PA ADEBANJO: WHY IS TINUBU DIFFERENT
By Sola Lawal
I wept as I watched Chief Ayo Adebanjo speaking on Channels Television barely twenty-four hours after Akure played host to Yoruba leaders across ideological lines.
Apart from the colourful presence of leaders of the Yoruba Socio-political organization, Afenifere, other notable leaders of Oodua land were present including Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu and Dr Kunle Olajide were present at the event hosted by Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fashoranti.
On national television, Pa Adebanjo sought to pull the rug from under the unanimous decision of the gathering convened by his leader. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, got the nod of support in the 2023 number one race.
While holding divergent opinions within the Afenifere is not uncommon, going public with such is unheard of. But this time it got disturbing and disgraceful for such differences to be dragged into public space. Papa Adebanjo took his animosity against Tinubu to an unyoruba-like phase.
In my over thirty years of voyage with Afenifere, I have not come across the sort of heist that currently plays out within the organization. For sure, I’ve served the group in quite several positions including Personal Assistant to its erstwhile leader, Pa Abraham Adesanya. I’ve also served as and still serving as a member of its caucus.
The times must be indeed perilous that conflicting views have emanated from the group on the same issue. This is particularly irksome because this difference in opinion came from the two main leaders of the group.
The issue in contention is which of the two candidates in the 2023 Presidential election – Peter Obi of the Labour Party and Tinubu of All Progressives Congress- enjoys Afenifere’s support. While the Adebanjo camp of mostly new recruits to the fold travels with the former, Pa Reuben Fashoranti, the current leader of the group, leading old tested and accomplished warhorses of the group, prefers the latter.
To the dismay of many, this disagreement has gone public. And this is where it is disturbing.
What happened to the well-known Afenifere reliable mechanism for crisis management? In the recent past, handling of two major, almost catastrophic crises, attests to the group’s resilience in taming divergent views within the group.
Following the 1998 contentious gubernatorial primaries of the then Alliance for Democracy in Lagos state, the group convulsed under the weight of conflicting preferences of the leadership to support late Funso William by Alhaji Ganiyu Daodu who was then Lagos Chairman of Afenifere and AD in the state while other leaders of the group preferred Tinubu who eventually became governor in Lagos state. This face-off did not go public. Not long after this, the question of whether or not the late Chief Bola Ige, the group’s Deputy Leader should be part of the Obasanjo government sharply divided the organization down the middle. This also was resolved quietly without externalization of the crisis. The Ige turbulence was so potentially damaging that many highly placed stalwarts of the group openly, at meetings, pressed for the deputy leader’s expulsion from the fold.
It is gratifying to note that in none of these quakes and many others was any public trading of words between leaders happened. By the same token, no follower of any leader insulted any other leader.
Now in the ongoing Tinubu matter, it does appear that opposing flanks are beginning to recruit fighters.
It is in this light that the statement credited to Mogaji Gboyega Adejumo, a new entrant into the group, is most unfortunate. Among others, Adejumo carpets leaders of Afenifere gathered in Akure where Tinubu was endorsed as retired, inactive and inconsequential. He belongs to the Adebanjo camp. Now, who are the leaders being called out here? The list consists of Chief Olu Falae, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Chief Bisi Akande and General Alani Akinrinade among others too numerous to be mentioned including Prince Dayo Adeyeye and I .
Like every organization in a constant process of rebirth and rejuvenation, Afenifere has expectedly opened its doors to a flurry of new entrants. It is to the discredit of the organization that, however, there is, to date, no orientation process specifying dos and don’ts in place particularly for fresh recruits.
In the past, ranging from the tenure of Chief Obafemi Awolowo through Chief Adekunle Ajasin to Pa Abraham Adesanya as leaders, responsibilities, even if unwritten, were systematically spelt out and a code of conduct binding every member up to the leader himself were clearly in place. This arrangement was so comprehensive that even at meetings strictly enforced sitting order prevailed.
My generation of Afenifere leaders was admitted into the caucus, the highest decision-making organ of the group, twenty-four years ago in 1998. Monday caucus meetings then held at 3 Ore Close, Surulere home of late Pa Solanke Onasanya. Then it was later moved to 6 Jibowu street, Yaba.
On the ladder of leadership at caucus meetings were three tiers. Ours was the lowest. Among us were young Turks such as Jimi Agbaje, Dayo Adeyeye, Yinka Odumakin, Popoola Ajayi, Gbenga Kaka and recently deceased, Funminiyi Afuye and the duo of deeply audacious Chief Mrs Kofo Akerele Bucknor and Toyin Fagbayi who was Afenifere National Welfare Officer, among others. Quite frequently, Kole Omololu would dash in from his London base where he served as Chairman of Afenifere in Europe. Ahead of us but next to the first line of leadership were Chief CO Adebayo, Chief Olu Falae, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, General Alani Akinrinade, Dr Fredrick Fashaun, Dr Amos Akingba and late Otunba Tade Ismail among others.
Every discerning operative within Afenifere would understand why an Adejumo would rob mud on the faces of respected leaders of the group. He neither knew Ore Close nor Jibowu. Also, neither did he know 15 Duala Street, Apapa, nor 12 Simpson street, Igbosere, Lagos. These are epochal landmarks without which the story of modern Afenifere would not be completed. He never worked with the leaders he so mindlessly disparaged. These are leaders grindingly tested in the crucible of Afenifere ethos and Yoruba nationalism which, if Adejumo must know, accounted for why they would embark on the torturous trip on unsafe Nigerian roads to converge on Akure to give vent to Yoruba dictum of ” omo eni o se’di bebere, k’afi ileke si’di omo elomiran (However unsightly the buttocks of one’s child is, it does not excuse adorning another’s child with beads).
Going by the avowed principle of Afenifere, the Akure gathering did what it ought to do. In experience, preparedness and progressive profile, Tinubu remains the best of the pack jostling for the number one position in 2023. Added to his credential is the fact that his present struggle is a Yoruba project which all true Oodua descendants must embrace.
For those who may not know, at every critical junction in the politics of Nigeria when a Yoruba man is a major player in contention for leadership, the region has always stood by her own irrespective of past affiliations. Late Moshood Abiola enjoyed this when he struggled against the Nigerian state after winning the 1993 presidential election.
Afenifere spearheaded the formation of the National Democratic Coalition NADECO to fight his cause. Earlier in his political foray, Abiola had not only held opposing views from Afenifere since the time of its erstwhile leader, the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Similarly, when Sanni Abacha and his deadly goons went after General Oladipo Diya, Afenifere led the cry to free him from the hangman’s noose. The group took this Oodua- centric position even though Diya had, before then, helped in hounding Afenifere leaders in NADECO. Why must Bola Tinubu be treated differently?
Adejumo is only five years within the fold following his introduction to us by Kole Omololu. Adejumo never held any position in Afenifere. He cannot appreciate the resilient internal mechanism of the group. He is too untutored and ill-prepared to roll appropriately in such a highly respected organisation.
Lawal is a journalist, public commentator and Afenifere stalwart.