Chief Ayo Adebanjo, a prominent Nigerian nationalist and elder statesman struggled alongside others for the country’s independence. A close associate of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and a key leader of NADECO, Adebanjo has been active in politics since 1951 with the formation of the Action Group Youth Wing.
In this Interview, the elder statesman who turned 83 on 10th April this year, while attending the recently concluded Nigeria National Conference as a delegate, discusses issues germane to the growth and development of Nigeria with Tobi Joseph.
He talks about the legacies of late Awolowo, Chinua Achebe’s “there was a country”, the Confab, his relationship with retired General Muhammadu Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and other leading Nigerian politicians.
Read the full text of the interview with Chief Ayo Adebanjo below:
Chief you were part of those that fought for our independence 54 years ago, is present day Nigeria the country you envisioned back then?
A – No, No. as a matter of fact the country we envisioned before independence took some good shape in the first republic and any witness in the first republic will testify to the fact that the first republic was far, far better than what we have now. Unfortunately for us, as inefficient and imperfect the first republic was, the coup of 1966 really toppled and disorganised everything.
If the progress we made ― pre-independence and post-independence ― with its entire defect had continued, the country would have been far, far better. One single thing that comes to mind, in the first republic we were shouting and making a lot of noise about corruption, the slogan then was ‘Oh, they are all ten percentile’. What do we have now? We have 200 percentile.
As a matter of fact, people like me should apologise and ask for forgiveness from those who we accused of corruption in the first republic. They should forgive us.
Why are you asking for forgiveness?
Because what you are having now is worse. If what they did is what we are having now, we will be in the sky. It is comparative value that makes us to ask for forgiveness. What were they accused of then? But these days, you know as bad the period was, it is was the period that Chief Awolowo did free education, that was the period we had free medical services, that was the period we built Cocoa House – the first and tallest building in Africa. All sorts of firsts, firsts, firsts achievements in pre-independence.
After independence, there was competition between the North and the South, when he (Awolowo) built the stadium, Ahmadu Bello built the Ahmadu Bello stadium there. He started free education, others also attempted it, Eastern Region also attempted it. When he started minimum wage, Azikwe also said he was going to pay certain per cent. There was healthy competition, healthy rivalry. We were criticising ourselves then, we were only shooting through the mouth, we can criticise and use all sorts of language against ourselves but we never killed ourselves. There was no assassination, all that is the order of the day. The revenue of the country then was nothing to compare.
As a close associate of the Late Sage Chief ObafemiAwolowo, looking back at his achievements that you’ve just highlighted, who would you say is the Awolowo of our time?
Awolowo of our time? People make attempt, people use the name as propaganda. Some make some genuine attempt in some areas, but they use it as a camouflage. The moment they use the slogan ‘I’ll do what Awolowo will do’, they get into power, it’s all over. I’ll give you an instance; how can you say you are an Awolowo man who believes in free education, who started College of Education for the purpose of teaching teachers who will be teaching in the schools, you now have a University in Lagos paying N350,000. How do you compare? How many poor people can afford that? At a time when the revenue of Lagos state is more than what we had in those days.
These are the things that make people like us shudder. You talk of even, Oh! Lagos is the symbol of progress now, Oh they’re doing fine, Yes, to those who don’t know, Yes. Those of us who know believe they could do far, far better. The management is there. You talk of the road you have built. How many of us know how much the road costs? How many of us know about the estimate? We only hear that this road was built. We know how much income we are having, we don’t know how much is spent.
These are not elements of democracy. These are not the type of things Awolowo taught us. The common pattern now in all the government of these so-called people following Awolowo is that they impose candidates. That was not in our days. Those of them who are now imposing candidates you never imposed them on the people. These are the things that make us a little bit off. And when the regime that is now…… they are having the repercussions of what they did now. People are now saying, ‘No, it’s not what you preach that you’re practising’. That is the problem. And people like me feel sad because the period that we are now using to correct the wrong is the period we should have used to advance. All the so called defence you are now talking of ought not to happen, particularly, in areas where people claim to be the followers of Awolowo. They use Awolowo’s name as slogan to get into office but they can’t ‘Walk the Talk’.
Would you say that Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s shoes are too big for any Yoruba leader to fill?
Not that it is too big. Well it might be too big for few but it is not too big for people to emulate. You see my point. I won’t say everybody could have filled it, No, No, No, the man was too fantastic for that. But we could try. Any attempt to follow half of his footsteps would have carried us far more than where we are now.
