BY SOLA EBISENI
IT takes discerning spirit to see the unequalled blessings to the Afenifere from what ordinary folks see as crisis from the recent gathering in Akure. To start with, it is apposite to say and as revealed in his interview with the Sunday Punch of November 6, that the meeting was conveyed by Dare Babarinsa and Otunba Kole Omololu through the ‘Conscience of the Yoruba Nation’, a WhatsApp Group administered by the latter who incidentally is the National Organising Secretary of Afenifere.
The invitation which was on the letterhead of the group and now in circulation on social media, was said to be a meeting with the leadership of the Yoruba nation “to discuss the historic 2023 General election and take a definite and wise decision” and also with “one of the leading candidates, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu”, within a specified two hours duration of 11 am to 1.pm.
Apart from the information that Pa Fasoranti had agreed to host and preside over the meeting, nowhere was any reference made to Afenifere. By the way, I read in the interview of Kole Omololu that I was one of those invited but absent at the meeting; nothing is farther from the truth and my brother knows that if it was an Afenifere meeting, I would have been the one to invite him.
It left so much to be desired, to say the least, that the WhatsApp Group conveners of the meeting would seek to create confusion, like Pa Fasoranti later said in his statement refuting some of the lies imputed to him, by issuing the communique at the end of the meeting in the name of the Afenifere in a desperate bid for legitimacy and credibility.
But that is one of the gains of the Afenifere which they never intended. I do not wish to be involved in the needless controversy by confusion merchants on the leadership of Afenifere. The structure of an organisation is determined by its objectives and may be modified from time to time by history and experience.
Thus, a little excursion may suffice on how Afenifere came about its seemingly complex organogram of a Leader and Acting Leader simultaneously. Our guide in this regard will be Pa Fasoranti’s address to the General Meeting of the Afenifere on Tuesday, March 16, 2021 which held midmonth rather than the conventional last Tuesday of the month which was on the 30th speaking to its urgency and importance. Only our revered Leader, his children by blood and God Almighty knew those who were putting him under such intense pressure which was the reason he kept the agenda close to his chest. I can say most authoritatively and as subsequently revealed that such heat was not from Ayo Adebanjo, who was not even at the meeting.
Recalling his experience since 2008 when he took over as leader, Fasoranti recalled the challenges Afenifere had to contend with chief of which “is the stubborn determination by a section of the north in power to continue running Nigeria through a defective structural arrangement manipulated and dominated by the North to the disadvantage of the South through a fraudulent constitution”.
Stating that Afenifere needed “a more agile and active leadership” to confront the challenges stressing that “at 95 I am hardly able to provide such and so it is time for me to step aside”. The Leader in glowing remarks said “Chief Ayo Adebanjo efforts stand him out as a deep lover of Afenifere and the Yoruba people. He has been in the trenches all his life. Dedicated to the Yoruba race and to Afenifere to which his name is almost synonymous now. I thank you Chief Ayo Adebanjo I deeply appreciate you”.
Concluding and in an unprecedented manner, Pa Fasoranti declared: “At this junction, I am proud to announce Chief Ayo Adebanjo a politician of the Awolowo school of thought as Acting Leader of Afenifere and His Royal Highness Kabiesi Oba Oladipo Olaitan, as Deputy Leader. There is much work to do so I urge you all to support them even more than you did for me. I remain a loyal and lifelong Afenifere till demise”.
It goes without saying that the General Meeting, the highest organ of the Afenifere, approved this voluntary retirement and change of leadership, by which as the Leader, Pa Reuben Fasonranti, for all intents and purposes effectively became functus officio and leadership devolved on Ayo Adebanjo at whose instance the meetings of all the organs of Afenifere (National Executive Committee, the National Caucus and the General Meeting) had since been summoned and presided over by him with Oba Olaitan as Deputy.
Pa Fasoranti, a great leader with the mien of a Bishop, has never contested space with his successor just like his own predecessor, Abraham Adesanya, never did before he passed on. The relationship between the two leaders has been very cordial, with mutually demonstrated courtesies mostly extended from Adebanjo in many occasions. At one of Pa Fasoranti’s birthday recently, Chief Ayo Adebanjo from Lagos led a cream of Afenifere leaders, and stayed in Akure for three days accompanying Pa Fasoranti to Ita-Ogbolu where the emeritus leader was honoured.
At the burial of Pa Ayo Fasanmi where his children thoughtfully made Ayo Adebanjo father of the day, he came from Lagos and straight to Pa Fasoranti from where they both went to Iye Ekiti to honour one of their comrades in spite of the orchestrated shenanigans to make the trio enemies during the tenure of Fasoranti when Fasanmi was set up, as factional leader of Afenifere.
It was on that visit that Chief Ayo Adebanjo requested that Pa Fasoranti should nominate one of his children by which my brother, Kehinde Fasoranti was appointed a member of the National Executive Committee. At the recent terrorist attack on Saint Francis Catholic, Ayo Adebanjo from Lagos led Afenifere leaders, first paid the traditional courtesies at Pa Fasoranti’s Akure residence from which, all of us, including Chief Olu Falae went to the Olowo of Owo, the affected Church and the Governor of Ondo State on solidarity and condolence visit.
Time and space may not allow a full appraisal of the Akure gathering of the APC faithfuls on a courtesy and prayer visit to which they are legitimately entitled. It is deeply ironical that they did not find the Afenifere Renewal or any of the dissident groups set up by them to supplant Fasoranti’s leadership throughout his tenure appropriately credible for endorsement or holy enough for prayers. It is Afenifere they have surreptitiously sought to return, confirming to the world that the genuine Awolowo group remains eternally the sociopolitical soul of the Yoruba people.
The Press Release of Pa Reuben Famuyide Fasoranti, through his dutiful Personal Assistant Abiola has put all controversies to rest as to the leadership of Ayo Adebanjo, in whose residence and at whose instance all meetings and other appurtenances of authority including all acts and decisions taken since he assumed office remain the status quo. This is without prejudice to the ceremonial activities of Baba receiving anyone in audience and for spiritual blessings. It is not without precedence. When we endorsed Atiku, I was in attendance when Ibrahim Shekarau, former Governor of Kano State was brought to Baba wherein he mesmerised us all with his oratory, knowledge of Nigeria and deep intellectual capacity; ditto for many others.
The choice of the Yoruba in 2023 is either to embark on the futile journey of competition with a section of the not for also a Yoruba hegemony over Nigeria or a goal of ensuring fairness for the health of the federation and prosperity of all. The latter is the rationale behind Afenifere’s choice of the South East and Peter Obi in our rigorous monthly meetings and debate from July 29, 2021 to September 27, 2022 compared with a two-hour predetermined ethnic endorsement.Nigeria, we hail thee.
Ebiseni is the Secretary General, Afenifere.