‘They Are Trying to Turn the Arson, Looting that Followed #EndSARS to a Tribal Issue’

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Yoruba leader, Aare Gani Adams recently fielded questions from a group of journalists including, Segun James, on the tragedy that followed the EndSARS campaigns and how it could have been avoided spoke

One week before the military went to Lekki, you gave an advice that it will be wrong for the military to go there and attack protesters. Thereafter from what we eventually learnt the military went there. How do you feel after the Lekki encounter?

Well, I am not a politician but I have the experience of how we got this democracy. I am part of the system and I played some roles for us to achieve this democracy. And I understand how protest starts and how it ends in Nigeria. And that was one of the reasons I wrote the letter to President Muhammadu Buhari that he should not use the military to stop or disperse the protesters. Because the military are not trained to monitor protest or protesters or to even disperse protesters. The military are trained to defend the country’s territorial integrity or external aggression. So, I wrote that letter and I warned, unfortunately our people do not know the content of democracy. Democracy is a government of the people, by the people and for the wellbeing of the people. Every living soul in the country as a citizen is very important to add input to the progress of democracy. And a good leader should be prepared to listen to his followers. I am not talking like personality like me, holding this kind of position. I have an antecedent of leading an organisation with a population of six million and having another organisation in diaspora. So it is rather unfortunate that they allowed this ugly incident to happen. This issue has gained traction such that the international community has tagged Nigeria as a country living under dictatorial leadership. And this issue has drawn us back to the time of military coup that the government in power is not different from the military government. what happened when the promising progressive youths, and the youths will be proud of in the history of Nigeria, having their peaceful protest and being maimed on the 20th of October 2020. I was so saddened, highly barbaric, it is uncalled for and it is something that any living soul should condemn globally. It is something that we didn’t expect that we would witness something like that anymore in our nascent democracy. It is something that we don’t even expect that will happen again in our history. Some of our people have shed their blood , they have paid the supreme price for us to get this democracy in 1999. It is unfortunate that some of our people that were part and parcel in the trenches in that struggle still behave like the military.

Even as a governor of a state and former governor. Because what happened in Lekki goes beyond commander in chief as a president. It is between the federal government and the state government where they hold in their own jurisdiction. Because you cannot exonerate somebody as a state governor, when an army will move and attack protesters without your knowledge. Although we don’t have the facts and we can’t substantiate the order but it will be very difficult to clear any person with sane mind that the government of Lagos State did not know that the army is going to that place. Notwithstanding, you can see the aftermath of that attack. You can see result, you can see how many lives and public and private properties that have been lost. I monitored the social media and people were calling those who are louting criminals, right? They are criminals and I condemn what they have done totally. But I start asking myself, Nigeria does not know that wars that happened in different countries happened with one single mistake from the authorities. The Arab spring, was as a result of a loaf of bread, that caused the chaos in Tunisia. And it spread to about seven countries in the Arab nations and it consumed about four or five heads of state that have been in power for a long time. I remembered that it consumed Mubarak in Egypt. It consumed the Yemen president and it affected the president of Tunisia too. And even Gaddafi of Libya. It took just someone burning himself because of frustration over a loaf of bread in Tunisia. Not to talk of sending the army to kill peaceful protesters. We don’t know the figure yet now. The information at our disposal is that the army picked the lifeless bodies of those people into their vehicle and took them away. Now a lot of propaganda has been put out on that issue, they are trying to turn it to tribal issue, saying it was the Igbos that were attacking Lagos. And I said no, that, that will be counter productive, that is another crisis entirely. If you now allege that it is the Igbo and you lie against them and the Yorubas start attacking the Igbos, that is another civil war, for God sake. If not because we came out and clear the air that it is not a tribal issue. Those who protested did not even have an ethnic or regional agenda. They were calling for sanity in the country.

