Yoruba Leadership: Stakeholders differ on election of Pa Abraham Adesanya’s successor
• Fayemi Too Sophisticated For Such Plots – Oshun, Okurounmu, Oki
•Tinubu Not Part Of It – Aide, ARG
Many questions are begging for answers, regarding the commitment of followers of the late Premier of the Old Western Region and pioneer leader of Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Chief Obafemi Awolowo to his ideals. Many are wondering, whether they actually emulate his style of leadership or have deliberately deviated from the path charted by the founder of the defunct Action Group (AG), after his demise in 1987?
This is because majority, though advanced in age, have not been able to forge a common front in the interest and development of the Yoruba nation, the way the late leader bequeathed, or even pretend to replicate his achievements.
Regrettably, the same platforms, Afenifere and AG, which Awolowo and his lieutenants used to coordinate the development of old Western region that was referred to as the golden era of Yoruba land and the pride of Nigeria, has been enmeshed in unresolved crises for decades.
A new round of strife has been stoked following election of foremost historian and a Second republic Senator, Professor Banji Akintoye, last Thursday, as new leader of Yoruba race. A group that operates under the aegis of Assembly of All Yoruba Groups Worldwide via an election crowned him.
This is apart that Afenifere is currently divided into three separate factions; the mainstream body led by a nonagenarian, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, another led by Pa Ayo Fasanmi, who is also a nonagenarian and Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) led by a 70 year old, Mr. Wale Oshun. But with the emergence of Akintoye, if it comes to stay and is accepted, Afenifere will further split into four different groups with different leaders.
Interestingly, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State is allegedly financing ARG, while the national leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu is backing the Fasanmi group. The mainstream Afenifere has shown a propensity to align with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who is the flag-barer of PDP in the last presidential election.
The mainstream Afenifere started experiencing problems during the era of its third leader, Pa Abraham Adesanya, who succeeded the late former governor of Ondo State, late Pa Adekunle Ajasin.
The disagreement forced the youth wing led by Mr. Oshun to form ARG, after the election of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Olu Falae as the presidential candidate of the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD), against the popularly preferred choice of former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige at the party’s presidential primary held at D’Rovans Hotel, Ibadan in 1998/99. Adesanya, eventually died amid the crisis. Pa Fasoranti succeeded him, but the likes of Pa Fasanmi; former AD governors, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Segun Osoba, Niyi Adebayo, Bisi Akande and some leaders including Otunba Olabiyi Durojaiye left the mainstream based on ideological difference, while ARG is persistently referred to as rebel faction of the group.
The founding of APC in 2014 and election Gen. Buhari in 2015 with the backings of the Fasanmi/Tinubu-led Afenifere further worsened the group’s crisis.
While Buhari persistently ignored the agitation and demand for the restructuring of Nigeria and calls to implement 2014 national Conference recommendations being championed by mainstream Afenifere, the basis on which it claimed to have supported former President Goodluck Jonathan and former Atiku both of the PDP in 2015 and 2019 presidential elections respectively, the Fasanmi/Tinubu and co backed Buhari. ARG claims it is neutral but close watchers know where it belongs.
Akintoye’s Emergence As New Yoruba Leader
Like the popular saying, ‘there’s no smoke without fire’ the election of Prof. Akintoye held in Ibadan, capital of Oyo State, which is also the former capital of the Old Western Region, at a session moderated by activist, Dr. Tunde Amusat, convened by the founder of Oodua Redemption Alliance, Comrade Victor Taiwo, has continued to generate reactions from various quarters. The historian was said to have defeated Tinubu, who allegedly was drafted into the contest with him with 71 to three votes, to become the new leader of Yoruba after Adesanya. The contest was supervised by the Baale of Ekotedo, Chief Taye Ayorinde; Chief Deji Osibogun; clergymen; members of the Oodua Peoples Congress (New Era); Oodua Redemption Alliance; Majiyagbe Oodua Vanguard; Awari Omo Oduduwa; Yoruba Koya; Afenifere; Yoruba Council of Elders; Okun Development Association; the United Yoruba Kingdom; Atayese; among others. Fasoranti was not even reckoned with by the group.
