FEATURE ARTICLE

Dr. Lanre TytlerTuesday, August 14, 2007
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Rome, Italy

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AFENIFERE AND YORUBA COUNCIL OF ELDERS: WHO AND WHERE ARE THEY?

his article is a product of a reflective silence based not only past and current events but also out of the inability to give convincing answers to specific and general questions and considerations by friends and colleagues of different ethnic background, who oftentimes make it a point of duty, after the relatively known popularity enjoyed by Senator Adesanya, to remind of their difficulty in figuring out the actual Yoruba leader. Hence it must be emphasized, strongly too, that it is not meant to castigate anybody, group or organization but should be considered, objectively as possible, as a piece that tries to present many but not all realities.


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Having said this, it will be relevant to state, historically, what has been going on in Yorubaland ever since Chief Awolowo died in May 1987. Let us accept from now, for brevity sake, that I'm likely to omit some events and also likely to be partially correct in part of my analysis.

Years back Afenifere was formed as a socio-cultural organization and had Pa Abraham Adesanya as its leader. Other known prominent members at inception included Pa Onasanya, the late Chief Bola Ige who was the deputy leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti now the de facto leader because Pa Adesanya is enfeebled by age, Adegbonmire, Okurounmu, Ganiyu Dawodu, Olanihun Ajayi, Olu Falae, Late Adefarati, Ayo Adebanjo now the deputy the leader following the death of Ige. But according to Pa Onasanya, in an interview with The Comet in 2001, Afenifere has been in existence since 'Egbe Omo Oduduwa' days. I am too young to contradict his affirmation.

The Afenifere agenda as widely circulated included a decent political agenda: a true federalism, significant control of resources by the states and the convocation of a sovereign national conference. And when the Alliance for Democracy (AD) was formed as a political party in 1998, the Afenifere agenda automatically became its official manifesto, making it safer to infer that Afenifere metamorphosed into AD.

Politically, AD, though a party of the South West, had other non Yoruba in its fold. But the party's deeply entrenched and glaring tribal politics made it difficult to make inroads into other parts of the nation. Incontrovertible facts have it that Arthur Nwoko (some say Nwankwo) and Chief Ezeife too were members and believers in the AD's manifesto and when both noticed that the party was not a broad-based nationwide one but a tribal setting they withdrew and formed their own party.

During the 1999 elections, AD had as its presidential candidate Chief Olu Falae who emerged not as a consensus candidate but, as widely reported, out of serious political manouvres and opportunism. It became public knowledge that Chief Bola Ige was schemed out from becoming its presidential flagbearer at the leadership meeting held at Kakanfo Hotel in Ibadan. And from here the seed of discord was definitely planted in Yorubaland, by the perfidy of power and politics.

At the 1999 polls, AD governoship candidates, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Chief Olusegun Osoba, Niyi Adebayo, Chief Bisi Akande and Alhaji Lamidi Adesina and Adefarati, captured and ruled over Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, Osun, Oyo and Ondo States respectively. This victory of the party, all in the South West, confirmed its Regional limitations. Going into how the governors emerged as candidates in their respective states is beyond the scope of this piece.

It is also a known fact that AD as a registered political party allowed Afenifere to dominate its political decisions more than necessary such that its political headquarters where important decisions were taken was Ijebu Igbo, the home of Pa Adesanya.

At the polls, OBJ was elected President on the platform of PDP but the Yoruba voters, on the instructions of the AD/Afenifere leaders, humiliated him by not electing one single PDP candidate as governor. This made him to prepare for an onslaught on Yorubaland since he was considered to be politically irrelevant having lost in his own constituency, for his inability to get one single PDP governor elected and also for his failure to score the minimum votes required in all of the six states won by the AD.

This humiliation by his own kinsmen did not go down well with him and to prove to his critics that, being the first ever Yoruba man to be put democratically at the helm of affairs in Nigeria, he was capable of luring to his side the political heavyweights of the SW wining party. How ? The first strategy was to figure out the poltical (not garisson) commanders in AD that made it possible for the party to win all the six Yoruba states. This was to be followed by constant briefing on the development in the AD having been updated with the political wrangling between Chief Bola Ige and the party and by extension the organization, Afenifere, that gave birth to the party.

