By Banji Akintoye
We need to correct the impression being circulated in the social media that Afenifere leaders, who received former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar at Chief Ayo Adebanjo’s house on Sunday “endorsed” him.
He came with a large and enthusiastic following, and we believe that it is not he himself but some of his enthusiastic followers that are spreading the wrong information that we “endosed” him. No, we did not endorse him; in fact, we do not think that it is time to endorse any aspirant yet. We have received some other aspirants before now, and we are sure to receive many more. The time to endorse any aspirant has not yet come.
Atiku pleaded his suitability and experience as candidate for President, particularly emphasizing his long and consistent career as a promoter of restructuring of the Nigerian federation. Of the many leading members of Afenifere present, only Senators Banji Akintoye and Femi Okurounmu were asked to respond, and Chief Ayo Adebanjo then summed it all up.
Our collective response went as follows:
- That contrary to some statements made in the introductions by the visitors, Chief Ayo Adebanjo is not “the leader”, but “one of the leaders” of Afenifere, and that the national leader of Afenifere is Chief Reuben Fasoranti.
- That we in Afenifere acknowledge the truth that Atiku has long and consistently promoted the restructuring of the Nigerian federation; that of all the current aspirants for the presidency of Nigeria, he is the one widely known to be most persuasive and most persistent on the subject.
- That we Yoruba, as all Nigerians know, attach great importance to restructuring; that restructuring is absolutely essential to orderly governance, to harmony, to stability, to the revival of productivity, and even to the continued existence of Nigeria as one country; that we Yoruba can, and want to, manage our own affairs competently in our way and at our own pace and therefore want to be free of the current over-centralization that is seriously hurting our interests; and that what restructuring essentially entails is the return of our country to the basic outlines of the federal structure which the founding fathers of our independent country (Ahmadu Bello, Awolowo and Azikiwe) agreed to in the 1950s.
- That all of Nigeria knows that President Muhammadu Buhari is absolutely and unrepentantly opposed to restructuring; that President Buhari even desires a further intensification of the over-centralization that is now wrecking Nigeria; that all this resistance of Buhari to restructuring is in spite of the fact that he promised restructuring in writing to Afenifere in 2007, made restructuring his number one agenda in his manifesto in 2011, and boldly promised restructuring in his party manifesto in 2015; and therefore, that all Nigerians and all non-APC political parties must unite and work together towards Buhari’s defeat in the 2019 presidential election.
- That, in this situation of Nigeria, no matter how good any one aspirant may be as of now, the most important thing, as far as Afenifere is concerned, and as far as the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum to which Afenifere belongs is concerned, is that all parties must unite to produce only one candidate to oppose Buhari in 2019 and to beat him resoundingly in the interest of our country.
*Prof. Banji Akintoye is a Leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere.