Afenifere chieftain and statesman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw his statement that the rule of law cannot override national security.
In this interview, he spoke on various issues and advised former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to withdraw his support for the President ahead of 2019 poll.
With what is happening in the polity today ahead of next year’s general elections, how do you feel? What are your expectations with regard to the 2019 poll?
You can already see it that it is not going to be free and fair. You know the elements of free and fair elections. With what the government is doing now, do you see the elements of free and fair elections where a federal agency is probing a state government under a federal institution? There are all kinds of irregularities where even President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the rule of law is subject to state security. Where that happens, there is no more rule of law. Who is going to determine the security of a state? Is it not a man? You accuse and prosecute a man under an existing law, and not under the whims and caprices of any man which is what Buhari is doing. But I am not surprised.
I will continue to say it that everything President Buhari is doing is what I told you before Nigerians voted for him. I said it before that people should not vote for this man. He is a dictator and a conservative by birth. He is a dictator by training and he cannot change. It is when he wanted to contest elections that he said he has become a reformed democrat but from day one, you can see that he has been showing who he is. If you recollect, when I said it by that time, the supporters said he did this and that during the military regime. But under the present civilian regime where he is the president, what has he done now? Court injunctions are being disobeyed. How many people that courts have ordered to be released and he has refused to release. He has come out plainly now to say that the rule of law is subject to the state security and in that case, who decides state security. Is it not President Buhari? And you are talking about free and fair election; where are you going to get that? There is nothing that he is doing that is strange to me.
The question is, even if the President is currently unpopular ahead of the poll, what is the possibility of removing him through the ballot?
The only way is for Nigerians to rally round the coalition of political parties to present one candidate against Buhari. But in this case where he is saying that the rule of law is subject to state security, he is now saying that there is no rule of law. The lawyers, civil society organisations and all democratic institutions should tell Buhari to withdraw that statement. What he said is the road to dictatorship. This is the scene one, two of the Abacha regime. The whole thing is clear and let us not deceive ourselves. The media should come out to expose these things to the whole world. Where in the world have you heard that the rule of law is subject to national security? President Buhari has given a new definition of the rule of law. So, the rule of law is now subject to Buhari’s discretion.
What do you make of the protracted crisis between the executive and legislative arms of government and the resolve of the APC-led government to impeach the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
It is all braggadocio and still the same thing about the non-obedience of the rule of law. How can they be thinking of the impeachment of the rule of law without the number to do that. There is a procedure for electing and impeaching the president of the Senate and all these are all under the rule of law. If they do not follow due process to impeach the Senate President, Buhari would tell you that it is in the interest of national security. So, Nigeria is back to dictatorship.
With the experience in the recent governorship election in Ekiti State, what level of confidence do you have in the process leading to the 2019 poll? Do you think the present INEC will deliver a credible poll to Nigerians?
We have said so before that the head of INEC and the EFCC should be removed. For people to have confidence in the process and for us to have a free and fair election, we ought to have neutral persons. Without doing that, we are all deceiving ourselves. Somebody would pick his relation to be the umpire of the election in which he is participating in and what do you expect. We all know the answers to these questions but Nigerians should not be afraid to say that. Why cant we take them to the cleaners when the president said that the rule of law is subject to national security.
As one of the foremost leaders in the South West zone which supported Buhari in 2015, do you think the pattern of voting would change in 2019? Is there anything to show that the South West would react differently in the next general elections?
Do you think that in 2019, everybody will follow former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu sheepishly to perdition. Don’t forget that the people of the South West are not fools. He deceived them in the first instance and I warned them. Since that election of 2015, what has Tinubu brought to the South West since he took them there. My dear, I do not want to be talking about the obvious. If anybody is still in the fools paradise, thinking that Tinubu is leading the Yoruba, such a person is deceiving himself. Tinubu is just leading himself now and he is not enjoying the present government except he is deceiving himself.
But the argument is that the South West has at least the position of the vice president, hence the justification to vote for the APC instead of shifting allegiance to a platform they are not sure of what they will get if the support it.
