho. Some of the committee members were Archbishop Ladigbolu, Bishop Gbonigi, Prof. Bolanle Awe, Chief Mrs. Ogunseye, Ayo Fasanmi and myself. I was the secretary, and we also included young men.
We appealed to them to help us resolve the crisis in the Awolowo group, so that Yoruba nation could move ahead, and they invited us for a meeting. But when it seemed the meeting was going to succeed, the governors frustrated it. They swore they would never meet again with Afenifere leaders. It is on record that they sabotaged the meeting. This was between 2007 and 2010.
Then in 2010, we went to Chief Mrs. H.I .D Awolowo and she asked us how the reconciliation was going, and we explained how the governors had been frustrating everything. We asked her to make effort to reconcile us and she accepted. She fixed a date to invite the former governors and Afenifere leaders for a meeting at Ikenne.
However, a day to the meeting, the governors went and told her that they would not come. They said they didn’t want to sit with the elders. When we got there the following day, the woman reported to us what transpired. She told us all her efforts, which later led to the formation of Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF). When she couldn’t reconcile us, I then suggested to her that, if these people wouldn’t reconcile, let us form a forum of people who believe in Awolowo’s legacy, no matter the political party they belong to. That was why we named it YUF.
Was any Afenifere member interrogated over Bola Ige’s death, and did you think his death was as a result of the consequence of his perceived betrayal of Afenifere leaders?
I don’t think anybody was interrogated. Afenifere believed that our deputy leader was the one that was murdered, so we felt the pain like any organisation would feel it.
We were very aggrieved and pained by his death. We were prepared to mourn him the way one would mourn a beloved and part of the respect that we wanted to give to him was to bring his corpse to Afenifere’s Secretariat for a special honour. But those governors would not allow it because they were the ones in power. Tinubu and his colleagues hijacked the body. They didn’t allow us to give him the last respect. They were crying more than the bereaved. As I told you, they never liked Ige at any time. They didn’t even vote for him. They used Ige to drive a wedge between Afenifere leaders. The murderer is always crying more than the bereaved.
If there is sincerity of purpose, why cant the ‘real’ Afenifere and ARG team up to drive home the agitation for restructuring, instead of the persistent brickbats?
We were all clamouring for the same thing, even before the cleavage. Throughout NADECO days, we were all calling for restructuring, even while Awolowo was alive. For instance, Tinubu was one of the financiers of the clamour for restructuring. When we went into government without achieving restructuring, there was this organisation called the Pro National Conference Organisation (PRONACO) that continued the agitation for restructuring, led by the late Chief Anthony Enahoro and Prof. Wole Soyinka. Tinubu was the financier of that group.
But when people are driven by personal interests, they can sometimes become very inconsistent and contradictory. It was in Tinubu’s personal interest at that time to be seen to be identifying with the demand for restructuring, which the Yoruba people want and he was spending his money to finance it. He had always has this personal ambition of becoming Yoruba leader, who would achieve what Awolowo could not achieve.
But when former President Goodluck Jonathan finally agreed to convene a National Conference, which would discuss issues of restructuring and probably provide the opportunity for the Yoruba to tender their agenda, unfortunately Buhari and his craftsmen were opposed to it. Meanwhile, Tinubu already had an agenda of working with them to achieve either the presidency or vice presidency. So, it became contradictory to Tinubu’s personal interest to support restructuring. So, all the things he has been fighting for along with us because he wanted to become president or vice president under the current government, he has to jettison them and say he wouldn’t support national conference.
When I was made the head of the Presidential Advisory Committee of the National Conference, my greatest opponent was Tinubu. Before I went to take up the assignment, I went to see Tinubu. I went to see him along with Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu. He simply told us that the Fulani people would not want it, so why were we wasting our time. This is what we all have been spending our life fighting for. I also went to see Akande, who fully supported it. As far as ARG is concerned, they have not deviated from the agitation for restructuring, but as long as they are with Tinubu, there is a limit to what they can do.
Do you see the possibility of the Southwest producing the president in 2023?
I believe in fairness and justice. We took some decision at the 2014 national Conference, which was based on fairness and justice in terms of the presidency, and one of the decisions was that the presidency should rotate between North and South and also between the geo-political zones. The Southwest has had eight years, the north has had and the South South South had it. Now Buhari is having it from the north, but when it returns to the South it should go to the Southeast.
Would you agree that the only means to restructure Nigeria is through the 1999 Constitution, no matter how useless people consider it?
I read that in Osoba’s interview and I take it that he doesn’t understand politics. He is naïve because if you go into the history of the 1999 Constitution, you will find out that the Constitution is deliberately programmed against the South. It is programmed against restructuring and against anything that will bring justice and equity between the North and the South. The successive military leaders through whom the 1999 Constitution came about deliberately programmed it to give the North permanent advantage over the South. So, working by the 1999 Constitution, anything the North did not want cannot be achieved in the country. Therefore, if you say we must go through the same Constitution, then we have accepted our servitude to the North. Until we change it, there cannot be justice and equity.
But the president cannot just restructure Nigeria by fiat…
Again, that is why Osoba doesn’t understand politics. In a presidential system, the president has a way of driving his legislation through the National Assembly. People should seek knowledge. If Buhari believes in restructuring like they lied to Nigerians in their manifesto, he can get it done.
Do you see Buhari performing in another four years?
Whoever is hoping or dreaming that Buhari will achieve anything between now and 2023 is being deceived. The South is going to be more marginalised. The marginalisation of the South is going to get more extreme because Buhari doesn’t have to worry about returning to power in 2023. His idea is to promote Fulani hegemony over Nigeria and now he has an unrestrained hand to do so in the next four years, including killing people and taking over their lands and repossessing the land with Fulani people. The herdsmen killings are a programme policy and the continuation of the Uthman Dan Fodio crusade to take over Nigeria for the Fulani.
I hope it is not too late for our people in APC before they realise their mistakes. For instance, the northerners are already saying they will not surrender the presidency in 2023.