By Dapo Akinrefon
Pa Ayo Adebanjo, leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, turned 94 on April 10 (yesterday).
In this interview, Adebanjo speaks on his worry over the state of the nation, the clamour for South East to produce the president in 2023, why he disagrees with the President Muhammadu Buhari administration and other sundry issues.
Having clocked 94, how do you feel?
I feel good but I am sad about Nigeria.
What makes you sad?
I have nothing to worry except Nigeria that I am going to die in this position that blind people are leading the country, the followers are equally blind. Everybody wants material gain. It is unfortunate and that is what makes me sad.
So what will make you happy?
If Buhari had been listening to all we have been saying for the past eight years and that is to send us back to the constitution we had practiced or to make a new one where everybody will be happy and not the constitution that was imposed on us by the military; composed by a section of the country and dominated by a section of the country with an ethnic agenda.
With the state of the country, what should be done to tackle..(Cuts in) There is nothing you can do in this country until you change this constitution. I have been saying it for long.
The evil you have been contending with are contained in the constitution. Once there is a change in the constitution, everything will be easy and everyone will be happy. Until you do that, you are deceiving yourself. That is the bottom line.
You have said it over and over again that if there is no change in the constitution, there will be no 2023 elections but the present crop of politicians are already preparing to contest elections. How do you see it?
It is an exercise in futility. I have said it before. The 2023 elections, without restructuring, is an exercise in futility and I stand by it.
After the Kaduna-Abuja train attack, Governor Nasir el-Rufai threatened that North West governors would hire mercenaries to tackle insecurity in their region if the Federal Government fails to curb the menace. How do you react to his threat?
That is not the first time; it is unfortunate that they are all living in denial.I have said it before that Buhari has failed in everything he promised us and he has failed in the major thing he should do for the country- to protect lives and property. What has he done to stop insecurity? Every day when they kill, he would say “I give marching orders”. How many marching orders has he given?
Since when has the governor of Borno State told us Boko Harm has taken so many local governments in his state? Have you heard that they have recovered those local governments?
Since when has the government of Niger State told us that Boko Haram territories are increasing?You see, they are all living in denial. They know the solution to the problems of the country. I take you up again. You mentioned el-Rufai. The man said that the attack on the train could have been avoided and he gave the details that the DSS and security agencies know where the terrorists are, they had discussions with them. Has the government responded to them? Is that the first time?
A former general once said that he has given the list of those in charge of Boko Haram to Buhari since 2018 and that some of them are in the cabinet of Buhari, some are in the Senate. Has the government refuted that statement?
And if you remember, General Theophilus Danjuma once said that the Army is in collusion, has the government refuted that? What has the government said or done to deny or refute all these allegations?
In the last six months, is there a day that somebody is not killed, kidnapped or raped in this country?
Even the so called leaders of the North cannot go back to their villages and you are still deceiving yourselves that there is a government.The Buhari government has proved incompetence and inefficient in all aspects but many people are living in denial.
How much is the naira to the dollar compared to what it was in 2015? What is the state of your education now compared to where it was in 2015?
Which aspect of the country would you say is happy now? Our daughters and sons are fleeing the country for greener and better pastures.
You see, my passion is different from yours. You are all products of the military but I am a product before the military. So, I know the difference. I am worried, not because of myself or my children, I am worried because of my grandchildren.This generation is a right off.
As an elder statesman, what steps have you and other elder statesmen taken to meet with the President to discuss the state of the nation?
My dear, don’t talk about that. Let him (Buhari) say that we have not made efforts.
In one of my interviews, I said that this man was negotiating with Boko Haram. Why has he not called Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu and asked them why they want to break away from Nigeria?
I am the leader of restructuring but he said those of us clamouring for restructuring want to break the country. Has he called me to ask why I want to break the country? Has he done that?
Recently, members of the PDP zoning committee threw the contest open rather than zoning it to the South…(Cuts in)
They are a sellout. What you don’t know is that I know both the PDP and APC in this election want to change personnel of this system and not the system itself. They are all corrupt and I will prove it.
