Rumblings in Afenifere
THIS is not the best time for Afenifere, a Yoruba socio- political group. The group is enmeshed in leadership tussle over the election of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, President- elect. It is a squabble between two topmost members of the organization. While Chief Reuben Fasonranti, the group leader enthused that it was right to congratulate Tinubu on his victory at the poll, Chief Ayo Adebanjo insisted that Mr. Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party won the election and should be declared the president-elect. Adebanjo has not left no one in doubt over his position as he recently engineered the expulsion of two executive members of the organization, Jare Ajayi, National publicity secretary and Abagun Kole Omololu, National organizing secretary for issuing unauthorized statements.
Afenifere was established in 1951 at Owo, country home of former governor of Ondo state, Chief Adekunle Ajasin. Its first leader was Chief Obafemi Awolowo, first premier of Old western Nigeria with the slogan : “Life More Abundant For All” and this was encapsulated in its four cardinal programmes: Free and Compulsory Education, Free Health, Employment Opportunities and Rural Integration. The group in the 50s established the Action Group, AG, controlled the Western Nigeria and implemented the four programmes. It also formed the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, between 1979 and 1983 where it controlled five states; Lagos, Oyo, Ondo, Ogun and Bendel states. The four cardinal programmes were the bedrocks of the then Loobo controlled states.
THE group it also provided positive leadership in the struggle for the revalidation of the June 12,1993 presidential election which was won by the business mogul, late Moshood Abiola. The election was adjudged the fairest and freest in the history of Nigeria. The group formed the Alliance for Democracy, AD, in 1999 and controlled its traditional enclave, South West Nigeria but was edged out in 2003 by the Peoples Democratic Party ,PDP, leaving the party to control only Lagos state.
AFENIFERE has however not been totally insulated from the vagaries of time. It has had its fair share of challenges arising from human foibles and idiosyncrasies. But, it has been able to overcome them to forge ahead with greater vigour and gusto. For example, the schism among a few of its leaders manifested in a crack in 2008; and the emergency of a seeming splinter group.
THE Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) crept into public space and its leader was Ogbeni Wale Osun, a former member of the House of Representatives. The mainstream leaders of the body moved swiftly to fortify the union. So, in November 2008, they converged on Ijebu Igbo, Ogun State, to enthrone Chief Reuben Fasoranti as the group’s chairman. To stave off further acrimony, stabilise the ship, Chief Adebanjo announced that a meeting of Afenifere had been fixed for Ijebu-Igbo, in 2008, to ratify Chief Fasoranti as the new leader of the group. Another moment of trial was when Pa Fasoranti announced his resignation as the leader, due to a seeming cold war within the fold. The cold war was between the duo of Fasonranti and Adebanjo.
WHAT the two octogenarians had earlier managed behind people’s glare is now before the public. To Baba Fasonranti “Omo eni o le sedi bebere ka fileke sidi omo elomiran” (when you have a child with a rotund waist, you can’t be seen adorning another person’s child with your beautiful beads) became his sing-song in a country where ethnicity has been brought to the centre-stage and environment where people tend to see themselves first as tribesmen and tribes women before considering their citizenship.
CHIEF Adebanjo is not ready to buy into regional agenda. This is not because of his nationalist belief but a payback time for Tinubu whom he has nothing but disdain. To him he should be made to suffer for the impeachment of Kofo Bucknor, Tinubu’s first deputy governor between 1999 and 2003. Bucknor was removed from office owing to crisis of confidence between Tinubu and the former. His other offense was that he retired the likes of Ganiyu Dawodu and other old brigades within the Lagos Afenifere and AD while in office as the Governor of Lagos state. He was also accused of fracturing the group by encouraging late Fasanmi, from Ekiti state as a factional leader of the group.
THEREFORE, Tinubu must be paid back in his coin, meaning that personal vendetta should not be jettisoned for primordial sentiments. We therefore welcome Baba Fasonranti’s timely intervention to redirect the political future and interest of the Yoruba race at this crucial time of national horse trading. His intervention will send sign that he is in charge of affairs of Afenifere. He has also put Chief Adebanjo rightly in his place. It baffling seeing the elder statesman displayed such a behavior. We would have expected that with his age and pedigree within the Yoruba nation, he should not be seen compromising or subverting the interest of his people.
WE encourage Baba Fasonranti to take over the affairs of Afenifere in the interest of Yoruba and the relevance of the group. Our position is that some elements who could not find political relevance in the south west are surreptitiously creeping into Afenifere to gain recognition. This may spell doom for the group for many of them are bereft of what Afenifere stands for and the philosophy they have been espousing since the 50s.
BABA Fasonranti’s cool, calm and matured disposition is what Afenifere needs at this crisis point of our political life. We realize that the crises bedeviling the group have always revolve round Chief Adebanjo. For example the second republic Governors were said to have accused him and his best friend , Olanihun Ajayi of attacking them before late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Ditto the former Alliance for Democracy Governors have accused him of interference.
WE are of the belief that this is a good opportunity for the group to realize its age long dreams of restructuring the country if it’s friendly with the president-elect. Therefore, anything that may jeopardized the vision and interest of Yoruba should be avoided. We beseech members of Afenifere to be at their best element to support Baba Fasonranti navigating the political land mines capable of undermining the Bola Ahmed Tinubu incoming administration.