•Abagun KOLE OMOLOLU, National Organising Secretary Of Afenifere
Lately, a new Yoruba group which calls itself The Afenifere Revival Group has been making pronouncements about the forthcoming presidential election. Most of the statements emanating from the group have always been from elderstatesman, Senator Ayo Fasanmi who is the leader of the group.
And of course, members of the Afenifere, (the pan-Yoruba socio-political group) headed by Papa Fasoranti, have always dissociated themselves from this new group that also has another elderstatesman, Senator Biyi Durojaiye, as member.
This has sent tongues wagging as to what may be going on among Yoruba leaders. Is the rank of Afenifere divided? As some obvserves have asked. Why is there so much controversy now that the presidential election is just a few days away?
Right now, the major bone of contention is: which candidate the Yoruba should support for the presidency? The Afenifere has thrown its full weight, behind.
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar because he supports Restructuring, while the other new group is supporting Pres. Muhammadu Buhari. It is also instructive that some members of this group have come out publicly to root for PMB. Allegations abound that the Fasanmi Group has shown sympathies for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the National leader of APC and the Chairman of the Presidential Campaign Council of the APC.
Senator Biyi Durojaiye, who also belongs to that group is the Chairman of NCC and is liked by Pres. Buhari.
The fact that Senator Babafemi Ojudu, the Special Adviser to PMB on Political matters visited Fasanmi recently to celebrate his 93rd birthday with him further shows that the Afenifere Revival Group supports Buhari Group.
Who is Senator Ayo Fasanmi you may ask. Let’s tell you a bit about him. This elderstatesman is an Ekiti man, who was born in 1925 at Iye Ekiti, a local government area of Ekiti State, South Western Nigeria.
He attended St Paul’s Primary School, Ebutte Metta and Government School, Ibadan before he proceeded to the Pharmacy School of Yaba where he received a diploma certificate in pharmacy.
He practised as a Pharmacist at Oshogbo briefly before he joined politics.
He joined the Unity Party of Nigeria in 1978 and was a candidate in the Ondo State gubernatorial primary election, but lost to Michael Adekunle Ajasin, the former governor of Ondo State.
In 1983, he was elected member of the Federal House of Representatives, representing Ondo North. He later served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Old Western Nigeria Housing Corporation.
During the 4th Republic, he served as the National Vice Chairman of the Alliance for Democracy, Southwest zone.
Afenifere Revival Group chieftains led by Senator Ayo Fasanmi recently backed President Muhammadu Buhari’s reelection during a visit to Osun State Governor, Gboyega Oyetola.
The team visited the governor after their meeting at the residence of Pa Fasanmi in Osogbo.
Senator Olabiyi Durojaye, who spoke after being mandated by Fasanmi, said the group was the authentic Afenifere.
He explained that Afenifere means progressives adding that the only known progressive party in the country is the All Progressives Congress (APC).
He described Pa Fasanmi as “the oldest living senator in the country and a direct disciple of the late Chief Obafemi Awoolowo who was the authentic Yoruba leader.”
Oyetola, whom they described as a true progressive, said President Buhari was running welfarist social intervention programmes like the TraderMoni, among others.
The governor commended “the real” Afenifere leaders for their genuine interest in the masses, which is the reason for seeking President Buhari’s re-election and for believing in his leadership.
He promised the leaders, who hailed his election, that he would run an administration they would be proud of. Other leaders in the delegation were: Prince Tajudeen Olusi, Mutiu Are and Pa Yemi Alade, among others.
What led to the division in Afenifere?
According to Abagun Kola Omololu, the National Organising Secretary of Afenifere, there is no division in Afenifere. He explained that there was no division or split in Afenifere, claiming that the members of the Afenifere Revival Group are not members of the original body. Afenifere is very intact. The problem has to do with some people who are using the name, Afenifere to advance their own cause.”
“It is not uncommon for everyone to want to share out of a big cake. Afenifere, is a Yoruba legacy. Afenifere is a Yoruba heritage. And everyone wants to be seen as a member. Yes, I am an Afenifere. It’s not all Yoruba are Afenifere members. Afenifere is an ideological platform which is based on the school of thought of Obafemi Awolowo, where the Society comes first before the Individual it is a man-centred philosophy that whatever you do in life, man should be the focus before anything else.”
“Historically it was launched in Owo in 1951. We thank God, those who witnessed its launching are still alive. These are the likes of Chief Ayo Adebanjo, the current leader, Chief Fasoranti. And we have a succession system. When the founder and first leader of Afenifere, the lateChief Awolowo died, Pa Adekunle Ajasin took over. After he left, Senator Abraham Aderibigbe Adesanya took over. And when Baba finished his reign on earth, it went to Pa Fasoranti. He was chosen as the leader, with all Afenifere leaders in attendance. The likes of Baba Fasanmi are aware of what happened. All the former AD governors like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu are aware of all these things.”
