November 26, 2017

Afenifere Visit: New Rapprochement or Re-alignment?

APC Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu

By Tunde Rahman

Since last Wednesday’s visit of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to the Akure residence of Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, the media, particularly the social media, have been awash with commentaries and analyses on the visit. Writers have hit the highway overdrive, analysing, speculating and conjecturing. Some of these analyses have been interesting to say the least.

APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu being ushered into a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari by Presidency officials at the State House, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida 30/10/2017

Some surmised that the visit was a new political rapprochement between the leaders of the Yoruba socio-political group and All Progressives Congress National Leader. Some labelled it a re-alignment of forces.

Some alluded to the division, which broke out within the Afenifere around 2003 leading to the creation of Afenifere Renewal Group by some younger elements within the group, a division many anticipated at the time given the position of the mainstream Afenifere on some national issues.

So the writers deduced that the visit was to reconcile the Afenifere leader and Asiwaju, as if Tinubu and Pa Fasoranti were at daggers drawn. What new rapprochement? What re-alignment? Re-alignment of which forces, one may ask.

True, there may have been certain differences over some issues, which is normal in interactions among leaders or individuals within a group, a socio-political group for that matter. True, the differences may have been accentuated by the politics of the 2015 election. But this is how far it appeared to have gone as the differences are neither deep nor cast in iron.

In the build-up to the 2015 election, apparently baited by the curious decision of former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to convene a national political conference on the eve of an election and the promise of implementation of the outcome of same, the Afenifere leaders fell heavily for Jonathan. They openly embraced the conference and participated fully in it.

It was no surprise then that they went on to campaign and work for Jonathan’s re-election. Asiwaju, on his part, had a different view about that Abuja conference. He saw it as a trap; he doubted if the man from Otuoke had genuine intentions. And because he belongs in the then opposition party, APC, a party he founded along with a few others, Asiwaju worked for his party’s candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, whom he believed and still believes in. This should be understandable in the normal run of politics. The APC candidate would later go on to win the 2015 election, unseating an incumbent for the first time in Nigeria’s political history.

On the matter of the move towards a better Nigeria, Asiwaju and the Afenifere leaders have always been on the same page. They have always operated on the same wavelength, for instance, on issues like the need for true federalism, devolution of more powers to the states and all of that, though they may couch this in different titles. This may come in different forms or names. It is incontrovertible that both are united in the view that in order to engender a better country, Nigeria needs to be re-configured in one way or another.

My sense, therefore, is that there are no fundamental differences between Afenifere and Tinubu. This much was evidently clear from what transpired at the Akure meeting. Because there was no division between them, because the visit was a family one, there was no fanfare about it. No trumpet blast, no ceremony. Asiwaju was only in Akure to give obeisance to whom it is due. Only a few close associates knew about the meeting.

The APC leader felt he owed the Afenifere leader a return visit after the leaders of the group visited him in Lagos in early 2016. He felt he needed to visit Akure to restate his allegiance to Afenifere under Papa’s leadership. Chiefs Fasoranti, Ayo Adebanjo, late Olanihun Ajayi and other Afenifere leaders had first visited Tinubu’s Bourdillon residence in 2016. At the meeting, there was a heart-to-heart discussion on Yoruba unity and how to advance her course in the Nigerian nation. Since then, the APC leader had been looking for an opportunity to reciprocate the gesture. It materialised on Wednesday.

Tinubu was accompanied on the visit by former APC Interim Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, and the party’s National Vice Chairman, South-west, Chief Pius Akinyelure. Ondo State Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, his deputy, Chief Agboola Ajayi, some of his cabinet members and party leaders received the team at Akure Airport and joined it to Pa Fasoranti’s residence.

On hand to receive the visitors at the residence were Papa himself, former Secretary to the Federal Government, Chief Olu Falae, Afenifere Secretary, Chief Seinde Arogbofa, and a few others. The meeting was held in Pa Fasorant’s living room. The excitement of the leaders in seeing Tinubu was palpable. The meeting itself was very impressive. The ensuing discussion was frank and guileless.

Accosted by journalists as he came out of the meeting, Asiwaju spoke about why he visited Pa. Fasoranti. “I am in Akure to acknowledge the leadership of Pa Fasoranti in our own race (Yoruba). He is a great leader of the  Omoluabi  and in his twilight we want him to be happy. He has been a great leader to all of us. His intellect is still very intact. We are here to seek his advice, seek his understanding and prayers. That is why I am here”.

Pa Fasoranti too commented on the import of the visit thus: “It is an indication of great things to come. With the coming together of Yoruba leaders, there will be an understanding on major issues affecting the Yoruba race. We will consult and move ahead. As it is now, there will be a great understanding among the leaders as Tinubu is a leader in his own right. I think it (the visit) should lead to reconciliation, ARG and the mainstream.” The two leaders called for regular meetings. They said there was a need for them to be interfacing frequently so they understand each other better and their positions on issues would be clear and unambiguous. Any need to add more?

*Rahman is Media Adviser to Asiwaju Tinubu.