Fulani Herdsmen ‘’II Ruin Buhari’s Govt If… Says Further Killings and Raping’II Lead to Chaos….Blasts Obasanjo, N/Assembly
Chief Ayo Adebanjo is among the last of the “Titans” who fought side by side with the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, especially in the turbulent days of the First Republic. He is also one of the founding fathers of the defunct Action Group. He was also in the Awolowo-led Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) in the Second Republic. He was a member of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) which took to the trenches in the wake of the June 12 debacle. At the inception of the latest democratic experiment in 1999, he joined the late Pa Abraham Adesanya and the late Chief Bola Ige, among others, to form the Alliance for Democracy which held sway in the South-west. Today, he is a prominent leader of the pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere. The octogenarian remains passionate about the Nigerian Project and will not hesitate to bare his mind not minding whose horse is gored.
The New Diplomat Team of the Chairman and Editor-in Chief, OMA DJEBAH; the Editor, YEMI OGUNSOLA and Business and Public Policy Editor, LEKAN OKEOWO sought him out at his Lekki home. In his usual no-holds-barred manner, he opened up on sundry matters of state, including why he supported Goodluck Jonathan in the last general election, the culpable silence of President Muhammadu Buhari on the incessant killing and raping of Nigerians by Fulani militia men, the rot in the National Assembly, why Buhari opposes the confab recommendations and why there may be a resurgence of agitations in parts of the country. Excerpts
The current leadership of the Senate is enmeshed in corruption trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal over false asset declaration, as one of the founding fathers of the country who fought for independence, is this what you had in mind?
There is no point comparing what we have now with what our anticipations were. Nothing to compare. There is lot of indiscipline going on, don’t forget those that are in power now have no clear-cut policy before they came into power. Like I have said before, what they agreed upon was that Jonathan was bad, it is sad that the inadequacies of Jonathan has not been substituted with their own clear-cut policies. If not, are they just knowing that the economy of the country was going to fail when the oil money has been falling over the years? When they were promising about employment, they should have thought about how they were going to improve on employment; is it Agriculture? If it is agriculture, what do you do to improve agriculture? We have been talking about the complaint of poor remuneration in education, you have not told us how you are going to improve on salary, all the universities are churning out poor graduates, that is acknowledged, you did not map out a plan for us on how that will be rectified. Even when he appointed ministers, there were no plans that the ministers were set out to accomplish.
You see, these people are always in trouble with those of us who fought for independence and who were in the Action Group because our minds goes back to how we ran the government of the Western Region at that time and how the party came into existence. That is why they say we were too stubborn, we were too rigid. Before we came into power in 1952, we had mapped out what was wrong with the colonial administration, and that time it was the government of the Western Region — including Edo and Delta. Before then, our budget was 5.25 million pounds. When we started free education and we knew that that budget could not accommodate free education, we sat down to plan. From 1952, we introduced capitation tax. Capitation in the sense that every head would pay, man or a woman. We did that for three years before we started the free education in 1955. We set up a committee to locate where the primary school would be in such a way that no pupil should travel more than three miles to get to a school. Alayande and some others went round the whole of the western region to locate where those primary schools would be. We also found out how many Teacher Training Colleges we needed to produce the teachers that we needed to teach the pupils
Where is such planning now? It is only after getting into office that they started setting up a committee on economy, on this after almost a year in power Is that how to run a government?
The moment we came into office in 1952, all the commissioners and ministers at that time already had a road map. The commissioner of health was not asking what to do, he only comes to the Federal Executive Committee meeting to make a report on how far he has gone with the project in his hand. Each ministers has a policy statement of his department ready in his hand. What have you got here now?
Even on the wiping out of corruption, they are arresting here and there, sometimes illegally not in accordance with the rule of law, this is my quarrel with them. I am in support of them to wipe off corruption because the money some people are stealing is just too much, we could have used that for some other things.
