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2019: Afenifere woos Obasanjo, set to endorse Atiku

There are strong indications that the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, will soon publicly endorse the presidential aspiration of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

To this end, Afenifere leaders yesterday met behind closed doors with a former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and mapped out strategies ahead of the next year’s elections.

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The meeting took place at the ex-president’s residence within the expansive Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), Abeokuta.

It came barely two days after the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) affirmed President Muhammadu Buhari as its presidential candidate for 2019 while the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) picked Atiku as its standard bearer.

Findings revealed that Afenifere was favourably disposed to the former vice president taking over the Presidency in 2019 due to his demonstrable commitment to the restructuring of the country.

To achieve its objective, the Yoruba group had entered into alliance with similar organisations in the North, Middle Belt, South-South and South-East.

Afenifere’s Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, who spoke with journalists, said the job of the group was clearly cut out as regards the presidential candidate to endorse for 2019.

He said: “Making a choice will not be difficult for Afenifere because we are in alliance with our partners – the Ohanaeze, PANDEF, Middle Belt Forum and Northern Elders’ Forum and we’ve all resolved that it is the candidate that will restructure Nigeria that we will back.

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“There are two leading candidates; one says that restructuring is not an issue, it’s about system and that the 2014 conference is in the archives. They set up el-Rufai committee to define restructuring, up till now, we don’t know their definition.

“And one is totally committed to restructuring. He has done a book, he has given lectures, he has given talks, he has even said it after his victory, giving pathway and timeline for Nigeria’s restructuring. So, in that situation, our job is cut out.”

Though many observers see Obasanjo as Atiku’s main albatross to the Presidency, Odumakin said the Afenifere believes that the former president will align with the group about 2019 politics.

According to him, Obasanjo is a reasonable statesman that will make his decision to save the country.

He said: “Former President Obasanjo is a statesman who knows where Nigeria is now. Nigeria is going down the drain and we need to arrest the drift lest Nigeria disintegrates.

“So, when it is about time for him to take his position, we guess that he will take his decision on the need to save Nigeria. But we cannot think for him, we don’t know what he will say yet, but we see him as a reasonable statesman. But let’s wait for him to take his decision.”

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For about two and half hours yesterday, Obasanjo and Afenifere leaders were in crucial talks.

Though its agenda was highly guarded, sources said the meeting was not unconnected with the political situation of the country ahead of next year’s elections.

The Afenifere delegation included Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Senator Femi Okurounmu, Prof. Banji Akintoye, Chief Supo Sonibare, Ambassador Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosumu, Dr. Amos Akingba, Hon. Oladipo Olaitan, Mr. Odumakin, and a former Minister of State for Defence, Mrs. Dupe Adelaja.

Also at the meeting was a former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola.

The Afenifere entourage, which arrived Obasanjo’s residence about 3:15p.m., departed about 5:45p.m.

The parley came barely five months after the former president made separate visits to Adebanjo in Lagos and the Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, in Akure

Briefing reporters on the latest meeting with Obasanjo, Odumakin said it was simply to reciprocate the former president’s gesture when he personally visited Adebanjo in Lagos few months back.

The Afenifere spokesman added that the meeting also afforded opportunity to further strengthen the bond of unity in Yoruba land.

He said: “Few months ago, former President Obasanjo came to Lagos to visit Baba Ayo Adebanjo with crop of Yoruba leadership. Today, we are here to pay him a return visit and to appreciate him for the visit to Baba Adebanjo.

“And we are trying to further the friendship so that there will be harmony in Yoruba land. This will allow our people to know that leaders across divides are coming together to discuss and arrive at a position.”

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Asked whether the Afenifere has pitched tent with any presidential candidate for the 2019 polls, Odumakin said the group would soon make its stand public.

He, however, hinted that the group was prepared to throw its weight behind any candidate with demonstrable commitment to restructuring of the country in accordance with the clamour of Afenifere.

He said: “2019 race is going to be very exciting. Like the man of God said, it’s going to be Eagle versus Eagle.

“But the most important thing for us is the restructuring of Nigeria. Clearly, you can know Afenifere will always stand by candidates that stand for Nigeria to be restructured. This is because without restructuring, we are going nowhere.
“You have heard someone saying the 2014 confab report has been kept in the archives and another person spreading out, saying Nigeria can be restructured and how to do it clearly. So, the choice is clear. There are no ifs and buts, we know where to go.

“We are going to make a pronouncement very soon. But the pendulum is swinging, but we will know where it will swing to.”

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