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Afenifere divided on Tinubu, Obi as Fasoranti hosts APC candidate

By Seye Olumide, Rotimi Agboluaje (Ibadan), Lawrence Njoku (Enugu) and Oluwaseun Akingboye (Akure)
31 October 2022   |   4:25 am
The ambition of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has caused a wedge in the long-standing relationship between two Afenifere leaders, Pa Reuben Fasoranti and Chief Ayo Adebanjo.

APC presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu (left); former leader, pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Chief Reuben Fasoranti; Ondo State Deputy Governor, Lucky Orimisan Aiyedatiwa; Ekiti State Governor Mr. Abiodun Abayomi Oyebanji and others during Tinubu’s meeting with Yoruba leaders and Afenifere in Akure, Ondo State…yesterday. 

• Tinubu hands over policy document, action plan to Afenifere leaders
• Buhari, North proved to me Nigeria can survive its unity, says Tinubu
• Tinubu’s visit to Fasoranti confirms division in Afenifere
• Ohanaeze Ndigbo: Those against Igbo will be defeated
• Why Nigeria needs Tinubu presidency in 2023, by Yoruba elders 

The ambition of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has caused a wedge in the long-standing relationship between two Afenifere leaders, Pa Reuben Fasoranti and Chief Ayo Adebanjo.

While Fasoranti is fully in support of Tinubu’s aspiration and prayed for his success yesterday, Adebanjo is backing presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi.

In March 2021, 96-year-old Fasoranti stepped down as National Leader of Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, citing old age. He handed over to 93-year-old Ayo Adebanjo as the Acting National Leader.

In April 2021, Fasoranti had earlier endorsed Tinubu’s presidential bid when the South West Agenda for Asiwaju (SWAGA 23), paid him a courtesy visit at his country home in Akure, Ondo State.

He had said: “Tinubu has all it takes to rule Nigeria. Considering his activities and track record, he deserves to be President, come 2023. May his prayers be answered. When he gets there, he will do all we want.”

However, Adebanjo quickly countered Fasoranti, saying his statement didn’t represent the general views of Afenifere.

Yesterday, Fasoranti and other Afenifere leaders prayed for Tinubu and endorsed his presidential bid. At the meeting, Adebanjo and those loyal to him were absent, including the Secretary-General of the association, Chief Sola Ebiseni.

Fasoranti’s support for Tinubu comes weeks after Adebanjo endorsed Obi. Explaining why he is supporting Obi for the presidency, Adebanjo said it is based on the principle of equity and federal character as enshrined in the Constitution.

“The Southwest has produced a president and currently sits as VP; the South-South has spent a total of six years in the presidency, but the Igbo people of the Southeast have never tasted presidency in Nigeria, and now that the power is due back in the South, equity demands that it be ceded to the Igbo,” he had said.

“We cannot continue to demand that the Igbo people remain in Nigeria, while we at the same time continue to brutally marginalise and exclude them from the power dynamics.”

Speaking on why he visited Fasoranti yesterday, Tinubu said he was in the Yoruba leader’s house to present his presidential action plan to him. Fasoranti urged the APC presidential flag-bearer to tackle insecurity and restructure the nation.

Speaking on behalf of the group, former Afenifere’s Secretary General, Bashorun Seinde Arogbofa, recounted that Tinubu came to seek support of the Yoruba leaders in April.

According to him, Pa Fasoranti asked Tinubu to come back for blessings after the APC primary, which he said they all watched with keen interest as Tinubu defeated all his co-aspirants.

Arogbofa reiterated on the importance of restructuring and insecurity to the development of the nation, saying those who once opposed restructuring of the country are now clamouring for it.

Leveraging the antecedents of the candidate as former governor and party leader, the Afenifere chieftain urged Tinubu to be a leader that will unite Nigeria and work for the progress and development of the country.

The former Secretary of the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae, who decried the state of the nation’s economy, charged Tinubu to work to fix the economy.

Falae bemoaned the falling value of the naira, adding that he used all his life to serve Nigeria and at his old age he does not want all he used his life for to be wasted.

“When you become President, please work to fix this country. We are here to offer advice. I am old and no longer looking for job. We need to fix security, fix our economy. Our naira is almost becoming useless and will soon become N1,000 to a dollar.

“We must change that. I know your ability. We will always be here to support and I wish you well. We will be here when you bring the trophy home by the grace of God.”

Ekiti State governor, Biodun Oyebanji and Ondo deputy governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, who received Tinubu and his delegation on behalf of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, expressed their loyalty to Afenifere and pledge support for Tinubu to win.

Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde, who was represented by his deputy, Bayo Lawal, also pledged allegiance to Afenifere, declaring that he would support Yoruba’s stance on anything bordering on the race.

“Even though we are not united by party, but region unites us and everything discussed on Yoruba, he would support. If he has not supported Amotekun, it would not have succeeded,” Lawal said.