None of the present leaders of today are as disciplined as Chief Obafemi Awolowo to be able to achieve half of what he achieved. He is a very highly disciplined fellow, highly incorruptible. He doesn’t tolerate corruption. Not only that he doesn’t tolerate corruption by words, but he doesn’t tolerate corruption by deed.
There are so many instances in his administration that I can give you to show that if you are corrupt you can’t go near him. If you are corrupt, he knows how to weed you out. And his own is leadership by example. It’s not just ‘do as I say not as I do’. It’s leadership by example.
Chief ObafemiAwolowo tried to build a party that can boast of National spread and acceptance, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu seems to have achieved this with the emergence of the APC, are you excited at all?
(cuts in)….. No, No, No, No. when you want to compare Awolowo with Asiwaju, don’t come to me. I believe you are insulting my leader. It is those who know Asiwaju…….. Many of you are comparing Awolowo with Asiwaju, you don’t know Chief Awolowo. With the corrupt elements and the standard of administration that you find now, you are now comparing. Then you say ‘if Awolowo was that good, is he not like this?’ He may be doing his best, I’m not saying he is not doing anything but I say it’s too much for anybody to attempt to compare Awolowo with Tinubu or to compare Tinubu with Awolowo. It is an insult on my leader. He doesn’t come near. Is it the intellect? Is it in administration? Is it in probity? Is it in pedigree? No, No, No.
He might be doing his best comparatively with the people he is competing with now. Compare him with the Federal administration, Obasanjo and others. Yes, he stands above them because they are all progressives in relative terms not progressives in the terms that we know Chief Awolowo. I want you to get that straight.
Are you excited by the emergence of APC? Do you feel they can effect the needed change?
A – No, No. From the word Go, I never imagined… I never swallowed the propaganda you people are swallowing about the APC. By the connection. You see, many of you are talking about APC you have never talked about APC whether they are in government either by hook or crook or by whatever it is. You are only comparing APC in opposition to PDP and that’s it. That is not the standard. APC is a collection, it is incompatible. I repeat incompatible.
Just go on, APC now say they are from AD, from ACN, they are progressives. They are the people who as progressives are criticising the PDP and everybody on the other side. Now they now form APC, bringing all those peoplethat they have been condemning there without any purgative, without anything. They now become progressives because they have joined them because they have become a gang against the government of the day. That is not my own conception. I hope you get my point. Please get it straight.
Because, alright here is a man ……. I will go further if you say compare… I’ve told you don’t compare, No. I will say we have to examine Tinubu’s ambition, the honesty of it as leading the Yorubas in the Yoruba interest, in the context of what he’s doing. Is it what Awolowo was fighting for the Yoruba that he is fighting for? To show you that it is fake. You remember very soon after winning all these election in the southwest, they said he is now bringing all states in this region now to do it as Awolowo was doing it and they established what they called the ‘DAWN’. They now accused Ondo as being the only state that doesn’t want to come in to create what Awolowo did. The whole essence was that the various states in the Southwest should come together.
Now, all along we have been agitating what Awolowo has been agitating that the federation was an awkward federation. Particularly after the first republic, after the coup of 1966 we have been talking of restructuring the country to have a truly Federal constitution. That was the slogan. That’s what everybody was saying, because it is in that one that under the present regime of the Federation we are having imbibed as sovereign.
And no sooner we have an avenue now to go and iron out those differences. Tinubu came out and said ‘Nonsense, the conference is a useless thing’, he doesn’t believe in it.I’m not saying the composition or the method is perfect, it is an attempt to rectify what we have been complaining about. And what we are saying is ‘let’s go there and force this man to do what is to be done’. He said ‘No, we are not going to take part’. Not only that, after getting there. Lagos was one of those whonow said ‘we don’t want regional government’. Regional government you said you want to form by forming the ‘DAWN’ before the conference. It is the area of the ‘DAWN’ now that wants to come together and you say ‘No, we don’t want to be part, we want to be alone’.
In other words, that is what gives people the impression that, any slogan or philosophy that he preaches must be something that benefits him personally. If it doesn’t benefit him personally, he is not there.
You see, that is why I emphasize and I continue to say, I have no personal quarrel with Asiwaju, my differences with him are purely ideological nothing personal.
Does it have anything to do with the crisis that engulfed the Alliance for Democracy then?