And the content of the people that were involved in the protest reflected in every tribe in the south. And even some middle belt and some northerners, because there was a protest in Gombe, and Kano. So what happened in #endsars was a national issue, it should not be tribalised. They should not bring an ethnic issue to it and cause another problem. And our politicians are very funny, when they know there is a problem, to dodge that problem they are ready to cause a disaster. If not because we rose and a lot of people issued statements to douse that tension, unfortunately we have a propaganda machine product in the person of Dr Adeyinka’s grandson in UK, coming out to say some unwarranted statements. Somebody who did not believe in self determination of the Yoruba land, now rolled out the presumed national anthem of Oodua republic. He ran it out in his video, after that he now said all the Yoruba youths should order the Igbos to leave Yoruba land. And I said who gave him the authority to say that? is he residing in Yoruba land? I am afraid this man has never touched the soil of Nigeria for the past 10 or 15 years in the process of getting his asylum in UK. It is unfortunate we have a product like that. Without even taking cognisance of the group at home, without even engaging or interacting with them by asking them what is their opinion about this issue. You published a video on a major tribe in Nigeria that has a lot of business in south west to leave our vicinity. And do you think they will leave in peace like that and leave what they have laboured for, for the past 40 years? So I think when there is a crisis we should know how to manage the crisis. Crisis is not politics, it is not a situation where you want to organise a governorship that you like, it is something you manage when it occurs. When there is a mistake and the ability to weather the storm that is the mark of a very good leader. But we thank God that everything is coming down and we have witnessed a lot of different scenario. We witnessed the people who went to take their palliative that was stocked, that the politicians refused to share to the common people. And when they went to take that palliative, the politicians were ordering them to return it back within 72 hours. And they in turn issued a statement again in social media that the politicians should return their own loots since 1999 for the past 21years to the central bank. So a lot of scenarios have happened, it’s rather unfortunate for those who lost their lives. But I think what happened is a way of learning or having a very good lesson about what we will do to move Nigeria forward. And that was one of the reasons we were saying that if there is a crisis on ground, you will not talk alone on how to solve that crisis or how to play down that crisis, how to bring peace when there is a crisis. You will be talking about having a solution such that the crisis will not happen again. Which is the demand of these young promising youths of Nigeria. Their demand is that they should reform Nigerian police, they should reform our educational system, they should reform our health sector, they should listen to ASSU based on their demand. The major one is the change of constitution, and the change of constitution revolve on restructuring. They may not know how to say it in details. And what is the impediment to the growth of Nigeria? What is the impediment to the peace we supposed to have in Nigeria? What is the impediment to the progress of this country? It is the 1999 constitution. Not only the 1999 constitution, it is when the military truncated our federalism in 1966. If you monitor what has been happening in our nation since the military took power in January 15, 1966, Nigeria has never witnessed peace. We have defaulted the agreement of the founding fathers of Nigeria. We have defaulted the agreement of our political leaders who agreed together in 1960, in 1960 they came together, and said let us form a united Nigeria. And how will we form a united Nigeria? We can be together on the basis of federalism. And what kind of federalism? On the parliamentary system of government and every region will develop at their own pace. Each regional will contribute 25% of what they generated from their own region to the federal. And the federal will have a limited responsibility. But the military came on 15th January 1966 and truncated the federalism to a unitary system of government, that was the beginning of our problem. When Gowon led government came in July 1966, we saw it as an opportunity to have power and have a centralist minded government. They made sure they reduced the influence of the region, after some time they abolished regionalism and started creating states. And that was the beginning of losing focus, the beginning of corruption, that was the beginning of creating an emperor in every state. That was the beginning of retrogression on the issue of Nigeria. That was the beginning of having a nation where we live in mutual suspicion. Because after the civil war, in 1967 to 1970, every tribe started suspecting themselves. The Hausa do not trust the Igbos, the Igbo do not trust the Yoruba. The Igbo said the Yorubas were the one that allowed them to loss the war, the Igbo said the Hausa was the one that killed their people. And the Yoruba said you did not even consult us before you went into the civil war. So we are living on the basis of mutual suspicion. We are lving in a cracked house and we are patching it every four, four years and we want to build unity. If you want to build unity, you don’t build unity when you have a mud house and you want to build 36 storey building on a mud house without a very good foundation. And that was the basis of our problem because what these youths demand is something that can move Nigeria forward.

