•Fasoranti, Arogbofa, Fasae, others disown Adebanjo on Tinubu
•Osuntokun, Adegbola, Olawole, Akintoye differ
By Dayo Johnson, Dapo Akinrefon, Rotimi Ojomoyela, Ademola Adegbite, Shina Abubakar and James Ogunnaike
In a race where tribal consideration is emerging as one of the major indicators, the adoption of the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, LP, Mr. Peter Obi, by the apex Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, has divided Yoruba leaders.
Many are in a dilemma given that Obi, a South easterner, was endorsed when the candidate of the All Progressives Congress ,APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu (Emilokan), a Yoruba, is one of the frontrunners in the 2023 race.
Some found Afenifere’s endorsement as a worrisome development, arguing that Tinubu would protect Yoruba interests as President.
In various conversations with Sunday Vanguard, majority were concerned about the election while a section cautioned against ‘’hasty endorsement’’ of southern candidates.
Leader of the Yoruba group, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, had endorsed Obi, claiming the decision was informed by the need for equity in Nigeria’s socio-political mix.
He had explained that Afenifere was backing Obi for equity and inclusiveness.
Adebanjo said other geopolitical zones had produced leaders of the country, saying it was only fair that the next President emerges from the South-East.
“We cannot continue to demand that the Igbo people remain in Nigeria, while we, at the same time, continue to brutally marginalize and exclude them from the power dynamics.”
Concerned by the decision, Tinubu faulted the nonagenarian, last weekend, accusing him of using the Yoruba body to further Igbo interests.
Director of Media and Publicity of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga, said Adebanjo has been hobnobbing with the apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, describing him as Ohanifere, a mixture of Afenifere and Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
He said: “Papa Ayo Adebanjo does not speak for Afenifere. He is free as an individual to support anyone he likes, in furtherance of his democratic right.
“We know for a fact that Baba has turned Afenifere into his estate as acting leader. We are also certain that there was nowhere Afenifere, as we know it, met and took a decision to adopt Peter Obi as a candidate for 2023 presidential election.
“We respect the age of Baba Adebanjo, but he cannot turn Afenifere into his franchise for any political alliance.
“We are very much aware that Baba Reuben Fasoranti, the real leader of Afenifere, had stated clearly that Pa Adebanjo has always been speaking for himself on many national issues using the name of the group.
“It is our well-considered position that Pa Adebanjo cannot appropriate Afenifere. Baba is just an individual who is free to support any politician of his choice. As an individual, he cannot equate himself with the socio-cultural and socio-political organisation.”
Fasoranti was the leader of Afenifere before the mantle of leadership fell on Adbanjo.
The Tinubu camp may have dismissed the Adebanjo backing as not representing the position of the Yoruba group, but unfolding events suggest that it embodies profound symbolism.
Meanwhile, Adebanjo followed up, reiterating his stand on Obi.
He explained that it would amount to injustice for a Yoruba to rule after President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure.
“In a statement titled: ‘Why Afenifere Supports South-East Presidential Candidate for 2023 Presidency,’ Adebanjo said: “Before the political parties conducted their primaries, a journalist asked, what is my view about the 2023 general elections? I answered and said the country should be restructured before the general elections, and he followed up by asking if there should be an election, which zone should the presidency come from? And I unhesitatingly said, of course, the South-East.
“After the primaries and the candidates emerged with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu from the South-West, APC; Atiku Abubakar on the platform of the PDP and Peter Obi on the platform of Labour Party and I announced Afenifere’s support for Peter Obi, not a few Yoruba leaders questioned why I should be supporting Peter Obi, a candidate of the Igbo extraction against Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a Yoruba.
“Peter Obi is the person of Igbo extraction that Afenifere has decided to support and back.
“He is the man we trust to restructure the country back to federalism on the assumption of office. To keep Nigeria one, everyone should be Obi-Datti compliant.’’
Many Yoruba leaders who spoke to Sunday Vanguard expressed their positions on the matter.
Afenifere met to adopt Obi — Osuntokun
Contrary to the claim by the Tinubu camp that Afenifere never met to adopt Obi, a former Political Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Akin Osuntokun, said he was privy to the adoption of the Obi ticket.
The former presidential adviser said: ‘’I have stated it consistently in the past few years.
“It is unequivocal advocacy that the next Nigerian President should emerge from the South-East.
“If we believe in the ethic of equity, fairness and justice and the categorical imperative of powers rotation, how can a South-West zone that has produced the President for eight years and the Vice President for another eight years contend with a zone that has not produced either for one day in the Fourth Republic? The Yoruba pride themselves in the canon of OmÍlúwàbí.
