In this interview with ENIOLA AKINKUOTU, Afenifere chieftain and Chairman of the defunct Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference, Senator Femi Okunrounmu, speaks about President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent appointments and the National Conference report
You, along with other leaders in the South, under the aegis of Southern Nigerian Peoples Assembly condemned President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to implement the National Conference report. Do you think he won’t implement the report?
The President is doing just what we had predicted that he would do. Those of us who believed that only former President Goodluck Jonathan was committed to implementing the resolutions of the conference made it clear before the elections that if Buhari wins, that would be the end of the recommendations of the conference. We predicted this and shouted from the rooftop but the people knew better and they have chosen him. So, I am not surprised that he is not keen on implementing the resolutions. We support all the measures taken by Buhari so far, like the war on corruption but we believe that if we implement the report of the National Conference, the tendency towards corruption will reduce permanently.
You just commended Buhari’s anti-corruption war which has revealed some corrupt practices under Jonathan and yet you supported Jonathan’s re-election. Why did Afenifere support a corrupt government?
The truth is that corruption was a way of life to all previous administrations. However, it became pronounced and institutionalised under Ibrahim Babangida. He made it a national culture and then his successor, Sani Abacha, took it to a higher level and then Abdulsalami Abubakar. It kept on getting worse, including the Olusegun Obasanjo regime. So, we are not saying that Jonathan’s regime is not corrupt but we are saying corruption is not the only problem. If we are going to tackle corruption, let us do it holistically and really begin from Babangida’s regime because all the characters of that regime are still alive.
The evidence of their corrupt acts is still available like the Haliburton scandal, the report of the investigation that was conducted is still on the President’s table. All those involved were mentioned and the bribes they took. The report has been available long before Jonathan became President but nothing was done. So, what we are saying is that corruption has always been entrenched in our government and to blame Jonathan for it is unfair. If you remember how Umaru Yar’Adua and Jonathan got into power, in fact, they were funded by the most corrupt governors in the PDP at the time. Most of the governors that sponsored Yar’Adua were the most corrupt and had even been indicted by the Nuhu Ribadu-led Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the commission had given the report to Obasanjo.
Obasanjo then blackmailed those governors to shelve their presidential ambitions because he wanted to impose Yar’Adua and he made them to fund Yar’Adua’s campaign. And you know when a person is funded by corrupt people, how can the person turn around and fight those same people? When Yar’Adua got to power, the closest people to him were those corrupt people who funded him like James Ibori. They were always dining together at Aso Rock. No court in Nigeria could jail Ibori for corruption. It took an English court to find him guilty. So, when you owe your electoral victory to those corrupt people that funded your campaign, it would be too much for you to fight them. So, that hampered Yar’Adua and Jonathan because their administrations were products of corruption.
There has been much talk about the President’s appointments in favour of the North.
As a Yoruba man I am very uncomfortable with this. Buhari had a reputation for ethnic bias and when we said it during the election, they said we were lying. The change the APC was talking about meant two different things. The APC in the North saw change as an opportunity to return power to the region while those in the South-West were looking for genuine social change. At the end, the North just used the South-West to climb back into Aso Rock
But with Tinubu as the National Leader of the APC, he should be able to protect the interest of the Yoruba people.
Tinubu’s story is like Afonja in Ilorin in 1817. Ilorin used to be under the Oyo Empire and was the headquarters of an Oyo General, Afonja. But Afonja rebelled against the empire and helped bring about its collapse with the assistance of the Fulani. Afonja was assisted by Shehu Alimi, who was a Fulani leader. In 1824 Afonja was assassinated and Alimi’s son became Emir and Ilorin became an emirate of the Sokoto Caliphate
It was naive of Tinubu to think that Buhari would just get power and he (Tinubu) would become the kingmaker of Nigeria. That is what Tinubu expected and that was why we kept reminding him of the Ilorin episode. We told him that once Buhari got power, he would turn around and just forget about him and implement a northern hegemonic agenda which Buhari is doing now.
In 1960, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello, made a statement publicly that the northerners should regard Nigeria as their conquered territory and that they own Nigeria. He said the entire South-West and South-East should be regarded as conquered territory and that the North should never allow the South to govern. This statement was widely reported in the media. It was in the West African Pilot of October 12, 1960. The quote was boldly published. So, the keys to the chains of slavery we thought we could use to break free were just given back to the North by the APC. The APC became an agent of oppression and enslavement. We can all see that Buhari only tricked Tinubu to get power back to the North.
But under the APC, the South-West produced the vice-president and some could argue that under Jonathan, the South-West was not even in the corridors of power.
First of all, a vice-president has no power. A vice-president can just be sitting at his table and be reading newspapers for four years. A vice-president in a presidential system anywhere in the world does not have any powers. Even in the American system which we copied, most people do not even remember who the vice-president is. Even when Jonathan was the President, what powers did his deputy have? Nothing much. So, stop saying we have the vice-president.
We Yoruba are very educated and we shouldn’t be fooled so easily. Even look at the 36 state governors and their deputies. How many deputy governors have power? The relationship is the same between the President and his deputy. The vice-president is as powerful as the President wants him to be. If the President doesn’t want him to see anything happening, he cannot see anything and he has no choice. So, being a vice-president is not anything to be proud of.
Look at the power configuration in Nigeria today; there are three arms of government: The executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The executive is headed by Buhari who is a northerner; the two arms of the legislature which are the Senate and the House of Representatives, are headed by northerners: Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara respectively. The Chief Justice, Mahmoud Mohammed, who heads the judiciary, is also a northerner. So, the entire government is completely in the hands of the northerners.
To compound it all, look at all the appointments that Buhari has been making. About 90 per cent of his appointees are northerners. In the first appointment he made, eight were from the North while only one was from the South. Subsequently, he made about 30 appointments and only six are from the South and the rest from the North. And if you look at all the important offices today, they are all in control of the North including security agencies like the Comptrollers General of immigration and customs. Even those surrounding the President personally are all northerners except the Senior Special Adviser on Media, Femi Adesina, who is in charge of polishing Buhari’s public image.
So, is this the change we were asked to vote for? I am sure this is not what Tinubu had in mind and this is what we are getting. Southerners have never had it so bad in Nigeria. We have a President whose plan is to extend the Fulani empire to the South and to the Atlantic which has always been their goal.
What is the next line of action for the Yoruba race?
What we must do is to put on our thinking caps. We have been led astray by Tinubu. Tinubu did all this for his own selfish agenda. We all know what he did in Lagos but because he has so much money, whatever he says is believed hook, line and sinker. We must educate ourselves and use our brains. I have never hesitated in telling people that Tinubu is not the right leader for the Yoruba race. He is not truthful and that was why Gani Fawehinmi took him to court.