Some leaders of South-West met in Lagos on Saturday to forge a common front to frustrate reported attempts by the Federal Government to clamp down on former President Olusegun Obasanjo and other unnamed leaders in the region.
SUNDAY PUNCH gathered that a leader of the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, who convened the meeting, invited key figures in the zone to the meeting which held at his Lekki home in Lagos, impressing on them the need to mend fences for the “battle” ahead.
Obasanjo and his entourage arrived at Adebanjo’s house at 10.40am for the meeting which held behind closed doors.
Sources at the meeting, who confided in SUNDAY PUNCH, described it as an “essentially fence mending” one, which recognised that “ancient animosity among Yoruba leaders must give way for them to see clearly” in forging progress for the region and the country in general.
One of sources said, “Obasanjo was full of life at the meeting. He cracked jokes, talked seriously and made the meeting lively.”
It was gathered that the meeting was full of “frank engagements” as the attendees brainstormed on the way forward for the Yoruba race.
Another source at the meeting told one of our correspondents that the meeting was convened by the Afenifere’s chieftain not just to mend fences among leaders in the South-West but to mobilise forces against any alleged planned clampdown on certain leaders in the zone.
The source, an insider in the planning of the meeting, said, “The meeting was called by Papa Adebanjo. That’s why you could see people of diverse callings at the meeting; people you wouldn’t ordinarily see in the same place together.
“You are familiar with the happenings in the country lately and the barrage of attacks on the former President. If that one (Obasanjo) is taken out of the way, and Asiwaju (Bola Tinubu) is rendered irrelevant, anyone can overrun the region and perpetrate what he or she wants.
“Essentially, it is to mend fences among the leaders and ensure that the region comes up with a common front on issues that affect us. It offered otherwise ‘feuding’ parties the opportunity to iron out their differences.”
Obasanjo didn’t speak with journalists after the meeting, preferring to sit in his car while a few of the attendees spoke with newsmen.
Speaking briefly with journalists, Adebanjo said the gathering was nothing more than the fact that Nigeria must move forward.
He said, “All attempts to establish dictatorial tendencies in the country must be opposed. There must be unity to destroy mediocrity and dictatorship.
“What is important is that we have our common goal. We don’t have a candidate yet; not yet. We must agree first and any differences among us must be settled. If you are not united, you can’t fight a battle. The Yoruba man must put on his thinking cap.”
Also, the Serving Overseer of The Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare, who attended the meeting, said being outspoken about the happenings in the country shouldn’t make one an enemy of the state or the nation.
The cleric stated, “The thinker is the enemy of the mob. If you say I have been a critic of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, look at him now being a critic of Muhammadu Buhari too. Yet he facilitated his (Buhari) coming in (as President).
“Critique is not the same thing as criticism – it is let us reason together; things are not going the right way. That is all.”
Some of those who attended the meeting, apart from Obasanjo and Bakare, were the immediate past governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko; ex-Ogun State governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; Emeritus Professor, Akin Mabogunje; a long-time associate of Obasanjo, Otunba Oyewole Fasawe; a former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ogun State, Chief Joju Fadairo, Dr. Amos Akingba and Dr. Tunji Olaopa.
Others included a former General Secretary of Afenifere, Senator Femi Okunrounmu; Chief Abraham Akanle, Prof. Banji Akintoye, Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu, Chief Supo Sonibare, spokesman for the Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin; Obasanjo’s in-law, Chief Kenny Martins, and the spokesman for the former President-led coalition, Mr. Akin Osuntokun.