The division in the Edo State chapter of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), on Tuesday, came to the fore as the Joel Usiagwu-led faction distanced itself from the penultimate week endorsement of the presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, by the group led by Chief Bako Dogwo.
Usiagwu, a factional chairman of Edo AFAN, who spoke at a press conference refuted the endorsement by Bako Dogwo, rival chairman of the association, stressing that farmers in Edo State would receive any political party or candidate who approached it but without any commitment to any.
Usiagwu, said Dogwo was purportedly suspended and, thus lacked the locus standi and right to speak on behalf of farmers in the state.
“Recently, he granted a press interview endorsing Tinubu as the preferred presidential candidate by all the farmers in Edo State. I do not have any problem with people endorsing who they want; you can endorse Peter Obi, Rabiu Kwankwaso, or Omoyele Sowore, but Bako has no locus standi or right to speak for farmers in Edo State”, Usiagwu insisted.
Usiagwu claimed that he was duly elected in line with the association’s constitution and urged members to stop associating themselves with the Bako-led faction.
“We are here to denounce him, he is not a member of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) because his suspension is still pending. A committee invited him but he refused to honor their invite and they then placed him on suspension.
“We, Edo State AFAN, have dissociated ourselves from him. I am the authentic chairman for AFAN, Edo State chapter. I was sworn in by the chief judge of Edo State. We didn’t do our swearing in ceremony in isolation”, he said.
The Usiagwu led faction also said that contrary to the statement made by Bako that the Edo State government had not done anything for farmers in the state, the Obaseki-led government had supported 1,376 small holders’ farmers with inputs under the Independent Farmers Initiative.
“The government is one of our biggest patron, they help us have access to lands, finance. The association of poultry farmers are benefiting from Edo State government largesse.
“Edo State government put a marching fund of N1billion against Bank of Industry (BoI) and poultry farmers are enjoying. We are about to make a case for fish, cassava, pig, maize farmers to also key into the program.
“When somebody say Edo State government has not done anything, that means it is tantamount to slapping your benefactor in the face,” he added.
Respondi, Bako Dogwo said the only person that could query his leadership of the farmers in Edo State “is the National Secretariat of AFAN”
“I am not the authentic chairman. It is national body in Abuja that can say otherwise. AFAN is not a product of Edo State Government. It is an NGO recognised by government which is the umbrella body of farmers.
“Government does not interfere in the day-to-day running. If any political party comes to me I have the right to welcome any party and pray for them which I did for APC.
“As a traditional ruler, I have the right to do so; as a Nigerian, I have the right to do so; and as the chairman of all farmers, I also have the right to do that. I did not do it alone, I did it with my executive. If PDP comes to me, I will do the same. If the least party comes to me, I will do same,” Dogwo said.
Dogwo blamed the state government for the crisis in the association, saying that due to the infighting, “Edo State has lost a lot from its counterpart funding which it is not benefiting from”.
“If anyone says he is the chairman of AFAN in Edo State, ask the person to show you the official letter issued to him by the national body to confirm that the person is the chairman. Only Allah and the national body can remove me as the chairman. I have a term of five years and I will serve that term”, he boasted.