Tinubu's endorsement splits Afenifere as Fasoranti, Adebanjo butt heads

The two Afenifere leaders have clashed heads over support for presidential candidates and the group's leadership position.

Pa Ayo Adebanjo, Bola Tinubu and Pa Reuben Fasoranti (Channels TV)

Leadership tussle: The two elder statesmen are also locked in a battle of supremacy over the group's leadership position.

How it started: Until now, there had been murmurs of dissent within the group coupled with insinuations that the leadership held divergent opinion about the way forward ahead of the 2023 general elections.

However, the simmering crisis has now boiled to the surface thanks to the recent visit of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, to the leaders of Afenifere in Akure, Ondo State.

Tinubu visits Afenifere: Pulse reports that the former Lagos State Governor paid a courtesy visit to the residence of Pa Fasoranti on Sunday, October 31, 2022, to present his action plan to the nonagenarian and other leaders of the Yoruba group.

Afenifere endorses Tinubu: Meanwhile, the event was quickly turned into a mini political rally by Tinubu's retinue of supporters and the Afenifere chiefs who received him, as the APC flag-bearer was endorsed by the group while Pa Fasoranti and other leaders also prayed for his success in the 2023 election.

One group, two endorsements: Recall that before Tinubu's trip to Ondo, the acting leader of Afenifere, Pa Adebanjo and a section of the group had in September pitched their tent with the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, hinging their support on the need for the South-East geopolitical zone to produce its first president.

However, Pulse reports that Adebanjo was conspicuously missing at the Akure meeting where the leaders endorsed and drummed up support for the former Lagos State Governor.

Afenifere National Organising Secretary, Abagun Kole Omololu, later issued a statement in which he described a Tinubu presidency as one that would “usher in a new era of hope, peace, security, harmony, gainful employment for the multitude, economic development, social and political stability.”

The group also claimed that APC torchbearer “shared with us his vision of a greater and more prosperous Nigeria where democratic rights, rule of law, justice and fairness will reign supreme. He also gave an assurance on steps to be taken to ensure the safety and security of Nigerians and their properties.”

Crisis erupts in Afenifere: The turnout of events has now triggered a rancour within the group with some faulting the decision of Fasoranti, who stepped aside as leader and handed over to Adebanjo, as acting leader, to endorse Tinubu on behalf of the group.

Reacting to the notion, Fasoranti in an interview with Impact TV Africa categorically declared that he neither resigned nor retired as the leader of Afenifere.

The nonagenarian also explained the group’s choice of Tinubu, while stressing that he was still the leader of Afenifere.

Fasoranti's word:I didn’t resign or retire from leadership. I was misunderstood. I think the best thing is to correct that.

“As you can see, the trend, the approval and the acceptability. You could see what happened when Tinubu came to meet me in Akure. The media carried the whole thing.

“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.

“As you saw yesterday, it goes without saying that Jagaban was accepted. Obi has no stand in our mind at all.

Adebanjo digs his foot in: Speaking with The Punch, Adebanjo, who confirmed that he was not at the meeting in Akure, said he was not ready to enter into any controversy over the decision taken at the meeting.

He, however, argued that Fasoranti lacked the power to remove him as the latter was just an ordinary member of the organisation.

Adebanjo's word: In the first place, I was not supposed to be there. In the second place, we have made our position clear. Pa Fasoranti asked me if I was coming, I said if he asked me to come, but (I asked him to) tell him (Tinubu) what the position of Afenifere is. Once he has done that, I’m not going into any controversy about that.

“Afenifere has taken a stance to support Obi. Any other splinter or rebel group…I’m not going into any controversy about that. I regard that as a diversion. What we are going to do now is see that we succeed at the election.

“He has no right, constitutionally or otherwise, to do so. He’s functus officio (no longer in office.) He has resigned and is just an ordinary member of the party.

“Once he has handed over to me, I am the de facto leader of Afenifere. I won’t make it a controversy at all. Let him test his position wherever.

“Where does he derive his authority? Is Afenifere a monarchy? It’s a pity that in his old age he’s being led astray.

“Have you heard of somebody who is out of a process now saying he’s coming back again? It’s a pity he’s making himself a laughing stock,” Adebanjo said.Part of the crisis rocking Afenifere involves the location where the organisation’s future meetings will be held."

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