Afenifere chieftain, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, on Thursday, said that will be no real peace in Nigeria until it returns to 1960 constitution. He also renewed calls for restructuring and federalism as critical factors for the nation to be peaceful.
He particularly tackled President Muhammadu Buhari and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu for paying lip service to calls for restructuring in a bid to satisfy their selfish interests.
He held that a return to the 1960 constitution and consideration of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference would help in the desired restructuring of the country and its return to federalism.
Speaking on a television programme of the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS), Adebanjo said mischievous people who imposed a lopsided constitution on the country continued to oppose a return to federalism because the current system was in their favour.
He decried that the lack of political will to see a restructuring of the country was seen in Buhari’s decision to set aside the implementation of recommendations of the 2014 confab while also setting up another restructuring committee headed by Kaduna State governor, Mr Nasir el-Rufai, whose recommendations were yet to see the light of the day.
He rubbished notions that calls for restructuring were targeted at dividing the nation, noting that the restructuring sought was one where all regions are united as equal partners not one where a region was contributing little yet getting the bulk of resources of the country.
Harping on the need for constitutional democracy and restructuring, Adebanjo bemoaned that many Nigerians suffered unjustly amid plenty resources that the nation had.
He maintained that a return to the federalism propounded by the 1960 constitution will bring a return of the time of Chief Obafemi Awolowo of free healthcare and free education.
The question of restructuring is not a new philosophy. It is a question of going back to federalism as we had it at independence by our founding fathers and the minute the military changed it in 1966, then our woes began.
“We discussed restructuring at the 2014 national conference and we considered all laws that were in existence in Nigeria. There were 600 resolutions and we agreed to return to status quo. The only challenge is that President Muhammadu Buhari put aside the recommendations.
“What is difficult in going back to restructuring? What is difficult in going back to the 1960 constitution? Let’s go back to the constitution given to us by our founding fathers like the Dr Nnamdi Azikwe and the Sardauna of Sokoto.
“But people who want to do mischief particularly our brothers from the North don’t want it because they are cheating us under this constitution imposed on us by the military in 1966. And as long as that constitution exists, those of us in the South, those of us who took part in the founding of this nation and promoters of constitutional democracy will not accept.
“And there will be no peace in this country until we go back to federalism. The question of going back to federalism states that we must restructure this country back to federalism if we want to have peace.
“If you ask our APC brothers in government, they will tell you that you cannot do without the North as if the North is the indicator of where we should go. We are equal partners in this federation. All Buhari needs to do is to put the recommendations of the Confab to referendum and we move forward. It is the lack of political will to do what will bring peace to Nigeria.
“We are requesting a return to the times of Chief Obafemi Awolowo that we had free healthcare, free education and we had representations abroad. During this time, we never borrowed a dime from Tafawa Balewa,” Adebanjo said.
Adebanjo lampooned Tinubu for riding on the back of federalism to get to office as governor and bringing Buhari into office yet had become hesitant in pushing for restructuring.
Noting that the South West was at the receiving end of the current system of government, Adebanjo urged people of the zone to mandate their governors and legislators to charge Buhari to restructure in interest of peace in the country.
He described as enemies of the people any governor of the South West who opposed federalism, urging governors to push for restructuring to take themselves out of slavery.
“Our people are suffering for no just cause. We have the means, resources. Awolowo has provided everything for us. Tinubu is hesitant on the issue of restructuring all because Buhari is deceiving him that after he leaves, he will make him President. We are not going to be slaves; we will not be led by ignorant, blind people.
“How did Tinubu get into office if not for going back to federalism? How is he abandoning it now? Ask him that question.
“We want a unity where we will be equal partners. The unity we have now is the unity of the horse and the rider. The North is the rider and we are the horse. That is why I am still shouting at 92 years. I am fighting for my children. In your own interest, tell them to return you to federalism.
“Buhari will not do it easily because it will not pay him and his people. Tell your governors, they should press for restructuring now. The longer Buhari stays there, the more you are under slavery.
“Our legislators, especially those of Yorubaland, are greedy and if they don’t join in the clamour, we will continue in slavery.
“Abdusalami Abubakar handed over the constitution to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who didn’t know what was in the document when he was sworn in. So, we say let us return to where we started out as a nation. When we call for restructuring, they say we want to divide the country.
“How did Bola Tinubu, Lam Adesina, Adebayo get into office? We voted them into office under the programme of restructuring, federalism, that Nigeria may be together. Those were the condition under which they were elected in 1999.
“And while we were doing that campaign, the programme of Afenifere/NADECO was that we must go back to federalism and that was the manifesto of the campaign with which Tinubu, Adesina, Osoba, Adebayo got into office.
“And we got in, each of the houses of Assembly passed a resolution for a Sovereign National Conference and we said we don’t want to go back by force but let us agree to go back to where we started and that is the conference we are asking for.
“At that conference, we came together and agreed but it is those who hold us by force to do the needful. If today, your representative from the West say that they have a mandate to seek federalism. I challenge any governor of the Western region to say that he does not want federalism,” Adebanjo said.
Answering questions on the existence of various Afenifere divisions, Adebanjo said the Afenifere led by Pa Reuben Fasoranti remained the only authentic Afenifere as it stood for federalism.
Sources: Nigerian Tribune