Elder statesman and chieftain of Afenifere, a Yoruba socio-cultural group, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, in this interview with GBENRO ADEOYE accuses President Muhammadu Buhari of using his recent declaration on June 12 as a political gimmick ahead of 2019 presidential election
What do you think about President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration that June 12 will henceforth replace May 29 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day in honour of the late Chief Moshood Abiola and conferment of the award of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic on him?
I am not excited about it; but it is better late than never. It is welcome; however, it is late and belated. I’m one of those who have always believed that when the people’s government gets into office, that day will be declared. But if he (Buhari) has now done it because the presidential election is coming, well, he cannot bamboozle anybody with that. What we are saying is that if he wants to honour the memory of Abiola and June 12, he should implement what June 12 stands for, which is good governance and democracy. He should restructure the country before the elections to show his genuineness and not just be playing to the gallery. This is because all that June 12 stands for is democracy and good governance. It is not about people being killed right, left and centre and pretending that you don’t know what is happening. It is not people being killed every day and after three months, you now wake up and say you are beefing up security. People have been complaining about the awkwardness of the lopsided appointments of heads of security agencies since you came into office, but it was not until now that the vice president (Prof. Yemi Osinbajo) said, “Oh yes, we are going to review it” – because election is approaching. We are no fools in this country. He should know that many of us have not got cattle brain, we are well educated and we know what we want. Nobody can come and bamboozle us because elections are coming. It is just like he said in 2015 that he was a born-again democrat. Now, he has shown us that he is a dictator. We are not moved by it. It is a welcome idea and yes, it is a thing that ought to have been done. But that he is now doing it because elections are coming, I am not excited by that at all.
So you are one of those who think it was all a political move. But why do you think so?
Of course, it is. If he knew it was something that should be done, he had been in office for three years, why is it that it was when he realised that he was ending his first term in office and requiring votes that he remembered to do it. He thinks that we are so foolish and he can say that he did something for us. As I said, we have not got cattle brains, we have got real brains.
But some people in South-West have been praising the move…
You should know those are the people with whom they have some hidden agenda and are deceiving themselves. That is the essence of democracy; we cannot all face one direction. That is the South-West for you; we are the most democratic region (in the country).
Do you think that the move will swing some votes in favour of the President in the 2019 election?
Don’t deceive yourself! Do you think Yoruba people are that stupid? We are not that stupid. Quote me; if Buhari thinks he can bamboozle the Yoruba people with that, he has failed. Go and ask (Asiwaju Bola) Tinubu; Tinubu himself knows that he has burnt his boat if he continues to support Buhari on the question of restructuring. For anybody to think that he is going to do anything for us in Yorubaland now, he should restructure the country. And not that we will continue with a constitution imposed on us and you begin to harass us, keep all the security people in your hand, and use this (June 12 declaration) to bamboozle us and yet, you say you are a democrat. That time is gone. As some people have said, he can change Christmas Day to June 12, that doesn’t mean that they won’t get rid of him in 2019.
So if he restructures the co……