Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, has lambasted President Muhammadu Buhari for saying that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable.
Adebanjo belittled the president’s knowledge of the nation’s affairs, expressing that the retired general, who is now 78-years-old, was just a child when the independence of the country was negotiated in the 50s.
The 93-year-old’s comments come in response to Buhari’s Independence Day address on Friday, where the President had called the unity of the nation ‘non-negotiable’.
Speaking on the President’s off-handed criticism of secessionists, Adebanjo told The PUNCH 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 reiterated his stance that the country must restructure if it is to continue on a path of progress.
The Afenifere leader also lambasted Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and the All Progressives Congress National Leader, Bola Tinubu, for paying lip service to the call for restructuring by making empty campaign promises.