Why Afenifere Supported Jonathan – Adebanjo | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Why Afenifere Supported Jonathan – Adebanjo

Posted: Jun 21, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Elder statesman and Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, in this interview with Temidayo Akinsuyi, says Afenifere has no regret backing former President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 general elections. He also spoke on the 2014 national conference, bail-out for governors, controversy over wardrobe allowance for federal legislators and other issues. Excerpts…



Afenifere threw its weight behind former President, Goodluck Jonathan, in the presidential election.  Looking back, do you regret taking that decision?

Not, at all. The main thing we supported Jonathan for is for the restructuring of Nigeria and until that restructuring is done, we don’t believe we can make much progress. One, that restructuring is based on the recommendations of the confab regarding restructuring. Part of the aftermath of non-restructuring is what is happening at the National Assembly today. You could see elements of ethnicity and the likes there. Nobody voted on party basis but on the consciousness that ‘my region must produce the Senate president or the Speaker’.  That is what we said we should settle once and for all.  Our belief is that the so-called APC is a conglomeration of incompatibles. That is what we’re witnessing today. How can you imagine a party that fought at the election and won on that scale not agreeing on first public action to show that they really planned and agreed on issues before they came together? It is strange to me that a party of that nature couldn’t have decided the distribution of offices among themselves long before the election? It is over a month, since two months, they won the election because the presidential election was conducted on March 28 and governorship on April 11 – since then, I expected them to have agreed on who should take what. Somebody said ‘he doesn’t belong to anyone, but he belongs to everybody’, that is only good in the northern parlance. How can somebody who contested election on the platform of a political party say he doesn’t belong to anybody? That party belongs to you. The context of whether you don’t belong to anybody should imply that you don’t belong to any faction within your party. But as long as you are a member of that party, what is the party’s decision on key issues? The party must agree on key political issues; if not, the essence of forming a political party wouldn’t have been there.

But now that President Buhari has not said anything about the implementation of the confab report, do you think Nigerians will regret not voting for Jonathan in the near future?

Of course. That (political restructuring) is the basis on which we supported him. Because implementing that programme will solve all the problems we have like ethnicity, corruption, tribalism, instability, and all.  But if Nigerians don’t see it that way, let us see how it is going to be done. The question of inequality in the country is there now. The domination of the country by some region is there now and you want the people that are being dominated and oppressed to be laughing.  You are still distributing revenue in the country on unfair basis. The region that contributed the least is having the greatest. Is that fair?  Some said Jonathan has hidden agenda in convoking the conference. I ask ‘what is the hidden agenda’? That is just finding excuses. Is there anything at the national conference that they don’t agree with? Since the end of that conference, almost a year now, I have not seen anybody or group disagreeing with the recommendations.  Any call for another conference is waste of public funds and not implementing the present one is also waste of public funds. If you disagree with anything in those recommendations, you only remove that part and implement the rest instead of not implementing the whole thing. There is no excuse at all for not implementing the recommendations. Remember, when Jonathan was handing over to Buhari, after handing over the administrative documents, and he was about handing over the report of the national conference, he said, ‘this is the most important of all that I am handing over to you’. And I agree with Jonathan because that is the sole of the thing that will keep the country together’. As long as the recommendation of that conference is lying there without any hope of implementation, the country is liable to go to pieces. At that conference, we tried our possible best to satisfy the demands of all the stakeholders on a give and take basis. And we all left the place

happy. But to continue under the injustice of the present constitution, that favours one section against the other and you desire peace and unity, there will be no peace without justice.

Are you worried that President Buhari might jettison the report of that conference?

I am not worried because even during his campaign, he never said anything about implementing the report of the conference. One of the reasons why I backed Jonathan was because of the conference. Many Nigerians believe the conference will greatly help in restructuring the country and I told them that Buhari and his party do not believe in the conference, yet they voted for him. It is now left for Nigerians to mount pressure on him to implement the decisions reached at the conference.  Buhari has proven me right on this one, because I said even their leader, Tinubu, became governor on the platform that he wants to do national conference. I went further to say that when we won the election in 1999 as Alliance for Democracy (AD), the leaders of Afenifere went round all the states won by AD, asking them to pass a resolution in their state houses of assembly for the convocation of a national conference. That was the decision when Tinubu became governor, even during the NADECO days that was the stand of NADECO which he claim to belong to. But now, the same Tinubu is now saying the national conference is a Greek gift, a diversion.  It is now left for Nigerians to decide. I have said I will not criticize APC now. I will give them ample time to settle down, maybe the first 100 days but I thought that a party that fought and won election, by now should have announced the cabinet. Since they won the election, they know they are in government. I expect them to have been putting things together and the moment they are sworn- in, they hit the ground running and everything should be in place.  But because of the contradictions within them, that is why they could not agree 2to come out with something and that is why I said the only thing they agreed upon was the removal of Jonathan. What they will do later after Jonathan’s removal and how they will do it, they couldn’t agree on that because they are a conglomeration of conservatives, progressives, conformists, and non-conformists. That is why I labeled them as conglomeration of incompatibles. I am not happy they are having crisis at this stage because it is the country that is suffering. All the programmes they criticized Jonathan for, they have not given us solution on how they are going to do it, rather they are still talking as if they are campaigning for election. I can’t be judging them with my own background. My own background is from the Action Group (AG). The AG came into existence one year before we came into office. Within that one year, we published our manifesto, telling the people what we will do and how we will do it. It was on that basis that we were elected, and the moment we were elected, we swung into action. That was why within three years that we were there, we started the free education and other developmental programmes that are still visible in the South West today.  I expect the APC to have decided on who is going to be the Senate president long after they won the election or did they just wake up last week and remembered there is the office of the senate president which vacancy has to be filled?  When they were merging, they should have agreed on how they were going to distribute political offices. That is why they have not appointed ministers because they have not agreed.  Honestly, I can’t compare APC with what we had then.


