Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, has lambasted the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), for saying that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable.
Adebanjo said that Buhari, who is 78 years old, ought to have known that Nigeria’s Independence and terms of unity were negotiated in the 1950s, but the President was a “small boy at the time, hence his ignorance.”
The 93-year-old Afenifere leader said this during a live chat with The PUNCH on Friday while responding to the President’s Independence Day speech.
Buhari had said that the unity of Nigeria remains non-negotiable. However, Adebanjo said that in 1953 when the North opposed the call for Independence and rather advocated ‘Araba’ (secession), Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe convinced the northern leadership headed by Ahmadu Bello, to negotiate the terms of their unity and ultimately their independence from British rule.
Adebanjo said, “He (Buhari) is talking nonsense. These are the kinds of things that cause trouble.
“How can the President of a multinational, multilingual and multi-ethnic society say the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable? We negotiated the unity of Nigeria in 1954 before independence.
“The 1960 Constitution was a product of negotiation that arose from the London constitutional conference.
“Of course, I can’t blame him (Buhari). He was still in primary school at that time, so, he couldn’t understand. He should go back to the records.
“Before the constitutional conference, the country was being run as a unitary government and that was what caused the crisis.
“When we got to that conference, Chief Awolowo re-educated them that you cannot run the country as a unitary system. It was at that conference that Nnamdi Azikiwe was converted to federalism and when he returned from that conference, Azikiwe, at the airport, declared that federalism was imperative. It was in the Daily Times of 1954.”
The Afenifere leader said that the 1960 Constitution gave all the regions financial autonomy, such that every region was able to control its own destiny.
Adebanjo, however, said that after the military coup of 1966 and Nigeria became a unitary state, things began to go downhill.
He, therefore, argued that, for Nigeria to return to the path of progress, it must embrace restructuring and this could be done by first doing away with the 1999 Constitution which he said was not based on fairness but exploitation of the South.
The Afenifere leader also lambasted Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and the All Progressives Congress leader, Bola Tinubu, for paying lip service to restructuring.
Adebanjo said that it was unfortunate that Osinbajo and Tinubu, who promoted restructuring, are now pretending as if it was not included in the APC manifesto during the election campaigns in 2015.