‘’This is a unique opportunity for us to prove that we are worthy of that heritage. Now, we have a candidate from the South-East who is compelling by a wide margin over the other contenders in Peter Obi. So how would we not make a better case for him over Tinubu?
“This is in a situation in which the ticket of the latter suffers the national unity threat of a Muslim-Muslim candidacy. “I’m a member of the Afenifere national caucus and so I’m privy to the adoption of the Obi ticket on account of the criteria I have earlier reiterated as the Tinubu/Shettima ticket is incurably defective, polarizing and divisive.’’
Yoruba agenda not support for Tinubu presidency – Adegbola
Similarly, Oyo State Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Prince Remi Adegbola, said Yoruba agenda, which Afenifere seeks, doesn’t mean support for Tinubu presidency, insisting Obi is Afenifere’s choice.
He said: “We, the national committee and leadership, are in support of Baba Adebanjo.
“I stand by the position of Afenifere on restructuring. Restructuring is the main agenda of Yoruba. If Obi will do that, we are in line with that.”
‘We can’t compromise on equity for Tinubu’
Afenifere scribe in Oluyole Local Government Area of Oyo State, Taofeek Ogunrinde, on his part, said: “We are working day and night to actualize the Yoruba agenda, especially on restructuring. What will benefit all is our target and not what a single person will get.
“I would have loved to support the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, but the decision of the national leadership of the organization has superseded mine.’’
Also justifying the Yoruba group’s position, General Secretary of Afenifere, Chief Olusola Ebiseni, said: ’’Afenifere stands for justice, fairness and believes in true federalism and the Federal Character Principle.
“Afenifere will not compromise this principle of justice, equity and inclusiveness because one of our own Bola Tinubu is a frontline candidate.”
Nigeria needs Tinubu — Arogbofa
However, a former General-Secretary of the Yoruba group, Basorun Arogbofa, insisted that Tinubu is what Nigeria needs now.
“I maintain as Pa Fasoranti said recently that Afenifere would support the Bola Tinubu presidency”, Arogbofa stated.
“However, I don’t believe in the present system except that we restructure this country.
“For any presidential candidate to succeed, he must restructure this country, or we’re back to square one.’’
I’ve no candidate — Falae
Also speaking on the issue, erstwhile Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Chief Olu Falae, said: “l have told you my position and I want to remind you that, three and a half years ago, I voluntarily retired from partisan politics.
“I resigned as the National Chairman of the SDP. I held a press conference to announce my retirement. People don’t retire but I said this would be the first one.
“In other words, I have freed myself from the obligation to support any political party.
“I am not a member of any political party, so I am not obliged to support your candidate. But I have the freedom to look at the basis that I earlier explained to you. Their programmes, their character, and their track records would decide that this is the person I will vote for.
“But if I were a member of any party, that freedom wouldn’t have existed. I must do what my party wants. I have freed myself from that. Ohaneze and Adebanjo can express their views.’’
On whether Adebanjo was talking for Afenifere or expressing his personal opinion, Falae said: “I have not been an active member of Afenifere for a year or so.
“I am not going to say that he’s expressing his endorsement because I have not been active. I do not know what they have decided and what they have not decided,
“I am not supporting any of the candidates yet. It is necessary to await the programmes and manifestos of political parties and their candidates before arriving at a particular candidate to support.’’
We are backing our son —Olajide
Although not a member of Afenifere, Dr. Kunle Olajide, Secretary-General of the Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, also shared his perspective on the matter.
His words: “We are supporting Bola Ahmed Tinubu. We are not in the same boat as Afenifere that is supporting Peter Obi.
“We are supporting Tinubu because, by our understanding and assessment of the two personalities, there can be no basis to compare the influence, record, performance and ability of Tinubu with that of Obi.
“That is not to say that I condemn my elder and leader Chief Ayo Adebanjo.
“The basis of Adebanjo’s position is the fact that Igbo have never produced the President. But I argue all the time that the presidency is not served like food. “You have to play your politics right to be able to get the presidency in a multi-ethnic society like Nigeria.
“Therefore, if you don’t play your politics right, you may be holding the wrong edge of the stick all the time.
“That is what appears to have been the lot of the East. I will be too happy if an easterner becomes the President through popular votes, but for me, I cast my lot with Asiwaju Tinubu.
