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Afenifere at 70: Footprints of a colossus movement – Part 3

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Existential transformation/metamorphosis of Afenifere
13(i)After the first military insurrection of January 15, 1966, the Military Junta under General Thomas Aguiyi Ironsi issued series of decrees that suspended and abrogated the 1960 & the 1963 Republican Federal Constitutions to give itself some semblance of legitimacy. Let it therefore be stated again and for posterity that the negotiated 1960 Independence Constitution which was amended to produce the 1963 Republican Federal Constitution remained the only legitimately produced constitution that was democratically subscribed to by Nigerians. Nigerians have not been given the democratic rights to produce an Autochthonous Constitution but rather, the Military Junta have severally imposed decrees called “Constitutions “ that have unitarised and centralized Nigeria for the undue advantage of a section of Nigeria till date.

(ii)Major General Johnson Thomas Aguiyi Ironsi, the new Military Head of State and Commander In-Chief on the 24th of May 1966 issued supplement to Official Gazette Extraordinary No. 51, Vol. 53, 1966 part A in a THE PUBLIC ORDER DECREE 1966 where in section 1 he announced the Dissolution of Political Parties, Tribal Unions and Cultural Organizations.

(iii)In schedule, Part 1, Section 1 and 12, the gazette listed the Political Societies or Associations. 84 Political Parties and Organizations that were dissolved. Along with that, the decree also dissolved 26 Tribal and Cultural Associations. The names were contained in the decree that is hereby annexed as Annexure 2 with explanatory remarks.

14As soon as Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the sage left and resigned from General Gowon’s Government, on July 1, 1971, (General Gowon’s response to Chief Awolowo’s resignation is hereby attached as Annexure 3), he and his closest allies started to brainstorm on the prospect for Nigerian political future i.e. the Second Republic. The group eventually crystalized into what was known as “The Committee of Friends”.

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15Part of their resolutions had to do with the name to be adopted for whatever political organization they formed. The Committee was composed of star studied people in several respect, quite a number of old faithful and respectable guards of the Action Group were the initial frontliners. They were mindful of the Military Decree No. 33, A. 149 of 24th May, 1966 which had dissolved Political Parties Societies and tribal organizations and the transition decree of Muritala/Obasanjo government which prohibited any linkage with the First Republic Political Parties. Arising from the variously adopted policy options, the group adopted the name UNITY PARTY OF NIGERIA, UPN which was a National Political Party but was equally known as EGBE IMOLE in Yoruba land. So, AG/AFENIFERE became muted.

16.However, as Gen. Ibrahim Babangida’s unending political transition agenda was evolving after the transition to glory of the AVARTAR, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, SAN, the former Governors of the UPN commenced meetings under the Chairmanship of Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin, CFR, in Owo and was called Owo Group for sometimes before the group became People’s Consultative Forum, PCF. At the first meeting of the Governors, the meeting decided to invite me to join their next meeting and to be its General Secretary and Spokesman. That was how I served the organization for 15years honourarily.

17.At a meeting held in Chief Bola Ige’s, Ibadan residence sometimes in 1992 we examined the prospect of adopting a name for our organization. A committee was constituted to verify whether or not Afenifere was among the organizations dissolved. The report of the committee was received at a meeting held in the Lagos, Ilupeju residence of Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande (now late). The report findings indicated that Afenifere was not listed in the Military Decree of May 1966. Members were happy to rename the group with its original appellation, AFENIFERE. The Gazette is already attached to this piece for ease of reference as Annexure 2.

After the death of the most brutal dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha and the emergence of General Abdulsalami Abubakar, GCFR, we eventually reverted to our familiar MOVEMENT name. How did it happen?

18(i)There was a Southern Leadership Forum which was holding in Chief Olu Falae’s house many times in 1998. Hitherto, in the absence of Senator Abraham Adesanya who was abroad, Chief Ige who presided at an Afenifere meeting in Ijebu-Igbo read out dates for meetings he had fixed with other political organizations. And about four of us from Afenifere met with the Umaru Shinkafi Group for about one hour at Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja in a business manner like but which revealed that he had met severally with the group and perhaps reached some agreement to which we were not privileged to know until later from outside sources.

