Chief Ayo Adebanjo who is a leader of the Yoruba group, Afenifere and a top member of the defunct Action Group, has expressed his take on the ruling All Progressives Congress, where they got it wrong and the mistake Tinubu made.
In this interview with Vanguard, Adebanjo also talked about why Buhari is not the right person to amend the constitution, and the need to implement the recommendations of the constitutional conference of the Jonathan administration.
Read excerpts below:
What’s your take on the way things are going in this new government?
I have been very careful about commenting because it’s just about less than two months since they took over and it’s too early to judge them. If they were like 100 days in office or even one year, you can now begin to take stock but just over 30 days is not enough. Some people are late starters who start slow and sluggish but eventually pick up and maybe, Buhari is one of them.
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If I judge him by his performance the first time time, I can say he has potentials of a good performer but I think he should be given more time. They have four years to perform. Let us not condemn what we don’t even know. After four years, we can judge them but right now, no.
But people have started calling him Baba go slow
I told you I don’t want to start blaming anybody, I still want to give them the long road to perform. I won’t condemn virtually. Let’s give them time and see how it goes. Probably after a year or two, we can now start saying something. It is still early.
But those who pushed the change government spoke about immediate change on coming to board?
Yes, that was the expectation but that does not mean that he cannot perform. Many of you thought this man will perform wonders with the way he was pushing and now, you are expecting the wonders overnight. I won’t talk now because I was not expecting anything. I didn’t believe he would work wonders and so, I’m not disappointed. I didn’t support him and I want to give them time to disappoint me, to prove me wrong. So it is too early to say that they are not performing.
Many are dismayed because of how things started; a house divided against itself cannot stand and many are even beginning to allege that the party is going to scatter and some groups may pull out if party problems continue the way they are now?
There are so many who are good among them. Those of you who are expecting signs and wonders should give them time to perform, say a year or more. And after that, you can now lay your complaints. The Yoruba has a saying that if something did not happen in the morning, it will happen in the night. There is also another Yoruba saying that when a small boy is cutting a tree in the forest, if he does not take time, he will not know where he is.
When people were campaigning of age and talking about the past record of this man put together, some of you said no, that was in the past. They shouldn’t complain now. We want them to perform now and to prove us wrong. It is not for us who don’t want him to judge him, it is left for those of you who put him there to see things as they are.
But he said we should put him on his toes to do the right thing
That is not my viewpoint. I’m saying you should give him time to perform, that it is too early to judge him. There are some people who are slow starters and if you do not give them time, they will start laying blames. They should not embarrass him or divide his attention by cajoling him.
What do you have to say about what is happening in the national assembly?
It is very disgraceful that they are fighting, that is one. The National Assembly should learn how to perform as an independent body, there should be no interference. What is happening there, happened before and heavens did not fall. We know how Tambuwal became the Speaker of the House. The leaders of ACN at that time said it was democracy.
The then speaker, Tambuwal and other PDP members swallowed their pride and carried on for four years. So, they should swallow their own pride and carry on. Why are they quarreling? They said it was democracy when Tambuwal emerged. It is still democracy now. They should swallow their pride like PDP did and move on. You should be judging your candidates. They should compare what they are doing now and what they did in the past.
I would like to give all of them time to perform. Buhari as an individual is a performer. He has a good character. So, some of us are saying that maybe the people around him are the problem. It happens in every government when people who breed confusion surround the persons holding the mandate. So we should not be dwelling on the past records, we have passed the campaign period, we are now in the period of performance. For me, I want to give him time.
There seems to be this issue between Buhari as a person and the APC; the party will stand on one thing and he will stand on the other side. For instance, during the election of the key national assembly leaders, when it happened the way it did, he said okay, it is the rule of law. But the party seems not be happy with his position.
The ball is in your court, you are the judge. All these things are before you journalists, put them together and bring them to the public. You are the people who mirror what is happening, mirror properly and send to the public. That is the only way to help the country.
Many think he’s operating a Northern agenda based on the appointments he made so far
The new President will put his own people. He can choose from any part of the country of his choice. He has the right to do that, but there should be a balance. I still say that you are the judge. You are one of the stakeholders. If there is anything you are not finding funny, say it. There are so many things that are involved.
Where people are allowed to govern not with their ideology or principle, it can never work. People that gathered in APC are people of different sheds of political opinions with one agenda; to remove the government of the day for them to get there. But there was no agreement on power sharing when they get there and that is the problem. That is why I said, let us wait and see, it is too early to judge.
This was our own analysis before the election, when we saw the people gather to remove the Jonathan government. I am not saying that the Jonathan government was a perfect government. Yes, it has all sorts of things that we should disagree with. There was corruption but now it seems Jonathan was the special one. There was always corruption. I think the only thing this regime needs to do is to implement the recommendations of the confab.
Do you think those recommendations will be implemented?
It should be and that was why I said I would not vote for Buhari. That is why I said that in-spite of Jonathan indifference, he should be voted for because that will help to balance the in-balance in the country. But Nigerians said no, I cannot force them to do that. Those recommendations go into the problems of the country.
If you read very carefully the stand of Afenifere in this matter, you will know where we are going. All the problems we are talking about in the country, the lies in the reshuffling of the country, they are all there. Now, we are talking about the atonement of one region or the other. All these things have been dealt with in the recommendations of the confab. This are some things that are supposed to be constitutionalized.
The issue of corruption that they are talking about is because there is too much money in the centre which is still occurring now. We have removed all that. What I was complaining of is what is happening now. You have conducted the election under the old constitution. You now say that you want to play the guide of the states, how do you do it?
