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.”