Of course… he caused it. You journalists, you have never asked, ‘why did you break away from the leaders of Afenifere? What is the thing that they did on Afenifere, on Awolowo that made you feel, No…. other than the fact that you want to take over the party.
Q – What actually happened then? Can you tell us please?
A – What happened than he wanted to take the leadership.
Over you elders in the party?
Over the elders in the party, and unfortunately for those who followed him there, because having come into power and of course this is related to other matters that I don’t what to relate now, who are in support. The people formed the governors there and all that. They believe they can remove the leaders of Afenifere who are the pillars of the party by taking over the government.
We were separating the government from the party. By taking it over they can be the controlling power, nobody can say ‘don’t do this don’t do that’. That’s the crux of the matter, those who followed him not because they are the government in power to distribute, we are not in the position to,and some of us,one or two elders at that time who followed them was on their side because they have a price.
Go and look at your history,when that crises started,all those who are with Awolowo started the AD, you can’t find true leaders of the party who went with him,those who went along with him are his relations,his commissioners,those he put in boards, and all that.
What about Chief Bisi Akande, Senator Biyi Durojaye?
They are all part of him, these are the people we created, Bisi Akande is in the same category with him and Osoba.
Bisi Akande was brought to us by the late Bola Ige, it was when they broke away that they made him Baba, he’s never a baba when we were there, his own baba was a creation of Tinubu.
You have been actively involved in politics in Nigeria since 1951, during the formation of the Action Group youth wing, does it baffle you when the youth of the country with their teeming population are not ready to come together and chart …
A – (Cuts in) No!! You are right. Those are the things that give people like me, should I say a lot of pity? Up to the university,the university at that time were dynamic. No political party would dare the student union, but these days, the political parties buy the leaders of the student unions to sing their song.
In those days when we get to the university,the student will ask us, what are you going to do for us? Now, that is no longer there.
Is it possible for them to come together and form a party?
Why are you asking me if it is possible, what is happening is their own creation, what I’m telling you they did when Awolowo was there is their own creation, as people say, ‘the people deserve the kind of government they get’.
They were respected by the parties because of their stand, but these days when the government pays the student leaders, they can’t be as dynamic,no matter how the students are,they will never be deceived.
It is now that the students of LASU are paying more that they are now resisting,when the going was good,they didn’t say anything, you see what I’m saying. They were never principled and say this is what is ideal,that is why today they are doing job here, there, then yonder. All these other parties now are only relatively better than each other. They are not the ideal that Nigeria requires, or that Nigeria needs, or that Nigeria should get.
Even look at the Universities, all the professors there, in those days you fear when the professors or people in the Universities speak of any party, they give objective analysis. But these days, the moment they put you as the Commissioner, you begin to sing another song.
You will now be writing papers for a corrupt government to justify what they are doing All because you are part of the corruption. I am a reputed Nigerian, I’m a reputed old man, there’s nothing now that entices me, I’m looking for a change, there must be a third force to change the present system, we say PDP is not good, APC is not better.
Look at Buhari whom they are taking up, I hold one good thing for Buhari, I will always say it because I once campaigned for him, what is in his favour is he’s incorruptible, I have not seen any evidence of corruption, but he is not a progressive, he is not a democrat. Are you following the difference? When he was contesting election with the other people, he stood ahead against Atiku and against Yar’adua. That was the time my own group supported him, because when you say well of all the three, if we must choose the lesser evil, he is a lesser evil. At least if he is not corrupt, he will be able to wipe out corruption. But that is not the situation.
Do you see him becoming the President of Nigeria?
No, No, No. Even within his own camp there is no honesty. Right now there’re even disloyal members playing double game there as they did for Ribadu. You remember some leading members of the ACN at that time, they collaborated with Yar’adua. Are you aware? Or have you heard it before?Right now it is happening.
Are you saying they are going sell-out on the party itself?
Yes there is going to be sell-out among some of the leaders.
To President Jonathan or PDP?
Yes, and even among all others, how sincere are they? That is why I feel sorry for the country.
As a leader of NADECO and AFENIFERE you fought for the restoration of the mandate given to chief MKO Abiola by Nigerians, how do you feel when see major Hamza Al Mustapha walking free in Nigeria despite the fact that he was sentenced to death in 2012?
That is Nigeria for you. That is why people like me say we have only had a civilian government we have not had a democratic government. That is why people like me say May 29 is not the democratic day, it’s just free election day. June 12 is the real day.