A religious leader from Ilorin, Sheikh Abdulrakeem Aduranigba, representing Yorubas in Kwara and Kogi States moved the nomination of Akintoye and was seconded by Mr. Kunle Ogundoro. The story has since generated reaction and concern among leaders in the zone.
One of the close aides of Tinubu, who did not want his name mentioned, distanced the national leader of APC from such, wondering of what importance is Yoruba leadership to Tinubu in the present calculations and challenges facing the country.
According to the aide, “Tinubu is not struggling any leadership position with any unknown group and he will never be involved in that kind of shenanigans where even the said winner (Akintoye) has claimed ignorance.”
He, however, urged Yoruba people across the world to disregard the development as the national leader is not interested and does not identify with those behind the arrangement.
Some have dismissed the development, saying that a Yoruba leader hardly or would never have emerged under such circumstances, where there are no notable personalities; traditional rulers and people of substance in attendance, not to even talk about Akintoye himself who was conspicuously absent and has claimed his ignorance of such event.
But accusing fingers are pointed at the Chairman, Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State as the brain behind the development, in preparation ahead his 2023 presidential ambition.
The Guardian gathered that the retreat organised by ARG in Ekiti State under the auspices of Fayemi where Akintoye endorsed the NGF chairman as the best Southwest candidate to succeed Buhari in 2023 is a strong clue, pointing to the fact that he (Fayemi) might have sponsored those behind the programme to prepare an alternative socio-cultural platform to support his presidential, in case the other factions feel encumbered.
It was also insinuated that Fayemi has no choice but to start preparing, since his alleged godfather and immediate past minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau was dropped by President Buhari. It was also claimed that Professor Akintoye is an indigene of Ekiti State and by so doing would be very useful to the incumbent governor in 2023, when the presidential race will take place.
Sources also disclosed that the Ekiti State born history professor has been having running battle with the mainstream Afenifere since he delivered the guest lecture during the ARG retreat, where he also endorsed Fayemi. Pa Fasoranti and Adebanjo , among other leaders were said to have picked a quarrel with him for honouring the invitation, knowing that Oshun and his group are considered as rebel. The historian in retaliation called their bluff and vowed not to have anything to do with them. One of the grouses is that nobody can decide for him when and where to deliver lecture or who to relate with as far as the issue of Nigeria is concerned. As a matter of fact, The Guardian gathered that until the new development, Akintoye had tactically distanced himself from the mainstream of Afenifere accusing the leaders of been to rigid.
Commenting on the issue, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on the 2014 National Conference, Dr. Femi Okurounmu, who is also a member of Afenifere, exonerated Akintoye, saying he has spoken with the professor and he told him he was not aware.
Okurounmu blamed the development on the desperation of some Yoruba Self Determination groups who are anxious to have Oduduwa Nation because of the present situation of the country. “I doubt if Akintoye will ever subject himself to be used like that, neither will Fayemi get himself involved in such a mess.”
He also denied existence of any rift between Akintoye and Afenifere, just as he said: “On Friday, the professor of history was in the house of Pa Fasoranti with Chief Adebanjo and others to discuss crucial issues.”
In a similar manner, Spokesman of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said there was no way a Yoruba leader could have emerged in the manner it was planned, where there are no known personalities and elders of the region.
He dismissed it and also called for continued support for the leadership of Pa Fasoranti.
Speaking on the matter, Oshun disassociated ARG from the meeting. He stressed: “We are not part of any meeting where Prof. Akintoye was elected as new Yoruba leader. I also want to agree that Tinubu would never have subjected himself to such ruse not to think of contesting Yoruba leadership with the professor.”
Oshun also disagreed with the assumption that Fayemi is the brain behind the issue. According to him, “Fayemi is too sophisticated in politics to be trying to create alternative Afenifere platform that will be led by Prof. Akintoye to oil and support his ambition for presidency. To me, what must have motivated the people behind the issue is the state of insecurity and other challenges facing Yoruba nation in the last few months.”
Efforts are to get Prof. Akintoye. Mr. Fouad Oki, a member of the ruling party defended Fayemi, saying there is no reason the governor will want to raise another platform since he has cordial interactions with all the strata of Yoruba leaders.