By Omoniyi Salaudeen
At a time when the Federal Government is grappling with the challenges of economic recession as well as daunting security issues, agitations in one form or the other have continued to rear their heads. One of these is the failed attempt by some lawmakers from South-east to pass a bill for the creation of South-East Development Commission in the House of Representatives. The commission, according to them, is to rebuild the destruction experienced during the civil war in the same way North-east Development Commission is created to rehabilitate the states ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgency. In this interview, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, a prominent Yoruba leader, insists that only a restructuring of the country in a way that would satisfy all the constituent units could stem the tide of agitations. He also examines the two-year administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, giving a damning verdict of poor performance.
Last week, a proposal for the creation of South-East Development Commission was rejected by the House of Representatives. But the sponsors of the bill are insisting that a similar commission as North-East Development Commission must be created to rebuild the South-East which had also experienced destruction during the civil war. Do you see the timing of this agitation being auspicious?
They are all patching the issue. We have said it that the constitution of the country does not favour our corporate existence as a nation and that we need to change it and we have done it.
I am not interested in any patch work or amendment. We don’t need an amendment to the constitution. Rather, what we need is structural operation. And that is what we have done at the national conference. If they can’t implement that, then any patch work won’t satisfy anybody. We must restructure the country to the satisfaction of everybody.
I have never believed in Development Commission. For me, that is not the solution. The solution is federalism in all aspects. If we restructure, everybody will know how much is coming from his area. You are taking somebody’s resources, you are giving him pittance and then you are talking of development commission from his own money. In a federal constitution, the federating units are supposed to be in control of the resources in their areas and then pay tax to the centre. You can’t take the man’s money, give him pittance and even decide on how he spends the money. It is not within the tenets of the federal constitution.
So, they should go back to the basics. Any other thing is begging the issue.
What you are saying is that it is only restructuring that can end incessant separatist agitations?
That is my position. We must restructure the country in a way that everybody is satisfied. What they are now doing is patching of the constitution of the military, which favours a section of the country. Any other thing apart from a restructuring of the country is begging the issue. With the present arrangement, we can’t have peace. If there is no peace, how can we make progress? There can be no political stability without restructure. You leave the real issue; you are dealing with the symptoms. Anything sort of restructuring the country is begging the issue. If the Federal Government is sincere that is what they should do.
The Federal Government cannot impose a constitution on the rest of the country. I have said it time and again, without restructuring, there can be no Nigeria. Every section of the country has one complaint or the other which we have settled at the 2014 National Conference. If they say there are not interested in the report, then they are not interested in the peaceful coexistence of the union. They are only interested in the constitution that the military imposed just like the colonialists imposed amalgamation on us and nobody will accept that. The Federal Government dominated by the Northerners wants the military constitution to continue. It will not work. They are only looking for chaos by insisting on imposing it on the country. If they don’t restructure the country now, they must be prepared for the consequence of dissolution.
If Boko Haram insurgency which is ravaging the North-East had happened in the Southern part of the country, do you think the government would have deemed it necessary to create development commission to rebuild the affected states?
What has the government done about the destruction of the East, South-south, South-west and Agatu areas by the Herdsmen? What has the Federal Government done about Southern Kaduna? Are they not killing people in the South like Boko Haram? What has the government done about that? You are pretending as if you don’t know. It is the insincerity of the government that is not giving us acceptable constitution. And as long as that constitution is there, there will be no peace.
Some people have accused the Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, of favouring his Yoruba kinsmen in his recent appointment.
(Cuts in)….That is not the issue. When we accused Buhari of favouring the North in his appointments, what did they say? The issue is: restructure the country and let everybody be satisfied. It is lack of restructuring that encouraged Buhari to appoint almost all the security personnel from Katsina State. If Osinbajo now appoints people from his area, why are you complaining? I am not interested in that and I am not justifying it either. When you don’t have a fair constitution, you cannot have a fair result. The government at the centre is too powerful. And that is what we have addressed at the national conference by reducing the power of the president. You know the cause of the problem; you don’t want to deal with it. I have said enough for you people. But you journalists are always pretending instead of pinpointing what has happened.
As Journalists, we don’t create events; we only react by reporting.
But you have not reacted to this event. When Buhari appointed almost all the security people from Katsina, what did you say?
We reported it.
Ok, I have said enough. We shall see. I have said mine. Restructure or no Nigeria! I warned you before you voted for Buhari that he is a dictator who will not obey the rule of law, which is an element in a democracy. But he deceived the people pretending to be a born-again democrat. That is what you are paying for now.
Will his men accept that criticism? When he was travelling on medical vacation, he followed the rule of law by transmitting a letter to the National Assembly seeking for transfer of power to the Acting President.
(Cuts in)…Is that what we are talking about? When he disobeys the court orders, is that the rule of law? Don’t think we are fools in this country.
But what he did is part of the constitution. Isn’t it?
Leave that alone, nobody is criticizing that. What we are criticizing is what he does not do under the constitution. He obeyed the constitution, but the ones he didn’t obey; you are silent on them. You want to use the ones he obeyed to justify the ones he didn’t obey. What is the news about the constitution being obeyed? The news is what he doesn’t obey. And that is what is causing the confusion.
But we have had a situation in the past where such a simple action was not done. If he had not done it right, his action would have also been condemnable. Not so?
You don’t go by what is bad. Nobody approves of that. We are not accusing him of that either. We are accusing him of what he has not done. He was not sworn-in as president to choose which order to obey or not obey.
What is your assessment of his two-year-old administration?
It is a disaster. Two years of disaster! One of his campaign points is to wipe out corruption. And for that, I give him 40 percent. Why? He has been partisan in the way he has been fighting corruption. I support wiping out corruption, and he has made a number of attempts. But the attempts he has made are against the opposition. Corruption is corruption irrespective of whose ox is gored. Besides corruption, tell what else he has done. What has he done about security? What has he done about the killings in Southern Kaduna and other places and even in the Boko Haram area where he is claiming success? Up till today, Sambisa is still not conquered. Up till today, bombing is still going on in Maiduguri. He has not performed as people expected. You are fighting corruption and you surround yourself with people whose hands are dirty and you pretend you don’t know them.