By Jeffrey Agbo
The leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, has disclosed the group’s reason for not supporting the presidential candidates, Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar.
Adebanjo said in a statement on Monday that Afenifere stands on justice and fairness and believes in true federalism and the Federal Character principle.
The group has been receiving backlash since announcing it was supporting the candidacy of Peter Obi.
Adebanjo, however, said in the statement that Afenifere “is the Yoruba interpretation of the social welfarist ideology of Action Group, a political party founded by Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his colleagues in 1951 with strong advocacy for federalism as the best form of government to give the federating units the requisite autonomy to thrive and peacefully compete among themselves for the ultimate development of Nigeria.”
He said other founding fathers of Nigeria — Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Chief Obafemi Awolowo — agreed to the system with the endorsement of colonial secretary Sir Oliver Littleton in 1954 “and embodied in the 1960 independence constitution. This is the modest contribution of Afenifere in shaping Nigeria into a federation where no person or ethnic nationality is oppressed.”
The nonagenarian said Afenifere had always advocated and insisted on restructuring of the country “long before the parties conducted their Conventions to elect their National Executives and candidates,” and had proposed “a synthesis of the identical Resolutions of the 2014 National Conference and the APC El-Rufai 2018 True Federalism Committee.”
Adebanjo said Afenifere and the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum “unanimously proposed that the minimum condition for a peaceful transition from the disastrous eight years of Buhari’s government headed by a President of northern extraction was to have the next President from the South,” a position which, he said, was supported by southern governors irrespective of their political parties.
He added, “In this quest for peace, based on equity and inclusiveness, the Yoruba took the first turn at the zoning arrangement in 1999, and that led to the emergence of Chief (Olusegun) Obasanjo, the current Vice President is a Yoruba man and equity forbids us for presuming to support another Yoruba person for the presidency in 2023.
“The current President is a Fulani from the North-West and by virtue of the zoning arrangement that has governed Nigeria since 1999, power is supposed to return to the south imminently.
“The South-West, as I have pointed out, has produced a president and currently sits as VP, the South-South has spent a total of six years in the Presidency, but the Igbo people of the South-East have never tasted presidency in Nigeria, and now that the power is due back in the South, equity demands that it be ceded to the Igbo.
We cannot continue to demand that the Igbo people remain in Nigeria, while we at the same time continue to brutally marginalise and exclude them from the power dynamics.”
Adebanjo, therefore, condemned the ceding of the PDP presidential ticket to “a Northern Fulani Muslim to succeed General Muhammadu Buhari, another Fulani Muslim, who will soon complete eight years of uneventful and disastrous rule. One can imagine such a high degree of political insensitivity.”
The Afenifere leader also stated that the group would not jettison equity, inclusiveness and justice just because one of their own — Asiwaju Bola Tinubu — was in the contest.
“We will not compromise this principle of justice, equity and inclusiveness because one of our own Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is a frontline candidate,” Adebanjo said.
Adebanjo, who said Afenifere had “no apologies but due courage of our conviction that Nigeria can only prosper in righteousness,” reiterated that, “To keep Nigeria one, everyone should be Obi/Datti compliant,” and advocated that that should be the slogan henceforth.