But, the question is, how do we stop corruption from the source, that is what is important, and one of the things Buhari should look into is how come parties compel candidates seeking elective positions to pay so much before they can contest their parties’ primaries? That is the beginning of corruption. When you have to pay so much to contest party’s primaries what gives you the assurance that you will win?
How can you then win an election and say that you won’t be corrupt when you consider all the money that you have spent. For instance, you have to pay N27 Million to contest the primary not to talk of what is spent on the election proper, can he recoup all that with his legitimate salaries? These are the things that breed corruption. You can discipline yourself and say you won’t be corrupt but, how can that be possible when people have been selling their properties to contest election? That is why I said that you cannot compare that regime with this one.
What is your rating of the present day National Assembly compared to what used to be in your time?
One of the fundamental things that we all agree upon is that we are running an executive system of governance that is very expensive; that we are not matured to run. The First Republic ran the parliamentary system of governance. The paraphernalia of the executive system of government is so much that the current expenditure overrides the capital. There is the Secretary to the State Government, this and that offices, all these are the defects that do not make progress meaningful. So, I continue to say that we have to go to the root. I continue to say, I am not a PDP person, I keep repeating that my support for Jonathan is not because I am a member of the PDP, but only because the man said he was going to implement the recommendations of the national confab and why?
You see, people have not been asking the right questions, we have only being talking about the messenger, not the message. Why is this man talking about the recommendations of the confab? Because the recommendations of the confab goes to the root of the various areas of conflict in the constitution — the minorities, the majorities, unemployment were all solved at the confab. The problem of local police was solved at the confab, even the Boko Haram issues will be solved.
The little success that was achieved in the fight against Boko Haram was because the local vigilante was involved and we are talking about state police, you said “no”.
It is the local man that will know who is who. How do you bring a Sokoto man to Akwa Ibom? Does he know the terrain? Does he know the language? Or you bring a Kaduna man to Ijebu, he will be lost, and that is what we are trying to say and furthermore, fundamentally, there is nowhere in the world that you have a federal constitution with the police centralised.
I asked Ibrahim Coomasie, (former Inspector General of Police) at the confab: “Have you heard of an Inspector General of Police in the United States of America or even in Great Britain? What you have is Chief of Police, everything is localised.”
It is the local people that will know their people, they will know when the man was recruited into the police to the time that he became a senior police officer, because it is within the same locality, they know him inside out.
These are all the flaws in the constitution that we felt if they are rectified, it will help us to move forward. And again many people don’t know and I continue to say if we were not running a truly federal constitution, chief Obafemi Awolowo would not have made the progress, won’t have performed the wonders he did in the whole of the Western Region.
Now we are talking about solid minerals, that we are going back to it, is the solid minerals not under the federal government? Whereas in the old constitution that the army set aside solid minerals were under the regions.
People should go and study that recommendation, now the National Assembly said they are going to review the constitution, is it the same constitution that billions have been used to review?
People should ask, what is wrong with the recommendations of the confab that made the National Assembly reject it that they want to do their own? If anything is wrong with it, why not put it down and correct it?
The other man who was defending the review of the constitution said there was no law that supports the recommendations, I said, “Ok, they are only being legalistic. Put aside the law, what are the recommendations of the confab? Is it in the interest of the country? If it is, then legalise it. That is the way to move forward. I am not saying swallow it hook, line and sinker. If there is anything wrong with the confab, tell us at least what you are going to substitute with it instead of wasting our money all over again to do what has been done.
The senate was part of the problem that was solved at the confab, they are part of the problem. Until now, do you know how much they earn in the Senate?
Are you aware they budgeted about N4.7 billion for exotic vehicles
We had cut that down at the confab. If you start talking about this now, they will say that you are anti-Buhari. I am not anti-Buhari, Buhari as a person is an acceptable leader that is good for this time, but there are no instruments for him to work with for what he stands for and the people surrounding him are people with feet of clay. Those are his handicaps, he would have found out now that a lot of things that he wants to do have been curtailed and hindered by people in his cabinet
How does Buhari move forward?
