Akinjide: Working for Buhari by the Yoruba was a big blunder
Former Attorney General and Minister of Justice in the Second Republic, Chief Osuolale Abimbola Richard Akinjide, SAN, told The Guardian that working for the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari, by the Yoruba was a big blunder, and the Yoruba people, who supported him are regretting it now.
How do you view the increasing agitation for Igbo Presidency come 2019?
They are 100 per cent right. I have no doubt that the Igbo have suffered for too long. My view without any doubt is that we can no longer keep the Igbo people out of tphe federation because it is outrageous and it is unthinkable. My categorical view is that time is overdue to make an Igbo man the president of Nigeria.
Definitely, there is no excuse to keep them out any longer. They may have been ministers of finance, or petroleum, but that is not the end of the matter. So, my view is that we have reached a point where we should have an Igbo man as president. I read in the newspapers recently that somebody from the North still wants to be head of the Federal Government. I think that is outrageous and cannot be defended anywhere. Without doubt, we should make an Igbo man the president.
Are you saying that the Igbo are still marginalised under President Muhammadu Buhari?
Without any doubt, they are, and they have endured it for too long, and they should endure it no longer. That is my view.
What in your view accounts for this alleged continuous marginalisation by successive governments?
One, mistake. Two, greed, and third, stupidity.
What do you mean by mistake?
You have third (eleven), fourth (eleven) being made presidents; people, who should in fact, not be there. I am not going to mention names, but we should stop that blunder. Do you know that former American President, Barack Obama, did not visit Nigeria once throughout his eight years in office. This was a deliberate policy because this is a Nigeria that should be playing the role of the first (eleven) playing the role of third (eleven). As a result of that, they want to teach us a lesson in world politics, and in human politics. If it is possible for Obama to visit Ghana and Kenya, why should he not come to Nigeria? It was a message to us, and if you don’t get that message, then there must be something seriously wrong with us.
Could this be part of the reason President Donald Trump, did not invite Buhari, to grace his inauguration?
Before you go to America, you don’t have to be invited, you should invite yourself. Many of the heads of states who went there were not invited, they requested to be there. But what are we doing at our own level? Our president is either sick or is playing the role of third (eleven).
Are you saying that the kind of leadership we have produced in the past has been largely responsible for the marginalisation of the Igbo people?
One hundred per cent very bad leadership. We produce people who should not be there in the first instance. A person who should not be in the first (eleven), we made him to be head of government. That is why the rest of the world is ignoring us, and do not respect us.
Can’t the problem facing the Igbo people be traced to their inability to present a united front when it matters most?
No, I do not blame Igbo people at all. There is nothing the Igbo should do that they have not done. It is our turn to say look, the Igbo should play the role of first (eleven). Look at the minorities in the Niger Delta, they are even now in the forefront of drumming up support for Igbo agitation. The Yoruba too are now supporting that view. And the Igbo people are also saying the same thing. If in the next election, we don’t make an Igbo person the head of our federal government; we must know that we are heading towards disaster.
Becoming Nigeria’s president is a function of drawing support from the various ethnic groups. So why has it been so difficult for the Igbo people to reach out to other ethnic groups?
It has not been difficult, it has been due to selfishness of the other tribes, but I am very happy now to see that everybody in Nigeria is supporting the Igbo agitation, except those who are extremely selfish, who still want to lead the country. We should teach them a lesson that they will never forget.
What kind of lesson should we teach them?
I will not develop that point more than that for now. Becoming Nigeria’s president does not come easy, moreover, many people believe that the Igbo believe in ‘cash and carry politics.’
That is nonsense. There is no part of Nigeria that has not got its own peculiar character. The Yoruba like education a lot, they like sports, the Igbo like business and sports. People in the Niger Delta like fishing; they like to work in the oil and gas sector.
You are so passionate about an Igbo man becoming the next president. What should Igbo people do to earn this?
