• Saturday, July 20, 2024
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Rumble in Afenifere over Tinubu’s victory

Afenifere: Beyond Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Pa Reuben Fasoranti

The rift among leaders of the pan-Yoruba social-cultural organisation, Afenifere, has again been brought to the fore, following disagreement over the emergence of Bola Tinubu as the president-elect.

Tinubu, candidate of Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), was declared winner of presidential election on February 25, after defeating 17 other candidates.

Prior to the presidential poll, Afenifere had endorsed Obi for the election, saying it is the turn of the Igbo people of the Nigerian South-eastern Nigeria to produce the president.

However, the stand of the Ayo Adebanjo-led Afenifere appears not to enjoy the support of some leaders of the group, including Reuben Fasoranti, a former leader of the organisation.

Fasoranti had named Adebanjo as the acting leader of the group in 2021 when he stepped down from the position because of old age.

Dissatisfied with the endorsement of Obi, Fasoranti had last year hosted a reception for Tinubu in which he endorsed his presidential ambition.

But the outcome of the February 25 presidential poll has not gone down well with leaders of the Afenifere, especially its acting leader, Adebanjo who has, in different occasions spoken against the conduct of the poll, rejecting the declaration, while saying that Peter Obi candidate of the Labour Party (LP), who came third according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), really won the election.

Read also: Afenifere and controversial endorsements

The situation has worsened in recent days, splitting the group further, with some leaders vowing not to recognise him as President of the country.

This follows a meeting presided over by Adebanjo in Isanya Ogbo in Ogun State, in which Afenifere formally rejected the results of the presidential election.

The statement was opposite of a message by the spokesperson of Afenifere, Jare Ajayi, congratulating Tinubu on his declaration as the President-elect.

In a statement on Tuesday signed by Adebanjo and the group’s general secretary, Sola Ebiseni, Afenifere said it has evidence that Obi won the election.

“The results of the lawful votes at the presidential election available to the Afenifere through credible sources confirm that Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, won the said election,” the group said in the statement.

It also announced the suspension of Ajayi and the National Organising Secretary, Abagun Omololu, for issuing the congratulatory message to Tinubu.

However, in a statement he issued in Akure a day later on Wednesday, Fasoranti said Afenifere could not have asserted that someone other than the person declared by the body authorised to do so by the Nigerian Constitution is the winner of the presidential election.

Fasoranti noted that since INEC had declared Tinubu as the winner of the election it would be unconstitutional for the group to recognise someone else.

“Our National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Jare Ajayi, issued a congratulatory message to the President-elect after he had been issued a certificate of return by INEC.

“This was cited as an ‘uncouth activity’ by the communiqué mentioned above which further stated that Abagun and Ajayi were ‘suspended sine die, pending further decisions after their appearance before and recommendations by the disciplinary committee’.

“Meaning that the two were pronounced guilty and consequently sanctioned even before their appearance before a disciplinary committee.

“This type of position is alien to us in Afenifere, which does not conduct itself as an agent of the state, let alone as an electoral umpire. We accept the results of the elections at all levels as declared by INEC until otherwise decided by competent courts in the land.

“Presently, the whole world knows that Nigeria has a President-elect in the person of Ahmed Bola Tinubu, a true Yoruba son and nationalist.

“We in Afenifere not only acknowledge this, but we also take delight in his in-coming presidency and are confident that he will, by the grace of God, return Nigeria to the glorious position that all of us will be proud of. Which was why I also congratulated him in a personal letter I sent to him.”

Meanwhile, some Yoruba leaders seem to agree with Fasoranti’s position, saying since Tinubu was the person declared winner by INEC, it would be unlawful and counterproductive to turn around and reject him even when he hails from the South Western region.

Speaking in an Interview with BusinessDay Sunday, Wale Oshun, a chieftain of Afenifere, expressed surprise that Adebanjo was against the elected person in the presidential poll, stressing that since Tinubu had been declared winner by INEC aggrieved opponents can challenge his victory in court.

Oshun expressed optimism that the group would resolve the disagreement among its leaders and come out stronger.

According to Oshun, “Afenifere would put its house in order; Yoruba’s would ensure that it is settled. But the law must be followed, we are in a country ruled by law, someone has been declared winner in the presidential poll. Why go against it?

“Tinubu is the winner of the presidential election, if there are disgruntled persons they should go to the court; let the court give ruling on the matter. I think the two major opponents are in court, so let’s wait and see.

“I don’t see why Adebanjo is disagreeing over this, Tinubu is the President-elect. Why is he fixating on the issue? Let me tell you, there may be differences but we have the capacity to put our house in order.”

Read also: Afenifere insists Obi won presidential poll, suspends two principal officers

Soji Adejumo, frontline politician and professor of Animal Physiology, said the disagreement was unnecessary, since Tinubu was recognised as the president-elect by the country’s electoral empire.

“The argument to me is unnecessary, Tinubu has won, we should congratulate him, it is a good thing for Nigeria. You can see that the country is down; we can’t wait for President Muahmamdu Buhari to go because everything is upside down now.

“If Adebanjo is saying no, is he INEC? INEC has declared Tinubu winner and I think there is a process for those who disagree with that,” Adejumo said.

However, some other Yoruba leaders who spoke to BusinessDay on the issue are in support of the position taken by Adebanjo and his group.

They said it was obvious that the presidential poll did not reflect the wishes and expectations of Nigerians, stressing that those backing Tinubu are only doing so for their personal gains and not for the interest of the nation.

“This is a group which has always advocated for unity of the country, equity and fair play, it is surprising that despite the obvious flaws which characterised February 25 they see nothing wrong with it.

“This is a presidential poll in which Nigerians made such a sacrifice in which they were thoroughly disappointed after.

“It is surprising that some people can sit down and endorse the election and the candidate that INEC said won.

“I know the group is divided, but it just tells you that these leaders don’t have the country’s interest at heart. They are regional leaders after their personal interest,” the source who prefers anonymity said.