‘Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.”
–Robin S. Sharma
By Omoniyi Salaudeen
The exchange of baton between the former national leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti and Ayo Adebanjo is as instructive as it is expedient, especially coming at this period of general insecurity in the Southwest nay Nigeria.
The 95-year-old Fasoranti, who had been leading the organization since the death of Chief Bola Ige in 2001, Tuesday, voluntarily relinquished power to his erstwhile deputy, citing old age as his reason for retirement from public engagement.
At a meeting held at his residence in Akure, he explained that it was appropriate for him to yield ground for a more youthful and energetic person to take charge after 13 years on the saddle.
According to him, “the group needs an improved organisation with more effective approach to combat the challenges facing Yoruba people.”
In this clime, it is an exception to the general rule for people to quit power on their own volition. It is equally noteworthy that the mantle of leadership has fallen on the shoulder of a passionate founding member who already has the mastery of the rules of engagement both within and outside the organization.
In order of succession, Adebanjo will be the fourth to lead the group. Though also in his 90s, he has the passion, residual energy and presence of mind to champion the task of emancipating the Yoruba from the claw of marauding herdsmen who are bent on creating their own sphere of influence at all costs within the Southwest enclave.
To confront the enormous challenge, it is expected that the elder statesman would explore the opportunity of the moment to chart a new way forward by seeking a reunion with the splinter group – Afenifere Renewal Group.
By so doing, he would be able to combine the wisdom of old age with the energy, resourcefulness and the fighting spirit of the young elements.
For the record, Afenifere was formed as a socio-cultural organization for the Yoruba people of Nigeria with the late Abraham Adesanya as its pioneer leader and Chief Bola Ige as his deputy.
Following the gruesome murder of the late former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Fasoranti took over the mantle of leadership. When the Alliance for Democracy (AD) was formed in 1998 at the advent of the present political dispensation, Afenifere agenda was adopted as official manifesto of the party.
Things, however, irretrievably fell apart at the height of intrigues that characterized the second term tickets of the party for the then governor of Lagos State, Ahmed Tinubu and his other counterparts in the Southwest. They accused the leaders of the Afenifere, including Adebanjo, of plotting to truncate their re-election bids.
Unlike most governors elected on the platform of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Tinubu met a brickwall obtaining the ticket of his party (AD).
He literally became a protégé of AD leaders like the late Abraham Adesanya and Ayo Adebanjo. By the twilight of his first tenure, the Afenifere leaders had become so uncomfortable that they allegedly plotted to deny him the ticket of the AD for his second term. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Tinubu, a shrewd political strategist, took a bold initiative of forming the Action Congress (AC) and quickly transformed it into a credible opposition to the ruling PDP at the centre. He alone survived the PDP Tsunami that followed ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s onslaught on the Southwest in the 2003 general elections.
A former governor of Ogun State, Olusegun Osoba, recalling the role played by the elders of Afenifere in the run up to the election, had this to say: “Adebanjo has never been comfortable with any governor either in UPN or in AD. By the time of my second coming, he again was opposed to me, he supported Femi Okurounmu. After we were rigged out in 2003, they were gloating, happy to see us kicked out.”
According to him, the last straw that broke the camel’s back was when Afeniere threw its weight behind Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa who was allegedly sponsored by Obasanjo as AD leader as against Chief Bisi Akande popularly supported by the party. “Adebanjo is instrumental to Afenifere breaking into different sub-groups,” Osoba declared.
Consequently, in 2008, the Afenifere Renewal Group was formed as an alternative to the faction headed by the older generation of leaders. Prior to that, a faction of Afenifere in Ijebu Igbo, Ogun State, led by Adebanjo had installed Chief Reuben Fasoranti as the new chairman of the group. But ARG leaders, including Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, Chief Bisi Akande, Wale Oshun and Yinka Odumakin objected to the move.
Insinuation is also rife that the blank support Afenifere gave to former President Goodluck Jonathan in the run up to the 2015 election, despite the perceived marginalization of the Southwest, was to checkmate the rising political profile of Tinubu.
In the recent times, Adebanjo has often been heard urging the people of the Southwest not to allow themselves to be fooled by Tinubu a second time.
He was quoted as saying: “Tinubu is day-dreaming if he thinks the North will ever support his presidential ambition. We have our principles.
“Tinubu cannot lead Yoruba land because all he has done is to lead us astray. All he has done for us is to give some of our people who are close to him appointments.
“Nothing tangible has been done for Yoruba land. He gave his stooges appointments, nothing more, nothing less. If he has done more than that, let him say it.”
Whatever the political differences, Afenifere is a necessary body for preserving the ethnic identity of the Yoruba. In the present dire situation that the country has found itself, it is not only important that the groups bury their hatchets, they must also be seen to be united to confront their common enemies. All this revolves round able leadership that Adebanjo is expected to represent as a passionate defender of the Yoruba interest and aspiration.
Adebanjo, an avowed Awoist, is a lawyer by profession. In the days of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, he belonged to the youth wing of the Action Group. Until Awo passed on in 1987, Adebanjo was loyal to him and held strongly to his principles, vision, family and cause.
In the struggle for the revalidation of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election believed to have been won by the late MKO Abiola, Adebanjo displayed a rare courage and fought along with the NADECO for the enthronement of the present democracy. As an advocate of restructuring, he remains passionate about the ideal of true federalism and will always critise the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) led by President Muhammadu Buhari for reneging on its promise to restructure Nigeria.