I think they have done everything possible to earn it, but now Yoruba people should come out and say they support an Igbo man to be head of government. The minorities in the Niger Delta should do the same thing. The northerners too should say the same thing, in other words, we should be unanimous.
Are you saying that Yoruba people should work for the emergence of an Igbo president in 2019, as they did for Buhari in 2015?
Yes. The Yoruba should do that one hundred per cent. Working for Buhari was a big blunder. I would not have supported it, and I said that Yoruba people, who supported him would regret it, and they are regretting it now. You can see that Buhari not only want to stay and finish his first term, but he also wants to have a second term.
So you want the Yoruba and Igbo people to form an alliance and work towards the emergence of an Igbo president?
Not only the Yoruba and the Igbo alone, the whole country should. In fact from what I am seeing now, the Yoruba are already drumming support for an Igbo Presidency, and anybody who is opposing it should be opposed.
All efforts by the Yoruba to form an alliance with the Igbo in the past were not been successful, particularly the one by late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. What assurance do we have now that this will succeed?
I have no doubt that it will succeed because I have spoken to a lot people all over the country, and I have no doubt that its going to succeed this time.
Are you also consulting with Igbo leaders over this important matter?
Very well, I am. But I will not develop it more than that for now.
In the Nigerian Constitution, a president has the right to a second term, why are you opposing a second term for Buhari?
For so many reasons, which you know, and which I also know, and I will not like to develop it more than that today.
Are you saying Nigerians are worse off under Buhari? because if a leader rules well, he deserves to come back for a second term?
I will leave that verdict for all Nigerians to pass, and not just me alone.
Why are you heightening the call for Igbo presidency now, and not during the 16 years that your party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in power?
I have said it before now, and even made the clamour when a Yoruba man occupied the Presidency … I have not ignored anybody, and I am just saying the right thing. But what I will emphasise is that no section of the country should be extremely selfish, nor extremely stupid, or think they have answers to all our problems. They don’t, and nobody has.
Your party is believed to be zoning the Presidency to the North, so how will this Igbo Presidency emerge?
No, that is not true. Anybody who told you that is being economical with the truth. I happened to have the right contact, with the right people, and I know that the views of many Yoruba people are not far from what I am saying.
So the PDP may not zone presidency to the North come 2019?
I have no doubt about that. I think that will be true.
Is there no merit in the allegation that the Yoruba are pulling out of any plan to help secure a second term for Buhari because they are already working for an Igbo Presidency?
I don’t want to make claims for anybody, whether a group or a section, but I am making claim for what I think is good for the country, whether he is a northerner or from the Niger Delta or a westerner. I am clamouring for the right thing and at the right time.
Will it be okay for the Yoruba to pull out from the Buhari government?
Not now, not immediately. But at the right time. Yes.
Will you say 2019 will be the right time?
I won’t answer that question now. I reserve my answer on that till later.
Do you share the view that the Yoruba are not well treated under President Buhari?
I want you to give answer to that question. And I have no doubt that you will give the right answer.
What is your own right answer?
My answer and your answer are likely to be the same and I leave it to you.
My answer is that President Buhari has not been fair to the Yoruba
If you give that answer, I am sure many others will like to listen to you.
Are you sure your party will still be alive in 2019, going by the wave of defection hitting it?
Solidly. Definitely. The party will be strong, able and will be one of the key players in the games of Nigerian politics in 2019 and beyond.
So, you share Governor Ayodele Fayose’s view that the PDP will come back stronger?
Ayodele Fayose is a very good governor and I support a lot of the things he is doing.
How do you view the level of insecurity in the country vis-a-vis kidnapping, herdsmen killing and militancy?
It is a disaster, very bad. It’s also a symptom of bad governance. There is hunger, lack of money and the people who should play the right game are not playing it.
What should the government do to right these wrongs?
I think all the Yoruba should meet and decide that, and if I am in that meeting, I will give my views.