- Afenifere leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo
- Pa Adebanjo insists on Obi, says Akure ‘blessing’ diversionary, mischievous
By Anthony Nwachukwu
A member of the Executive Committee of Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Prof. Akinyemi Onigbinde, has dismissed the reported endorsement of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, by the body’s former leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti.
Pa Fasoranti was said to have blessed Tinubu for the presidential race during a meeting in Akure, Ondo State, at the weekend, thereby fueling suspicion of a divided house, as the body had earlier endorsed the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr. Peter Obi.
Clarifying the situation, however, Onigbinde said that “not a single member under the leadership of Pa Ayo Adebanjo as duly put in place by Pa Reuben Fasoranti when he handed over leadership, was present at the Akure meeting.”
Afenifere leader, Adebanjo himself, had earlier described as diversionary Tinubu’s meeting with Fasoranti.
The event, where he presented Fasoranti with his 80-page manifesto, with other Yoruba leaders in attendance, followed Adebanjo’s repeated endorsement Obi as the preferred candidate of Afenifere in 2023 on grounds of equity.
Similar to the APC dressing some rented faceless persons to pose as Christian clergy at the presentation of Tinubu and his running mate, Kashim Shettima, in Abuja some months ago, Adebanjo said the purpose of the Akure gathering was to create a wedge between him and Pa Fasoranti.
However, he described those who attended as Yoruba APC chieftains, stating that Fasoranti had called him ahead of the meeting and he warned the former leader.
“The Yoruba people know their leader. I’ve spoken, the national secretary has spoken, the Daily Trust quoted him to say.
“This is not the time to engage in polemics. The way forward is my position. What happened was a diversion. They want us to be engaged in arguments. Is that the issue now?”
Reiterating Afenifere’s support for the South East to produce the next president for justice and fairness, Adebanjo asked: “Can he (Tinubu) deny it that the South-West has not had its turn? Can he deny that the South-South has not had its turn? They should answer that.
“As far as I am concerned, the meeting does not concern us as Afenifere. Afenifere is not divided. That was why I said I don’t want to engage in polemics.
“They want to throw a wedge between me and Pa Reuben Fasoranti and I won’t allow it. The man phoned me yesterday and I warned him, don’t get yourself involved,” he said.
Corroborating Adebanjo, Onigbinde disclosed that “not even Afenifere General Secretary, who is from Ondo State and probably lives in Akure, dignified the crowd of APC faithful at the premises of Pa Fasonranti with his esteemed presence.”
He explained that unknown to many, Fasoranti had informed Adebanjo of Tinubu’s request to pay him a visit, “and wanted to know if he should grant him audience. Pa Adebanjo advised that it would not be proper not to receive the APC presidential candidate, as others would still come on such visits.”
He added: “I am a member of Afenifere Exco; I am a member of the caucus, I am also on the political committee, and I was duly invited to the Akure meeting through a telephone call by Alagba Seinde Arogbofa.
“I declined and informed him that he should inform Pa Fasoranti of my apology to not honour his invitation to join him in receiving Bola Tinubu.”
Nevertheless, “I looked through the list of those present at the Akure ‘blessing’ of the presidential bid of Bola Tinubu, they are majorly people whose ties with Afenifere is so distant as to be non-existent.
“Many of them, the supposed Afenifere members, have not been at any of Afenifere monthly general meetings in the last two years. They are at best functional APC members, who should be in the company of their party candidate to seek support from anyone that may be willing to give it.
“Yet, one or two definitely went to Akure to honour Pa Reuben Fasoranti’s invitation, out of respect for the old man. On Bola Tinubu’s presidential bid, Afenifere’s stand is clear, and it is not an Ayo Adebanjo personal position.”