By Dapo Akinrefon

THE Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organization, Afenifere was formed as a rallying point for the Yoruba people. It is instructive to note that Afenifere has been in existence since ‘Egbe Omo Oduduwa’ days, which was formed by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. There is no gain saying the fact that Chief Awolowo was the unannounced leader of the Yoruba race during the Nigeria’s struggle for independence.

After Awolowo’s demise, the mantle fell on the late Adekunke Ajasin, who led Afenifere from 1987. With Ajasin exiting the scene, Abraham Adesanya was elevated as its leader and Chief Bola Ige as deputy leader. Other founding members were Pa Onasanya, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Adegbonmire, Okurounmu Femi, Ganiyu Dawodu, Olanihun Ajayi, Olu Falae, Adebayo Adefarati, Alhaji Adeyemo and Ayo Adebanjo.

Discernibleefforts

Upon Awolowo’s death in 1987, his followers, who came to be known as Awoists made discernible efforts to emulate Awolowo in words and action. Indeed, some of them still wear the Pa Awo fila (cap) till date. In fact, to resolve any controversial issue, the leaders would always quote Awolowo or recall how the late sage resolved a similar issue or what he would have done if he were alive.

And so, the Awoists, who congregated in Afenifere remained a closely knitted and united political unit. The split: In 2008, the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) was formed, perhaps with the stated intent of reuniting the feuding factions, but as an alternative to the faction headed by the older generation of leaders.

In November 2008, a faction of Afenifere in Ijebu Igbo, Ogun State, led by Chief Ayo Adebanjo, installed Chief Reuben Fasoranti as the group’s chairman. But some renegades revolted against the emergence of Fasoranti saying that they did not accept move. A founding member of the Afenifere and staunch Awosit, Chief Adebanjo, had announced that a meeting of Afenifere had been fixed for Ijebu-Igbo, in 2008, to ratify Chief Fasoranti as the new leader of the group.

The Afenifere Renewal Group had described the proposed Ijebu-Igbo meeting and ratification of a leader as “a recipe for another round of sabre-rattling, factional squabbles and abandoning the vision of the founding fathers of Afenifere for personal quarrels, inward throwing of punches and open rounds of acrimony.

According to ARG, “It is a weather-beaten path that has substantially distracted from confronting the challenges facing the Yoruba nation. We must put on record that the late leader of Afenifere, Senator Abraham Adesanya, spent the last five years of his active life resolving internal disputes among his followers till he collapsed in the middle of the crisis and never recovered.

“To resume that line of action six months after his death, would appear to us as dancing on the grave of Adesanya, whose last earthly regret, was not leaving one united Afenifere behind, like Awolowo and Ajasin did. For us in the Afenifere Renewal Group, it is a big tragedy that while a Barrack Obama was able to spend just two years to mobilise America for change, we spent the last eight years of our lives settling crisis,” the Afenifere renewal group stated.

And Fasoranti throws in towel

Perhaps a repeat of the crisis that led to the polarisation of the group is Fasronati’s throwing in the towel. Fasoranti’s recent resignation of his position left many tongues wagging with some analysts saying that all is well with Afenifere. Fasoranti, who became the leader of the group after the death of Adesanya, said he had ceased being the chairman of the organization.

In the letter addressed to the Secretary General, Seinde Arogbofa, he recalled a brief history of the group from its formation in 1951 under the leadership of the late Awolowo. But beyond that, Afenifere under the leadership of Fasoranti was perceived to have suffered a number contradictions as several of its members found new voices in different political parties.

The emergence of the All Progressives Congress and the anti-confab posture of some Yoruba leaders, from the South West, did not help the Afenifere agenda. Aside this, Afenifere then faced harsh criticisms from some Yoruba leaders for expressing their support for Jonathan.

Support forJonathan

Fasoranti’s letter read: “Considering my age, efforts and selfless dedication to my country, my state (Ondo), my political parties, my past leaders and my members in Afenifere both in Nigeria and in Diaspora, I hereby wish to inform you all that I have decided to step aside as leader of our great organization Afenifere”.

In the letter which was also copied to other leaders of the group such as Ayo Adebanjo, Lanihun Ajayi, Olu Falae, Supo Sonibare and all state chairmen of Afenifere, the octogenarian noted that the group was formed to serve as an umbrella to be used to actualize the dream of a great nation and the Yoruba race.

“Over the years, Yorubas have tried to focus on a common goal. Chief Awolowo tried to ensure the oneness of our people with a lot of efforts, notwithstanding the challenges he faced in the process. Unfortunately, he passed on without actualising this dream,” Fasoranti said.

“I joined Afenifere from inception with the following leaders of our race, Pa Onasanya, Alhaji Ganiyu Daodu, Pa Abraham Adesanya, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Sir Olanihun Ajayi, Chief Sam Sonibare, Chief Bola Ige, Chief Wunmi Adegbonmire and so on. The mantle of leadership fell on Late Pa Adekunle Ajasin and subsequently Pa Adesanya and then my humble self.

“As events have been unfolding in the past few years, the focus and goals of the founding fathers of our great organization ‘Afenifere’ were gradually eroded.”

While he lamented that the erosion of the common focus and goals of the organisation equally made it difficult for members to work in unity, he said “several efforts were made to ensure the actualization of the Afenifere goals, but it appeared that we have not succeeded in achieving this”.

“This is basically due to reasons best known to our members individually.” Fasoranti also dwelt on the national conference, stating that the adoption of the national conference report had always been a focus and goal of the Afenifere group even long before the confab was set up by the last administration. Besides, he said the group’s backing of President Goodluck Jonathan was not a mistake.

Publicinsinuations

“The support of a leader who promised to implement this report was therefore not a mistake and inevitable despite all public insinuations,” he said. A source within Afenifere, who confided in Vanguard, expressed optimism that the hullabaloo within the group would be laid to rest soon.

The source told Vanguard that there was no rift whatsoever in the organisation but   attributed the decision of their former leader to step down due to illness and old age.

Corroborating this, Chief Seinde Arogbofa, a leader of the group, said: “He (Fasoranti) is old. He is 89. That is why he resigned. Papa Ajasin and  Adesanya did not attain that ripe old age. Pa Fasoranti said the youths don’t listen to elders again and that they behave as they like.

Nothingunusual

When Ajasin was weak, he asked Adesanya to act. When Adesanya took ill, we appointed him (Fasoranti) as leader. There is nothing unusual about his resignation. We have no crisis. The man has been sick of late. He just left the hospital a few days ago. The job is rigorous. We hold a lot of meetings. Go and read his statement.

“We will meet and appoint a new leader. When we get to the meeting, we will attend to the vacancy. When we meet, we will appoint a new leader. I can’t tell you how a new leader will emerge until we meet.” I know Papa anchored his resignation mainly on old age. We should not see what has happened as what has never happened; there is nothing new in it.

“We should be calm and begin to think and strategise on how to make and move the organisation forward. “We will put heads together and set a new course for the group as we did when Pa Adesanya was old and could not go ahead.” “Afenifere is an organisation made up of intelligent people. We cannot rush to action in this kind of situation. We are still consulting and I will inform you about the outcome of our consultation.

‘’We were shocked by the action, because Baba Fasoranti never discussed with me before he took his decision, despite the level of our closeness. “I don’t know what he meant by disloyalty of members because he didn’t discuss with me before he took his decision, but I know the issue will be resolved soon”

 

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.