There are many of us who by the time people of our ilk get into power, when the ‘real progressives’ of the NADECO era get into power, a lot of people talking now will be in prison, a lot, including those who are in the Council of State. How can you say somebody who did a coup will now come and be enjoying facility of a freedom man, paying him as a former Head of state, you staged a coup against the people because nobody has the courage. Nobody! All those that are getting into power get to power by compromise.
Obasanjo who came in, thereafter, it was he who put him there to silence him. He cannot say those who put him there should be tried. Haven’t you heard in other countries where those who staged coups are tried even if 15 years after. That has not happened here. So, those are……. We are just quiet, we are too old for it and you young men are enjoying it when you are a beneficiary of the awkward system. It is when you become a victim you shout out that is why many of you shouting now I have no sympathy for you.
Prof Chinua Achebe in his book ‘There was a country’ accused Chief ObafemiAwolowo of formulating policies mainly to exterminate the Igbos during the civil war, what is your take on this?
I know I replied him then, not because he is dead. I replied him ‘that couldn’t be’ in fact don’t justify such. If it was to exterminate the Igbos, it was Chief Awolowo who went to establish the Igbos after the election. And I gave instances like the Publicity Secretary then who was away in Germany. It was Awolowo who asked him to come back home, Ajuluchukwu, I gave him instances and not only that when the war was going on and there was the Biafran war, Awolowo was the Minister of Finance, the revenue allocation that is due to the Eastern states, he was keeping it for them and immediately the war ended he gave it to them. That is the man who wanted them to be exterminated? And the Igbos were the safest in the Western region during the war. That is a statement of fact, if he wanted the Igbos to be exterminated now that there is war and there is conflict, it was the Yoruba West that they were safe and their properties were safe and they recovered it after the election. It’s all bunkum.
But Chief Awolowo prevented the shipment of humanitarian aids, supplies, food to the Igbos then in Biafra?
That was during the civil war. During the war ‘All is fair in war’. If he had not done that would the war have ended?
Was that out hatred for the Igbos?
Don’t turn it to what they are saying, you should turn it into what the people who did it did it for. Saying: ‘We can’t allow this war to continue like this, we send food to these people, the soldiers corner it and so they continue the war. So if they don’t get the food, they will not be able to continue the war, so stop the thing and the war will end’. And the war ended. How can’t people see the thing in the right line.
There are some Igbos who only God will forgive them, who continue to say you starved them, starvation, starvation, they couldn’t see the right side of it. So those of us who were living witnesses then we don’t buy all the propaganda.
After the Civil war about 44 years ago, the Igbos are still lamenting marginalisation, why has National reconciliation eluded us?
Are you asking me about that? You should ask the government of the day. If my party is in power, should have asked me what we should have done.
As a Nationalist, as an elder statesman why do you think we still don’t have reconciliation?
There is reconciliation. Even the Igbos among themselves, I’ve said it in the papers before, they are their own enemies.
A lot of them know what they should have done. The moment they give them the crumbs from the table they sing another song. They were never forthright about what they want. In all the fight for Nigeria, for everything, if you look back, the Yorubas have been the people who have been most consistent about what they stand for, even against all odds. That is why even with all the government they were forming either during the war or during the thing, they always find out we are always in the opposition. Not that we are not divided, Shagari invited us for government and when Azikiwe was invited to be the Governor-General, Chief Awolowo was invited to be the Deputy Governor- General. We said ‘on what terms? What is the programme for the people?’
The Yorubas and the group led by Awolowo were the only people asking why they had to join a National Government. Why exactly? Not to join the national government for the perquisites of office but the people. And journalist like you, majority of the journalist, you don’t do this analytical thing about why is this happening? Why does it happen? And if it happens, why did it happen? How did it happen?
So the question of marginalisation is the question of perception. There are certain areas too which the Igbos are justified to do, but they themselves and the people who are in power even with the military and all that, what did they do for themselves?The moment they pick one or two of them as ministers, that is the end of the matter.
One thing Obasanjo has not accepted till today is the stubbornness of Yorubas and Awolowo that made Obasanjo the President. Because when they cheated Abiola and we said, ‘the Yorubas must have their mandate’ and Babangida knew he defrauded the Yorubas, he felt by bringing a Yoruba man after Abiola, he will be able to pacify us. That was why he brought Shonekan and the Yorubas said: ‘No, we want to choose our leaders, you’re not going to choose our leaders for us’. He never knew that was our mind set.
