The Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, has denied that it endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari to win the 2019 presidential election.

The Ayo Fasanmi-led faction of the group announced after its meeting on Thursday, December 20, that it would formally declare its support for Buhari on January 29, 2019.

"We decided to host the whole Yoruba land in Ibadan on January 29 next year. It is to proclaim support of the Yoruba land for President Muhammadu Buhari come 2019," a statement by the group's Ekiti State chapter Chairman, Chief Akin Fasae, read.

However, another faction of the group, led by Ayo Adebanjo, has dismissed the endorsement as the wishful thinking of a fake group.

According to the group's spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, the endorsement was staged by the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, in his desperation to give legitimacy to Buhari's candidacy in the southwest region.

He dismissed the group as a renegade group that has no authority to endorse the 76-year-old president who's seeking re-election at the polls next year.

He told The Punch, "That is a fake Afenifere group powered by Bola Ahmed Tinubu. If you look at the names of the people at that particular group, the only person that was once with us is Senator Fasanmi and we believe they are just using him.

"The masquerade behind this entire show is Bola Tinubu, who has plenty of money. Why is he hiding under Afenifere? Haven't he and his people been disparaging Afenifere? Why has Afenifere suddenly become attractive to them?

"When Afenifere was fighting for the rights of Yoruba people attacked by herdsmen in Ile-Ife and in Akure, where was Bola Tinubu? Suddenly, he remembers Afenifere because elections are here.

"Let Tinubu come and meet us directly. Why is he hiding and using our name?"

Odumakin further noted that Afenifere's endorsement of any candidate would not be announced until after a meeting with other socio-cultural groups such as Ohanaeze NdIgbo and the Northern Elders Forum.

The Adebanjo-led group is believed to be interested in endorsing the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, because of his support for restructuring the country.

2019 presidential election

While next year's election, scheduled for February 16, 2019, is expected to be keenly-contested between Buhari and Atiku, they both face competition from other candidates including Donald Duke of the Social Democratic Party (SDP)Kingsley Moghalu of the Young Progressive Party (YPP)Obiageli Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN)Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), and Omoyele Sowore of the African Action Congress (AAC).

Others are Tope Fasua of the Abundance Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP)Eunice Atuejide of the National Interest Party (NIP)Adesina Fagbenro-Byron of the Kowa Party (KP)Chike Ukaegbu of the Advanced Allied Party (AAP)Hamza Al-Mustapha of the People's Party of Nigeria (PPN)Obadiah Mailafia of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), and many more.

79 candidates will contest in the election, the highest number ever in Nigeria's electoral history.