“That is how it has been. Chief Reuben Famuyibo Fasoranti is the acknowledged and established leader of Afenifere. That is a statement of fact. Anybody can come up tomorrow and say he is the leader of another Afenifere that is unknown. If people want to go and set up their groups, they can go, but why use the name Afenifere to give your new group, credibility. If you want to be a Splinter group you can be. You can give yourself whatever name you so wish, but don’t add Afenifere to the name of your group.”
“Afenifere is a name people want to cling to. If you want to set up another group to rival Afenifere, go and set it up. Why are you still using an established name like Afenifere, a legacy that every Yoruba on earth represents and respects? That this is our legacy.”
“So, all those who are causing confusion know what they are doing. It is all about politics. It’s gangsterism that is not the way Yorubas people operate. It is not good when you are waging a war against your household. I am sorry to say that. People may see it as a Splinter group. They are not.”
“Afenifere is Afenifere. And there is only one Afenifere. I am talking to you as the National Organising Secretary of Afenifere. Basorun Agbonita is the Secretary General. Yinka Odumakin is the Publicity Secretary. Supo Sonibare is one of us. His father was one of the founders of Afenifere. Supo is the Treasurer. Hon. Dipo Olaitan is the Financial Secretary. And we have state chairmen”.
“So, how can some people gather themselves to go and meet in Ibadan and say they are the new Afenifere? Where is their structure? None of them has the resemblance of Afenifere except Baba Fasanmi. He is definitely no doubt one of the founding members of Afenifere at the beginning. He is one of the old Afenifere members. But the truth is that Baba Ayo Fasanmi left us, almost 15years ago. He has nothing to do with us anymore. Yes, he is very close to our leader, Chief Fasoranti. They are childhood friends. Another person in his group is Senator Biyi Durojaiye who Afenifere made a Senator. He is from Ijebu-Igbo. Afenifere made him a Senator because he is from Ijebu-Igbo. Those are the only 2 persons I can speak of. But Baba Fasanmi is the only real Afenifere person. Who else is there?”
“All we see them doing is using the new group for political gains. They say they are supporting Buhari. They are in concert with Maiyatti Allah. So, themselves and Maiyatti Allah are in the same group now. What Meyitiala is saying, they too are saying it? It is sad. All I will say is that the Yoruba are not fools. They know what is happening. Those who want to use Afenifere’s name for political gains, good luck to them.
So, there is nothing like split in Afenifere. None. Afenifere is as constant as the Northern Star. It stands like the rock of Gibraltar. It is unshakable. When you see us in Afenifere supporting somebody it is based on principle and conviction. It is a nationalistic view. Not because of party affiliation. It has a lot to do with what will benefit my race and at the same time benefit my country.”
But this new group is opposed to his own groups support for Atiku. Why did Afenifere come out to support Atiku?
“We have explained this over and again. The whole of the Yorubarace met in Ibadan in 2014 and we adopted the Yoruba Agenda. Under the leadership and chairmanship of Chief Afe Babalola and under the monarch, the Ooni of Ife who is the sum total of the Yoruba nation. Everybody was present. All the governors were represented. We concluded that what we want in Nigeria is restructuring and true federalism where power will devolve to the states the way it used to be. We all agreed about it. Prof. Yemi Osinbajo was represented by Senator Babafemi Ojudu who was his spokes person. What the Afenifere is doing is what the Yoruba collectively have agreed to do before we went to the Confab of 2014. We have not deviated from there, by supporting Restructuring”.
“Now, there are 2 giant political parties: The APC and the PDP. APC has it in it’s manifesto that the party is going to support restructuring, but it’s leader said it’s a taboo. But Alhaji Atiku Abubakar says he believes in restructuring. And that is the reason we believe in him. The man has been preaching restructuring, for more than 15years. So, its not something that he is just started saying today.”
“That is somebody, who believes in what we believe in. So, it is natural that he is the person we should support. That is the reason for our support for Atiku.”
“But beyond that, we believe Buhari has not done well. The present government has elevated poverty to the level unknown in the history of Nigeria.”
“Nigeria has now become the headquarters of poverty in the world. We have overtaken India. Everything is in comatose. We are not united anymore. We have never been this divided. You don’t trust anybody other than people from your own enclave. We need a civilized environment. Not this crudity. Our values are being debased and undermined because of power. Nations are not built that way. We have told Nigerians not to build the Nigerian structure on men. A former US president Barrack Obama, once told us stop building Strong Men, build Institutions. That is the advise he gave us.”