• No consensus on Obi, says PANDEF
The Middle Belt Forum has slammed a leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, for endorsing the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, saying that history will judge him (Fasoranti) for his action.
Crisis rocked Afenifere when the group reportedly declared its support for Tinubu during the former Lagos State governor’s visit to leaders of the group in Akure, Ondo State.
Fasoranti and other Afenifere chiefs were also said to have prayed for the APC presidential candidate.
The endorsement was, however, dismissed by the acting leader of the socio-cultural group, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, who maintained that the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, remained Afenifere’s choice, adding that Fasoranti had no constitutional authority to act as the leader of the organisation.
But the President of the Middle Belt Forum, Pogu Bitrus, said in an interview with our Sunday PUNCH, “It’s an unfortunate development because we believe leaders of the socio-cultural groups are people who have gone beyond the levels of parochial ethnic and whatever consideration, looking at things passionately at the national level.
“Pa Fasoranti, with his age and everything, we respect him. We know that he left that office about two years or so ago and Pa Adebanjo is the leader. His coming back to make such an issue out of the context of Bola Ahmed Tinubu is an unfortunate development and I think history will judge him, not because we are of different views.
“That is not the reason; the reason is we believe that at a stage in life, one goes beyond some level of being parochial, but act as a statesman. I want him to reconsider his stance.”
Bitrus, who said the MBF did not see Fasoranti’s endorsement of Tinubu as an attempt by politicians to cause confusion within Afenifere and divide it, urged him (Fasoranti) to consider whether his action was in the best interest of Nigeria.
Asked whether the Middle Belt Forum was open to engaging with presidential candidates, he said, “We have already declared our stand. Right before the primaries, we said we would not support a northern candidate because we believe it is the turn of the South. While we were open to all southern candidates, Bola Ahmed Tinubu did what we believe we cannot accept.
“In Nigeria, where Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, militia and many other insurgent groups are of Islamic extraction, fielding a Muslim-Muslim ticket is not acceptable; so, as far as we are concerned, he (Tinubu) is out of the consideration because we have to look at things that will benefit the nation, not just considering things based on sentiment.”
However, the Pan Niger Delta Forum said it had not endorsed any presidential candidate for the 2023 general elections.
PANDEF said although it met with Peter Obi on August 23 in Lagos, it made it clear that it would engage with other southern presidential candidates
The spokesperson for the group, Ken Robinson, said, “There has been no consensus on Peter Obi. PANDEF has not endorsed any presidential candidate. PANDEF agreed that the next president should come from southern Nigeria.
“As was communicated in the last extraordinary meeting that was held on the October 20, we made it clear that we were open to engaging with all presidential candidates from southern Nigeria; it is after those engagements that PANDEF will communicate its decision on who to support.
“Our position at the meeting of the Southern and Middle Belt Forum which was held on June 25 was and remains that we shall engage with all southern presidential candidates.
“Let me also add that before the primaries, the Southern and Middle Belt Forum, based on the issues of fairness, justice, fairness, and equity, and inclusiveness, had added a caveat to our demand for power shift to southern Nigeria by saying preferably to the South-East and that did not indicate any presidential candidate at the time.”