And instead of us to listen to the message, we are fighting the messenger. Now they want to turn a peaceful protest into a violent protest. There was a lot of propaganda in the social media and I saw those who are pushing that propaganda. I don’t know their gain, I don’t know what they want but these people od not think about their future and the future of their children. If we can have some courageous youths coming out to have a peaceful protest, we should support them tactically if you are not going to be involved and we should discourage anything about violence that give bad image to the protest. Now the protest has reduced, but most of the Nigerian abroad are doing the protest now. it is a continuous process and the international community will listen to the people in diaspora than we people living in the homeland. We thought we can suppress the truth in the homeland in Nigeria. But what of the people in the international community, the Nigerians, how much will you give them to stop fighting for their future? They know the environment they are living in abroad. They know what the government in a civilised country is giving them. If you don’t have job, they will give you like $500 or even £800 to sustain your living. If you don’t have house, they will give you house, they will you a council flat to be living until you get a job. And when you are there, if you have a health issue that you can spend like two million naira on your health issue in Nigeria they will do it for you free of charge. They have very good infrastructure and they have 24 hours uninterrupted power supply. And their security is highly guaranteed. You move in the night more than in the morning in most of the civilised countries. And most of the business is being done in the night. We travel to these countries and we don’t learn from them and we don’t care to learn. This is a country that does not believe in free and fair elections. In some countries, one of the problems that led them to civil war is because there is no free and fair election. Rigging in an election and what is happening in Nigeria goes beyond rigging. We have more than enough problems to solve and the only way we can solve it is to make sure we restructure this country.

Away from all what transpired, people have been saying where was Amotekun, and I am sure you are a major stakeholder. What was the position of Amotekun? Because people believe if Amotekun was on ground it could have prevented some of these wanton destruction?

Well, I think in 2018 when I was installed as the Are Ona Kankanfo, after three months I wrote a letter to all south west governors and traditional rulers that there is a need for south west security summit. But our governors refused to yield to that letter for a period of one year and two months. After one year and two months they decided and held a south west governors meeting and I agreed to hold that summit. I was the initiator of this idea, they didn’t even allow me to talk, they just rose up and went. Now when you left the conference has already ended. I know that a conference like this, we must finish it, we must issue communiqué, after the communiqué the national anthem. And when you rise up without communiqué and national anthem, I have to follow you, I wont wait in that conference because you are the one that invited us. So, when they rose up, I too rose up from the meeting and that was how the meeting ended. The next thing they did was to establish a committee and I wasn’t privy to it. And that committee in their own wisdom suggested a name – south west security network, coded Amotekun, which is good. That was around July, in 2019 and nothing happened from July to December. Maybe the governor of Ekiti State saw the pressure of the various attacks of the Fulani herdsmen in villages and towns in Ekiti. And a special assistant to the governor issued a statement on the 2nd of January 2020 that Amotekun will be launched in January 7th. So when we read that news, I said this is an opportunity.

From January 3rd to 5th there was no call to me and I called a press conference that day. They want to launch Amotekun and I am not involved. Because people know the pressure that was on me about this south west security, because I granted a lot of interviews. In the process I wrote them a letter, and wrote them another reminder again, making it two letters. And there was no communication from them. it is only the Kabiesi Oba Olu of Ilaro that called me on the reminder and he told me that the traditional ruler in Ogun State have gotten their members and that they are working on it, that they will talk to the governor. So, in January 9th they eventually launched Amotekun. I got my invitation on January 8th to come to Ibadan, I got the invitation very late from DAWN Commission and I said I can’t make it to Ibadan tomorrow because I have another engagement. I was not informed that they will hold it because I don’t have an invitation. I don’t attend any place that I was not invited, so I had to send the Balogun Are Ona Kankanfo to represent me. And he was there and the launch was perfectly okay, although not all the governors were present. After then there was pressure from groups from the north attacking it, and we try to tell them that they have Hisbah in the north. And I we don’t have any precedent Hisbah is a precedent for us, so we have to have our own security network here as a backup for Nigerian police. A country with the population of Nigeria can never have good security with one structure of police. Even in South Africa they have about three structures with just less than 60 million population. Ghana has about two or three structures with just about a population that is not even up to 20 million. Britain with 70 million have about five structures of different police with just less than 70 million people.

