Chief Ayo Adebanjo is a chieftain of pan Yoruba group, Afenifere, and a former National Chairman of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). In this interview with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, he speaks on the state of the nation, Afenifere crisis and the battle for 2023 presidency, among others
What is your take on the on the 43-man ministerial list by President Muhammadu Buhari, who have already been screened by the National Assembly?
I have no comment because I don’t recognise him (Buhari), so it would be an anti-climax if I speak on that. I won’t recognise him until the decision of the Supreme Court. If I don’t recognise him as president, what right do I have to say he has not done certain things? I didn’t expect anything from him because I don’t believe he was duly elected.
What informed your insistence that he was not duly elected?
Don’t you see what is going on at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal? I believe the election was rigged for him. It is a stolen mandate. So, why do I have to comment on somebody I don’t believe is there?
Are you saying that President Buhari is holding on to a stolen mandate?
Of course, until the Supreme Court says otherwise. Are you not following the evidence before the tribunal, where the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is been openly disgraced for saying it hasn’t got evidence to show that Buhari scored millions during the presidential election, when people are saying there was no election. Is that the man you want me to recognise? Anyway, the case is still in court, so let us see what Supreme Court will say.
But INEC declared President Buhari as winner of the election…
If I had agreed with INEC, I would have recognised him. INEC is part of the fraud; a man who used an instrument only to say it never existed, but his staff insist that it existed. That case is in court, so don’t go there. That is why I said until the case is done, I am of the view that he was not duly elected. And until the Supreme Court says otherwise, I won’t recognise him.
Is your position based on your support for the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, during the election?
Of course! Didn’t I campaign for him? I am not a hidden supporter. I campaigned for him on the basis that he must restructure the country. I even said then that if Buhari too says he is going to restructure Nigeria, he becomes my candidate. I don’t discuss the past of anybody now. I won’t talk like some people who are criticizing Olusegun Obasanjo; saying he was this, he was that. Will that solve the problem we have now in the country? I am looking forward. I don’t discuss the messenger; I discuss the message.
Looking at the ministerial list, some people are of the view that the nominees are mostly “recycled politicians” given that are former governor, ex-minister and senators….
I don’t recognise the man who came up with the list. By discussing those elements, I will be discussing as somebody who is saying this is what I expect him to do; this is what he has not done. I campaigned against him not to be elected for some of the reasons you are now seeing. He is not capable of doing anything rational from what he has done. From what I knew about him on his first coming, I warned the people of the Western Region that they will regret voting for him because the man is a dictator. Don’t forget, I am a lawyer; you want to drag me to discuss the issue before the court because these are all the things I summarised to say no, he is not my candidate.
What if the Supreme Court affirms President Buhari’s victory?
I will tolerate him if the Supreme Court says he was duly elected. I am a law abiding citizen, and as a lawyer, I believe the Supreme Court is the apex court and I can’t be wiser. So, I will tolerate whatever happens.
Are you saying that if the Supreme Court rules in favour of the President, you are going to tolerate his administration?
I will tolerate the administration and begin to work towards the next election. You must take significant note of what I am saying. The moment the Supreme Court, which is the apex court rules on the matter, whether you like it or not, that is the final judgement on that. You know, when people lose cases at the Supreme Court, they still believe that may be the opinion of the court but they believe it is not right opinion and that is why sometimes they appeal to the court for a review of that decision. And until they review the decision, I am not going to abide by it. That is why I said I will tolerate him. So, discussing him then is tolerating what the Supreme Court has said as a law abiding citizen.
You said that you will begin to work towards the next election if the Supreme Court declares Buhari as president. What is the preparation for the next general election about?
So that anybody he supports will not be a candidate. There are certain reasons the Supreme Court will give why they confirmed him and I will work along that, so that the same mistakes will not repeat itself.
Are you saying that the race for 2023 will start immediately after the ruling of the Supreme Court?
Don’t deceive yourself, there can’t be 2023 in this country as long as we continue with the present constitution; it will not be. That one, I can say for certain. If this constitution is not changed drastically; it is not the question of amendment, it is not about going to the National Assembly because the National Assembly is part of the problem. Until we exist on the constitution made by the people; not the one imposed on us by the military Muslim North. If you recollect all that I have been saying; I don’t hate Buhari, it is what he represents and what he stands for that I disagree with and I always give my reason.
But people who want to cause confusion will say because he is Fulani; that is why I am stigmatizing him. They forget that Atiku, who I am supporting, is not an Ijebu man. They also forgot that I have said it repeatedly and Buhari has not denied it that I supported him in 2007. He bought us an Aso Oke, which we wore. We campaigned for him at Adamasingba Stadium in Ibadan. We have not lost our senses. There were certain terms on which we voted for him then and when that terms no longer exits, why will I support him?
What was the term then?
He said he was going to support restructuring. It is the same reason he gave to Pastor Tunde Bakare, when he made him his running mate. Of course, Jagaban (Asiwaju Bola Tinubu) allowed himself to be deceived. Restructuring is in the manifesto of APC, has it done it? Everything I am saying about this man is an open secret.
You said there will not be 2023, but some people have already started working towards it?
Those people can’t see the handwriting on the wall. So, you believe Buhari and the North will allow anybody to contest again. They have started the confusion among the people of the South, by someone saying I will vote for Tinubu instead of voting for South-East. It is all gimmicks. Tinubu knows that they are deceiving him. They are only causing division in the South to create quarrel between the South-West and South-East. It is all part of the Fulani gimmicks. I don’t buy that and they know I don’t.
Why is the contest for 2023 now turning to a battle between the North and South?