“The Yoruba Council of Elders has not been keeping quiet. We have made our position known. We have said the presidency must come to the South. And of course, if our son is contesting for that office and he is eminently qualified to be, we would support him.’’
Capacity of southern candidates should be examined – Farounbi
On his part, Ambassador Yemi Farounbi said: “I think at the juncture, in dealing with the complexity of all our problems, we ought to be asking ourselves as an enlightened ethnic nation, who can deliver us from these problems?
“So, what we ought to be doing is to be asking Asiwaju Tinubu or whoever what their solution to the problems we have is.
“As Yoruba, we have to sit down and say, ‘yes, this person has an answer near to it’.
“We should now ask ourselves if the man has the competence to deliver on his answers. Does he have the capacity to deliver?
“When we have done that, we should say ‘this is the person we are supporting’.
“To say we cannot support Asiwaju or anybody without hearing from him means we want to short-change Nigeria. After eight years of the northern experience, there should be a southern experience.
“We should look at all the southern people and their capacity. To just say Tinubu, you are out of this without seeing all of these, is short-changing Nigeria”.
Tinubu will protect Yoruba interest —Wale Oshun
Afenifere Renewal Group, ARG, which pulled out of Afenifere, said it would rather support Tinubu than Obi, saying Yoruba interest is assured if the former wins.
Its Chairman, Mr. Wale Oshun, said: “Let me put it this way, ARG has held its firm position on national issues.
“As we speak, the position of ARG is that the parties have had their conventions and candidates have emerged.
“Our position, as the voice of the Yoruba people, is that we will rather have a Yoruba presidential candidate.
“We will rather work for a Yoruba presidential candidate. The issue is that we have been talking about restructuring for a long time and it is like everybody gets to the office of the President and becomes deaf when it comes to restructuring.
“So, who is best to protect the interest of the Yoruba people and the interest of other Nigerians?
“The ARG is of the view that the Yoruba candidate is better suited.
“We have had experience in the past where the Yoruba people were sidelined during the administration of Goodluck Jonathan.
“So, we cannot go ahead and put the faith of our people in the hands of people who cannot guarantee our future. That is the way it is across the country.
“We have only one Yoruba candidate and that is Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. For our interest as Yoruba people, we can only be protected by a Yoruba presidential candidate.”
Afenifere on its own —Akintoye
President of Ilana Omo Oodua, IOO, Professor Banji Akintoye, said he is not interested in next year’s elections.
An ally of Akintoye, who spoke for him on condition of anonymity, said: “The position of Baba Akintoye is that he does not believe in any election anymore in Nigeria.
“Afenifere is on its own and he believes that restructuring is like postponing the evil day. And it is a waste of time.
“His position is for the Yoruba people to pull out of Nigeria. He is not interested in elections or restructuring. We wish Afenifere, Tinubu, Peter Obi and Ohanaeze the best of luck in their political venture.”
Adebanjo is not our national leader — Fasae
Toeing a different path from Afenifere’s position, its Deputy National Secretary, Chief Akin Fasae, faulted the endorsement of Obi by what he called a section of the group led by Adebanjo.
Fasae, who also functions as Ekiti State Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, said Adebanjo cannot endorse a candidate for the group.
“Adebanjo is not our national leader and he couldn’t have been speaking for us”, he said.
“Let me correct one impression, Afenifere is a franchise. It is a name anybody in Yorubaland can lay claim to.
“We are supporting Tinubu and that is our position. How can a leader in Yorubaland be supporting Obi? Baba Adebanjo is on his own.
“You can see that Chief Olu Falae has dissociated himself from him. He is on a journey of no return. Don’t mind him. He is not part of us. Don’t refer to him as our national leader. The title is the making of the media.’’
‘No Afenifere decision on Obi’
National Organising Secretary of Afenifere, Abagun Omololu, said : “I, as the National Organising Secretary of Afenifere, it is on record that Afenifere has not sat down as a body either at the caucus or at our general meeting to take a position on who to support.
“I will wait till that time to abide with the decision of the body.’’
Publicity Secretary of ARG, Mr. Kunle Famoriyo, said he is for ‘Yoruba Nation’.
“Sorry, no politician, no political party and no military can rescue Nigeria as it is presently configured,’’ he added.
Founder, Oduduwa United People Association, ODUPA, Chief Jimoh Taofeek, also weighed-in, saying: ‘’There is no way any of the presidential candidates can perform magic in as much as the present 1999 Constitution is still in use.
“Let us not be fooled again. The foundation of the problem of this country called Nigeria is the so-called 1999 Constitution.’’