The leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, on Wednesday renewed his call for the restructuring of Nigeria, saying it will take the wind out of the sail of separatist agitators in the country.
He spoke on ‘The Morning Show,’ a breakfast programme on ARISE NEWS Channel, where he demanded a new constitution before the 2023 general election, stressing that the 1999 Constitution (as amended) was imposed on Nigerians by the military.
He blamed the constitution for creating the conditions for marginalisation and injustice against some parts of the country, leading to agitations and calls for secession.
Adebanjo accused President Muhammadu Buhari of ignoring the will of Nigerians calling for a change in the constitution, explaining that a change in the present constitution would address the various agitations from different parts of the country.
He said: “Since President Buhari has refused to listen to the masses concerning the call for a change in our constitution, which has led to the continued agitations from different parts of the county, thus creating disunity among Nigerians who are calling for secession, then it becomes obvious that President Buhari is the number one enemy to the unity of Nigeria.”
Adebanjo accused Buhari of having a hidden agenda by refusing to restructure Nigeria.
He said the youth were too impatient and could not bear the sufferings inflicted on them by the present constitution.
“If Buhari is patriotic enough, a new constitution and restructuring will silence Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB and Yoruba activist, Sunday Igboho, and all others with their secessionist agenda.
“If you don’t, you will continue to give impetus to them. You are encouraging secession. You want to suppress them. We are the people who want restructuring. Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable,” he said.
He, however, clarified that he was not an apostle of secession, as he had worked for a united Nigeria since independence.
He said the constitution was imposed on Nigerians by the military and attributed the nation’s challenges to the imposed constitution that does not meet the needs and aspirations of Nigerians.
According to him, the present constitution remains a fraudulent document, which is not the same that the founding fathers of Nigeria agreed to at independence in 1960.
“This constitution was imposed on Nigerians in 1966 by the military, and it is the reason for the crisis we have today. We must restructure Nigeria and bring it back to true federalism which our founding fathers fought for.
“The refusal of President Buhari and the members of APC to change the constitution is a clear indication that President Buhari and the APC government are the number one enemy of Nigeria’s unity if they continue to refuse the call for the restructuring of Nigeria back to true federalism,” Adebanjo said.
Speaking on whether he still supported Igbo presidency in 2023, he said: “I have not changed my mind.”
When he was also asked to confirm the veracity of a claim that Afenifere had endorsed the speculated presidential ambition of a national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu, he said: “That is not correct. Don’t repeat rumours. Have you had the Afenifere say so? Have you heard me say so? Don’t repeat rumours. They put a lot of propaganda. He came to me to console me on the death of Mr. Yinka Odumakin and later they turned it around. He did not discuss anything about the presidency. Afenifere is not supporting any aspirant now. There are many Yoruba politicians aspiring for the office of the president.”
Adebanjo also described the preparations for the 2023 election as diversionary.
He said: “We want peace first. We have to pray because the iniquities in this country are too much. I cannot spend over 75 years of my life and now come and preach secession to break it. God will not forgive me.
“I have spent all my life fighting for change and you now come and be preaching secession. Let the right thing be done. We tell them, ‘this is what will break the country and we tell them please don’t do it.’ You pressmen don’t address the question. These are what will break the country, please don’t do and Garba Shehu will say no.
“It is the military that created more states in the North; it is the military that created more local governments in the North. It is the military that said that revenues would be shared on the basis of local governments and you people are not addressing it. These are questions you need to answer; why is that so? You don’t stay in a club that is not favourable to you.”
He stated that even during the pre-1999 era, the Alliance for Democracy did not want to take part in the election until there was a sovereign national conference, adding that it was Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), who persuaded AD to take part.
According to him, only a constitutional conference would agree on how Nigerians would live together in peace.
He said the main agenda of Afenifere was to take Nigeria back to true federalism.
On the 2023 presidential election, he said Afenifere did not believe in the election because the economy is bad and insecurity is high.
He also queried a statement by Buhari’s media aide, Mallam Garba Shehu, that the president cannot be bullied to conduct a sovereign national conference.
“How can Garba Shehu say that Buhari is not interested in anything when the people are demanding for it? Is that democracy? How can an elected president say that he will not listen to what the people want? That is a dictatorship.
This is simply a civilian dictatorship under Buhari. Who is Garba Shehu? It shows that Buhari is not a listening president. He must do the thing that the people want. Look at the arrogance of that statement,” he said.
He also paid tribute to the late Odumakin, whom he described as a great selfless and courageous activist, who fought for righteous causes.
He, however, narrated how Pastor Tunde Bakare, a former running mate of Buhari during the 2011 presidential election, brought Odumakin to his house to apologise to him, after Odumakin wrote articles against him, but later realised his mistakes.
Chuks Okocha in Abuja, Emma Okonji and Nosa Alekhuogie in Lagos