Ayo Adebanjo is the leader of the Yoruba socio-cultural group (Afenifere). In this interview with journalists, he advocated for revisiting of the 2014 Constitutional Conference recommendations by President Bola Tinubu. He expressed concern about the perceived compromise within the judiciary and advised that urgent steps must be taken to salvage the country by the President. INIOBONG IWOK brings the excerpts:
How would you react to the recent rulings by the Courts of Appeal on some governorship elections that people said are being one-sided?
It is a case of calling someone a thief and he is behaving like one. The courts are doing things in such a way that people would believe that they are not plain, it’s unfortunate. How can your judgement be different from what was read in the court and you said it’s a typographic error, error in what sense? I am not happy with the judgement, it’s part of the confusion in our country.
The only solution to our problem now is to change this constitution totally. We should overhaul the whole system. President Bola Tinubu should be sincere to himself on this. The constitution is not our own.
It was imposed on us by the military, the military said that they have gone back to the barracks, let them go with their constitution. Let us take the report of the 2014 Constitutional Conference and the recommendations of former governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State. Let us have a political sanity at home before any question of development can take place or else we are playing with fire.
But some people are saying that we need a reform in the judiciary and former president Olusegun Obasanjo said that three people cannot determine the fate of millions of people. Do you agree?
That is part of what we are saying, people have lost confidence in the judiciary. They should reform the whole system, don’t let us live in denial or play to the gallery. The judiciary is not helping matters. They accused someone to be a thief and he went to take another man’s ram. They say you are corrupt and you are behaving as if you are corrupt. You said one thing in the court and the judgement is saying another thing, how do you defend that coming from an appellate court. You are telling us that it was a typographic error as if we didn’t go to school.
Is it right to say the government in power is influencing the judiciary?
That has been the allegation and the judiciary is behaving that way.
But the same thing happened in Rivers State where all the primary elections of the APC were cancelled just like in Bayelsa, when the election of David Lyon of the APC as governor was cancelled by the Supreme Court even when APC was in power. You still don’t agree?
Don’t let us play with words, that does not take away the contradictory judgements that we are having now, the thing is that the people have lost confidence in the judiciary. That is the issue now.
Apart from constitutional review, what do you think the present government should do urgently?
Constitutional review is the basic thing. If you don’t change this constitution, you cannot do anything.
But what of the economy?
Yes, the economy cannot move anywhere because everything about the economy is at the center. You see a government that says it will fight corruption and when they get to power, they will say fighting corruption is not their priority. You are not arresting those who are corrupt and you say you want to make progress.
What advice do you have for the government on the way forward?
I have said it before, President Bola Tinubu should change this constitution now, then we can move forward, no other way, no short way.
But he cannot do that immediately, there has to be a constitutional conference. Do you think otherwise?
But the constitution we have now, was it done by a conference? It was done by fiat by the army, he too should change it by that system. This is a civilian government, you are talking about a military government
Then it is a civilian government implementing military constitution. That is why we say that the military should go back with their constitution. How can a civilian government be ruled by a military constitution that is not working. We should not be living in denial.
Are you saying we should jettison the presidential system of government and embrace parliamentary system of government?
When we get to the river we will cross it. I said let us take the report of the 2014 Constitutional Conference and the report of former governor Nasir El-Rufai. Don’t let us waste money on another constitutional conference, we have spent a lot of money on that.
Put the documents together and the economy and everything will follow. Let us have political sanity at home. The country is not united now, we are divided for various reasons. Let us settle our coming together under an agreed constitution.