Very simple, implement the recommendation of the confab, give each region autonomy. You see, the Niger-Delta that we are talking about, give them their autonomy and their allocation. If their rulers fail them they will know how to deal with them
How can somebody be producing the money and they come to Abuja and see how much they spend there and you look at the level of development and won’t take up arms.
In 1999, I was campaigning in Bayelsa. I don’t know what has happened now, but then there was only one road. I also know the terrain, the road that will take N1,000 to do here will take N9,000 or even N10,000.
The people are asking that they should be given money to take care of themselves, you are now saying you will be the one that will determine for the producer how much he will get for his products. And you now say because they forced us together in 1949, you will take more because you have land mass that produces nothing.
It is only in this country that the nearer you go to the desert, the more the population you have.
I don’t know what your geography says, but I know that all over the world, the area near the desert has the lower population. The vegetation area gets the greater population, but here the reverse is the case. These are all the anomalies in the constitution.
All these things I said before the election and want to repeat, I don’t have anything against Buhari, if he takes our criticism in good faith he will soon know that we are the people who love him better and he will go and do some of the things we are talking about. I want him to prove me wrong on all the allegations. If he does that fine, I don’t want him to confirm all I am saying. But, for him to be behaving the way I have criticised him before the elections is not good for the country. I want him to make a right about turn and do what I said he cannot do and then therefore falsify my statement then we will move forward.
How can the leader of the country be turning a deaf ear to a national issue. East, South and West people are complaining of the killing and atrocities of the Fulani Herdsmen all over the country. The question is this, “Do you do cattle rearing with guns? I can’t understand. There is no clear-cut policies statement on how to put a stop to it. Are we going to continue like that and when the affected parties can no longer take it anymore, and say “enough is enough”, what do you have? Conflagration. I do not want that.
Ahead of the 2019 election, if Afenifere is able to revive its structure and put forward a candidate, what conditions would be given to such a candidate?
We have always had a manifesto. And when you are talking about Afenifere, is it the Afenifere of the Action Group? The problem we had in 1952 is not different from what we have now, so is our plan.
If there is no money, we plan on how to get the money, it is not when you get into office that you begin to plan, that is the first thing for any serious government, that is the bottom-line. How can somebody who had been agitating to be president for over 16 years be without a plan? There must have been something wrong with the government of the day that you want to replace. Or is he just agitating to be president because Obasanjo was there and he wants to send him away and do what he is doing or that he wants to be like the former President Umaru Yar’Adua, or like Jonathan, there must have been something wrong with their government, that they are doing wrong and that I want to improve or this is what they have done right we will continue with it that is how to run a government and why they said Government is a continuum unlike what they are doing now that they are not the one who set up the confab, the bottom line is if you are working for the welfare of the people and if what the confab has done is good why not implement it for the good of the people? And if it is not perfect, why not perfect it for the good of the people?
There are growing complaints that the National Assembly is very corrupt and that it is only the Judiciary that can, through the instrumentality of the court, get them out or through impeachment. What do you think this portends for our democracy?
If you look at our recommendations from the confab we never wanted to put the recommendations before the assembly. What we suggested is that whatever we recommend will be subjected to a referendum because the National Assembly was one of the problems that we solved. How will the National Assembly support the fact that they should not be earning as much as they are earning now or how will they supports us when we said the business of lawmaking should be part-time. The National Assembly is part of the problem.
It is the same people who voted them in that chose those who went to the confab, how can they now say that you know more than those who elected you?
I have said it and I am repeating it, this country will never get the composition of that confab again. The quality cut across board — Labour, youth, name it. There was no sector of the country that was not represented. I stand to be challenged. We had quality representation across board; the Tunde Bakare’s of this world. We passed over 600 resolutions unanimously. We had our arguments but sorted it out. We agreed that it is solutions that we are looking for, we don’t want conflict in this country. That is why I continue to say that if the National Assembly will be the one to review the recommendations of the confab and if they are patriotic and not just interested in gallivanting and robbing the people, why do we have to waste money now on reviewing the constitution? Except what the confab recommended was not good.