And thereafter now, when we were to choose an elected one, they also organised, I wish you read this columnist about 2 Sundays ago, the Ovation man, Dele Momodu, where he related the story of when they wanted Dr Lukman, did you read the story? I was almost weeping.
He said the mafia, the people who rule the government have already told him that they were going to put Obasanjo there. And that is why even when they put Obasanjo there by all means, the Yoruba didn’t vote for him.
We are too principled. We are too exposed politically for anybody to draw wool over our face.
Why didn’t the Yorubas vote for Olusegun Obasanjo then?
Because he was not out man, he doesn’t believe in what we want. We had Falae. Obasanjo was part of the system that ruined the country. And you could see it the military wanted then someone who will cover their back, which was why they put him there. And we could see through that and you could see it too now.
They always want somebody to cover their back and we say No, that’s not what we fought for. If you want a Yoruba man to be there, it must be a Yoruba man of our own choice not of your own choice. And you and I know that Obasanjo was the choice of the Northerners and ever since he has been putting people who will be their choice and be carried on. That is why we are where we are today.
What is your assessment of the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan Chief?
It is neither here nor there. It could be better. His administration could be far, far better.
How do you mean? Can you please explain?
I mean a lot of things that Obasanjo failed to do, he could have done it but the man who was in the best position to really rectify the evils of the past was Obasanjo, who claimed at that time that he was not keen about being in government. Now, that he was in government and he knew the ills of the country, it was the time he should have broken the country into a truly federal system but for his own selfish end he too wanted to be a beneficiary of the rotten system. He so enjoyed it so much that he had the First term, second term and he wanted to use the third term but for people like the President of the Senate then, we torpedoed this. That has been our misfortune.
Nigeria has no reason to be in this parlous fate but for bad leadership. How can we, during the First republic we were compared with the Asian tigers. It was from this country they were importing palm oil seeds to plant in Asia. Now we are importing palm oil from that place.
My dear, if we begin to compare the achievements of Chief Awolowo in the first republic with the little resources we had, we had no oil then, but then Chief Awolowo made free education in the Western region, the first budget of the whole of western region including Delta and Edo was £5, ¼ million, that was our first budget. Go into history, but through planning, through foresight we came into office in 1952 and we made a plan for free education. We planned for 3 years, imposed modern internal revenue that by 1st of January, 1955 there was going to be Free Education. We did not go into office, it is not after getting into office we were forming committees on Education, on Agriculture or this. All these things have been planned before we came into office, immediately resumption into office, it was execution.
That was why we were able to do it. There was no subsidy from Balewa for our free education, for our free health, for the road that we tarred through good husbandry, good management, incorruptibility, integrity, a government with a vision. That is what is lacking since all these days.
The United States recently passed a verdict on Nigeria, saying that Corruption is worsening under President Goodluck Jonathan and even other the PDP, how can we stamp out corruption?
No doubt, no doubt. Well corruption under Jonathan is to give a dog a bad name in order to kill it. It didn’t start under Jonathan, Jonathan inherited it and people are expecting him to uproot what has been planted for about 10 or 20 years before he came into office. It’s a gigantic thing. In his attempt to do it, if he does not carefully uproot it, he too will go down the drain. I don’t say there’s no corruption under Jonathan but I am not one of those who say it is Jonathan causing it.
Jonathan inherited it and I don’t think he can uproot it with the wave of the hand. It is a thing that has been long there, it would take a long time to do it. It will take a determined government to do a lot of things and you have to be in power solidly.
How can you now face the problem of corruption when he also inherited Boko Haram? How can he be fighting Boko Haram and fighting corruption? Because those who are behind Boko Haram they are the people dipping their hand into insecurity. So if you look at the problem realistically, we cannot make politics out of it.
Chief what is your understanding of Boko Haram and its agenda?
Are you asking me? The Boko Haram say they don’t want western education. That is what they told us. Up till today they have not told us XYZ are the leaders. That is why for me, I don’t join people condemn Jonathan for not going to dialogue with them. You dialogue with those who you know. The man said ‘well, tell me the people, I will dialogue with them’. Nobody has come close to tell him go to XYZ, they know it.