At the slightest opportunity OBJ decided to exploit Ige's bitterness with his people and that gave him also the input he needed to polarize the South West (SW). He quickly called on Ige and compensated him with the post of the Attorney General of the Federation and pronto, the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) was formed as an alternative and counterweight to Afenifere. YCE was headed by two Awoists Pa Emmanuel Alayande and Justice Thomson Adewale.

Not yet satisfied and armed with the decision to carry out radical political changes in the AD stronghold in the SW come 2003 elections, OBJ in his weird manner and philosophy of "use and dumb", lured the AD to back him for a re-election in 2003. He succeeded in enticing the Yoruba leaders and by extension the Yoruba people by telling them that he needed them in the "Nigerian political mainstream" and in their own interest. That translated to mean their governors must come from his own party, the PDP.

The inability of the Afenifere and the AD party stalwarts, including the governors, to read in between the lines made them, hook, line and sinker, swallow OBJ's poisoned "apple" and inevitably all fell into OBJ's politically prepared death trap. AD governors became so enticed that they went as far as campaininig for him (OBJ), the presidential candidate of another party! Listen to Tinubu's unhappy statements in 2006:

"We campaigned whole-heartedly to vote for Obasanjo in 2003. I supported him only for the people's democracy because Yoruba elders throughout the country said we should give him a second chance, so that at least the democratic culture will spread across the country".
What a political suicide.

After the 2003 gubernatorial election, five AD governors lost their seats to PDP governors while Gov. Tinubu remained the only surviving AD governor basically because of his political understanding of the environment in which he was operating and also for his performance.

As previously stated, the internal division which enveloped AD as a party since its presidential candidate was chosen in 1999 continued leading to Chief Akande and Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa parting ways and heading different factions. Therefore it could be reasonably argued and submitted that this in-built division and the fundamental crisis due largely to personal differences of the party leaders must have informed Tinubu's decision in 2006 to transform AD (in Lagos State) to Action Congress (AC) and, with its limited resources, tried to give it a national outlook.

At the April 2007 elections, AC won convincingly in Lagos State nothwithstanding the political manoeuvres of OBJ and his PDP collaborators while non of AD gubernatorial candidates got elected in any state. The big question is did Afenifere and or YCE give Tinubu any support in his effort ?

Now that OBJ had succeeded in having his first objective of penetrating the SW through the election of PDP governors, he still needed to consolidate his hold. And in his usual manner he encouraged and supported the Yoruba personalities in the PDP, Chief Olabode George and Chief Sunday Afolabi to keep on its divide and rule work.

And as a well thought of strategy to limit the attacks on his personality by the AD leaders because of their party's failure at the gubernatorial level, OBJ went on to appoint their sons and daughters into his administration: Chief Dosunmu Awolowo and the son of Akintola were given ambassadorial posts, the daughter of Pa Adesanya also became a Special Assistant, Gen. Oluleye's son served as Secretary of Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), the son of Fani Kayode (Fani power) was also made a presidential spokesman on public affairs before becoming Aviation Minister. Incredible but true, Segun Awolowo, the grandson of the late sage and Chief HID Awolowo who was a member of YCE, also contested for the Apapa Federal Constituency under PDP ! Well there exists freedom of association in our constitution.

Not yet satisfied OBJ cultivated the friendship of prominent Yoruba traditional rulers and even made many, as widely reported, his guests in Aso Rock. The result of all the above combined was that OBJ succeeded in using the Yoruba traditional rulers, YCE and the AD/Afenifere leadership to polarize the Yorubaland.

Lest I forget, there existed also in Yorubaland another organization known as the Yoruba Leaders Forum, YLF, which gave birth to the Pan Yoruba Congress which in turn mid-wifed the Oodua Development Council. What has become of this group ? It was stated sometime ago that YLF became an off-shoot of Afenifere.

