‘Afenifere leaders must remain focused, continue to promote Awo ideals’
Prof. Tunde Adeniran is a former Minister of Education and former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States of America. In this interview with ROTIMI AGBOLUAJE, the elder statesman warned against casting aspersions on the two leaders of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere – Pa Reuben Fasoranti and Chief Ayo Adebanjo – following the crisis that erupted on the endorsement of the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, and that of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu.
There seems to be a mild commotion within the Afenifere fold following endorsements of presidential candidates of the Labour Party and the All Progressives Congress (APC). How would describe what is happening within the family?
It is very unfortunate, but at the same time it has been compounded by the interpretation given to it by different people. As far as we are concerned, the issue is such that it should not have degenerated to this extent. We have a situation in which some steps and decisions were taken by some of the leaders of Afenifere. I think there has been some misunderstanding, misperception or communication gap. But these should not have been allowed to degenerate to this level. The two key players, our fathers, our leaders, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Baba Reuben Fasoranti, are great men, great Nigerian leaders who have influenced and would continue to influence a lot of things in the country. We should not, for any reason, cast aspersions on them or their personalities or their motives. They have done a lot in the past. They are for the sake of a better Nigeria. They are the disciples of our late sage, our great leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. We strongly believe that they mean well.
So, whatever has happened should be put behind us. Afenifere will be more united than even before. Those who try to create disaffection or division would realise that it won’t work. This is because the challenges being faced by the Nigerian nation are such that the Yoruba cannot afford any distortion. There is so much insecurity in the land. There is a need for peace and unity, faith and understanding, the pursuit of justice and equity and that can only be done effectively when it begins from home. People say charity begins at home. The Yoruba will appreciate that it will be done within Nigeria. We are not going anywhere. We know very well that by the grace of God, this thing will be over very soon. The insinuation that there is division in Yoruba land will soon be over. It seems to be a misinterpretation of what has happened. There will be unity and understanding and mutual trust will be re-established. Then, we will wax stronger and liberate this country from what we have been talking of over the years. A secure Nigeria can be realised. A restructured Nigeria can be realised. A prosperous and truthful Nigeria can be realised. A Nigeria that will be the pride of the Black man will be realised. That, I am sure, will be attained by the grace of God.
Some have faulted the approach used by the two leaders in endorsing Peter Obi and Bola Tinubu. They said Afenifere should toe the line of the Arewa Joint Committee by calling all the frontline candidates, asking them what they have in stock for the Yoruba. What do you have to say about this?
As far as I am concerned, there are different ways of approaching issues. The fact that one particular approach was not used does not mean that there is only one approach to arrive at a particular situation. I believe that whatever that has happened in the past should be put behind us, so we move forward. The Yoruba are very innovative, resourceful, and creative and above all, they are dynamic and very passionate in their nationalism and commitment to the ideals of Pa Obafemi Awolowo.
Of course, they are very committed to a better Nigeria, which should be fair and will be a place of pride for everybody. Any approach can be used. It is like one is talking about political parties conducting primaries, using different modes. I believe there are different ways of organising things. What is important is that you have a clear goal in view to carry the people along. And wherever and whenever there is misunderstanding, you reach out to the people to reconcile, think through them and to arrive at the mutually agreed decision. We believe that whatever anybody has done is not enough to say the Arewa Joint Committee did it in a better way. Yes, what was done by the Arewa groups was okay, some other groups can also make use of other methods.
A four-man committee was set up to reconcile the two nonagenarians. How far can this go in ensuring reconciliation?
Any committee set up to reconcile will go a long way in reconciling them. But I believe that even without any committee, we, of our generation, and those of the younger generation, are concerned in making sure that they are fully reconciled without any committee at all. The two leaders are great men who have contributed immensely to the future we may be thinking of for this country. They are committed to certain principles, and, committee or no committee, they will be reconciled.
Well, the four-man committee will do their best but that does not mean the rest of us will just fold our arms. We will do our best to ensure that the country is fully restructured so that Nigeria will be able to develop, become competitive and grow to become the pride of Africa.
What will be your advice to Afenifere leaders?
They should remain focused and continue to promote those ideals that we are noted for and the core values and principles that are so fundamental to the Yoruba people.