Why don’t we all join hands together and see where this problem is. There was this day Obasanjo, he said if Jonathan gives him the nod, he can go to Chibok and bring the girls. Why does he need any clearance, If you know you can do itwhy don’t you do it and say ‘well I’ve done it o, your President didn’t give me the clearance’. Everybody is trying to play up to the gallery at the expense of the country. You think there is a President like Jonathan who will like to rule in a country where they are killing part of his citizens the way they are killing it, irrespective of religion, class, everything and APC still thinkthey can be making politics that the Government doesn’t do this, the government doesn’t do that.
Do you see Boko Haram as a political tool in the hands of some politicians?
Well, you see I like to be objective about this thing. When you say it is not, the more Boko Haram unite and cause instability for Jonathan, the more you connect it with the statement of Buhari who said if he doesn’t win election, he will make the government ungovernable. What do you say to that? You are a Yoruba man, you know the Yoruba say ‘Ajekel’ana omoku l’oni tani o mope aje ana lo pa omo’. You say you don’t know there’s instability. I’m not saying he is, I will not stupidly accuse Buhari of being responsible. But there’s a connect.
That northern leaders are fuelling Terrorism in the country?
Yes, and it is in this part of the country. Because there is a theory you know, that those who started Boko Haram, the whole thing went out of hand they couldn’t control it again. That again, I find it difficult to resist in view of what is happening. Maybe they started it thinking that they could use it to harassthe man and when the thing stopped.When the thing stopped the whole thing can’t stop. You see that is what is happening.
But it is easy for the opposition and everybody to cast the man is bad, the security is bad, the country is going down. You’re talking of the reaction, you don’t go to the action that causes the reaction.
At my age I am a statesman, I look at the balance for the country. I am not a PDP man but what I said, I don’t say they are doing very fine but in believe the question of Boko Haram is our joined responsibility. Inasmuch as we have not been able to pinpoint who the leaders are, you have not been able to find a solution, say ‘Jonathan, you should do this, if you do this it would have ended’ and he refuses to do it. You are shouting ‘BringBackourgirls, ‘BringBackourGirls’as if he knew where they are and he refuses to bring them or he knows the method of getting there, he only knows how to get there and refuses to go. That is not right in my analysis, maybe because I am not in opposition, I am a citizen in sympathy with areas that are being destroyed for nothing.
You’ve been looking for a Sovereign National Conference for so many years. President Jonathan convened such a conference and you were one of the delegates. You have rounded off your deliberations, very soon Nigerians will have on their hands, probably a brand new constitution or recommendations that will be included in the constitution, do you see the job you have done, the assignment you have carried out as being able to take us to the next level in Nigeria?
Thank you very much. The conference has been 100 percent successful. I don’t say we have achieved everything we should have achieved. I don’t say some of the handicaps that people predicted at the conference are not there. Those of us who went there went there with the good faith that if we do something good we will see those who are good in the country who would not be able to implement it.
For me if Jonathan will implement 90 percent of what is recommended there faithfully by whatever means because I am not unaware of those who say it can’t be done, it must go through this, it must go through that. I want them to point out what we have recommended that is bad but when they now say the man won’t implement it that is another matter. Where I stand for now is well, we have done a good job, let us all join together to pressurise Jonathan to implement it that this is what the country wants.
To begin to say you haven’t got the constitution, you’re not delighted, that is not the game now. We are looking for derivation. We are looking for strictly federal constitution. What we have recommended, have they gone that far? They may not have achieved 100 per cent result, I’m not saying we have got a perfect constitution but I am sure if they implement 90 percent of what we have recommended we would have gone far. We may not have gotten to the Promised Land. That is what should be done now, whether by coercion, by persuasion or by whatever we can do the National Assembly.
What he told us, according to him we should recommend how the decision of the conference will be implemented. We have asked him to go to the assembly, let them pass a law to make it possible for the referendum to approve the constitution.
Because people are making a lot of noise about No it is a sovereign National Conference, therefore, they missed the whole report. What is Sovereign? What we are talking about sovereign is that whatever the Conference decided must not be subject to any committee for revision or reversal. If he now makes sure that thing is sent there and it’s not done, have we not achieved what we have done. Are you now talking of the method of achievement or what we are to achieve is what is important. I mean one of the things they said is that he can’t do it because what you have done now you are not elected.