(ii)Meanwhile, the MOVEMENT had asked me sometimes in September 1998 to attend a meeting with groups which later established the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and was hosted by Prof. Jerry Gana. The Movement nominated Chief Bola Ige and Ayo Adebanjo to also attend the second meeting. When Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu and Dr. Sola Saraki were sighted by the duo, who was my own seniors, the duo asked us to withdraw our participation because we should not be found associating with such people. After a lot of exchange of views, with many colleagues, we rejoined the meeting. Chief Bola Ige was appointed to chair the Constitutional Drafting Committee and I was appointed as the Secretary. The meetings were to be held at MUSON CENTRE, Onikan, Lagos.

(iii)On the date that we returned to Chief Falae’s house for a continuation of the Southern Leadership Forum meeting, Chief Falae was abroad. The meeting was dispirited when Chief Bola Ige informed members that we should not attend the Constitution Drafting Committee meeting because, he had it on good authority that the group had made up its mind as to who will be its presidential candidate. I opposed this position by restating that we were in a vantage position to marshal out superior arguments that could enable us win the coveted ticket. But I was alone because Senator Adesanya himself was absent.

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(iv)Later on, the meeting decided that we should go to Abuja to hold a crucial meeting with the Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi group, a day before the National Convention to agree as to whether or not we could jointly form a political party together. Chief Olu Lulu Briggs (now late) was elected to be our Team Leader. And the meeting was fixed for 7. 0clock pm at NICON HILTON HOTEL, ABUJA.

19(i)However, for reasons that should not be discussed here, it happened that Chief Ige had gone ahead to hold a meeting with the Shinkafi group around 7pm, and at about 10pm he came out to invite Chief Adebanjo. When the rest of us waited till 1am, without being invited to attend the scheduled meeting, we all moved to Chief Lulu Briggs suite and we concluded there and then not to have anything to do with whatever may be the resolution from the ongoing meeting with the Shinkafi group from which we were alienated. Even though we never planned to form a Political Party when we left Lagos, the event recorded here led us to decide to form our own political party.

Chief Bola Ige on return to his suite was dispirited when we met him and he returned to Lagos the following morning and played no part in the registration of AD/Afenifere.

(ii) Unfortunately, one of those with us in Chief Briggs suite was a plant of the Adedibu collective. We were shocked to find out in the morning when we got to INEC office to find that the name ACTION CONGRESS/ACTION ALLIANCE which were our first choices had been applied for just about an hour earlier by Alhaji Adedibu’s lieutenant.

(iii) Therefor, we had to utilize our industry and reach to adopt the name ALLIANCE FOR DEMOCRACY, AD. The process to get a befitting Constitutional Draft, Manifesto, Logo, Emblem, Slogan were arrived at. We amended a draft constitution which I took along just for exigencies and apportioned responsibilities. Mr. (now Dr. Jimmy Imo) handled manifesto, Senator Mrs. Kofo Akerele Bucknor handled logo and emblem. The duo are alive to confirm the authenticity of this information. And just before the 5pm deadline we were able to submit our application along with the necessary requirement at the INEC National Headquarters Office.

20.It is critical to state for all to hear this, that it was the names contained in the Register of AFENIFERE in all Yoruba States including Kwara and Kogi that were used to register Alliance for Democracy. AFENIFERE therefore, was the platform upon which the AD was constructed and upon which the six candidates in Yoruba States contested and won. AD was the National Name, but songs/lyrics were waxed on Afenifere whose leadership had been the Frontliners of the NADECO struggle. So when for reasons best known but certainly not for the group interest some elected and Afenifere Leaders started to insist on separation of AD from Afenifere, they knew they were playing dirty politics. The younger folks from New Generation and Idile Groups who in 1999 commended our steadfastness and resilience and courage to provide leadership for the Yoruba Nation against the onslaught of violent repression and humiliation by Gen. Sanni Abacha also appealed to us that they were ready to assist Afenifere to consolidate its credible leadership. And after about 3 to 4 months they were permitted to send 5 representatives each to attend Afenifere meetings. This was there maiden encounter and involvement in Afenifere. AD/Afenifere had already installed 6 Governors before they came to join Afenifere.

