More facts are coming out on why Yoruba leaders are divided over the endorsement of presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, by the leader of Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, at his residence in Akure, Ondo State, on Sunday.
Fasoranti’s action was a counter to an earlier endorsement of the Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi, by Afenifere’s acting leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, which signaled commotion in Oduduwa fold.
It was gathered that the Akure meeting was not convened at the instance of Afenifere, but by another pan-Yoruba group, Conscience of Yoruba Nation (COYN), which comprises politicians and prominent Yoruba leaders of thoughts.
A copy of the invitation letter, printed on the letterhead of COYN, dated October 24 and entitled: ‘Meeting with Yoruba leadership,’ reads: “We are happy to invite you to a meeting with the leadership of the Yoruba nation. The leader, Chief Reuben Fasonranti, has agreed to host and preside over the meeting, which is called under the auspices of the Conscience of Yoruba Nation Forum.”
After stating the date, time and venue, the letter said the thrust of the meeting was “to discuss the historic 2023 general elections and guide the Yoruba people of Nigeria to take a definite and wise decision in the overall interest of prosterity and also, an interaction with one of the leading candidates, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”The invitation letter was signed by the Director General of COYN, Otunba Kole Omololu and Dare Babarinsa.
However, some Yoruba leaders, yesterday, told The Guardian that it was preposterous to use Afenifere’s name in all the proceedings and communiqué of the meeting since the conveners are not executive members of Afenifere.
They accused the conveners of excluding many Yoruba leaders from the meeting, especially Afenifere leaders, insisting that the conveners colluded with Tinubu’s supporters by playing on the old age of Fasoranti for the “pyrrhic endorsement.”
Some members of the forum also criticised both Fasoranti and Adebanjo for being ‘hasty’ in their endorsements without consulting widely among various Yoruba groups. They said they would have expected the leaders to have learnt lessons from Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) that provided platform for all the leading presidential candidates to address them and extract commitment from them on Arewa’s interest, without endorsing any of the candidates.
One of the leaders asked: “Have they studied the manifesto and agenda submitted to them by Tinubu and were convinced that Yoruba interest will be protected or he was just endorsed because he is a Yoruba man. It is unfortunate that some Yoruba leaders are playing ethnic games and presenting Tinubu as a Yoruba candidate, instead of presenting him as a Nigerian candidate of Yoruba extraction.”
But to some Yoruba leaders who supported Fasoranti in endorsing Tinubu’s presidential ambition, the nonagenarian remains the leader of Afenifere and he has a right to take any decision at anytime. They blamed Adebanjo for not consulting Fasoranti and other Yoruba leaders before endorsing Obi.
They said Fasoranti remains the leader of the Yoruba group and by the tradition of Afenifere, Adebanjo, as the acting leader, must consult with Fasoranti before taking critical decisions on behalf of Afenifere.
Also, Fasoranti has insisted that he remained the leader of Afenifere and there is no going back on the group’s endorsement of Tinubu. The Yoruba leader, in a viral video, said the group never endorsed Obi.
He declared: “I am still the leader of Afenifere. Afenifere has not endorsed Obi, we are endorsing Jagaban (Tinubu) for the presidency.
“As you can see, the trend, approval and acceptability, you could see what happened when Tinubu came to meet me in Akure. Media carried the whole thing. 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.”
A law lecturer at Lead City University, Ibadan, Prof. Olu Ojedokun, and Dr. Stephen Lafenwa of Political Science Department, University of Ibadan, yesterday, said the presence of Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State at Akure during the endorsement of Tinubu was not politically tactful.
The governor, who was represented by the deputy governor, Bayo Lawal, belongs to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The university dons said that such move might not be wise politically.
Lafenwa said: ‘’The support for the endorsement of Tinubu presidency may seem to be an unwise decision politically speaking, but the governor has no choice given the unresolved political crisis in his party at present.
“His move suggests that voters’ preference would be based on candidates and not the party. He won the presidential and gubernatorial elections for PDP in 2019. Since every action has its consequences, the governor, who also has a re-election battle to face, should be prepared to face the consequence of his action.”
Ojedokun said: “It is still not certain that that is what the governor did. However, the clear indication is that he is not supporting Atiku at this time, which has created a vacuum, which nature abhors, and of course, speculation has become rife.
“It’s akin to political suicide to divide the ticket by refusing to support your own presidential candidate. This could come home to bite the governor.’’
Students across the Southwest region have also called on Yoruba to embrace Tinubu and see his aspiration as not only a Yoruba agenda, but a project to reposition the country. This was disclosed by chairman of the Ogun State chapter of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Simeon Damilola Kehinde.
NANS, in the statement, appealed to Adebanjo not to allow his bias against Tinubu to prevent Southwest from reclaiming power in 2023.
Simeon disclosed that students across the region are set to visit Adebanjo to appease him and intervene in the current crisis in Afenifere.
The statement reads: “This is not the time for Yoruba to be divided. Election is around the corner and as a leading region in the country, we must unite and all work for the success of our own in the election.
“We are not tribalistic, neither are we whipping up ethnic sentiment, but for equity and justice’s sake, we firmly believe that this is the turn of the Yoruba.”