It would not be a deviation to recall also that in 1978 when UPN was formed, some of these Yoruba leaders benefitted enormously from the party largesse only to repay the late leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, at the slightest opportunity by taking up ministerial appointments under IBB and Abacha. Not only, some among them were also accused of having played a major role in the June 12 annulment by IBB. Till date non has ever been bold enough to deny such accusation. It is therefore appropriate at this stage when the Yoruba younger generation is looking for a direction to ask IBB to please be courageous enough, before he goes the elders' way, to mention the names of the Yoruba people who connived with him to cancel the said election. His revelation, appropriate and important as it might eventually turn out to be, will not only expose the "traitors" in and among the elders/leaders but wil also help the younger generation to know who to look on to as a worthy, truthful and uncompromising leader.

After the above historical account, the Yoruba people and the younger generation in particular would like to know now, not tomorrow, not in future:

  1. what qualities an individual must possess to become a member of the YCE/ Afenifere;

  2. are the likes of Alhaji Lateef Jakande, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Generals Adekunle Benjamin,"the black scorpion", Diya, Alani Akinrinade, Chief Richard Akinjide, Alhaji Arisekola, part and parcel of any of these groups?;

  3. are the former and current Yoruba Governors, Senators and Reps., irrespective of party affiliation, at the State or National Assembly and the Traditional Rulers or High Chiefs (including Pa Lamidi Adedibu) by virtue of their position and office bonafide members of the two groups?;

  4. is OBJ now the emerging Yoruba leader?:

  5. have the members of both YCE and Afenifere individually or collectively undertaken specific projects beneficial to Yoruba? If so where are they?

  6. What have the Yoruba elders/leaders done (that is unknown to the public) or are doing to end the political turmoil in both Oyo and Ekiti States?

It is a moral imperative that the Yoruba leaders give an honest breakdown of the actual situation and let the people know, really, who their leaders are and how they can relate with them so as to confirm or put to rest such speculation as written by one journalist that "In Yorubaland today, there is non to compare with him (OBJ) and so he has substantially assumed the position of leader of Yorubas, having both the progressive and conservative groups in his camp". In the same manner, every attempt should be made to disprove also the statements attributed to Mr. Ugonne Eme in one of the dailies that " with the likes of Lamidi Adedibu and Bode George as garrison commanders of Nigerian politics calling the shots in Yoruba politics, the political degeneration of the people may have commenced".

However, it is an undisputed fact as stated by Diran Odeyemi, in his article of May 2003 published on this website, that the Yoruba people and in particular the younger generation have some " reservation about Afenifere (I add YCE) and their roles in Yorubaland, show concerns about the quality of leadership they showcase and wonder if indeed the collective interest of the Yorubas is their concern based on certain traits they exhibit, some proclamations they make over certain issues of collective interests".

The 2003 and 2007 elections, with their imperfections, have demonstrated that the Yoruba people at the istance of who the two groups, Afenifere and YCE, derive their existence, desire a break from inconsistencies and insincerity of the leaders.

Whole-heartedly, I agree with what Mike Onwukwe wrote in his piece of April 2003 titled: The Routing of AD from the political lexicon of Nigeria: that "We are entering into the youthful phase of Yoruba political leadership". And there should be an end to their (elders/leaders) "only concern in securing plum jobs for their children and positioning them for a future political life". Rather they should be more faithful to their people. How ?. They should give them points of reference, chart a purposeful course for people to follow, fashion out a socio-political direction for the upcoming generations. Translation: give us our true leaders, lead us unto the right path, carry us along in your scheme of things, listen to us and enjoy our support.

If there would be no answers or blueprint forthcoming, then it would be rational to do a reputation survey for these elders/leaders and then analyze the results based on the acceptable principles of popularity, capability and competency... democracy. Thereafter the people will know who has the qualities of leadership in him or her. Yorubas crave an urgent, organised, visible, impressive, capable and competent leadership.

Dr. Lanre Tytler, a Legal & Management Consultant, is the Vice President Yoruba Community Italy and ex Sec.Gen. Nigerian Community Rome Lazio.

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