• Thursday, July 18, 2024
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We cannot continue with a constitution made against the South – Ayo Adebanjo

Kidnapping in Lagos, Ogun, Ikere-Ekiti bank attacks: Afenifere expresses concern, suggests ways of checking rising insecurity

Ayo Adebanjo, a chieftain of the Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, has lamented the current hardship in the country, saying that the Bola Tinubu administration was not sincere with Nigerians.

In this interview with Iniobong Iwok, he also said that the country cannot move forward without a new constitution if President Tinubu does not implement the 2014 National Confab report. Excerpts:

Considering the demands of the Nigerian workers on new minimum wage, what is your advice to the Federal Government?

It is not enough for the Federal Government to say that they cannot sustain the demands of the workers. But they can sustain the demands of the humongous salaries that the National Assembly members and their personal assistants are earning.

They can support the humongous money needed to repair the Vice President’s house. President Bola Tinubu knew that the problems were there before he got there, it’s not about former president Muhammadu Buhari did this or that. He knew all these, when he said he would do the job.

Did he not know that when he was campaigning for the office? The problems did not meet him unawares; how can he get there now and start giving excuses. He must have planned for them before he got into the office.

Tinubu said that subsidy had been removed, when he removed it, what did he do with the money? You can find money to buy security cars of N150 million each for senators, but you can’t find money to pay the workers. The gap between the economy of the workers and those of the elite, as well as those of the rulers, is so much. Cut the salaries of the senators, reduce your large cabinet, and use the money to pay the workers. Look at the gap between the salaries of the senators and those of the poor workers.

They go to the same market; so, I don’t buy the idea that the government cannot sustain a new minimum wage that is acceptable to the workers. The government don’t just have the will to do it. All of you are begging the question.

If the government wants to do it, there are lots of ways of saving money to pay the poor workers. People are suffering, you say you don’t have money, but you have money to do Coastal Road. Of what importance is that one now? There are other ways of adding economic value. I don’t buy the idea that the government cannot do it, they don’t have the will.

They have money to travel all over the places and to do other things. They can afford the money if they have the will to save money to give the poor workers. They feel the workers must suffer, but the senators must not suffer. They feel they must be living in affluence and the workers must be living in poverty. This is untenable, uncharitable, unfair, inequitable and cruel.

But what do you think the government of President Bola Tinubu should have done better in the last one year?

That’s what I’m saying, all the problems that are showing up now, they knew about them. The question of minimum wage had been there since the time former president Muhammadu Buhari was there and President Bola Tinubu was part of the government. He should have planned against all these things. The problems did not meet him unawares. If he had a plan for the government he should have hit the ground running.

It is believed in some quarters that President Bola Tinubu inherited a very bad economy. Don’t you agree?

That is not acceptable, did he not know that before he came in. The question of poor economy, did it meet him unawares? When he was campaigning that he would do the job and change the country, what did he have in mind? Now, he is giving excuses that the former government didn’t do well, if the government did well, we would not vote them out.

Former president Muhammadu Buhari had to go and they were in the same party and President Bola Tinubu knew all these problems, when he was campaigning that they should vote for him and that he would deliver. Why is he talking as if he discovered the problems unawares?

What President Bola Tinubu is saying is that his reforms would set Nigeria on the right path such as removal of fuel subsidy and others and that Nigerians should bear with him. Do you agree?

We are not dunces, they should bear with him. When he came in, how much was a bag of rice, how much is it now? Price of petroleum has gone up, electricity tariff has gone up, there is no water, the roads are bad and you are telling the people to buckle up. All these problems had been there before he got in. We must call a spade a spade.

How can a reasonable person say he would give workers N62, 000 monthly, when senators are earning millions of naira a month? What kind of economic policy is that? Were they not there, when he came in, and when he picked his cabinet? When you are forming cabinet or doing other things you can afford it, but when it comes to workers’ salaries, you will say there is no money. This is a government that has no plan for poor people.

Tinubu is now in his second year, what advice would you give him?

God has been fair enough to President Bola Tinubu, he must leave the stage when the ovation is loudest, he should change the constitution now and let the country remember him for good.

This constitution is working awkwardly for the poor, the constitution that makes the south to contribute money and has nothing to show for it. A constitution that allows awkward distribution of revenue, no progress can be made under this constitution and if President Tinubu thinks he can achieve anything with it even if he wins a second term, he is deceiving himself. Let him leave the stage as the ovation is loudest.

Let him change the constitution to what our founding fathers gave us. He cannot do anything good under this constitution. This is a constitution that allows the President to control the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). I don’t believe in anything he is doing now until he changes the constitution.

The Federal Government is talking about local government autonomy and they have taken the 36 states to court over it; is that not part of the changes that we need?

That is part of the problem, it’s a diversion. Even the issue of security is there, they kidnapped people every day, they killed them and farmers cannot go to their farms again.

The body language of the President shows that he wants state police and other changes. Don’t you agree?

Don’t tell me about body language. The poor people won’t look at body language. A bag of rice is about N70, 000 and N80, 000 and the poor go to the same markets with senators, who earn unknown salaries every month. I don’t buy all these excuses.

Some people are saying that rather than having another constitutional conference, we should go back to the report of the 2014 constitutional conference, do you agree with them?

We have been saying that for long. Take the 2014 Constitutional Conference, get the report of former governor Nasir El Rufai, get people like Afe Babalola and others to reconcile it and within three months we will get a new constitution and go for referendum.

The Federal Government is unwilling; they have a fraudulent constitution that can keep them in office forever. Anybody that thinks that there is going to be a free and fair election under this constitution is deceiving himself.

It is also believed that the problem with Nigeria is our value system, which is why serving and former governors, ministers, LG chairmen, commissioners are being indicted by the EFCC, and can a new constitution change our value system?

I don’t buy all these diversions; 0wI know where we were before the military took over and I know where we are fmdmnow. The cause of our problem is the constitution. Is the country one now, when people contribute thousands of naira and you give them N1,000 in return?

Let President Bola Tinubu change the constitution and let everybody take part in it. We cannot continue with a constitution imposed on us by the military and made against the South.

This constitution is a fraud; we didn’t make it, the military made it. Let everybody sit down again and make a constitution for the country if you don’t want that of 2014. This constitution is an imposed one, it is fraudulent.