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It is always suicidal to demystify the platform on which you were elected into political office because the myth would have been deflated and could not be available again for your use. The then President Obasanjo who wanted to win power in the South West at all cost in order to be allowed to run for the second term on the PDP platform used a senior member of Afenifere to weaken the organization by influencing some governors to treat Afenifere’s advice with levity. Furthermore, the same external influence forced an impostor, named Alhaji Abdulkadir, unknown to most of those who formed the AD, as the Chairman of the party. The rest is history as they say.

21(i) However, the performances of most of the six governors of AD/Afenifere were relatively commendable and pace setting as that of their forebares in the Action Group and the UPN of the 1st and 2nd Republics.

Text to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of Egbe Afenifere, issued by Mr. Ayo Opadokun, former general secretary of Afenifere, former General Secretary and spokesman of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), founding convener, Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reform (CODER) and former Assistant Director of Organisation of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) on April 27, 2021.

(ii) For example, each of them continued with the Free Education Programme with some modifications and that enabled many poor people’s children to enroll into public schools. Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the Governor of Lagos State succeeded in expanding the revenue base of Lagos State beyond expectation. The consequence of that was that he was able to deliver some appreciable infrastructures and services that were relatively novel at that time. Chief Bisi Akande, the Osun State Governor with his very low receipt from the Federation Account delivered impactful services including the construction of an enviable State Secretariat that remain his everlasting legacy and many rural roads without borrowing a dime throughout his tenure. There was no area of Ogun State that did not experience the development programme of Aremo Segun Osoba as the Governor (helmsman) of Ogun State. Chief Lam Adesina and Otunba Niyi Adebayo were spectacularly commendable as Governors of Oyo and Ekiti State respectively particularly because they struggled to continue with the free education programme that the Action Group/Afenifere’s Government led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo introduced in 1955.

22. Campaign for return to federal constitution governance
(i) Let us remember that Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s led Action Group was the main Proponent for Federal Constitution in the First Republic and he succeeded in winning over his colleagues, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe erstwhile proponent of Unitary Government and Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the otherwise proponent of confederal constitution to his side. Nigeria therefore secured its independence on a Federal Constitutional Governance in 1960;

(ii) In the Second Republic, the UPN Governors and parliamentarians fought titanic battles for restoration of federal constitutional governance. For example, in 1981, the then Governor of Bendel State, Prof. Ambrose Alli of the UPN filed a writ against the NPN led Federal Government claiming that the then recently passed budget was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled/gave judgment in favour of the Bendel State Government. The deportation of Alhaji Shugaba Darman, Speaker of the GNPP led Bornu State House of Assembly by the NPN Federal Government was successfully fought until Shugaba, was legally allowed to return home and resumed his office. The UPN retained the services of the late distinguished and revered Chief G. O. K. Ajayi, SAN as Alhaji Shugaba’s Attorney. Chief Segun Osoba led Sketch Newspapers provided the best intensive and informative coverage of that constitutional crisis and my late friend Prince Sam Akanmode was the Correspondent. Sam compiled his reportage into a book for posterity.

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(iii) In this Forth Republic, Chief Bola Tinubu, the Governor of Lagos State on behalf of Lagos State Government, sometimes along with his colleagues of the AD and even with many governors of the other political parties had successfully exploited judicial processes to restore some modicum of federal constitutional arrangement into the current setting. Readers will remember the contest over section 7 and 8 of the 1999 Constitution as amended as they relate with the power of the state to create Local Government.

(iv) The Supreme Court gave favourable judgments in favour of Lagos Government against arbitrary Federal Government actions. Even though the Supreme Court declared that President Obasanjo had no legal nor constitutional right to withhold the Lagos State Local Governments Fund, yet, the President contemptuously refused to pay that money to the Lagos State Government until he left office after his third term bid collapsed and or failed. There were other matters on onshore and offshore ownership tussle between Federal and State Governments and the last victory of Lagos State Government over the Federal Government was as to who has the legitimate control over the Coastal Foreshore in the Osborne foreshore case.

