UNCERTAINTY PREVAILING in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in its drive to retain power, ahead of Nigeria’s 2023 election, seems to be further declining. Bola Tinubu, presidential candidate of APC, is facing stiff opposition at his home base, the South-West region. Pan-Yoruba body, Afenirere, a leading social-cultural organization in the country, seen as the voice of the Yoruba people, is divided over its support for their son, a chieftain of the party, and the presidential candidate of APC for the 2023 election.
September 26, 2022, Ayo Adebanjo, leader of Afenifere, addressed a press conference in Lagos, and outlined reasons for the group’s support of Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, LP. He said Afenifere backed Peter Obi because of “equity and inclusiveness”. That the group could not afford to continue to demand that Igbo people, in the south-east, remain in Nigeria, at the same time, they are “brutally marginalized and excluded from the power dynamic” in the country. Afenifere said supporting Tinubu and APC is to give continuity to Buhari’s “incompetence”.
Since 1999 of the present democratic dispensation, Adebanjo said, the Yoruba of the south-west, had their turn in the presidency, with the emergence of Olusegun Obasanjo as president. The current president Muhammadu Buhari is from the North, and the vice president Yemi Osinbajo is from the south-west Yoruba region. Adebanjo said by “virtue of the zoning arrangement that has governed Nigeria since 1999, power is supposed to return to the south imminently”, and to the south-east in particular.
His words: “The southwest as I have pointed out has produced a president and currently sits as VP, the South-South has spent a total of 6 years in the Presidency, but the Igbo people of the South-East have never tasted presidency in Nigeria, and now that the power is due back in the South equity demands that it be ceded to the Igbo.
“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 dynamic. 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.”
TINUBU’S CAMPAIGN COUNCIL rejected the endorsement of Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, by Afenifere. Bayo Onanuga, Director, Media and Publicity, APC Presidential Campaign Council, responded that Ayo Adebanjo has turned Afenifere in to his “personal property”. He described Adebanjo’s action as the leader of “Ohanifere Venture”.
Onanuga said an individual cannot equate himself with the a Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, such as the Afenifere. His words: “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 personal estate as acting leader”.
And added: “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 the 2023 presidential election. We respect the age of Baba Adebanjo, but he cannot turn Afenifere into his personal franchise for any political alliance”.
Olu Falae, a chieftain and respected voice in Afenifere, distanced himself from Afenifere’s endorsement of Peter Obi, of the Labour Party, in response to Ayo Adebanjo’s position. Falae said it was too early to endorse a candidate, when adequate assessments of the respective presidential candidates have not been made, by going through the programmes they have for the masses.
Raji Moshood, Falae’s Personal Assistant, statement noted: “The elder statesman [Olu Falae] said he has to consider all important parameters, including capacity, experience and proven track record before endorsing a candidate. Falae admitted that the South East had not had the opportunity of being Nigeria’s President, stressing that it’s not an automatic slot that can be filled without other important considerations”.
Falae’s statement added: “As a responsible leader, Chief Falae will consider all important parameters, including capacity, experience and proven track record before endorsing a candidate. This correction is necessary in order not to mislead the public that Chief Falae is supporting any of the candidates yet. It is necessary to await the programmes and manifestos of the political parties and their candidates before arriving at a particular candidate to support.”
THE MISGIVINGS IN AFENIFERE camp, about Tinubu’s presidential ambition, may have unsettled Bola Tinubu and the APC. If Tinubu lacks credibility among his people, in his home based, how could he convince other regions in the country to trust and vote for him as president in 2023? Tinubu was in a tight rope. Insiders in Tinubu’s campaign council, see the brewing discord in Afenifere as a big setback for Tinubu. And a major reason why Tinubu has not, officially, flagged off his presidential campaign.
To break the jinx, Tinubu embarked on dividing the ranks of Afenifere to his advantage. The obvious crack in the ranks of the Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural body, Afenifere was seen last Sunday, when a faction of Afenifere leaders, met at the home of the retired leader of Afenifere, elder statesman Reuben Fasoranti, in Akure, Ondo State, and hosted Bola Tinubu. At the event, Tinubu presented his 80-page manifesto on tackling the country’s myriad challenges to Fasoranti’s faction. The retired Afenifere leader, Fasoranti, at the event endorsed Tinubu as the choice of the Yorubas, against Peter Obi’s endorsement by Adebanjo’s faction.