And I say, if there are certain things that they do not like, they can remove them.
In more developed countries, if a public servant is facing trial, he steps aside so as to not interfere with investigations, but in Nigeria that is not the case. Today, the President of the Senate, Busola Saraki, is facing trial yet he still presides over the upper chamber, what do you think of this?
That is the pattern of the government of the day. After all, they are celebrating Obasanjo for doing wonderfully well in the country. That shows you that we are in a queer country. What has Obasanjo done in the country that he is being celebrated? A man whose wife’s says he is not good? His son says he is not good and even the daughter says he is nothing to write home about? Yet we are celebrating him. A man like him will not show his face in public in saner climes, a man who does not have moral standing in his own home. It is such a person that the government of change is going to, to navigate for them. That is to show you the kind of government that you have now.
The Fulani Herdsmen attacks portend great danger, what would you prescribe as a way forward?
The way forward is clear. People have been talking about it for a long time. I don’t know why people think when we criticise Buhari we don’t like him. He’s the President. The federal government has kept quiet. That is why… See people are making allegations that he too has some herdsmen. That he’s their patron. People are saying because these people are his people they are encouraged to do what they are doing. And he has not uttered a word. Not a word!
But he said government would create grazing areas.
What has happened after that? What has been done to the continued killing and raping in Benue and other states. Until they have wiped them out, then they will bring the ranches. What is the positive thing – to react to killings in these states? What can be done is clear if there is the will to do it.
Recently, there was controversy when the Senate budgeted N4 billion for vehicles
That tells you the type of people in the Senate. The party you voted for, the party of change. This is not Jonathan talking now. That’s why sometimes, you pressmen too contribute to the sluggishness in government because you don’t want to criticise. In those days when pressmen used to be pressmen, they used to champion these causes. But nowadays, you keep quiet because you don’t want to be accused of not supporting one government because they give you adverts. You pressmen are guilty. You have become part of the inadequacy of the administration. You are timid, not as progressive as you used to be. All the governments in Benue and Nasarawa, because they are APC, they can’t come down hard and say, “This killings must stop.” All you hear is “we are meeting today, we are meeting tomorrow”. The raping and killing continue. They meet, sign peace agreement but the killing continues. By the time they finish killing them, then the ranching will come up. If a decisive government is in place, something positive would have been done. After the kidnap of Falae, the herdsmen went back to his place. What was the reaction of the government? Nothing. These people are not invisible.
After Falae’s kidnap, the Yoruba held a press conference where they threatened that if it was repeated, they would review their position in Nigeria
The simple message was that if people began to react to the incessant attacks by Fulani herdsmen, there would be chaos. Will you blame them? There is peace now because people are “turning the other cheek”. But it will get to a point and people will be forced to protect themselves and react. It’s like those of us calling for a confab. We say there are inequalities in the constitution, so we say let us sit down and discuss these inequalities peacefully. It is those of us who want peace, who want the country to stay together who say “let’s go to the confab,” because we’ve seen the advantage of being together. That was how we convinced Jonathan. He didn’t believe it at first. It was the pressure of the Afenifere that convinced him. Those who oppose the confab, who oppose the implementation of the confab recommendations, they are the enemies of Nigeria.
But Obasanjo said nothing positive came out of the Jonathan era despite the confab
I hear it too. They say Jonathan should have implemented the confab recommendations. But their argument is faulty: You believe what is to be done is right and Jonathan should have done it. But because he has not done it you also refuse to do it. Is that the argument? I had two options; one said, “I did not implement the recommendations, but vote me in again and I will do it” the other said, “I don’t have anything to do with the confab” So which one do you think I will choose?
