In an interview with the Punch, Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, speaks with BAYO AKINLOYE on the alleged gang-up against the All Progressives Congress National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and the leadership style of President Muhammadu Buhari
What do you make of the rift between the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu?
(Asiwaju Bola) Tinubu allowed himself to be used by people who do not have the interest of the Yoruba at heart. He chose to follow President Muhammadu Buhari sheepishly. I warned that Buhari has not changed. I knew his antecedents. But Tinubu chose to follow him. He and his group blindly supported Buhari. I am not concerned about the All Progressives Congress’ party politics. What is happening in the party is more than a gang-up against Tinubu. My concern is that the undermining of Tinubu’s influence by the party he fought hard to bring to power is making decisions and taking steps that are not good for the Yoruba. I am looking beyond the superficial affront against Tinubu by his party people. The attack against him is an attack against Yoruba people. People would have expected me to be happy about the way he is being treated now, but I am worried because he’s the voice of the Yoruba in the ruling party. My own argument in all this is purely ideological. It is not personal at all.
That’s the reason we are having problems all over the country – you have the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, the Niger Delta Avengers, and the Indigenous People of Biafra. It is a question of the constitution of the nation. We feel strongly that the report of the National Conference should be examined and implemented as necessary but the confab report has been thrown into the dustbin. Unfortunately, some sheepish Yoruba people are following him (Buhari) and hoping that he’ll share power with them. But we will not allow the Yoruba masses to be trampled on – no man will chase away his child for a lion to devour. If the Yoruba in the ruling party don’t understand what is happening, we’ll continue to speak out.
I agree with people who say Tinubu didn’t do well (by supporting Buhari to emerge as Nigeria’s president). Yet, one’s child can’t be so badly behaved that he will be chased away into the waiting claws and jaws of a lion. That is my position. The APC is a melting pot of various interest groups; you have the Tinubu group and you have the Buhari group – and other groups. If the ruling party is fragmented then we are in a mess. The mess was evident from the beginning of this administration when the party could not agree on who should take what positions in the National Assembly. The APC is an association of strange bedfellows. I had criticised the party because of its lack of a meeting point among its leaders. Their lack of cohesion began with (Bukola) Saraki who emerged against the party’s wish. The party is characterised by personal reasons, selfishness, and narrow-mindedness. They came together without a definite purpose of what they want to do at the federal level.
What is the way forward?
I wish Tinubu can get things right, regroup and get out of the unholy alliance he got himself into, for the benefit of the Yoruba nation and the South. In 2019, there will be no APC. If there will be APC, it will not be in this form.
Is that a prophecy?
Go and write it down. I am prepared to be abused by people who think contrary.
Why do you feel strongly that by 2019 there won’t be APC or that the party would have been weakened by that time?
Are you not a journalist? Can’t you decipher it? The signs are there. It is common sense. Some of us have been in the game (politics) for a long time. There is no unity of purpose within the party. Where is the unity when Tinubu said the chairman of the party is a traitor? He accused him of treachery; that he’s not acting alone because he has the backing of the leaders of the party. I don’t like the crisis I am seeing in the APC because it is the masses that would suffer. It is the masses that are looking for good roads and other amenities. It is the masses that are looking for good governance. If they are quarrelling with one another, when will the ruling party settle down to deliver dividends of democracy to the masses?
The party’s rules are skewed against them in case they don’t know. They should unite against forces detrimental to Yoruba interest. I had warned them (the APC) before the last general elections about what is happening now. There is nothing happening now that I have not said before –that he (Buhari) is a dictator; that he doesn’t obey the rule of law; he’s a tribal jingoist and so on. What has Buhari said or done about the rampaging Fulani herdsmen who are maiming and killing people in the East, in the West and in the North? What has he said? Buhari has denied that those marauders are Fulani. He claimed that they are foreigners – the notion that the herdsmen are foreigners is even worse to accept. If our head of state (and the commander-in-chief) cannot protect us or guarantee the safety of citizens against attacks by foreigners who are invading a territory he presides over, then we are in a mess.
Are you disappointed about President Muhammadu Buhari’s performance so far?
I am disappointed that Buhari has not disappointed me. The reason is that I spoke against him before the 2015 presidential election. I am not happy that his actions now have vindicated me that I am right concerning what I said about him. Back then, all his supporters said I was castigating him unnecessarily – that the actions he took during his first time of ruling the country were taken under military rule. I was expecting him to change. Now, we’re in a civilian regime, they said, and I told them they don’t know Buhari’s background. How can someone say Nigeria is not negotiable? How can you not negotiate the continued existence of a country with multiethnic nationalities? The Soviet Union existed for how many years? Did it not break eventually? What about Czechoslovakia? Did it not break up? So, why can’t Nigerians peacefully review the nation’s amalgamation? We need to review it –we cannot be held as if in a cage by force or by somebody or a group of people’s fiat. Anyone or any group that is opposed to the restructuring of the country is the enemy of the country.
What kind of restructuring are you looking at?
We want the country to be restructured under a truly federal constitution and for ethnic nationalities to live together in peace. Anything to the contrary will not augur well for the country. It is either a restructuring or there is no Nigeria – that is the truth. No government can keep the people together by force. We are calling for a restructuring of the country because we want the country to live together in peace. It will be impossible for any government to keep us together by force. All the lopsidedness of this country is in favour of people of Buhari’s origin. He holds the country cheaply by saying that foreigners are the ones invading the country. Foreigners invading a country under your watch and you fold your arms and do nothing? It is his duty to protect us against any attack, whether foreign or local. I have nothing against Buhari personally. He is the President of the country and I want him to succeed. But he must not be a partisan president.
Can you speak more on the mistakes you said Tinubu made?
Of course, he did (make a mistake supporting Buhari to become the president). I had said that ab initio – before the presidential poll was held. I said the greatest mistake Nigerians – Yoruba must not make was voting for Buhari. Everybody heard me when I said that. Many people said I was a Peoples Democratic Party’s apologist. I made that statement back then based on what I know about Buhari and his antecedents. Former President Goodluck Jonathan didn’t realise the importance of implementing the confab report on time. He promised that if given a second term as president he would examine the recommendations and try to implement them. The other man (Buhari) said he wasn’t going to look at the report at all. I think it is reasonable to consider the person who promised to do something. There’s nothing to accuse Buhari of now because he didn’t promise to implement the confab recommendations. I am – I repeat – disappointed that Buhari has not disappointed me. I was prepared for disappointment; I was waiting to be disappointed so that I could go to Buhari and tender an apology to him. In spite of saying in his acceptance speech that he’s a born-again democrat, nothing has changed about him.