Pa. Rueben Fasoranti , Afenifere leader

By OLUSESAN  LAOYE

There  is no  doubt Pa Rueben Fasoranti  is a force  to be  reckoned  with in Nigerian politics  especially, in the  South  Western  part given the strategic importance of the group he leads. As the  leader  of Afenifere,  the  Pan Yoruba cultural organisation,  his  voice  on issues affecting  his people is weighty and authoritative because  they  provide a more representative platform that is non partisan for the  people.

Although there  are  two  factions  of  Afenifere which  came  as a result of the influence  of politicians  in Yoruba land, who  wanted  relevance and  whose  philosophies, motives  and  intentions, defer  from  the  ideologies and  the  principles for which  the  organisation  was  set up.

For whatever reasons  that  may  have split  the  group, the name  Afenifere  and what  it symbolises, still  remains  the  canopy under  which the  Yoruba  nation hide,  to lend  their voices  and  actions  on  common interests and  agenda. With this, Pa Fasoranti  is leading a body  regarded in Yoruba  land as a pressure group and a legitimate force.

At 92 year he now leads  what  the  most Yoruba  people  regard  as  the authentic  Afenifere,  as its   fourth leader after  Chief  Awolowo, who was  the  first,  succeeded  by Chief  Michael  Adekunle  Ajasin, followed by Chief  Abraham  Adesanya.

Pa Fasoranti  took  over the  leadership  of the  group through consensus  of all  the  stake holders before a splinter  group now  headed  by Senator  Ayo Fasanmi and  financed  by Asiwaju  Ahmed  Bola  Tinubu  came up. Since  Pa Fasoranti  took over,  the  leadership, the  entire  Yoruba  nation see his Afenifere as serving  their  interests  and  maintaining its glory and influence in Nigeria  and  across  the  globe –  a body preserving the ethnic  identity of  the  Yoruba  people.

The  Afenifere  he is leading despite  all odds in 2015 and  the  antagonism  of Tinubu, stood its  ground in support of the  reelection  of  former  President  GoodLuck  Jonathan,  insisting that  its  action  was  in the  best  interest  of the  South West  because  if Jonathan  was  reelected, he gave the assurance that  he  would  implement  the  outcome  of the  2014  confab,  which  favoured  the  restructuring  of the  country and  devolution  of power,  an agenda  the  South  West  stood  for.

Although  Jonathan  lost  the  election, Chief  Fasoranti,  Ayo Adebanjo, Chief  Olu Falae   and  other argued  that  they  never regretted  their  support  for  Jonathan which  has  now  become  history  and seem to have been vindicated  as the  events  now  unfolding  with  the  advent  of President Muhammadu  Buhari, whom  they  warned  Nigerians especially  their  people against, culminating in the murder of his daughter, Mrs.Funke Olakunrin by suspected herdsmen.

It may  perhaps be  a surprise  to  many  Nigerians, and those  in Yorubaland, how  Pa Fasoranti  emerged  as the leader  of the  group  known  as the authentic Afenifere six Months after  the demise  of the  third  leader, Senator Adesanya at his country  home in Ijebu  Igbo  in 2008. Unknown  to many  he  has  been  in politics  since Action Group days and was actually the one holding  the  flank  for the  party  in  Akure  and  has  never  left  politics since  then, despite  the  fact that he detested  elective  office.

Pa Fasoranti who has  now  become a telling reminder of the state  of the  Yoruba nationality; he  had contested  the  councilor-ship which  he  won  but later overturned when  the  result  was  announced and  given  to the  opposition. He disclosed  that that incident dismayed him as a young  man  just  coming  up into  politics and turned his back on election ever since.

At his age he is not expected to be active in politics but   he has remained relevant and acts as advisers to politicians. He is also a kingmaker in Ondo politics and  the  South  West.

The elder statesman who  has  five  children, two  of who  are  diseased, the latest  being Mrs Funke Olakunrin, who  is the  third  born killed  by  alleged Fulani  herdsmen recently at  the  Ondo- Ore junction. He is also  a strong Awoist who  would  never  compromise with  the  continuity of  his  political legacy.

He studied  in England and worked  as a teacher  and  principal of many  schools  in the  Western  Region and  Ondo  State. As an educationists, he  served  as  Principal  in Christ  school  Ado Ekiti, Olivet Baptist  Boys  High  School Oyo and Iju/Itagbolu Anglican Grammar  School in Akure  North, which  he  founded.

He was  a good  friend  of Chief  Ajasin and he  was  instrumental to  Ajasin’s emergence  as  the first  civilian governor  of  Ondo  State as one  of the  strong member of Ondo  State movement  which  fought  for  the  creation  of the  state  in 1976.

During the  tenure  of  Pa Ajasin  Pa Fasoranti  served  under  him  as  commissioner  for  finance and  was  one  of the  politicians  and government functionaries, detained  when Buhari  came  to power  with  Tunde Idiagbon in 1983. along with  Chief  Ajasin, Chief Olusegun Adegoke and Chief (Mrs)  Mobolaji  Osomo.

There are  two  significant  incidents, which Pa  Fasoranti and family would  not  forget  as they  have  very  bitter  history  with  Buhari. The  first  incident was during  the  time  Pa Fasoranti was  detained  by  Buhari  in 1983 when  his  first  daughter  and  first  child  died. He was  jolted  by this  incident and was  bitter  that Buhari  only  allowed  him  just an hour  to see  his family after  he  was  brought  from  detention,  where  the  news  of his daughter’s death  was  broken to him.

The  second  incident again  is the  death  of his third  child  also a female,  Funke  Olakunrin also when Buhari  now  in government is being accused of planning to Fulanise the  country and  impose  Ruga  settlements in the  South  West, which the  Afenifere  stood  strongly  against.

As one  of his  children  said, “our  father can never support Buhari because  he  is an Awoist  to the  core and  would  never  depart  from that ideologies of which Awo  was  known  and  secondly, for  what  he  suffered  in the  hand  of  Buhari in 1984 when he was  incarcerated and  that  was  why nobody  in my  family  voted  for  Buhari  in 2915.”

The  veteran  teacher  who lost  his wife  in 1991 never  got  married  again  and now  devotes  his  time  to church  activities.

He is a strong  disciplinarian who  like  his mentor  Obafemi  Awolowo never  lived  in Government  House  as  Premier; he  too  did  not  lived  at  the  government  quarters allocated  to him  when  he was  the  commissioner  of Finance  under  Ajasin.

He never  also  abused  his office. It was  said  that  he never  used  his  official  car  beyond  the  official  hours as  his  driver  would  come  for  him  at 7am and  drop  him  at home at  3. 30 pm and would return  the  car  to the  office. He is known as a formidable political fighter who has  never  been accused  of corruption. He was a member  of NADECO who had a turbulent period with Captain Anthony  Onyearugbulem, a Navy  Administrator in Ondo  State..

Pa  Fasoranti  loves  fried  plantain  and  pounded  yam  and does not  eats  outside even  when he had  to go  on a long  journey. When  there  was  the  need  to eat,  he  would  rather  prefer biscuits  and  water.

From what he has been saying about Buhari’s government  it is apparent there is no love lost between them. He once said, ” What is happening with this  government negligent and failure by the leadership because security of life was fundamental rights of every citizen and  Nigerians deserve their  rights”.

One thing  which Pa  Fasoranti would  be happy about  is  equality, self determination and freedom  of his  people  in the  hands  of the  oppressors and  restructuring  of the  country  which  has  been  the  reason  why  he was  blackmailed  by  enemies of restructuring  that he received n500million from  Jonathan to support  him in his  second  bid for  the presidency.”

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