By Yemi Adebowale and Bennett Oghifo
Elder statesman and a chieftain of the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo has warned that Nigeria would know no peace and stability until the country is returned to true federalism.
The 89-year-old Adebanjo, who spoke to THISDAY early this week, said the full implementation of federalism remained the key element for repositioning and cementing the unity of the country, â€œwith every unit truly autonomous and strong enough to stand on its own; where the federating unit will be complementary to the federal government and not subordinate.â€
Adebanjo, who was also a chieftain of the defunct National Democratic Coalition, (NADECO) lamented that the military de-structured Nigeria and that this was the origin of the current political logjam in the country.
He said: â€œAfter the military intervention in 1966, came the instability we inherited and we are yet to get out of till now. Not until we go back to it (autonomous states), this country will not have stability. In my own view, unless that position (true federal structure) is reverted to now, Nigeria will not exist. We must have federalism the way it is done all over the world, devoid of Nigerian factor.
â€œThe thrust of federalism is that the federating units are autonomous in all aspects, except those powers conceded to the federal government and that is where you talk about the residual powers residing in the federating units. So, we know what powers the federal government has and the state governments will be contributing to the federal government and not the other way round.
â€œIn 1954, Awolowo fought for derivation; what you now call â€˜resource controlâ€™. We fought for it that each region must take majority of resources before contributing to the centre. The marketing boards then, were broken to the regions and the regional governments had a lot of money; the North through groundnut, West through Cocoa and Eastern Region through their palm kernel. That was the position and there was peace and there was healthy competition among the regions; Awolowo built the Liberty Stadium, Ahmadu Bello built his own in Kaduna, Awolowo built the University of Ife, Ahmadu Bello built his in Zaria.
â€œThe system that was run thereafter was the unitary system where the states are now subordinate to the federal government. But that was not the position before independence. The constitution that we had before independence created four regions, as a truly federal system and there was devolution of power.â€
Adebanjo chided the military for reversing the gains of federalism and called on the APC-led federal government to ensure that the country is restructured before the 2019 general election in order to avert further crisis in Nigeria.
He said: â€œThe creation of these states, irregularly, came under the military after the coup of 1966. That reverted the federal system we were enjoying, and ever since, we have not gotten out of it. All the political instability we have been having ever since will continue to be because, as Chief Awolowo told them at that time, the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious nature of our country cannot succeed in a unitary form of government.
â€œThere is nowhere in the whole world that the unitary government will survive in that type of society, and that is why we have our problem of Biafra today, IPOB tomorrow, Avengers and this will continue no matter what we do. We will not get peace, stability until we go back to true federalism.
â€œAt this stage now, there is nothing left for this government other than to do restructuring immediately before any election. In fact, there is no room for the APC to do anything now, other than to restructure immediately before any election. They have failed in their programme and in the remaining two years, there is nothing else they can do. What they can do as their legacy is to restructure the country before going for any election.â€
The elder statesman chided the APC-led federal government for failing to deliver on its promises to Nigerians, describing its war against corruption as skewed.
He also said that President Muhammadu Buhari had been running a one-man-show, and failing to implement the policies of his party.
On President Buhariâ€™s stance on corruption, the Afenifere chieftain said: â€œWhich conscientious Nigerian will be happy to see the amount of money people steal? I give them kudos for that, but why I disagree with Buhari and APC is that the war against corruption should be made holistic; No matter how much you want to wipe out corruption, to do it outside the rule of law is nonsensical; Iâ€™m opposed to it. The moment you ignore the rule of law, nobody is safe. You canâ€™t be fighting corruption and become dictatorial, ignoring the rule of law and imposing the rule of man, breaking into peopleâ€™s houses under the guise of fighting corruption. It is unacceptable, as far as Iâ€™m concerned, for anybody to pretend to establish a civilian dictatorship under the pretense of fighting corruption, and that is what Buhari is doing.
â€œSince he has come into office, he has come back to show that he is the same Buhari of 1983, which I warned against before he was elected. What did I say Buhari was guilty of that he has not done now? I said he is a dictator and will not obey the rule of law. Right now, we are having a dictatorship and not a democracy, because the party to enthrone democracy is not united. He cannot say that he is implementing APC policies; when last did the APC meet?
â€œYou are deceiving yourself if you think you are having a democracy under Buhari; it is a one-man rule. All the things that he is doing are not the decision of his party and I challenge him to say where the party met or held its convention. The party (APC) right now is divided into about five or six sections. How do you expect them to do anything for the good of the country?
Read full interview in our special report part II on pages 50 – 53.