How can any sane government, in this world in both parties, say before you contest election, you first and foremost pay N50 million to buy forms and not for the election?Under this system, who can become the chairman of a local government without being a millionaire? And you say that is democracy.I don’t want to leave that behind for my children. I have said that the system is rotten and until that system is changed, you are going nowhere. There is no future for your children.We have university graduates coming but there is no employment and they end up becoming criminals.
You are so passionate about a change of the current system but it seems the present crop of leaders are not interested in effecting that change. Do you foresee a revolution in Nigeria
Of course. Mind you, I have told people, freedom is never granted, it is won. It is the people who are suffering that will show by their action, the way people like Sunday Igboho are reacting, the way people like Nnamdi Kanu are reacting and more will react. They will be forced to go to the streets and call for a change.
You say you don’t want the country to break and you want to stop a revolution, make the constitution acceptable to everybody.
Let us sit down, if you are not going to accept the one we had at independence, you are not going to accept the 2014 National Conference report or the el-Rufai report, then, let us sit down and talk but you said know; you want to impose the constitution brought by the army that is in favour of a section of the country that makes the ruler a dictator, which they are now doing. Who will accept that and you say you want peace.
You are just playing to the gallery; I have said it that the problem of the country is obvious, a lay man can solve it.
They introduced ethnicity and religion, all because they want to stay in power and some people, who eat the crumbs from the table, support them but once the crumbs are not there, they revolt. That is what is happening in the APC when they rigged the national chairman into office. Have you heard of consensus democracy? It is a shame.
It is left for you younger generation and as I said, I am already gone and I am expecting my funeral.
Will I say that God has not been kind enough to me? I am 94. Where are my other colleagues? I am worried about those I am going to leave behind.In the First Republic, you will promise your son and daughter that if he or she makes a first class, you will buy a car for them. Can the father buy a bicycle for himself now?
We are in a mess, the country is already a failed state and until God helps us to send away Buhari, there will be no peace in this country.I am repeating it, until Buhari and APC leave the government, there will be no peace in Nigeria because the programme of Buhari and APC is not to develop the country but to dominate and Fulanise the country. That is why he pretends not to hear anything that says wipe out Boko Haram or marauding herdsmen. He pretends as if he does not know. If the governor of Kaduna, with the tragedy of the case, could say the attack could have been avoided, he said it out of frustration.When some governors start saying that Nigerians should arm themselves, what is Buhari, who is the Commander-in-Chief still doing there?
The people deserve the government they get.
So what do you think will happen in 2023?Nothing will happen but there will be confusion, nothing will come out of the elections under this constitution.If the country is one at the end of the elections, Nigerians will be lucky.
What is the Nigeria of your dreams?
The Nigeria of my dreams is the Nigeria under a federal structure where everybody will be happy to be in Nigeria. Not a Nigeria where Buhari will be discriminating against a section who has the right to be president. There is a gang-up against a significant part of the country.
All those who say the South-East cannot be President, ask them, what has the South-East done? Are they not part of Nigeria? Is the South-East not part of Southern Nigeria?
If you want peace in Nigeria, the South-East should produce the next president of Nigeria. Olusegun Obasanjo has done it for eight years, Yemi Osinbajo will be Vice President for eight years, Goodluck Jonathan was president for six years, is the South-East not in Nigeria? And then, you want it to go back to the South-West again.
I told Bola Tinubu, how can you say Buhari is supporting you when he is supporting the likes of Kayode Fayemi, Ibikunle Amosun and Osinbajo? And then, they threw the bait at Jonathan again.
Jonathan disappointed me, instead of rejecting it, he said he is thinking about it, what is he thinking about? I regret ever giving him my support and this is on principle.
Mind you, the moment you avoid principle, equity, honesty and ideology, you can’t get anywhere in this country. If you gang-up against a section of the country, how do you want to get peace?
Should a northerner win the 2023 elections, it will be goodbye to Nigeria. I have said it and I want them to come and arrest me.
On a lighter note, at 94, do you still do your regular exercise?
What I do is to walk around in my compound, I no longer walk on the streets again because my children fear that this government may send people to come and kidnap me because they don’t like the truth to be told to them. I have no security.