2023 presidency: Tinubu, Atiku not qualified to contest – Pa Ayo Adebanjo, Afenifere leader

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Pa Ayo Adebanjo, the leader of the Yoruba socio-culture group, Afenifere, has dared anybody with a superior argument to come out to challenge him on why it is imperative for the Southeast to produce the next president.

In this interview, he reiterated his support for the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, declaring, “On principle of fairness and justice I stand”. Excerpt:

In the run up to the 2015 general elections, you maintained a strong opposition to the candidature of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd). As his administration is gradually winding to an end, how would you assess the state of the nation as of today?

As I have predicted, until he goes away, nothing good is going to happen. He ought to have left five years ago, but because of the lethargy of the press to speak the truth to power, he is still there. The man has never proved to be competent or to be a democratic person. But you are all afraid to call a spade a spade. They are running a dictatorship under a civilian government. Who can face him in the All Progressives Congress (APC) and say no to dictatorship? Can the man who took the Yoruba to APC say no? Since 2015, how many times has he gone to Aso Rock? And how welcome was he? How many of the boys he took to Aso Rock are following him now? He is only after the interest of his children and children’s children.

Insecurity in the country is increasingly becoming alarming. Even in the Southwest, the threat of terrorists is looming. How would you situate the role of Amotekun in the maintenance of peace and security in the region?

Does the man who took the Yoruba to Buhari support Amotekun?

Again, you have maintained the position of Afenifere on power shift to the Southeast. Are you not wearied of the criticisms leveled against you that you are campaigning against the Yoruba interest?   

I still stand firm on the position of Afenifere on power rotation. The Southwest has had its own fair share of power rotation. Power has been in the North. When former President Musa Yar’Adua died, it moved to the South-south. Former President Goodluck Jonathan from the South-south left and Buhari came in. Now, if it is coming back to the South, is it the Southwest that is supposed to come in? Are we the only region in the South? What is the equity there? Is the Southeast not in the South? Those who accept naira and dollar from him (Tinubu) can say what they like, but they should attack me on the basis of justice and equity.

Then, why do you prefer the candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, to the candidate of the All Progressives Grant Alliance (APGA) which has a strong root in the Southeast region?

That is a question of choice. In fact, I don’t even know that APGA is putting up a candidate. Even if at all I am going to consider other candidates, I will still consider Obi. I have a right to choose a candidate. Those I won’t consider at all are the candidates from the Southwest and that of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar. It is a matter of principle.

As an elder statesman, you have seen it all. You know how politics runs. But putting all factors together, do you think Peter Obi can beat the candidates of the PDP and APC?

I am talking of politics of principle. I know that Peter has not got the dollar of Tinubu neither has he got the dollar of Atiku. All I am saying is that he is better than the two other candidates. And I am not talking of the baggage Tinubu or Atiku may be carrying now. I am talking of the principle of fairness and justice. The moment you deviate from the politics of principle in this country, you won’t get anywhere. 

Anyhow, somebody must win the election and the person who will ultimately win is that candidate who has the capacity to garner the highest votes. Does Obi have that capacity?

What is your standard of measurement?

That is the question I am putting to you.

(Cuts in)…You people are the ones who will suffer any wrong choice you make. I am already getting ready for my grave. But when the calamity comes, it is you people that will suffer. I stand on the principle I have laid down. I am not discussing whether Jagaban has the money or not. I am not discussing the issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket. I am talking of the principle of fairness and justice. Based on rotation, the Southwest has had its own.

Therefore, it is the turn of the Southeast except you don’t want to keep Nigeria in peace. Nigeria as a country is multi-lingual and multi-religion. So, we must operate on the basis of equity, which is why we are insisting on changing the present constitution. If we don’t put things straight, we will continue to suffer.

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Yes, you have always maintained the need for restructuring. Now that candidates have emerged, what would you suggest as a way of extracting commitment from any candidate who may want to dangle restructuring to woo the electorate when campaign starts?

That is what we are going to vote for. That is number one agenda. No development or security can take place until we do a restructuring of the country and have an acceptable constitution. By the time we go to campaign, these are the things that we will put before the candidates. I am directing the politics of the country to the politics of issues. Whether you are a rogue or you are not a rogue, whether you can go to America or you cannot go to America is not the question now.  When you go for an employment interview, the first question is your qualification for the employment.

The qualification now is that those who have not done it before should have it on the basis of fairness and equity. Has Southeast had it before? No. Therefore, the Southeast should have it. Any other thing is a gang up. They say they want to go, we say they shouldn’t go. How can they be in a federation where they are sidelined? You can never have peace without justice. It is on that principle I insist that Jagaban and Atiku are not qualified to contest.

As far as I am concerned, there is only one qualified candidate for this election. APGA candidate too is qualified, but he is not my candidate. My candidate is any candidate from the Southeast. I have a choice between APGA and Labour Party candidates. That is where Awolowo stood. By the time the argument comes, I will give you all the facts. Awolowo said it during the war that we must do everything to keep peace in the federation. So, let us come to that first. Quote me right, Afenifere’s stand is on the Southeast having it.

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