By Dapo Akinrefon
CHIEF Ayo Adebanjo, a staunch Awoist, is a leader of pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere. In this interview, he says the designation of June 12 as Democracy Day by President Muhammadu Buhari, last year, as against May 29, has not resolved the June 12 question.
The June 12, 1993 presidential election, described as Nigeria’s freest and fairest election, and presumably won by the late Chief MKO Abiola, had been annulled by the military. Adebanjo spoke ahead of the first celebration of June 12 as Democracy Day. Excerpts:
This is the first time June 12 would be celebrated as Democracy Day. What does it mean to you?
It is only symbolic. Those ruling us have not done anything to show that we are in a democracy. We thank God that due to the pressure mounted by the progressives, a date has been set aside as Democracy Day.
However, democracy has not reflected in the affairs of government. In obeying court orders, abiding by the constitution and knowing that this is a democracy, and in appointments, they have not done well. All things that have given cause for anxiety in the country are still prevalent. President Buhari is just there thinking that nothing can happen to him.
We thank God that the pressure is there to remind the President that he is not complying with democratic tenets. We will continue to condemn his poor policies and actions.
Would you agree with those who say that the June 12 question has been resolved?
It has not been resolved. When you talk about democracy, it must be symbolic. Our actions and activities have not shown that we are in a democracy. Can you imagine people talking about restructuring without the leader of the country saying anything about It? Gen Yakubu Gowon (retd) has spoken, leaders of Afenifere have spoken, Afe Babalola has spoken and all those who matter in this country have spoken about restructuring. The President just turned a deaf ear. It only means that the progressive elements should remain in the trenches because we have not got to the Promised Land at all.
How well do you think MKO Abiola should be immortalised?
The designation of June 12 as Democracy Day and renaming of the National Stadium after him are okay. But the better way to immortalise him is to make peoples’ votes matter because he died and his mandate was not given to him. He paid the supreme price.
But do you agree that the designation of June 12 as Democracy Day was meant to get the votes of the South-West in the 2019 general election?
I wouldn’t say no. They only did it for those who do not know what democracy means. Since they didn’t fight for independence, they don’t know what it means.
That may be their purpose or intentions but definitely, that is not it at all to those of us who know what we are fighting for.
The narrative the some Yoruba leaders betrayed Abiola is still strong out there. Do you agree?
It is the narrative of the opposition, who want to neutralise the agitation. Don’t mind them.
Mention a serious Yoruba man who said that. It is only those who are “Yoruba APC” that can say that. The non-conformists, those who never believed in it and those who think they can get something from Buhari are the people saying it.
No responsible Yoruba patriot will talk like that.
Do you think the clamour for Abiola to be declared President posthumously is still necessary?
It will only be symbolic if that is done but the right thing to be done is for us to have an election where the people’s vote matters. That is the way it should be done. Any other thing amounts to playing to the gallery.