*Is Afenifere, the Nigeria’s Father Christmas?*
By Leye Igbabo
The existence of Afenifere Group dated back to the era of Action Group led by Ch. Obafemi Awolowo when the late sage saw the need to pursue the interest of Yoruba nation in a well articulated, organized and well tailored manner within the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
This agenda was well pursued under the leadership of Ch. Obafemi Awolowo, Ch. Adekunle Ajasin to Ch. Abraham Adesanya and Ch. Reuben Fasoranti. Change of leadership is usually seamless as the baton always falls on the hand of the most senior and loyal member of the Group immediately after the exit of a current/subsisting leader.
Fast forwarded, Afenifere under Ch. Abraham Adesanya, using NADECO, fought tooth and nail, for the de-annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election widely believed to have been won by a Yoruba son, Ch MKO Abiola but which was wilfully annulled by Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida-led military junta.
This arguably led to the later consideration and compensation of Yoruba region of the country to produce Nigeria’s President in 1999 when the current Fourth Republic commenced, majorly to assuage the pains and loss of the region caused by the mysterious and sudden death of Ch. M.K.O Abiola in detention. This was the main reason why Ch. Olusegun Obasanjo became the President of Nigeria in May 29, 1999 under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The Afenifere Group in the Fourth Republic however floated a political party, Alliance for Democracy (AD) which it used to win all the elected positions in the SouthWest States in 1999. The governance of the SouthWest Nigeria was therefore under the firm control of Afenifere between 1999-2003, before its unholy alliance between Ch. Olusegun Obasanjo of the People’s Democratic Party, which led to the defeat of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 2003 Gubernatorial elections that left Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the only survivor under AD. Other five AD-controlled
States had fallen under the hands of the PDP-controlled Federal Government.
This piece is not intended to dwell much on the tacit disloyalty, uncooperative stance and unsubmissiveness of Gov Bola Ahmed Tinubu to the Afenifere leadership after the fall of AD, and which culminated in the formation or emergence of Afenifere Renewal Group which was financed by and loyal to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the then governor of Lagos State.
The main reason for the writing of the piece is to know whether Afenifere Group is formed to adjudicate, mediate or conciliate on the whole of Nigeria’s political challenges with a view to resolving them in favour of any region or person(s) by employing the tool of fairness, justice and equity.
*From the little analysis above, one can safely say that Afenifere was not established to fight for the interest of other region(s) but mainly to pursue the overall interest of the Yoruba Nation. In other words, Afenifere was not formed to operate as a Father Christmas to Nigeria by fighting for the interest of other region within the Federation.*
Ibi ti a ba fi Elemeso so, lo ye ko so nau.
This is where I disagree with Afenifere under the leadership of Ch Ayo Adebanjo which presented itself as a Father Christmas doling out unsolicited support and backing a presidential candidate outside the purview of SouthWest Nigeria. This in my candid opinion, is antithetical to the raison d’etre for the formation of Afenifere Group as envisaged by the late sage.
In my considered opinion, Ch Ayo Adebanjo upon his conviction that the presidency, if it was coming to Southern Nigeria, should be given to the southeast, ought to have found another platform or created new one such as Movement For The Actualizaton of SoutEast Presidency(MASP) to prosecute such a Pan Nigeria project and not using a Pan Yoruba platform that was basically set up to defend the interest of the Yoruba nation and Yoruba nation alone.
Although, in the true sense, if the presidency of Nigeria was to come back to the Southern Nigeria as widely canvassed, I personally agree that it was only fair, just and reasonable to allow the Southeast take the shot at the presidency. This is because the Southwest and South-south had taken their own shots between 1999-2007 and 2010-2015 respectively. Nonetheless, the point here is that it is not in the best interest of Yoruba nation for Afenifere, a Pan Yoruba Organization to be rooting for a presidential candidate of a southeast extraction all in a bit to be seen as being fair, just or reasonable! Since politics is largely driven by interest, if anything, it is therefore the interest of Yoruba nation that Afenifere MUST defend and promote notwithstanding whether such stand is seen as fair or just or reasonable.
And if one may ask: Where is the place of fairness, equity and justice in Nigeria’s political space?
Ch Ayo Adebanjo therefore, in my very humble view, erred by using a platform that belongs to the Yoruba to feather the interest of other region or person(s) at the detriment of the son of the soil, no matter how seemingly fair or just the reason(s) might have been.
That being said, the spirited attempt by some people to further divide or polarise Afenifere platform is a sad reminder of what Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu did, to factionalize and fractionize the once highly reverred Afenifere Group, immediately after its loss of the Southwest political control in 2003 due to the aforementioned unholy alliance. This latest onslaught is yet again traceable to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and I do hope also that he will not be documented in history as the one whose ambition tear apart and weaken the strength and unity of Yoruba nation.
The truth of the matter is that there has never been any controversy over who leads Afenifere at any point in time because of the conventional way of transferring leadership to the appropriate person when and if the need arises. And so, after the glorious exit of Pa Abraham Adesanya, the lot fell on Pa Reuben Folorunso Fasoranti (OFR) who took over the mantle of leadership and immediately hit the ground running upon assumption of office.
However, in some years back, the Afenifere Leader, Chief Reuben Folorunso Fasoranti willingly relinquished and handed over the leadership of the Group to Chief Ayo Adebanjo in a well attended meeting of the Group citing old age and waning health conditions as reasons for the handover. Since then, Pa Ayo Adebanjo has been paddling and handling the affairs of the group.
In Yoruba parlance, it is often said *”Ti a ba fun ni ni eran, a maa nsiju okun pelu”* literally meaning that if you assign duties to anyone, he must be allowed to operate without let or hindrance. The implication of Baba Reuben Fasoranti handing over to Baba Ayo Adebanjo is that whatever decisions that were henceforth to be taken on any particular issue, it is the Pa Ayo Adebanjo led-Executive that should take such decisions for the group and be responsible for their consequences.
The consequences of Pa Ayo Adebanjo’s unfortunate support for a candidate outside the southwest region should not be to further polarise and weaken the Yoruba Organization which usually serves as the strength of Yoruba nation among the comity of diverse nationalities in Nigeria or attempting to return leadership to a man who had willingly surrendered it due to his precarious health situation. To embark on such adventure is to inadvertently and ultimately injure the already waning health condition of the ever-contented old man.
Methinks there should be a more civilized and decent way to address the noticed infractions other than setting members of the group against one another, if only to let Baba Ayo Adebanjo and his crew know that Afenifere was created to protect and promote the interest of Yoruba nation and her people and certainly NOT a Father Christmas dsigned to gift out unsolicited support to any other region or persons outside the wall of Yoruba nation.
A word is enough for the wise.
*Leye Igbabo writes from Ifedore Local Government of Ondo State.*