Afenifere Acting Leader Chief Ayo Adebanjo on Monday came under criticisms for rejecting the endorsement of All Progressives Congress (APC), presidential candidate Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, by Southwest leaders.
The leaders, including chieftains of Afenifere, Yoruba Council of Elders, (YCE) and other associations, said Adebanjo, who had in his private capacity endorsed Labour Party (LP) presidential Peter Obi, was on his own.
They emphasised that Adebanjo’s personal opinion and unilateral decision cannot be superior to the collective decision of respected Yoruba leaders who were at the Akure meeting hosted by Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti.
Also, prominent Afenifere chieftains said Fasoranti is still the leader of the group, adding that any decision made by Adebanjo without consultation with him cannot be sustained.
A source in the group said Adebanjo may be removed as Acting Leader for his divisive position and dictatorial leadership style.
Adebanjo and the Atiku Campaign Organisation had frowned at the Akure endorsement, saying that it will not stand.
Adebanjo, who featured on Channels Television programme – Politics Today, said the group backed Obi, based on its commitment to equity, fairness and justice.
At the Akure meeting, Fasoranti, who prayed for the APC standard bearer, said: “Tinubu will win the election.”
However, Adebanjo, who denied that there was an endorsement, said Fasoranti only received Tinubu in his residence as an elder statesman.
He said the visit was an attempt to split the group, saying that he did not need to consult Fasoranti before declaring Afenifere’s support for Obi.
Adebanjo, who shunned the Akure meeting despite receiving an invitation to attend, said: “What happened yesterday was an attempt to split Afenifere and I won’t be a party to that. I can tell you that the planned visit was meant to get Afenifere divided. They were on it about a month ago.
“Afenifere is not a cultural group for the Yoruba, but a body that believes in federalism. Our own position for the Southeast is in line with our belief on federalism.”
Asked if Fasoranti ratified Afenifere’s stance on Obi, Adebanjo said: “I don’t have to consult Pa Fasoroti over the endorsement of Peter Obi. Pa Fasoranti has handed over after he said he was tired. Will he still be giving the group instruction?”
Also, the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Organisation, in a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, described the endorsement of Tinubu by Southwest leaders as a “failed attempt to procure reputable Southwest leaders to support his presidential ambition.”
But, Afenifere’s National Organising Secretary, Abagun Kole Omololu, declared that Fasoranti is still the leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, maintaining that any endorsement without his approval was fake.
He said Afenifere cannot have another leader when the leader is still alive, stressing that any decision collectively taken under his guardian is superior to the subjective decision unilaterally taken by the acting leader.
Omololu noted Chief Adebanjo, was appointed in acting capacity by Fasoranti, adding that the leader can also ask him not to act again.
The organising secretary Omololu objected to Adebanjo’s assertion that he cannot consult Fasoranti before taking any decision, saying that it is against the tradition of the group.
The organising secretary emphasised that Adebanjo was alone in his declaration of support for Obi.
Omololu recalled that Tinubu was the only presidential aspirant who consulted the Afenifere leader ahead of his party’s primary in Abuja.
He recalled that Fasoranti had asked him to come back for blessing after winning the ticket.
Omololu also faulted Adebanjo’s claim that those who attended the Akure meeting were not Afenifere chieftains.
He said Southwest leaders who stormed Akure were credible people held in high esteem by their kinsmen.
Omololu said those who witnessed the Akure meeting were credible representatives of the six Southwest states of Oyo, Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti and Lagos; Kwara and Kogi.
He said in Yorubaland, nobody can dismiss Chief Olu Falae, Chief Segun Osoba, Gen. Alani Akinrinade, Gen. Olu Bajowa, Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu, Senator Cornelius Adebayo and Chief Seinde Arogbofa, with a wave of hand.
YCE chieftain Dr. Kunle Olajide, who was present at the meeting, described the rejection of Tinubu’s endorsement by Adebanjo as his own personal position.
Olajide, an eminent medical practitioner, said Nigerians should treat Adebanjo’s claim as his personal position.
He said, “The assemblage of Yoruba leaders and elders that gathered in Chief Fasoranti’s house in Akure endorsed Asiwaju Bola Tinubu for presidency and declared unalloyed support for his bid.
“Nothing can be clearer. Individuals can have their own candidates. But as far as those leaders who gathered under the banner of Afenifere in Akure on Sunday were concerned, they made it abundantly clear that we are solidly behind Tinubu. No shaking.
“That must be his personal opinion or position; we took a joint decision and we expect it to be bound on all. But, we cannot compel anyone. It is a free world. Individuals can take personal positions. But the endorsement was the position of Yoruba leaders and elders as far as we are concerned.”