Afenifere: I remain leader, says Adebanjo as Fasoranti returns
• Fasoranti: Afenifere meetings will now hold in Akure
• Adebanjo: Old age caused Fasoranti to get dragged into this mess
• Yoruba leaders mum on leadership tussle
• Adewale: Fasoranti’s endorsement conforms with creation, ethics of Afenifere
The crisis in the apex body of Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, got messier, yesterday, when the incumbent acting leader of the group, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, lambasted his immediate past predecessor, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, saying, “he (Fasoranti) has no right to come back to assume the leadership of the organisation after he had written a letter to resign in which he stated categorically that I (Adebanjo) is now the leader.”
Adebanjo’s response was in reaction to recent development, especially moves by Fasoranti to exercise control over Afenifere. Fasoranti had reportedly said leaders of the group would no longer converge on Isoya Ogbo, Ijebu home of the acting leader, Adebanjo. According to him, the meetings of the organisation will henceforth hold in Akure, the capital of Ondo State.
There were insinuations that following the shift of meeting venue to Fasoranti’s residence, Adebanjo may have ceased to be acting leader.
Crisis had erupted after the two elder statesmen made public their different endorsements of presidential candidates between All Progressives Congress (APC)’s Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP).
Fasoranti said Obi has not been endorsed by the group. “We have not deviated from the same principle. We still stand for the good of the people,” he said.
“I didn’t retire from the leadership of Afenifere. I was misinterpreted. I am still the leader of Afenifere. Afenifere is not endorsing Obi. We are endorsing Jagaban (Tinubu). As you can see the trend following the approval and the acceptability.
“Adebanjo cannot warn me not to welcome Tinubu. Adebanjo took a stand and I took a stand. We did not speak about Tinubu’s visit. It goes without saying that Jagaban is accepted and we approve of it. Obi has no stand in our mind at all.”
Adebanjo, in a telephone conversation with The Guardian, yesterday, said it was unfortunate that at Fasoranti’s age, he is allowing some younger elements to influence him with money and allowed himself to be dragged into this mess.
He said: “Where is that done that someone would resign for almost two years now and suddenly come back to say he wants to assume leadership? I am sorry for him. Maybe old age is affecting him. Which Constitution approves that? I am the leader of the organisation. Pa Fasoranti has no right to take any decision on behalf of Afenifere.”
Adebanjo’s outburst is coming on the heels of Fasoranti’s endorsement of Tinubu on behalf of Afenifere, in Akure on Sunday, which contradicted the earlier position of Adebanjo who had endorsed Obi.
Adebanjo, who laughed at Fasoranti’s statement, said they are waiting to see who would attend any Afenifere meeting in Akure.
Adebanjo said: “No problem. Let them hold the meetings in Akure and see the number of people that will attend. I am the leader of Afenifere. They are just trying to cause confusion and I won’t help them to do that.”
Majority of the younger elements in Afenifere do not align with Adebanjo’s ‘unilateral’ decision of endorsing Obi. They confided in The Guardian yesterday that they were part of the decision that led to the endorsement of Tinubu by Fasoranti in Akure on Sunday.
But when called for reaction, a former Senator that represented Ogun Central, Femi Okunrounmu, said he wouldn’t like to be joined in the disagreement between the two nonagenarians.
According to him, “I am trying to stay out of the controversy. When you have two old men, who are getting closer to 100 years fighting, it is better to stay away. But let me say it clearly that I know what I want and nothing, not even the Afenifere crisis will change my mind-set. I also believe everyone has his or her own mind-set already irrespective of the side of the divide they are.”
The deputy national leader of Afenifere, Alaago of Kakola Ago, Oba Oladipupo Olaitan, when contacted, declined comment. He said there is a need for someone who is completely dispassionate to speak on the issue. “I will talk when it is appropriate.”
In another comment, the retired Methodist Archbishop, Bishop Ayo Ladigbolu, said it was not a wrong assumption that Pa Fasoranti is currently more acceptable than Pa Adebanjo within the ranks and file of Yoruba people at the moment because of the circumstances on ground.
He, however, said it was unfortunate that Yoruba are being forced to make a choice between the two nonagenarians, who have fought relentlessly and risked a lot for the sake of the nation.
“It is very difficult for anyone to make such a choice now. But for me, the Yoruba people know what they want and the leader who abides by what they desire is who they would follow.”
One of the younger elements in Afenifere disclosed to The Guardian that there was nothing spectacular about Tinubu’s visit to Fasoranti.
According to him, “recall that Tinubu visited Pa Fasoranti and also Pa Adebanjo when he was contesting to get APC’s presidential ticket and he promised the duo that he would pay them a return visit if he eventually got the ticket. It was the fulfillment of that promise Tinubu made by visiting Pa Fasoranti on Sunday. He could have as well paid a similar visit to Pa Adebanjo, if not for the hard position the Papa took against his (Tinubu) candidature.”
MEANWHILE, the Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum, said asking Adebanjo to step down for Fasoranti, is a fate most cruel on Awoism.
Speaking with The Guardian, president of the group, Akin Malaolu, said: “We are quite aware that the crisis over endorsement instigated by Tinubu in companionship with some ‘Internally Displaced Politicians’ (IDPs) on the long-standing Awo House named Afenifere, was a storm that may be too cruel on the sensibilities of the Yoruba people.
“The late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, had said before he died that ‘some of my disciples are frauds.’ This statement was made much after the late Chief Akin Omoboriowo connived against the Awo House and he suffered political ostracism till his death. Many others alive or dead have remained unsung till today.
“We must be worried that Pa Fasoranti, who retired himself and made the announcement by himself, could suddenly and anyhow resurrect himself and reinstall himself in such a manner that stands logic on its head. Pa Adebanjo is the most recognisable leader in Nigeria and Yoruba land today and he will remain the most acceptable, and the best voice for true federalism and restructuring of a Nigeria that belongs to all.
“If by error, the Yoruba people are forced to wear Tinubu’s face, we may be emboldened to say that the Yoruba people of the Southwest may be forced to reassess the reasons why so much hardship had taken control of our lives, why the agbero style of leadership is quite common and so obvious among us and why the cherished principles behind the spirit of Awoism and Omoluabi is being substituted for massaging the ego of just one man clearly known to carry heavy burden of guilt, both in education and public life. We are indeed sad.”
Speaking on the development, former chairman of Amuwo Odofin council, Comrade Ayodele Adewale, said: “What is currently happening is a case of interest, but the supreme interest should be the interest in which the organisation was founded, and that is the interest of protecting primarily that of the Yoruba people.
“I don’t think Pa Fasoranti has gone out of line to have endorsed Asiwaju Tinubu, hinging on that primary interest of existence. He consulted far and wide from the video I saw and the nomenclature of people that were there, these are eminent Yoruba people that fought very strongly to keep the interest of Yoruba nation on the table in Nigeria.
“If Pa Fasoranti has endorsed a Yoruba man, it conformed with the creation and the ethics of that organisation. Looking at what confronts Nigeria now, it is not about pettiness, but about competence, who can bail us out.”