The Yoruba sociocultural group, Afenifere has formally declared its support for the presidential candidacy of Peter Gregory Obi, the flag bearer of the Labour Party in the 2023 presidential election.
The declaration is coming less than a week after Bayo Onanuga, Director of Communications for Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign Council said Pa Ayo Adebanjo’s reported support for Obi is a personal decision.
But at a media briefing in Lagos on Monday, today, the group said it’s position is hinged on equity and fairness, adding that the South East region, where Obi hails from, has been “brutally marginalised, and excluded from the power dynamic”.
Pa Ayo Adebanjo said: “We cannot continue to demand that the Igbo people remain in Nigeria, while we at the same time continue to brutally marginalise and exclude them from the power dynamic.
“Peter Obi is the person of Igbo extraction that Afenifere has decided to support and to back, 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”.
Tinubu, a former Lagos State Governor, is the candidate of the All Progressives Congress.
Adebanjo reiterated the group’s position on restructuring, which it has been advocating over the years. He recalled: “In the countdown to the 2023 general elections, long before the parties conducted their conventions to elect their National Executives and candidates, we had insisted and still advocate restructuring before the elections proposing a synthesis of the identical resolutions of the 2014 National Conference and the APC El Rufai 2018 True Federalism Committee.
“We did this as Afenifere and on the wider spectrum of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF). We did this, when politicians, in spite of the monumental crises confronting the nation, carried on as if the attainment of power was all that mattered, the SMBLF unanimously proposed that the minimum condition for a peaceful transition from the disastrous eight years of Buhari’s government headed by a President of northern extraction was to have the next President from the South. This position was also supported by all the southern governors, irrespective of their political parties at a meeting held in Asaba, Delta State”.
He said that the Northern and Southern regions, which were amalgamated in 1914 to birth Nigeria, remain the most important testament of all political parties in the country.
“The principles of federal character enshrined in the constitution dictate that the government of the federation or any part thereof shall not be concentrated in any ethnic group or a combination of such groups.
“It is therefore preposterous to adopt this principle for employment in public service admissions in educational institutions, political appointment, the composition of the executive committee of a political party, only to jettison it in the most important question of rulership of the federation”, the nonagenarian said.
He recalled that the Yoruba have produced the President for eight years in the Fourth Republic, which commenced with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, while Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, also from the same South West region will finish another eight years as Vice President next year.
“Equity forbids us for presuming to support another Yoruba person for the presidency in 2023. The current President is a Fulani from the Northwest and by virtue of the zoning arrangement that has governed Nigeria since 1999, power is supposed to return to the south imminently. The South West, as I have pointed out, has produced a President and currently sits as VP, the South-South has spent a total of six years in the Presidency, but the Igbo people of the South East have never tasted presidency in Nigeria, and now that the power is due back in the South equity demands that it be ceded to the Igbo”, Adebanjo rationalised.
He said that it is on the same principle that Afenifere condemned the presidential candidacy of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party “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”.
The elder statesman called for Southern solidarity, which, he said, has embraced the 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.’”