By Omoniyi Salaudeen
As part of the moves to douse the tension generated by the ongoing leadership tussle between the patriarchs of the Yoruba apex socio-political group, Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti and his successor, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, some concerned stakeholders in the Southwest have waded into the matter with a view to building consensus on the presidential candidate to be supported in the coming 2023 general elections by the region.
The face-off between the duo followed the recent visit of the standard bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to Akure home of Pa Fasoranti and his subsequent endorsement as Afenifere’s preferred candidate.
The adoption was contrary to an earlier declaration of support for the candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, by the acting leader of the group, Adebanjo.
Since the disagreement became a matter of public concern, there has been a rage of anger among different interest groups.
While some have thrown their weight behind Adebanjo for his open declaration of support for Obi, others have applauded Fasoranti for endorsing Tinubu as Afenifere’s candidate.
A notable leader of Afenifere in Lagos, who did not want his name in print, described the action of the two leaders as embarrassing to the Yoruba.
He said: “Two or three other persons have approached me for comment on this matter and I declined. I declined because, in the first instance, it does not sooth the eyes to see our elders hurling stones at each other.
“Secondly, this is an ordinary matter that should have been discussed and settled in-house. The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has met the four notable presidential candidates, did you hear them declaring support for any candidate? No. They said they would go home to go and deliberate on their final decision. This is because they know that it will be impossible for all of them to vote in one direction.
“But our own elders are throwing mud at each other. We cannot afford to bring the roof down because of any particular candidate. You cannot hear Ohanaeze Ndigbo expressing open disagreement on candidates. Why the Yoruba? It does not sooth the eyes.”
Following the recent visit of Tinubu to Akure, Fasoranti, in a viral video, had clarified that Afenifere had not endorsed the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi.
“I am still the leader of Afenifere. Afenifere has not endorsed Obi. We are endorsing Jagaban for the presidency.
“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,” he said.
But Adebanjo, while speaking with Sunday Sun, insisted that he remained the leader of the Afenifere, declaring that he would not encourage those who were bent on causing confusion within the group.
His words: “There is no confusion on the issue of adoption of presidential candidate. I have made my position known. I am the leader of Afenifere. If Pa Reuben Fasoranti as an old man is involved in another matter, I am not in a position to address that. He is already a retired leader. He retired two year ago. He is an elder statesman and I respect him a lot. But I won’t go into any controversy with him. I won’t encourage people who want to cause confusion in Afenifere.”
However, in a swift move to nip the crisis in the bud, some concerned elders have already swung into action to resolve the disagreement in the overall interest of the Yoruba.
The Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Comrade Jare Ajayi, in a telephone conversation with Sunday Sun, disclosed that elders had already intervened in the face-off to resolve the disagreement.
“No doubt, the visit of Asiwaju to Akure raises some questions and I am not pretending not to know. But whatever questions or uproar it has raised, elders in Yoruba land are already looking into the matter to clear the dust,” he said.
Asked for further clarification on the exact position of the Afenifere on the purported adoption of candidate to be supported in the coming election, he retorted: “All I can say for now is what I have told you. I am the Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, but I have fathers and elders who are already looking into the matter. Elders have stepped in to clear the dust.”
This is even as Personal Assistant to Fasoranti, Adedapo Abiola, has said in a statement made available to journalists that Adebanjo remains the leader of Afenifere.
The statement reads in part: “It has come to Papa R.F Fasoranti’s knowledge that some section of the media, especially social media, has been ascribing to him false statement designed to cause confusion and polarized Afenifere.