Ayo Adebanjo is the leader of pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere. In this interview with selected journalists, he spoke on the state of the nation, Bola Tinubu’s Presidential ambition, review of the 1999 Constitution, among other issues. INIOBONG IWOK brings Excerpts:
Would Yoruba leaders meet and appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari for the release of Sunday Igboho?
I am not planning to go and beg President Muhammadu Buhari for going against the constitution and for invading the house of Sunday Igboho. He should do the needful, but I won’t go and beg him. The man arrested Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu. I don’t support Igbo people for the visit, why are you begging somebody, who has offended us, somebody who has committed a crime against the constitution and the human rights of the people. He brought Nnamdi Kanu into the country illegally and unlawfully. He invaded the house of Igboho unlawfully without any offence. They got to the house, killed people, destroyed his property against the constitution and violated his rights. Sunday Igboho took them to court and the court said that he has not committed any offence and that you should release him. The President defied the order of the court as he normally does, how do you go and beg such a man. If the pressure is on him to do the needful, I will congratulate him, but I won’t beg him.
We also heard that Sunday Igboho might be repatriated into the country soon; what is your view on this?
What the president is doing now is a disgrace to the whole country. He should have a change of mind, do the needful and do what is constitutional, then I would congratulate him.
What should be the next line of action?
He should make the move, who asked him to invite the bandits for discussion before he did. These are people that are killing us and are killing people in Benue State. He does not listen to the people and all those that voted for him. He should have a change of mind for the better. He is doing the wrong thing and you are saying we should go and beg him. I won’t join people to do that.
What is Afenifere doing now as Sunday Igboho is still in Benin Republic?
In your court in Abuja, what did they say. You took Igboho to court and the court said release the man he has not committed any offence. They should compensate him for the damage they have done to him. Why should we now go and beg the President. We should not let him feel that he is doing the right thing. We should tell him that he is doing the wrong thing.
Not long ago, you led Afenifere leaders to visit Bola Ahmed Tinubu in his house; does that mean you will support his presidential ambition in 2023?
You press men should not contribute to the evil in the land. The visit to Tinubu was purely on humanitarian ground after he came back from abroad. Some people went to London to visit him, I cannot afford to go to London. I disagree with Bola Ahmed Tinubu, but I don’t wish him to die. I am the one God used to make him the Governor, I thank God for that. So, when he came back from abroad, I went to greet him and we thanked God for his life. We went there purely on humaniatrian ground, which is typical of Yoruba people. Even if we are fighting we should not wish the person dead. Our visit was purely to wish him well.
I told him that he is not doing the right thing. He has been very liberal to me, but that is not the question. But is he doing the right thing for the country or not? When I criticise him, it’s not because I hate him. The Bible says God does not want a sinner to die, but to repent. I will continue to criticise him until he does the right thing.
People are saying that Tinubu is still relevant several years after he left office as governor and that he is the most qualified for the office of the presidency from South West now. Do you agree?
Don’t come and campaign to me about Tinubu. You cannot change my mind on that. People have asked me if I have forgiven him, how can we be talking of that, when he is not doing the right thing. I have been condemning him for being in alliance with Buhari. He is the cause of all the problems we have in this country. If he did not have an alliance with Buhari, we will not be in all these.
If the presidency is eventually zoned to the South West, who do you think should be put forward as the candidate?
That is not the question now, we cannot be talking of election now. Change the constitution, the constitution you want to use for the election is fraudulent that is my stand. I am not opposed to anybody, but I oppose this constitution that was imposed on us and that is against anybody that is non-Fulani because it was imposed by the Fulanis. We said let us change the constrution.
But the body language of this government is that they are not ready to change the Constitution. What is your take?
That is the mentality of those of you who do not want to fight for Nigeria. If the pressure is on him he will have no choice. Some people must die for others to live, some people must suffer for others to enjoy. We must lead the way. You are deceiving yourself when you say this. For opposing restructuring, this government is the enemy of the people. We said we should go back to the constitution that we used at the beginning that was okay for the country. You people know it, but you will not say anything. How did Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu arrive at what they are doing. I have been saying that we should go back to our independence constitution, but you pressmen will never emphasise that. Is the President God, and did we not make him president, did he make himself president? You arrested Sunday Igboho, what has he done. He was asking for secession, is that a crime? But the people that have raped and killed others, you invited them for discussion, but you cannot call those who are calling for freedom under the Nigerian constitution for discussion. You won’t do it, did he make himself president?
The man is not leading the country well and those of us who don’t want the country to break are saying “no, don’t do this.” I am the number one campaigner for restructuring. He can call criminals for discussion, but he cannot call Ayo Adebanjo or Igbo leaders, but he wants them to come and beg him, I will not do that. He just have to change or else this country will not have peace.