America with a population of about 315 million has about 10 different structures of police. Even in the university they have their university police. They have their own train station police that have autonomy and can even prosecute people at their own level based on the constitution of the state or that area. So how can Nigeria with a population of 200 million people depend on internal security on one structure of police, it can’t work. Every crime is local, every crime you will commit, you commit in your own local government. so when you don’t have a local government police you are deceiving yourself.

If you don’t have a state police you are deceiving yourself because every crime is local. The local police will know the criminals in their environment. The local police will know a strange face that enters their vicinity. The local police will be very keen to do their job because if you don’t have effective security it will affect the when they are in service and after they retire. And the state police will make sure they protect their own state so that in future if they retire they can be more resourceful in active politics or doing any business. But when you are transferring people from Maiduguri to come and police Ondo there is a limit to what he can do because he doesn’t have a future to lose if he doesn’t do that job very well. But an indigene of that state has a future to lose if he doesn’t perform very well during the service as a police. So definitely if you jettison local police, you have jettisoned security. The federal police in the country of this geographical spread, almost one million square kilometers, you can’t succeed in crime fighting. We have been telling them, they said the governor will use the state police for their own interest. You are talking of politics, and you are not talking about the lives and properties. There is nothing that has an advantage without having a disadvantage. But what about the federal police that is being used to affect the interest of the people in the state and local government? let’s talk about our lives first and our properties. Assuming we have the backup, even the Amotekun was not even state police of local government police, it is just a security outfit, in the constitution that will complement the efforts of the federal police. We have talked about state police. And what is the ammunition that Amotekun will use in fighting crime? It is ordinary Pump Action, that ordinary security in the street is using. And it is being licensed by the Nigerian police, and the Nigerian police will license it through the governor. A pump action or a dane gun that is being use by local hunters in the bush, that was the request from Amotekun. But unfortunately during the recruitment our governor politicised it. They started recruiting some of their people from their party. And politics is not about strength it is about sincerity, it is about the conscience of the person who wants to secure that environment. If you don’t recruit those who have the experience, who are ready to lay their lives because of security, if you recruit people because you want to give them job, or because you want to build your political party in your state, you will lose out from the original aims and objectives. So that was the problem we still have with the Amotekun. The issue is that I heard that the security adviser did not approve them even using a pump action and the dane gun. There was a disagreement between the governor and the national security adviser. And I said it just of recent that Lagos state hasn’t signed the Amotekun but I am very happy that two days ago the commissioner for information said I didn’t get the information very well. I can agree with him that I didn’t get the information very well but I will disagree with him that the information was not made public that they signed Amotekun into law. Because we know Lagos state and their media power, so if they signed Amotekun everybody will know. But I agree with him now that they have signed the Amotekun on March 1st for the interest of Lagosians and for the interest of the south west. Because what we are talking about is a serious business. Assuming we have Amotekun, when this hoodlums try to hijack the situation that happened, when they started this looting and destroying properties on Wednesday afternoon, the Amotekun would have interfaced with them. Because the people in every local government will be recruited into Amotekun and the people in the local government know the criminal in their local government. So when we have different structure of police if this one doesn’t act very well, the other will act very well. And there will be a kind of competition on success defending lives and property on the issues of security.

The campaign for restructuring actually got ignited after the annulment of the June 12 election and since 1993 we have been dilly darling about it, and we have about four leaders who refused to do it. Do you see it and a form of elite problem? Because as of today four of the six region in Nigeria are not against it but two regions are clearly against it. And in the last six years they have been at the helm of affairs. Do you see it as a function of the reluctance of a particular region to let go or the leadership from that particular region?

Let me clear it, it is not 1993 that the issue of restructuring started. The agitation of sovereign national conference started from 1989 through late Aka Bashorun. They sold the idea to chief MKO Abiola, when he was campaigning that the only Nigerian progressive can support you is to make sure you agree on people’s constitution and restructure Nigeria. And he keyed into it in his campaign. And even when the election was annulled in June 1993, Aare MKO Abiola continued saying that if he was allowed to be the president, he will convene a sovereign national conference. So it did not start in 1993, it started in 1989 through Alao Aka Bashorun. He was a brilliant lawyer and an activist. The issue now has gone beyond two zones in the north and it is as a result of some selfish Nigerians. We even have some south west people that do not want Nigeria to be restructured. They believe that they know how to manipulate the system or statuesque and they are convenient of how the lopsided structure of Nigeria is.