Are you surprised that the APC is having this crisis less than a month after its emergence as Nigeria’s ruling party?

All that is happening within the APC today, I am not surprised because the APC only agreed on one thing, and that is ‘Jonathan must go’. How to remove Jonathan was the only thing that brought all the leaders of APC together and what has happened at the National Assembly clearly shows that they don’t agree among themselves. Every other person has his own vested interested which they are now pursuing. Now that Jonathan has gone, the various interests are now coming to play which is not in the interest of the country.

Some said the crisis in the National Assembly leadership was because a leader of the party wants to impose his candidates on the lawmakers –

That is the incohesion in the party. We shouldn’t know about that. How can somebody be telling us that one man wants to impose his candidates on others? As a party, you must agree on certain things. A political party is a group of certain people who believe in certain ideology and agree on how those principles are to be implemented. To talk of somebody trying to impose candidates is an evidence of indiscipline in the party. If you want to know a party that is not cohesive and disciplined, it is exhibited at situations as these. If the party has agreed on something, it means all the stakeholders, and not just a section of the party has agreed. If the APC has truly agreed on sharing of key offices, they won’t go and display that disunity on the floor of the parliament. To be candid, I don’t want to criticize the APC now. I want to give them some time to settle down because I haven’t got much hope for the APC as a party, everybody knows that, but having won the election, my honest wish is that I should be disappointed by their performance. They should prove me wrong by doing things I have said they cannot do to the betterment of the country. I don’t want a situation where I will say ‘I have been proven right’. If that happens, it is the country that will suffer for it. We all agree that truly corruption is cankerworm that should be wiped out, but we are saying that the elements around the person that wants to wipe out the corruption are not qualified to fight the corruption because their hands are dirty. I said you are a dictator that does not obey the rule of law, you said you have changed. Now that power is in your hands, I want you to disprove my claim by your actions. I have no personal grudge against Buhari. As long as he is not engaged in selective fight against corruption and behaves more like a democrat, he is my man. Everything he wants to do in the interest of the country, I am in full support of it but I believe the elements around him are not the instruments with which he could achieve his goals. It is a matter of principle.


What is your take on the controversy over the Wardrobe allowance for the federal lawmakers when a number of states are struggling to pay workers salaries?

That is the question for the electorate who voted for them. That was why I said I want to be disappointed by their performance because I have said severally that they cannot do what they are promising Nigerians. Now that they are behaving this way, I don’t want to say that I have been vindicated, let Nigerians judge. Majority of those in APC today are people in the PDP. They are PDP number two. And they are the people who have been enjoying this largesse such as wardrobe allowance and the likes. Those who are talking about change are the minority who are there who have been criticizing them. That is the reason why people like me are also criticizing the APC because the same people the so-called progressives are criticizing in the PDP suddenly became saints the moment they crossed over to the APC. How can that be? I can’t talk much because some people will say ‘because your man, Jonathan, lost you can’t see anything good in APC’. That is why I said I will give them more time to settle down and let Nigerians decide.

There are talks about bail out for governors who are unable to meet the demands of their states by the federal government. Do you see it as a welcome development?

They shouldn’t be given any bail-out. The electorate is not that daft. Many of these governors, even though they can’t pay salaries, are still drawing their security votes. How do they explain that? The governors are getting fat while the citizens are suffering.  I don’t want to appear critical of the federal government at this stage. It is those who voted them in that should express their approval or disappointment on what is happening.

Former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, recently submitted a report to President Buhari on ways to move Nigeria forward. What is your take on this?

I have said Obasanjo’s regime is a disaster. I have no reason to regret saying that. When you look at the character and antecedent and family life of Obasanjo, he is not a character that should be talking in Nigeria about morality or advising Buhari on what to do. What moral has Obasanjo to be talking about public life? His wife said he is not a good man, his son, Gbenga, said the same thing, likewise his daughter, Iyabo.  I remembered that his son swore to an affidavit that he had sexual intercourse with his wife. In normal parlance, it is enough for anyone to be removed from the leadership of wherever he is and yet PDP was begging him to come back. I believe if anybody contributed to the ruin of the PDP today, Obasanjo is number one culprit. I say it without any fear or contradiction, the seed of defeat the PDP has experienced today was planted by Obasanjo. He ruled like an emperor. In a more civilized society, he should not be talking in public not to talk of advising the president.