I Have Not Abandoned Restructuring – Osoba

Veteran journalist and elder statesman Aremo Olusegun Osoba spoke with reporters in Lagos on the agitation for restructuring, clamour for presidential zoning and other national issues.

Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo recently accused you of being a sell-out on restructuring. How will you respond to that?

Chief Ayo Adebanjo accused me of being a sellout. I have not sold out on restructuring. I have consistently campaigned for a Canadian or Australian model of true federalism. His attitude is that you must always agree with his own definition. This rigid attitude is contrary to the attitude of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who encouraged debates.

I have over time tried hard to give him respect because of the difference in our ages as a senior brother. I will now come out forcefully, to reply Chief Adebanjo any time he speaks. We were together on a programme about a month ago where he accused me of being a sellout and I challenge him that he knows me long enough to know that I have an impeccable character in terms of integrity and he admitted that he did not say I am corrupt but that I am not reliable as I sold out on the issue of restructuring. It is the likes of Adebanjo that made Afenifere to break into different groups. Let us first of all unite all the different groups within the Yoruba race. Can we go into war with these different groups? We have about 12 groups in Yoruba race today. Yoruba are intellectually endowed.

What is wrong in getting all the big brains in diaspora forming a strong intellectual group to write a paper on restructuring and the roadmap to arrive at self-determination? Who is against self-determination? Awolowo was able through regional system to create first class region in Nigeria. We should have sat together to organize an intellectual group to write different reports on Yoruba self-determination; that is what we should be doing.

Do you have any prior disagreement with Chief Adebanjo before his statement?

There are two issues that I disagree with Adebanjo on. For example, in his own dictatorial way, he says he has now zoned the 2023 presidency to the Igbos. I want to query him. Who is he to zone the Yoruba race out of the presidential race in 2023? Who is he? Where did we meet as Yoruba to say that we are ceding the presidency to the Igbo? Awolowo will not behave like that. There will be a meeting where there will be consensus.

Of course, the Igbos have a right to contest in 2023 just as I, a Yoruba man, also have a right to contest. But, he (Adebanjo) has unilaterally zoned it to the Igbos. That is part of his dictatorial attitude. He is a dictator.

Two, he says we must boycott 2023 elections. Where did we sit down to decide that Yorubas will boycott the 2023 elections? He doesn’t read history, even the history that he was part of. In 1964, he was in exile in Ghana. The issue of boycott arose. The National Congress of Nigeria Citizens (NCNC) and Action Congress (AG) went into an alliance and formed the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA).

Overnight, they decided to boycott the election. Awolowo, who was then in Calabar prison, sent a message that we should never boycott the election. He said boycott is not recognised by law anywhere and that we will lose out.

Of course, we boycotted and we lost out in the government that was formed in 1964. Our other wing of UPGA in the East refused to boycott and so we produced nobody in the National Assembly then. Awolowo has never been a supporter of boycott.

Adebanjo should tell me example of when Awolowo ever boycotted and where he (Adebanjo) got that philosophy from. I query him, where did we meet as Yoruba to say that we are going to boycott 2023 election? Even if we boycott, other Yoruba will go into the race. The PDP Yoruba will contest, and so, who is the loser?”

If we are going to boycott, let it be that all of us sat down together, debated it and arrive at a conclusion. There are the two major issues that Adebanjo is preaching, which are unrealistic and which Awolowo would never have supported. Awolowo will never support boycott.

What do you think is the way forward and how best do you think this war can be resolved?

I have no war with him as far as I am concerned. What is paramount to me is, let us stop using insulting, abusive languages and antagonising too many people. Let us find a way of bringing different opinions and views to the table. In a democracy, let everybody have a say. As a journalist that is my training. 95 percent of what we journalists publish are opinions and views that we disagree with, but we will still go ahead and publish these views and leave the public to judge. That is our training. I don’t know what kind of training he has that he has no room for second opinion, third opinion or anything that does not agree with his own opinion. The way forward is, the Yoruba nation must come together. All the young elements must be brought in. I’m at an advanced age of 81, he is 92. At this stage, young people like you should be in the forefront.

He keeps attacking Asiwaju Bola Tinubu that he was never for the National Conference of 2014. True, Asiwaju expressed his own personal opinion, to which he has a right to. When asked that we will not support the party sponsoring delegates to that conference, but at the same time, we resolved that the joint Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) controlled states with Asiwaju in attendance approving that the ACN states should send delegates to that conference and we did. From Adams Oshiomhole in Edo, to Babatunde Fashola in Lagos, Ibikunle Amosun in Ogun and Abiola Ajimobi in Oyo state and Rauf Aregbesola in Osun. The only two states that we didn’t control then were Ekiti and Ondo. The ACN (now APC) states sent delegates to that conference. But, Adebanjo will distort history. Bola Tinubu is not a perfect person. His views may not necessarily be the same as mine, but he has a right to his own views. If Tinubu was not a fighter, how come he was able to fight former President Olusegun Obasanjo to a standstill on the local government fund? When the elders messed us up in Alliance for Democracy (AD), Obasanjo had made sure that we will not have a party to contest the 2007 election. I can reveal to you today. It was Bola Tinubu that organised Senator Anthony Adefuye to form a party; Ayo Opadokun also formed another party and we organised and nurtured the two parties to the level that they conform with all the INEC rules. It was after the party was formed that we now showed up at the AC convention in Abuja with Atiku Abubakar in attendance. It takes somebody, who is a strong political tactician to outwit a man like then President Obasanjo. If we are not fighting for emancipation, how come the Third term agenda was killed? Where were they? Did they have any representative in any of the chambers?

How was the Third Term agenda killed?

We were the ones who made sure that our party members did not take the N50m being distributed to legislators then, and collaborated with everybody in the country including General Muhammadu Buhari, Gambo Jimeta, MD Yusuf. Senators Ben Obi and Uche Chukwumerije were leading the senators from the East and we collaborated with them to fight third term agenda and ensured that the thing did not go to second reading under Ken Nnamani Senate Presidency. We have our credentials. You shouldn’t just go about lambasting all of us as he used to do before. The worst sellout has always been with him over the decades. Let us be constructive for once. Even if we are going to disengage the country, we will do it by sitting on the table with everybody; with all ethnic groups. The Northern Ireland went into a kind of civil war with UK. So, many people died but at the end of the day, they went to have Good Friday agreement after IRA had killed so many, they even went and bomb Scotland Yard. Yugoslavia fought a war of attrition; they separated on the conference table.

Gorbachev divided the USSR at conference table. Czechoslovakia became Slovakia and Czech at the conference table. Even after any war, we will still go back to the conference table. Who made Adebanjo judge on my character, Asiwaju’s character and Bisi Akande’s character? I also warned him on a programme a month ago, I said the Bible says judge not, so that ye shall not be judged. With what ye judged, ye shall be judged. The parameter that Adebanjo is using to judge us, he should also put the parameter to himself and tell me whether he too passed all the parameters in his rigidity and in his jumping from one party to another. If he says that is Awolowo’s philosophy, I disagree with him.

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