I’ll say it openly and I stand to be corrected, challenged that the composition of that conference if you had done it through election, you can’t get half of the quality of people who are there. I challenge anybody to say the quality of the people who are at that conference you can get half of their quality if you had gone through an election. It’s the brigands and those who have money that would have gone there. I wouldn’t have been there and I know Atedo wouldn’t have been there andso many other prominent people who were there. They won’t bother their heads.
What people isnow saying is that the recommendation the people have made is not what the people want not because it can’t be implemented because they are not elected, they get the whole thing wrong. We want progress for the country.
For me, whether APC, PDP or any other, let us have a government that will make progress, let us have a government that will wipe out corruption. Not the label.
Would you say that the agenda, the Yoruba/Southwest agenda in to the conference, you have been able to ensure that it is incorporated in your recommendations?
No, we have not achieved everything.
Which one have you achieved?
I can say we have achieved at least 80 per cent. The only thing we have not been able to achieve is Regional government. And regional government, well, in a way, there is a provision for it for those who want it later. That it says ‘those who want to come together’. That’s an achievement. And you see when people are talking about – because I read in the papers that the thing was worsened by the creation of more states, those that believe in the creation of more states, these are the people who don’t know about the problems of Nigeria. Why are we asking for the creation of states? It is the minorities in the North that want these states as they are being oppressed by their majority there.
And when we are talking about this regional government, they did tell us, ‘you Yorubas you are homogenous, you don’t suffer what they suffer’. Would you ask the minorities under southern Kaduna to be with them? Go and look at areas that these states were created, if it has given them freedom. That is the way some people are theoretical about a federal constitution and they have not even act. They want to build a federal country under freer atmosphere. If the creation of states are now implemented, you will see that those who want to come together can now come together as equals to form a regional government as a federating state. It will be easier.
Even in the Eastern region, the Ebonyi people say they don’t want a region because under the old regional government of South East they said they were suffering. These are the problems we encountered in the conference which those who are shouting outside don’t know. And if we want to achieve our goal and we know this is the method to get there, it is common sense for us to follow that path that if we achieve this then we can have a serious state. They are looking at the form not the substance.
The Igbos are now asking for N2.4 trillion reparation for the civil war from the Federal government, what do you make of that demand?
No, I don’t think there is a case for that.
You think they should not be given reparation?
That should not be mixed up with the question of restructuring and all that we are having. Don’t let us mix it up with it all. We have to discuss it on its merit: whether someone who rebelled against the nation is entitled to have compensation or not, or the reason why. Don’t let us bring that in to ruin the cause that brings every one of us together. Because by the time they say that, people will be saying many things that will keep them off. That is not the issue. I don’t want to be involved in that.
Chief 2015 is just around the corner and then the general elections is expected to be free and fair are you optimistic that it is going to be free and fair?
Well, if all that Jonathan is saying is implemented I feel so and if all of us too combined, the question of being free and fair is not a one-way traffic. If we all combine to say we want a free and fair election, there would be no violence, you will not be encouraging violence, we all have to cooperate. It’s our joint responsibility to have a free and fair election. And it is the responsibility of the Federal government to ensure that is done.
Take for instance, after this Ekiti election, there have been all sorts of jargons, saying the place has been over militarised, is that not unfair? What leads to militarisation? It’s the threat of violence. And when this was anticipated in Edo and Jonathan sent the military there and Oshiomole was thanking him after the election for this, the APC didn’t complain o, you remember.
There was militarisation there to the extent that before Ondo state Mimiko was asking the government to give as much military protection as he gave Edo and that if that is done everything will be fair and it happened. Jonathan didn’t win in Edo, Jonathan didn’t win in Ondo now that the same thing is repeated in Ekiti and Jonathan wins, they say No. You see how people are. And I ask you, when you say the place was over militarised,to me theeffect will be that if over militarisation to have any effect there will be paucity of protests, people won’t come out. Did that happen in Ekiti? We can now see that it was the highest voting record. Militarisation only kept off violence. It didn’t disturb those who wanted to vote peacefully.
But Chief going by the antecedents of the Military, are you in support of the Military deployment across the country?
No, it is the circumstance that causes it. No, I am with you that it is not the pattern, but it is what we experience that causes it. When Oshiomole asked for protection of the military and all that, why did he ask for it? It’s because of the threat of violence. It is not the common thing under a normal administration and it was alright doing that. Under a normal system, it shouldn’t be and it would be hypocritical for anybody to say the position of Nigeria today is normal. And anything done to prevent evil or abnormality should be condemned if we are going to be fair.