Afenifere leaders at the meeting included retired Methodist Bishop, Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu; Chief Pius Akinyelure, Prof. Isaac Adewole, Otunba Gbenga Daniel and retired Generals Alani Akinrinade and Olu Bajowa.

While presenting his policy document and action plans to the Yoruba leaders, Tinubu said President Muhammadu Buhari, governors of APC from the North and other Northern leaders have proved to him that Nigeria can survive its unity and other challenges.

“The North proved to me Nigeria can survive its unity. Some people want President Buhari to announce someone but the President said No. He insisted the process must go on democratically. He remained upright and saw to the process to the end.

“Northern APC governors resolved that the Presidency must go to the South, especially Southwest. Governors Nasir el-Rufai, Abdullahi Ganduje and others supported me to the end.”

Recounting his ordeals at the APC primary and the stance of President Buhari, he disclosed that “the battle was tough and at a point I was in doubt. There were many rumours and I became confused of what to believe.

“President Buhari told me I promoted his name with the way I won the primary election because the process was clean and transparent and nobody can accuse him of manipulating the process.

“When I asked him to nominate the VP candidate for me, he said I should pick whoever I want and it is the reason I chose a competent man in Kashim Shettima who never lost any election and protected Christians in time of trouble in his state.”

YESTERDAY’S visit may have confirmed long-held division among leaders of the organisation over which of the three major presidential candidates among Tinubu, Obi and Atiku Abubakar to support in the 2023 general elections.

When contacted for comment whether Tinubu’s visit to Fasoranti is a sign of division within the group, Adebanjo said, “I am not in the best position to answer that question. Go and put it to the person that received Tinubu.”

He also said: “Pa Fasoranti did not say to Tinubu anything different from what we have been saying. I wouldn’t want the media to create what is not,” adding that any presidential candidate can visit anybody or group.

In another reaction, leader of Ogun chapter of Afenifere, Senator Femi Okunrounmu, had earlier told The Guardian there was no need inviting any of the political parties and their presidential candidates. He said the time for such invitation had passed. “We’ve had several interactions with them before in the last 23 years.”

He also said such an invitation is like asking them to come and tell us obvious lies because the two major political parties have been in government alternately in the last 23 years and the Southern Middle Belt Forum had interacted with these parties on many occasions with nothing to show for it.

According to Okunrounmu, “candidates are not the major issue now but the political parties. What PDP did in government for 16 years does not require Nigerians to return power to the party again. The same thing with APC, which has performed so poorly in the last eight years.”

When called to speak on the visit, Director General, Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission, Seye Oyeleye, said he wouldn’t like to speak on the matter since it was purely politics and he must not be seen to be partisan.

Recall that the commission recently expressed intention to invite the major presidential candidates to an interactive session to explain their plans especially as it concerns Western Nigeria.

MEANWHILE, apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, declared at the weekend that those opposed to the emergence of a president of Igbo extraction in 2023 will be defeated, insisting that the power being sought by the region was not one to dominate or humiliate fellow citizens, but rather its quest for power was anchored on justice, fairness and charity to all without malice.

President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof George Obiozor, stated this at Hampshire, during the Igbo day celebration organised by the United Kingdom and Ireland chapter of Ohanaeze Ndigbo.

Obiozor stated that Igbo struggle for justice and equity in Nigeria had been long and tortuously agonizing, assuring however that there was light at the end of the tunnel.

He said: “The Igbo have experienced various travails in Nigeria. Some of these travails can be evaluated within the context of cultural clash; the Igbo cosmopolitanism, frontier spirit and the capacity to turn adversity to prosperity. The foregoing contextual evaluation of the Igbo spirit of never-say-die is unique among Africans. But, the only option before us is to remain focused, imaginative, audacious, unflappable and united.

“Those who oppose us will be defeated, for unlike them, we do not seek to dominate, control or humiliate our fellow citizens or fellow humanity. Instead, we seek a world where justice and fairness for all prevail charity to all and malice towards none. The Igbo struggle for justice and equity in Nigeria has been long and tortuously agonizing, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“With our new narratives of courage without rancour, wisdom without arrogance and intelligence with humility, we will meet our detractors and adversaries or rivals with offers they cannot resist, and situations that compellingly encourage taking right actions for right reasons. And, this is where we are today.”

Represented by the National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr Chiedozie Ogbonnia, he stated that he was glad that the Igbo are not only found in every part of the world, but strive to uphold those unique sterling qualities for which they are known.

Yoruba elders, under the auspices of Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), yesterday, said Tinubu remains the best presidential material Nigeria needs at this critical time.

The Secretary-general of YCE, Dr. Kunle Olajide, who spoke with The Guardian in Ibadan, said all sons and daughters of Oduduwa are solidly behind him and Yoruba elders are equally backing the former Lagos State governor.