The tricks of Fulani people like Buhari is to divide and rule. Look at it; if it is not a deceit, you say you believe in one Nigeria and you say in this Nigeria, only a section of the country will be president, one section will not be there. Does that show unity? This is one of the reasons why I disagree with them. The mere saying that they will not allow the South-East to produce the president is an antidote to crisis the country. How can we be in an organisation and one member of the organisation is not entitled to the benefits of the organisation.
Secondly, Buhari knows that he is deceiving Tinubu except that Tinubu doesn’t know or is stupid not to know because there is enough evidence. He has become so paranoid of becoming president that he couldn’t see the handwriting on the wall. Is APC one? From what you know, which of the state of the federation is APC united to say this is going to be our candidate? The party will only be united in keeping the presidency in the North.
Are you saying that the South will not get the presidency in 2023?
I have told you my belief; there would be no 2023 in Nigeria and Buhari will be the last President of Nigeria if this constitution is not changed to a constitution made by all of us.
Some years ago, some people said there would not be 2015 if some things were not done and they said the same thing in 2019. But Nigeria still had the 2015 and 2019 general elections…
You are being superficial; you don’t understand. What I am saying is my belief. If this constitution is not changed, there would be no 2023 in Nigeria.
Many think that you will support one of your kinsmen for the presidency in 2023, but few months ago, you said the presidency should go to the South-East?
I am not a senseless and unrealistic South-Westerner. I am a Westerner who believes in Nigeria under equitable terms. I am a Westerner who believes that if we are going to keep Nigeria as one, there should be no section of the country that should be excluded from being president. It is a matter of principle and equity. It is a matter of sincerity. Anybody who thinks otherwise is not sincere. You can’t have peace without equity. What we are suffering now is as a result of inequity. Where there is inequity, there would be no peace. It is a simple logic.
I give you an example; if you are in a club and you know that as a member of that club you are entitled to A,B,C, D. If they threaten you with expulsion and you know what you are going to lose, you will behave. But if you are there and there is no point of being there; you want this they won’t give you; you want that, they won’t give you. What is the essence of being there? If you are not satisfied with it, you get out. But if you believe there are a lot of advantages, you will beg to stay in the club.
That was why I said that if Buhari is sincere about keeping this country together, he should have called the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and ask them why they want to get out of Nigeria. What is their problem, let us sit down and talk because that was what we did in 1954 when Sardauna said he doesn’t want to be part of Nigeria. Chief Obafemi Awolowo persuaded him to stay and be in Nigeria under a federal system. At that time, Nnamdi Azikwe and the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) were clamouring and insisting on unitary form of government.
It was until the country now returned to federalism after that conference in London that we all agreed on the terms of being together under federalism. That was the time the post of premiership was included in the constitution. It was not until 1954 after the London Conference that we have a premier in the Western Region. Under federalism, we were coordinate government not subordinate as it is now. As it is now, our governors are lame dog governors. They are chief security officers without instrument of security. That is what is causing our problem. If the governors are in charge of security in their respective states, there would be no question of killing and raping by one section of the country against the other.
Is your view and support for South-East presidency in 2023 based on your disagreement with the leadership of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South-West?
The APC leaders are stooges to Buhari. They are not honest people. My support for South-East is a matter of equity. The South-West has been president, the North has been president, the South-South has produced president; it is only South-East that has not been president. After other regions have produced president, it should be the turn of the South-East. It is a matter of constitutional equity. It is a matter of patriotism to show sincerely that we want everybody together. You can’t keep everybody together when you are running a government of exclusion.
Do you think that the South-East is prepared for the presidency in 2023, considering statements by some of their leaders that they don’t need Nigeria’s presidency?
They said they will not get president under this constitution. You are following the gimmicks of APC and people confusing the issue. The South-East people know the constitution we are fighting for. They believe that we have a constitution under a federal system and under the 2014 National Conference recommendations; we have constitutionalised how everybody will become president without exclusion. Those are the reasons why we are insisting on implementation of the report of the 2014 National Conference if we are sincere about keeping the country together.
Why are you insisting that President Buhari should implement the report of the 2014 National Conference when ex-President Goodluck Jonathan who conveyed the confab refused to do anything with the report, especially sections that require only executive order despite having nine months before the end of his tenure?
That is all gimmicks. Is that what invalidated the conference? If you believe what the conference did was right but because the man didn’t do it, therefore you are not going to do it, why are you there? Jonathan didn’t say he will not implement the 2014 National Conference. During the 2015 elections, Jonathan said ‘I have not done it but if you give me another chance, I will do it.’ I am prepared to gamble with somebody who says he will do it than somebody who said I will not do it.
Prior to the 2015 general elections, Buhari and the APC promised to address three things – economy, corruption and insecurity. Looking at his first term, do you think he kept to his campaign promises?
I am not the only one in Nigeria, and don’t forget, restructuring is in their manifesto. It is still in their manifesto, which one have they implemented. You want me to be discussing government again; he promised to fight corruption and insecurity. Is he fighting corruption or probably doing selective fight against corruption? Somebody who said he has zero tolerance for corruption made someone who was found guilty of corruption a minister.
Buhari told us that anybody who is convicted won’t be in his cabinet. He is now putting in his cabinet somebody who has been found guilty of corruption. His properties that were seized have been returned to him and he crowned it by putting him in his cabinet with the lawyer who prosecuted him as prosecutor on behalf of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
These are issues the press as the Fourth Estate of the Realm should bring to the fore for the public to see. The man who was described as king of corruption found a corrupt person as a governor, disciplined him and the man who said he is fighting corruption now brings that person back, returned all the properties seized from him then bring him back into