They have lacuna to operate at their own will. So definitely it goes beyond the two zones you are talking about. Even the middle belt is now coming to reason with us and it is not even up to seven years. And even some people in the west today which I can’t mention. They started very well by supporting true federalism but when their ambition raised to certain level, they jettison that agitation. They don’t even want it again, all they want is to be the president. And to even have a constitution to be the most powerful president in Nigeria. The constitution of the Nigeria gives the exclusive list a very strong power. The content of the exclusive list on this constitution is about 67 in the 1999 constitution. The concurrent is just about 33 and the residual is just about 10 in the 1999 constitution. And the constitution was written by the military, just 26 people approved the 1999 constitution, it wasn’t a product of the civilians. It was written by Professor Yadudu and he was a special adviser on legal matters to Abacha. Yadudu single handily wrote that constitution. It is centralist constitution, a Unitary constitution, a crisis constitution, a constitution that will not allow the nation to move forward. And in 2014, President Goodluck Jonathan tried to make sure that he corrected the wrong document given to us in 1999. And he organised a national conference and I was one of the delegates. I remembered vividly, that some people went to him in the process of that conference, that what is his interest in the conference. And he said he doesn’t have any interest, if you people decided that I should go back to Otueke, I am ready to go. He said they should go and decide what will move this country forward. And we worked thoroughly even though some opposition by then were abusing us.

And in that conference we had a retired governor, military, immigration and about two inspectors general of police, director of state security service. We had about 66 professors in that conference. We had some former governors, about seven or ten former governors. We had some parliamentarians, some former senators about 15 of them. About two or three former speaker was in that conference and civil societies. And the selection of the day for that conference was done of the basis of justice. They gave all the socio cultural group in every zone 25 slots so that you can be well represented. Go and see the blueprint we recommended in that conference, its 664 content, everything was touched. I am one of the people that said that they should use that document. But what happened? Events have overshadowed it. in my own opinion, for us to move Nigeria forward, I think we should make sure that we go back to 1963 constitution. Because in that 2014 conference, we did augmentation, but I believe 1963 constitution, the republic constitution will solve the Nigerian problem if Nigeria wants to remain as a country. What is the content of 1963 constitution? The 1963 constitution recommended parliamentary system of government, recommended regionalism in the three major region. Later we had Mid West and middle Belt. But the 1996 constitutional conference have structured Nigeria to six geopolitical zones. With 1963 constitution we can bring Nigeria back to regionalism. And what is being generated in each region, we will be able to give 25% to the federal government in Abuja. What is the federal government doing with ministry of Water Resources? What is the federal government doing with ministry of agriculture? What is the federal government doing with the ministry of power and steel? What is the federal government doing with the ministry of housing? In most of the Western countries housing issue is about municipal, it is local not a federal issue. What is the federal government doing with the ministry of women affairs? What is the federal government with having only one supreme court in Nigeria? And you want to have quick justice? You have only one supreme court, each state should have its own supreme court. The magistrate in their own level. Every state is supposed to have their own supreme court, we can now have a federal supreme court. We can have a federal police, regional police, state police and local government police. People will say where will you get the money from? You will get the money. Everybody wants security, the first responsibility of any government is to provide safety for live and property, that is the first responsibility. When there is security investment will flow. People will do their business. A lot of initiative will come, innovation will come. When there is electricity the investor will come and people will be creative, small scale business will thrive because there is 24 hours uninterrupted electricity.

When there is good road, you can toll that road and the citizens pay a token. Our flood light or street lights in all these bushes so that criminals will run away because they don’t have anywhere to hide.

When there I a very good health sector, you will be able to give free healthcare to your people unless when there is a severe health issue that they should say with a token. When there is free education you will be able to take criminals out of the street.