Observers noted that it is on record and in public space, that Reuben Fasosranti, had retired as the leader of Afenifere due to old age and frail health. Ayo Adebanjo was appointed acting leader of Afenifere. On Tinubu’s move to divide Afenifere, observers further noted, that a man who could organize “fake clerics and bishops” to further his presidential ambition, is not unlikely, to stage a bogus Afenifere endorsement. They believe it is an indisputable fact that Ayo Adebanjo is the present leader of Afenifere, and the Yorubas know it.
In a recent viral video circulating, Reuben Fasoranti, is seen insisting that he remained the leader of Afenifere. He said he endorsed Bola Tinubu, the candidate of All Progressives Congress, APC; and the organisation, at no time, endorsed the candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi.
His words: “I am still the leader of Afenifere. Afenifere has not endorsed Obi, we are endorsing Jagaban, reference to [Bola Tinubu] for the presidency. As you can see, the trend, the approval and the acceptability. You could see what happened when Tinubu came to meet me in Akure. Media carried the whole thing”.
Fasoranti added: “Adebanjo does not have the capacity to warn me not to welcome Tinubu. Can he do that successfully? What happened was that Adebanjo took a stand and I took a stand. I didn’t call him and he didn’t call me. We never spoke about the visit. As you can see, Jagaban is accepted and we approve of him. Obi has no stand in our mind at all.”
AYO ADEBANJO, the leader of Afenifere, and the man in the eye of the storm, sees the endorsement of Bola Tinubu, by Reuben Fasoranti, as an action to split the Yoruba people. Adebanjo was on Channels Television programme, Politics Today, on Monday.
His words: “There is nothing going on other than an attempt to split Afenifere to which I will not be a party. It is a sort of conspiracy among those who want to see Afenifere divided. They have been on this plan for over a month go and my members came to me t alert me about it and I said ‘Don’t talk about it. It would be a diversion’. All we want now is an election on issues”.
Adebanjo add: “I will tell you the story and I won’t go further. Pa Fasoranti phoned me on Friday that Tinubu had phoned him and that he wanted to come and see him and he want to say no. I said no don’t do that; you are an elder statesman. If he wanted to see you, why not?”
THE MAIN OPPOSITION Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku-Okowa Campaign Council reacted to Tinubu’s plight with his kinsmen, Afenifere, the Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group. Daniel Bwala, spokesman for the Campaign Council statement, said the absence of Ayo Adebanjo and others, including the Secretary-General, Sola Ebiseni, was an indication that Tinubu’s endorsement was defective.
Bwala faulted Afenifere for inviting only the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, for an event that should have hosted “frontline candidates” on the presidential race, listen to their plans for the country. He said Tinubu engaged in a strange visit to Fasoranti’s Akure home, in an unorganised setting, for a “highly respected Afenifere”. Bwala described Tinubu’s visit as a “Gestapo manner”.
Bwala said, if it was a meeting seeking to know the right candidate to support or endorse amongst the candidates, Afenifere ought to have invited the leading candidates, to have their take on the plans they have for the country, that also caters for the interests of Afenifere. He described Tinubu as “tribal evangelist”, in reference to Tinubu’s comments, at the meeting, that he would bring the “trophy home”. Bwala said Tinubu’s comment was a “clear ethnic insinuations and divisive remarks”.
Bwala’s words: “So to Tinubu, the race to become the president of Nigeria is a trophy to be won and taken to his ethnic enclave. He was not only wrong in his tribal insinuation that not a single Yoruba opposed the ticket, but he also lied because lots of Yorubas took strong objections to the same faith ticket and to his divisive and religious politics. To say that his ticket is supported by all Yorubas is, to say the least disingenuous, false, and condemnable”.
Bwala said Tinubu has made no secret his “tribal championship and utter disregard for other ethnic people in southern Nigeria”. And added: “This to say the least is sad and terribly troubling and Nigerians should rise and condemn this rhetoric at the polls”.