On Obasanjo’s comment, people don’t refer to history. Obasanjo set up a committee in his time too. What did he do about it? I was at that conference too. They asked all the political parties to meet and the North didn’t agree. There were four regions, three agreed —South West, South East, Middle Belt agreed. Only the North refused. What did Obasanjo do about it. I don’t like to talk about these people. I ‘ll rather talk about people who make positive statements
not those seeking excuses for their inadequacies.
Obasanjo had d best opportunity to redeem this country in 1999. But he thought he could used the…constitution for his own gain. He now wanted to do a third term. And still has mouth to talk that someone did not do something well. He understood all the complaints of inequality, what did he do to rectify it? The problem of revenue allocation was there, very awkward. It was particularly unfair to the South West and other areas. Under the constitution, the military, created more local governments, more states in the North than in the South. And they used that as basis to distribute revenue. Take Lagos and Kano. Both have the same population size. Now they created Jigawa out of Kano. They created so many more local governments — 74. But Lagos councils remained 20. And you now say revenue must be distributed on the basis of local governments. And you say that is equity. We Say that must be amended. But you (Obasanjo) came in and turned a blind eye to it. You knew that before you came in and you did nothing about it.
The present constitution favours Buhari. He would be the last person to implement the Confab recommendations. And I say I will be happy if he can prove me wrong by implementing those recommendations. His people are the beneficiary of the inequalities. Under this constitution, the basis of revenue allocation in the First Republic based on derivation even when oil was discovered, you set aside. You then introduced all kinds of conditions — landmark, this and that to the extent that now you find more population in the desert than in the forest areas under this constitution. You don’t address that, you want those who are suffering under this constitution to keep quiet.
Do you foresee a situation where NADECO can regroup and return to the trenches
No. I don’t foresee it. Anything can happen. That is the kind of thing that take people back to the trenches. The Niger Delta people for instance. You never can tell because we solved their problem at the conference on revenue allocation. Give them this percentage, those without oil, give them that percentage to develop the oil in their areas. But you don’t want to implement that, you want to continue exploiting them. Remember the saying: “Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.”
But the Solid Minerals Minister, Fayemi, said recently that no part of the constitution bars states from exploiting their solid minerals…
He’s not a lawyer. States can’t do it without federal government approval. But we made solid minerals to be on the concurrent list at the conference.
On the anti-corruption war, you said Buhari should address the root of the problem, can you expatiate on this?
Go to the primaries of all the political parties. They were fraudulent because you asked aspirants to bring questionable sums of money before they could contest.
Was it not so in your party?
No. Not before. Even in the 1999 election, Tinubu and the rest of them, how much did we get from them? I was the chairman. That was not the position. …asking council chairman to deposit one million two million before you can contest primary. It should not be such prohibitive amounts. When you say governor must deposit five million, ten million…before he can contest primary. Buhari too said said he was asked to bring N27 million. And he said he had to go and raise money from the bank. Why? He wanted to serve the people. So an honest man cannot contest. It’s only millionaires that can contest elections. If not so, why did Buhari have to borrow money? It was the corrupt system that was there then that compelled him to borrow money. Now that he’s there he must make a law to forbid such things. That’s attacking corruption from the roots.
What would you say about Buhari’s integrity
Very clean. He leads a disciplined life.
What about those around him
I am surprised that before he was elected, he said those indicted for corruption would not come near him, but after election.. he started speaking differently …he said someone he appointed as minister who had been fingered in corruption had not been convicted by a law court. He was forced to do that because they were the instruments that helped him to power. He also once said he was a converted democrat. Well, I accept that. But when he refused to comply with the bail granted Dasuki, I said, no, that’s not what he promised.
Give us your parting shot sir
There is nothing you ask me that is not provable. You all know the truth but you are pretending not to. You want it to come from Adebanjo’s mouth. I will say the truth, the worst is they organise state murder and kill me. I am not afraid to die. I will be 88years next month. If I am not doing what I am doing now, what is the point of God sparing my life? Am I afraid of training my children, building a house, buying a car? If anybody says I am criticising Buhari, let them point out what I say that is not the true.
I don’t want Buhari to fail. That’s why am pointing out those things.