2023 Presidency: Peter Obi, Tinubu divide Yoruba elders

Some Yoruba leaders were Tuesday split over support for the presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP), Mr Peter Obi in the 2023 elections.

While the leader of the pan Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae, threw their weight behind Mr Obi, the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) and leader of the Ilana Omo Oodua, (IOO), Professor Banji Akintoye expressed divergent views.


Why Afenifere will support Peter Obi — Adebanjo


The Afenifere leader, Adebanjo, who addressed newsmen in Lagos, said the Yoruba body will not compromise its principle of equity, justice and inclusiveness because “one of our own, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, is a frontline candidate.”


According to him, “he is the man we trust to restructure the country back to federalism on the assumption of office in 2023.”


He said Afenifere’s decision to support Peter Obi is because power is yet to shift to the South-East.


Justifying the Yoruba body’s position for a South-East presidency, he said: “Before the political parties conducted their primaries, a journalist asked what my views about the 2023 general election are.


“I answered and said the country should be restructured before the general election, and he followed up by asking if there should be an election, which zone should the Presidency come from? And I unhesitatingly said, of course, the South East.


“After the primaries and the candidates emerged, with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu from the South-West, APC, Atiku Abubakar on the platform of PDP and Peter Obi on the platform of Labour Party and I announced Afenifere’s support for Peter Obi, not a few Yoruba leaders questioned why I should be supporting Peter Obi, a candidate of Igbo extraction against Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a Yoruba.


“I took my time to explain that the presidency is not a contest between the Yoruba and the Igbo and to a large extent, I was able to convince many.


“But ever since, the social media has been filled with comments tending to ethnicize the campaign, instead of making it issue-based.”


Explaining what influenced Afenifere’s decision to support Obi, Adebanjo said: “We cannot continue to demand that the Igbo people remain in Nigeria, while we at the same time continue to brutally marginalize and exclude them from the power dynamic.


“Peter Obi is the person of Igbo extraction that Afenifere has decided to support, he is the man we trust to restructure the country back to federalism on the assumption of office.


“We will not compromise this principle of justice, equity and inclusiveness because one of our own, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, is a frontline candidate.


“It is on this same principle, we condemn the PDP for sponsoring Atiku Abubakar, a Northern Fulani Muslim to succeed General Muhammadu Buhari, another Fulani Muslim who will soon complete eight years of uneventful and disastrous rule. One can imagine such a high degree of political insensitivity.


“On our part, we are certainly not alien to sacrificing personal interests in the quest for a National coalition to put Nigeria on the proper pedestal.


“In this regard, the starting point is Southern solidarity for which we first enacted a handshake across the Niger, which had dovetailed to the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum.


“We enjoin the labour movement, students, youth organisations, women associations, and every institution whose foundation is built on fairness and justice to join hands in this task of enthroning a democratic government by supporting Peter Obi.


“If we are sincere and honest about keeping Nigeria together in peace, the slogan henceforth should be ‘’To keep Nigeria one, everyone should be Obi/Datti compliant.


“In the final analysis, let it be said that we have no apologies but due courage of our conviction that Nigeria can only prosper in righteousness.


“For me, in the twilight of my sojourn on earth at 94, it is too late to derail me on the track of true federalism and national inclusiveness on which I have travelled for over 70 years of my life as one of the few surviving initial prophets. I prefer to ascend on a chariot of fire, fueled by justice and equity.”


Igbo should be president — Falae


Also throwing his weight behind calls for a South-East presidency, Chief Olu Falae, said though he was unaware of Afenifere’s position on Obi, he would support the South East in 2023.


Falae, a former Minister of Finance, said: “I am an Afenifere but as far as I am aware, Afenifere has not taken a position as an organization on a presidential candidate. That is the position.


“I did say sometime ago that the Yoruba, as a people, are not morally obliged to vote for an Igbo presidential candidate because in 1999, when the rest of Nigeria conceded the presidency to Yoruba because of MKO Abiola’s issue, it was only the Igbo, who did not.


“I had to defeat Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife in the Alliance for Democracy to become the candidate for the AD/APP. Olusegun Obasanjo had to defeat Dr Alex Ekuweme in the PDP to become a candidate.


“The Igbo were the only ones that opposed both of us in our respective parties; they did not concede to us along with other Nigerians.


“However, if you are a fair-minded Yoruba person, you will realise that there are three legs to the political tripods in Nigeria, the Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo.


“The first two have been presidents and so, equity requires that the Igbo should be president. So, if you are a fair-minded Yoruba person like I am, then you will vote for the Igbo based on equity.”


We’re not aligned to Afenifere — YCE


When contacted, Secretary-General of YCE, Dr Kunle Olajide, said the elders will meet and make their position known on which presidential candidate to support in 2023.


The YCE scribe said: “We have not been informed or briefed. Yes, we support restructuring and we stand for restructuring but as far as we are concerned, restructuring should be fundamental to any incoming government.


“So, Afenifere is not wrong in taking that decision but we were not informed, my president was not informed. We will make our stand known soon but we are not aligned to Afenifere supporting the presidential candidate of Labour Party.”


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