The latent crisis in the apex Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, has become active again as two foremost leaders of the group have disagreed over the emergence of Bola Tinubu as the President-elect.
Mr Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was on 1 March declared the winner of the 25 February election by INEC.
But Afenifere, under its acting leader, Ayo Adebanjo, rejected the declaration, saying Peter Obi of the Labour Party, who came third, actually won the election.
Afenifere had endorsed Mr Obi for the election, saying it is the turn of the Igbo people of the Nigerian South-east to produce the president.
However, the stand of the Adebanjo leadership appears not to enjoy the support of many leaders of Afenifere, including Reuben Fasoranti, who is the leader of the organisation.
Mr Fasoranti had named Mr Adebanjo as the acting leader of the group in 2021 when he stepped down from the position on account of his advanced age.
Dissatisfied with the endorsement of Mr Obi, Mr Fasoranti had last year hosted a reception for Mr Tinubu in which he blessed his presidential bid.
The current exchanges followed a statement on Tuesday after a meeting presided over by Mr Adebanjo in Isanya Ogbo in Ogun State, in which Afenifere formally rejected the results of the presidential election.
The statement countermanded a message by the spokesperson of Afenifere, Jare Ajayi, congratulating Mr Tinubu on his declaration as the President-elect.
in Tuesday’s statement, signed by Mr Adebanjo and the group’s general secretary, Sola Ebiseni, Afenifere said it has evidence that Mr Obi won the election.
“The results of the lawful votes at the presidential election available to the Afenifere through credible sources confirm that Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, won the said election,” the group said in the statement.
It also announced the suspension of Mr Ajayi and the National Organising Secretary, Abagun Omololu, for issuing the congratulatory message to Mr Tinubu.
However, in a statement he issued in Akure a day later on Wednesday, Mr Fasoranti said Afenifere could not have asserted that someone other than the person declared by the body authorised to do so by the Nigerian Constitution is the winner of the presidential election.
Mr Fasoranti noted that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Mr Tinubu as the winner of the election.
“Our National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Comrade Jare Ajayi, issued a congratulatory message to the President-elect after he had been issued a Certificate of Return by INEC. This was cited as an ‘uncouth activity’ by the Communique mentioned above which further stated that Abagun and Ajayi were ‘suspended sine die, pending further decisions after their appearance before and recommendations by the Disciplinary Committee’.
“Meaning that the two were pronounced guilty and consequently sanctioned even before their appearance before a Disciplinary Committee.
“This type of position is alien to us in Afenifere, which does not conduct itself as an agent of the state, let alone as an electoral umpire. We accept the results of the elections at all levels as declared by INEC until otherwise decided by competent courts in the land.
“Presently, the whole world knows that Nigeria has a President-elect in the person of Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, a true Yoruba son and nationalist.
“We in Afenifere not only acknowledge this, but we also take delight in his in-coming Presidency and are confident that he will, by the grace of God, return Nigeria to the glorious position that all of us will be proud of. Which was why I also congratulated him in a personal letter I sent to him.”
Mr Fasoranti also recalled that he had personally endorsed Mr Tinubu on 30 October 2022 in the presence of notable people from all parts of Yorubaland at his residence in Akure.
“How can we then turn round and condemn the election of such a person? We never did,” he said.
On the suspended officials, Mr Fasoranti said no report was made to him on any misconduct of the officials or any queries issued to them.
He said Afenifere believes in justice and fairness and would not support an arbitrary removal of officials.
“Afenifere believes in the rule of law and the fundamental rights of all, including the right to a fair hearing,” the statement further read.
“For these and other reasons, the purported removal and suspension are null and void. The two officials should be commended rather than condemned for the selfless services they are rendering to Afenifere, the Yoruba race and Nigeria and humanity. They are hereby so commended.”
Mr Adebanjo and the group’s General Secretary, Sola Ebiseni, backed Mr Obi who has also rejected the results declared by INEC.
However, many other leaders of Afenifere were not with them in their campaign for Mr Obi.
A source in Afenifere said efforts were made to reconcile the positions but Mr Adebanjo stuck to his position.
“I don’t know why Adebanjo is not carrying Baba Fasoranti along,” the source, who asked not to be named, said.
“Baba Fasoranti is still the leader of the group, he is not dead yet. Adebanjo is supposed to be acting on his behalf,” the source added.