As the 2019 general elections are drawing near, Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, has sent dangerous signals capable of upturning the political permutations of President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid.
Last week, Buhari had declared June 12 as the nation’s Democracy Day to replace May 29 and conferred Grand Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (GCFR) on M. K. O. Abiola, who died on July 7, 1998, and referred to as the presumed winner of the June 12 general elections annulled by the then military junta.
Most political analysts had seen the decision as a political magnet to gum the blood and fresh of most people in the South-West Region of the country to support Buhari’s re-election.
However, Afenifere, Thursday, insisted that President Muhammadu Buhari must restructure Nigeria to get the support of the South West in 2019.
The group said it would not support the president if he failed to restructure the country despite the honour done to Basorun MKO Abiola, acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
Speaking in a chat, Yinka Odumakin, the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, said while Abiola was killed many years ago, his kinsmen and other Nigerians were still being killed by herdsmen, while the president had refused to restructure the country.
“It is very clear. The only condition upon which we can support President Buhari is if he restructures Nigeria before 2019.
“If he restructures Nigeria before 2019, we can support him. But as it is now, honouring Abiola is not for us.
“What has been done for June 12 and Abiola by the Federal Government is like when a hangman who just hanged your brother brings his shoes to your family house as a measure to remember your brother.
“I don’t think you will prostrate for that hangman and say, ‘thank you for killing my brother’. That is where the issue of June 12 and Abiola had ended.
“Now, herdsmen cannot continue to kill our brothers in different places.
“Do you know many people herdsmen have killed who have not even been buried now?
“Abiola was killed many years ago but now people are being killed every now and then.
“We said restructure Nigeria to address these issues but you said no. Like T.Y. Danjuma said, our brain is better than that of cattle.
“We believe that to ask for four more years, we must know four years of what you are asking for.
“Is it the continuity of killings of citizens by herdsmen? So, the only condition we will give him is the restructuring of Nigeria.”
Speaking in a similar vein, a former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, said he aligned totally with Afenifere’s position that aside honouring Abiola, President Buhari must move a step further by restructuring the country if he wanted the support of the South West.
“I agree in toto. I agree because restructuring is a very fundamental issue. We must restructure Nigeria and also put an end to the killings and insecurity in the land,” he said.
However, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption (PACAC), said President Buhari’s motive for honouring Abiola and declaring June 12 as Democracy Day is not because he wants the support of the South West in 2019.
“Buhari did not honour Abiola to get the support of the South West. That was not his purpose. He did it to wipe out a long-standing wrong.
“He did it to give Nigeria a very clean slate from the terrible woes they inflicted on this nation and his people by this irresponsible, reckless and power-drunk military junta.
“It was to bind our wounds and restore unity, honour and integrity of the electoral system.
“That was what he has done. It is not to gain favour from the Yoruba. So, their response is totally misplaced,” Sagay said.
It would be recalled that on Tuesday, Balarabe Musa, former governor of Kaduna State, said there was nothing wrong if President Buhari honoured the late Basorun MKO Abiola because he wanted favour in return from the South West.
But Musa, in a chat, said even if Buhari had an ulterior motive for honouring Abiola, he should be commended for doing the right thing and righting the wrongs of the past.
“For those saying the president honoured Abiola because he wants to secure votes in the South West in 2019, what is wrong in that?” Musa queried.