What Progressive Nigerians Mean By Restructuring – Chief Adebanjo

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There has been so much miscommunication and confusion over what is meant by restructuring, with Nigerians aligning across ethno-religious divides in order to carve out a definition. Thankfully, an elder statesman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, a follower of Chief Obafemi Awolowo has set the record straight.

In an interview with Vanguard, Adebanjo condemned Alhaji Tanko Yakassai for misleading Nigerians on the topic of restructuring, even as he set the record straight.

Excerpts:

How true is Tanko Yakassai’s claim that the South West has been troubling Nigeria since 1953? If the North was not ready for independence, how can we, because we want independence, make it an effort to dominate?

We contested elections in 1950, and they claimed to have won, but when we got to the parliament, we as a progressive party wanted to be free from colonial rule. It was not only the Action Group; the NCNC was with us, it was only the North that said they were not ready.

Then, Tafawa Balewa led his people out of parliament, that was what caused the crisis and it was not because anybody wanted to dominate. We all agreed on self government for Nigeria.

Before then, the leader of party in each region, was in charge of government business, it was as a result of the constitutional conference of 1954 that true federalism was established but our leaders agreed to stay together on the principle of federalism and coming back from the meeting, the position of premiership was established in the constitution. Tanko Yakassai should fault me on this.

Awolowo became premier in the West, Sardauna in the North and Nnamdi Azikiwe in the East and the Constitution of each region was written separately. By the time they did that, the North said they were not ready for self government but we demanded it in 1957 and because they said they were not ready, they delayed till 1959. It was their (North’s) delay that pushed our independence back 1960.

Is it true that the West moved motion for independence in order to dominate the rest of the country?

That is Yakassai’s interpretation because there is no evidence of that. If we wanted to do that, why did the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons, NCNC, support us (Action Group)? So, they supported us in order to dominate? I feel sad that such a statement is coming from Tanko Yakassai, he is one of the remaining few that I thought would be politically rational and progressive in the North because he was a follower of Aminu Kano.

When the Northern People’s Congress, NPC showed its conservative bent, in the North,  Aminu Kano led the Northern Elements Progressive Union, NEPU, to oppose the Sardauna and the Action Group supported the NEPU in the election of 1959 because they were opposed to the conservative idea of the NPC. Yakassai should deny that, just as he supported Chike Obi in the East at that time against Azikiwe, who was also opposed to federalism.

Yakassai also alleged that it was because the Action Group could not match the North in any competitive election that its leaders resorted to coup plotting. How true is this?

It is unfortunate that this is coming from Tanko Yakassai. It was the North that crept into the crisis of the Action Group because Ladoke Akintola wanted us (AG) to have an alliance with the NPC but Chief Awolowo said no that they were not progressive enough. So, they waded into the crisis in the AG as they are trying to wade into the PDP crisis now. That was what led to that disagreement, and it was they (North) that planned the arrest of Chief Awolowo, of which I was a victim. I was one of those arrested for treasonable felony. So, it was a question of playing politics with each other.  It was the North doing divide and rule as they are doing now. They (North) want to divide the South so that they can take the upper hand. Since that time, the Action Group has been careful about the fact that if the progressives are not united, they can never win but the North had the backing of the colonialists.

Restructuring does not mean anything other than a return to federalism, that is all. What we are saying is: the army forcefully took over power, and they gave a Constitution to us, they said they are now going, they were insisting that we should use the Constitution they used to rule us and progressives are supporting that!

That is the contention. Whether it is restructuring, devolution of power, we are still talking the same thing; it is only because they want to confuse. I don’t believe that they do not understand. Look at el-Rufai still asking what are they restructuring? He is one of those who wrote the APC manifesto, and they put restructuring there. What don’t they understand by restructuring when they put it there if they are not making fools of themselves?

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