Leader of the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, recently clocked 94. He speaks with KAYODE OYERO on sundry national issues including the insecurity bedevilling Nigeria, the 2023 presidential election, and the pardon granted to some popular fraud convicts by the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)
The National Council of State recently endorsed the pardon of former governors of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye; and Taraba State, Jolly Nyame; as well as 157 other convicts following the recommendation of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy. What do you make of this?
I will start by saying anybody who is a rogue, the moment you say you are now in the APC (All Progressives Congress), you are now a saint. That is the way they have been doing. Even in the (Buhari) cabinet now, (ex-President Goodluck) Jonathan prosecuted (then governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre) Sylva, collected 48 houses from him for corruption, the press wrote this, but Buhari pardoned Sylva and returned all his properties to him and made him a minister with the lawyer that prosecuted him for fraud, Festus Keyamo, who was the lawyer of the EFCC. Buhari did all of that and now he is still talking nonsense that he still wants to fight corruption. What corruption is he fighting?
The case of (Adams) Oshiomhole is also still fresh. Anybody who joins the APC becomes a saint automatically even if you are a rogue. There are many instances that the Fourth Estate of the Realm should remind our people in case they forget. The emphasis there is that this is the President who said he had zero tolerance for corruption but now he is doing the exact opposite.
Nigeria is facing what can be said to be its worst security challenge in over six decades. What is the solution to this malaise?
It is a leadership problem. When they kill innocent citizens, Buhari will come and say, ‘I have beefed up security, I have given the military marching order’. Marching order for what? For those he doesn’t want to get killed? When we said Fulani herdsmen were the people terrorising us, they said who told us they were Fulani? When they now know that they are Fulani, they said they are Fulani from abroad, and that it is from abroad that they entered. But how did they enter? What about the security of the country? Is Buhari not the one in charge of security?
Until this man (Buhari) leaves that place, there won’t be peace. I challenge Lai Mohammed to charge me for fake news. Other people are saying he (Buhari) should resign but he should have gone five years ago. I have said it and I am expecting them to come and arrest me. He has to leave immediately; he is colluding with the people who are oppressing us and all the facts are there before him and he is doing nothing. He is negotiating with bandits and those who said they wanted to leave Nigeria, he has not called them for discussions. He should stop deceiving us; he is part of those oppressing us and until he leaves we won’t get peace.
The solution now is for him to leave, form a national government for us to create a brand new constitution to create an enabling environment before you can talk of any election. To do any election without changing this constitution is an exercise in futility. Even the election they want to do now is a change of the personnel and nothing more.
There are over 30 aspirants from the main parties, the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party, jostling to become Nigeria’s President in 2023. Do you think the Presidency should be zoned to the South or to the North?
Right now, is there a country for them to be President of? There must be one country first before you can talk of an election. Is this the country Jonathan handed over to Buhari? Whether a Southern or a Northern candidate, first, let us get everyone united and we can’t get everyone united until we change this constitution.
Are you safe? Talk about security. W When electoral officers, soldiers, policemen are being shot dead, when I can’t travel to Maiduguri safely. And members of the cabinet keep pretending as if they don’t know these problems. Up until now, Lai Mohammed will tell you, ‘We have done our best’. Before, he said it was Jonathan who spent the security money. For seven years now, all the money allocated to security under Buhari, what have been the results? Buhari is the Commander-In-Chief and his duty is to assure us of our safety and protect us but he is a Commander-In-Chief who is negotiating with criminals.
All those who are clamouring for Presidency, is it Jagaban (Bola Tinubu), is it (Vice President Yemi) Osinbajo, they should assure us of our safety first, that the country is safe, that we are one, then we talk of who is going to be President. They should forget about their ambition now until there is safety. Nobody can go to the South-East now and we are all living in denial.
You mentioned Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu who are two top APC presidential aspirants from the South-West geopolitical zone. Are you supporting any South-West aspirant?
How can I back a South-West candidate? That is not equity. Has (ex-President Olusegun) Obasanjo not done eight years? Has Osinbajo not done eight years as VP? Has Jonathan not done five years as President? Is the South-East not part of Nigeria? We want peace and equity. It is turn of the South-East, I don’t talk ambiguously. It is the South-East that the thing must go. There is no doubt about that. But my anxiety now is that before we say, South-East, have we got a country? Let us settle that before we say South-East is the answer. I am not ambivalent about it at all.
You clocked 94 years this April. How do you feel living this long?
Our lives are in the hands of God and I won’t commit suicide if God decides that He is not ready to take me home. For allowing me to live 94 years, I am very grateful to God. If God adds to my years, I won’t reject it, all my mates are gone but I am 94. I am grateful to God. Praise God.
Do you have any regret at 94 having been involved in nation-building before Nigeria’s independence and being a disciple of the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo?
It is sad that Nigeria is still like this because this is not the Nigeria that I fought for. And we have no reason to be in this position because this is not the foundation that Awolowo laid in the Western Region. If we had continued on the foundation without the interruption of the military, we would have gone very far. It is unfortunate for us. We are struggling when there is no need.