What is the strength of the vice president? The vice president we have now is the public relations officer of all the impunities going on in this government under the President and he is a lawyer. If he is the vice president and he does not know why he is there, if the time comes, when he comes home, we will tell him to report what he and Tinubu have brought by working for Buhari. Vice President Obasanjo is a qualified lawyer with a good parentage and training and he will be the first to come and defend that the rule of law is subject to the national security. It is a shame.
In the prevailing circumstance in which the nation has found itself, what are your fears particularly ahead of the election?
This coming election will show if Nigeria will stay together or not. Do not make any mistake about that. If they fail to restructure the country before the election and if anybody who wins does not restructure the country, forget about Nigeria.
Despite your position on this matter, President Buhari has always held a contrary view that restructuring is not the problem of the nation. Do you really think that restructuring is the answer to our problems?
Are you still taking Buhari seriously? Does he understand what it means? He does not understand the problems of Nigeria. He only understands to rule, maim and wipe out some people with the help of the herdsmen and so on. President Buhari has no philosophy for a united Nigeria and for Nigeria to be together. The only philosophy he has is to rule and dominate and he has shown that by all his actions. In 2007, the Afenifere supported him when he said he was going to do restructuring and he cannot deny it. When Tinubu was supporting him in 2015, we warned him of the implication and that even if Nigerians want to be stupid that they should know that Buhari is a danger to the unity of the country. Anybody who is voting for Buhari should forget Nigeria.
So, specifically, what should be your candid advice to Asiwaju Tinubu ahead of the 2019 poll?
If Tinubu is not going to perdition and if he is going to be rational, he should withdraw from President Buhari and come home. There is nothing to report for having joined Buhari in the last general elections. What has he got to show for all the support for Buhari when he appointed all the security chiefs from Katsina? Tinubu has gained nothing. He is just bargaining with the Yoruba people. Whatever he is doing with Buhari would not serve the Yoruba interest. If he challenges that, he should come and say this is what he has brought to the Yoruba people since joining the Buhari government. Apart from the stooges Buhari appointed, all the major positions are in the hands of the Northerners. Except the positions given to some of them because of their efforts during the campaign, what did the Yoruba people gain as a body?
There is a class of people that believe you do not like the North and that is why you always antagonize them and has strong views about that power bloc. Is it true?
No, that is wrong. I am not against the North but what the Northern representatives are doing. If I am against the North, what about Col Umar and Tanko Yakassai? Many of you do not know the history of this country. President Buhari is a wrong representative of the North and that is why I am attacking him. He is not a good representative of the North.
He is not the type of Sardauna, Awolowo and Azikiwe who drafted the constitution I am talking about. The constitution that we are saying we should go back to about restructuring is what those people agreed to at independence and Buhari is now telling us that he is wiser than Sardauna. It is him that is always telling people of the North to vote for candidates of their own religion. With Awolowo in 1977, we were touring the whole North campaigning for them to vote for the Unity Party f Nigeria (UPN). Even in the First Republic, we won elections in the Middle Belt area. But it was Buhari who said people should not vote for people who are not of their own religion. Poverty does not know any religion, tribe or gender.
With all the appointments that the North has, they have more almajirin than other parts of the country when his children are being taken to London for their education How many of them are trained here? Whenever he is sick, he is taken to London. Let them not deceive you. If President Buhari is fooling some people, I cannot be fooled. When we say we want to restructure the country, we are only saying we want to stay together on agreed terms where every region would enjoy relative autonomy. What is wrong with that? You have a constitution imposed on us by the military where we have a president that is the most powerful in the world. I want to repeat again, to have election in 2019, there must be a country. Even to develop economically, you must have political stability. Can you have stability with the East when they are saying that the country is cheating them? Can you have stability in the Niger Delta when the Avengers say you are cheating the people? Can you have stability with the agitation of people from the Middle Belt? Why can’t we have a constitution that will satisfy everybody? You say no. Are you not the number one enemy of the country?
President Buhari recently came back to Nigeria from London and he said he will send more thieves to jail. In view of his anti-corruption fight, how did that come to you?
You are just going back to what I have told you. How can he say he is going to send anybody to jail? Is he the judiciary? It shows you that he is a dictator because rather than send them to court through prosecution, you send them to jail. – The Sun.