If you keep using the revenue formula of the old constitution, the imbalance will continue. And that means more money will be going to the North than to the South because they have more local government areas there and you are going to divide the thing on the basis of that. Is that justice? And once we all refer to the constitution which we have agreed is unfair, the problems will continue. So, since you are getting the result of what you refused to do, don’t complain.
I have no objection to that. I only say that it should not contribute to our problem. I added that under the recognition of the confab, all these things have been worked out. All the activities of the government are under the constitution. Everybody believes that the present Nigerian constitution makes the president too powerful than anywhere in the world. Obasanjo had the problem of changing this constitution. What people are complaining about right now was there before Obasanjo and he said he was going to do it.
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He set up a fake confab group while he nominated Goodluck all for himself and he wanted to run for the third time. And when that failed, he left. We have not gone to the basics of our problem. We are just scratching them. As long as we refuse to get a balanced federation where everybody believes that there will be fairness, we will continue having this problem.
The President and the Vice President with some other officials and state governors have slashed their salaries by 50%, do you see that as a solution to the corruption problem?
The salary is nothing. Once anybody gets there, they want to eat as much as they can. It is the allowances of the government officials that is important. It is not salaries. It is the allowances that is the issue and if they are serious, they should cut down their allowances. There is too much money in the centre.
The centre is too powerful. We have to reduce the allocations from the centre to the states. This will reduce the avenue of corruption but they do not want to go to the roots. We have gone to the roots of these things and we have discussed them. All these cosmetic approaches to solving problems will not achieve anything.
The South-West voted profusely for this new government and their leader, Jagaban was a principal figure in the ruling party. But since the assumption of office, things have been falling apart. Everything he wants has been jettisoned. What do you have to say about that?
When people are coming together ,they are doing so for their personal purposes. When they wanted to start this APC, we knew the foundation was not right. We complained about their compatibility. We said they were not compatible. They did not agree with that and continued. On the surface, they appeared compatible but the truth remains they were strange bed fellows.
Jagaban knows very well the position of the west but he thought that he would be clever enough to use the north to achieve what he wanted. There was no agreement on how the country should be run. He should have settled all these problems of equity and fairness with them before doing business together.
But they came in with vested interests just to come into power. They did not agree on how to share power and all that. It was not the right thing to do. They are now trying to share power after getting into power. They never agreed on how to share it before getting into power, it is a basic flop in their arrangement. That was the mistake he(Bola Tinubu referred as Jagaban) made.
Don’t you think this can still be corrected?
I don’t know if they can. It is left to them. I think they can correct all that made them incompatible. One of the corrections is going for the recommendations of the confab. That is the basic thing that the country needs and my campaign then was that we needed a change of the constitution. When you change the constitution, most problems will be solved. Go and read the recommendations of the confab. When we implement them, a lot will change.
You know this winner-take-all syndrome of Nigerian politicians is really affecting the country?
That comes because we have not gotten to the basic issues. If you agree on the constitutional change, winner cannot take all. Under the recommendations of the confab, winner cannot take all. Everybody knows what is right, where to get it and how to get it under a stipulated rule. A constitution that allows a governor to acquire massive wealth when leaving the office is not fair.
They are now getting wardrobe allowance. Were they appearing naked before getting into office? Those of us who have been in this fight for so long know what we are fighting for. They should go to the basics and under the recommendations of the confab, there is equality in the creation of states in all the regions. And we have transferred local government to the state government and thereby, the question of distribution of revenue is equitable.
The problem is that each government changes things. We know about the confabs we have had in the past regimes, we also know about Oputa panel.
You are going back to what we all know. Whether Oputa panel or anything, during the Abacha regime, I agitated for restructuring of the country and I gave the picture of the restructuring that we are talking of. It was the military that structured Nigeria after the coup of 1966. The constitution that we are using now is a military constitution. It is not the constitution that our forefathers got to us.
When the coup happened in 1966, the military changed everything and that is why after the Abacha regime, because we did not want violence, we said let us go to a round table and change all these. That was why we called for a constitution conference to restructure the country. If we do not know where we are going, we know where we are coming from.
If we had addressed all these things from the root, we would not have all the problems that we are having now. The problem we are having now is because of non compliance to the federal principle of the country. I want to ask this question, since that confab, have you seen anybody criticise the recommendations of the confab? If we all agree on that, why don’t we do it for the peace of this country?
If you are asked to advice President Buhari, what advice would you give him?
I will first ask him to go and implement the recommendations of the confab. You will be shocked that in the process of implementing the recommendation of the confab, the solution to the corruption problem will come up. What some of us are saying which he is trying to justify by his action is that a lot of the things in the unjust constitution favours the people of the north and that is why it will not be easy for a northerner to do that. Let him prove us wrong by doing that.
The beneficiary of the in-balance of this constitution are the northerners. We want equitable distribution. We don’t want any region to be more favoured than the other. That is why we are saying he should make everybody equal for peace to reign. He should go back and implement the recommendations. Not doing that is not compatible with his anti corruption stuff.
That means you think he is running a Northern agenda
All that you are talking about goes to the implementation of the constitution. If you want to make everybody equal, go to the recommendation and implement it, and nobody will complain. The bulk of the recommendation is for the interest of the country and until it is done, there will be no peace. Let him do what the people want.
It is very strange that almost 500 distinguished Nigerians made those recommendations from all walks of life and they passed 600 resolutions unanimously. You cannot get the composition of the conference as distinguished as the one Jonathan demonstrated. I challenge anybody to do that. So, you implement it and see what will happen. There will be peace and you will take the glory as somebody who brought peace to the country.