23. Commendable Afenifere contributions to Nigeria’s development
i. As a Movement of ideas, the burden of standing in gap for Nigeria against the successive military dictatorship and their military in civilian dress tyrannies have been the lot of Yoruba Nationalists and Activists principally along with other compatriots since pre-independence till the present time. At any critical time of strong opposition against tyrannical rule of successive Nigerian state, the greatest majority of the Leading Activists that are usually oppressed, dehumanized, incarcerated and sometimes declared missing are mostly from the South West along with Kwara and Kogi activists. There are statistical records to prove this assertion. The young Ikorodu political activists who protested the annulment of Bashorun M. K.O. Abiola Presidential victory of June 12, 1993 were shot at sight on Ikorodu road reliably on the directive of the Lagos Military caucus led by Gen. Abacha. And when we attempted to give the activists a befitting burial and the family along with us went to the morgue to collect their remains at LASUTH, the Abacha’s Intelligence Outfit denied us the grace for such burial. The parents were directed to collect the remains of their beloved children and go and buried them without any ceremony, another instance of slapping someone and denying the fellow the permission to cry.

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ii. The Action Group and the Unity Party of Nigeria were constructed on relatively ideological platforms e.g.
Life more Abundant – for the AG
Democratic Socialism – UPN
For example, the UPN in the 2nd Republic had Four Cardinal Programmes namely:
Free Education
Free Medical Services
Gainful Employment
Integrated Rural Development.
Therefore all elected party functionaries were conversant with the ideological philosophy which they must pursue and or execute while in offices. There was no room for divergent, uncoordinated and individualistic 5, 7, 9, 12 etc. points’ agenda of many State Governors as you now have. It’s even difficult to assess their performances because there were no agreed party irreducible minimum and actionable categorical imperatives to which they voluntarily subscribed.

24. The Afenifere Leaders who along with other like minds and elder statesmen, retired senior citizens, professionals, civil society groups, students, women, religious and traditional rulers etc. established the National Democratic Coalition, (NADECO) have creditably led their colleagues to campaign vigorously for a return to FEDERAL CONSTITUTION upon which Nigerian secured its independence in 1960. At great costs and risks to their lives, well-being and families, they have not stopped speaking the following truth among others to successive power/ leaders of the Nigerian State; THAT

1960 Independence and its follow up 1963 Republican Constitutions are the only legal and legitimate constitutions of Nigeria. Since the Military staged it’s violent toppling of Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa’s government in 1966, Nigeria had been governed arbitrarily and illegitimately, (stricto senso) through military decrees including the 1999 Constitution which was brought into existence by Decree 24 of 1999. All agencies and institutions created under those decrees even though they might have been supposedly transformed into Acts and Enactments remain illegal till tomorrow, since the law does not allow you to build something on nothing. The theoreticians who perhaps subscribe to the positive wing of jurisprudence claim that successful coup begats its legality are denying the fact that sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria and remains the proprietary rights of the people from which governments derive their powers, authority and legitimacy.

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The decrees have centralized and unitarised the Nigerian State, suspended, and abrogated the negotiated Federal Constitution which recognized the unquestionable fact and reality that Nigeria is an heterogeneous country with diversities of language, religion, tradition, custom, artefact, folklore, more, moral which cannot be centrally legislated upon without national mutual mistrust, injustice, inequity, unfair play and willful and or total disregard and or respect for the protection, defence and consolidation of the rule of law. All these have led to high level of political instability and incohesion. The ongoing unbelievable National insecurity and the undisguised empowerment of Non-State Actors who have become more potent and dominant than the Nigerian security apparatus are clear indications of the negative consequences of centralization and unitarisation of the Nigerian State.

The current misrule (centralized and unitarised) is unsustainable having regard to the unconcealed, provocative and insensitive government policies and conduct. The unhidden nepotic Presidential appointments to sensitive offices, like the National Security Council, NNPC, Nigeria Custom, Immigration, NPA etc. in clear violation of Chapter 11 of the 1999 Constitution dealing with Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principle of State Policy, Section 14(3) which compels the observance of and adherence to Federal character principle make the current setting unsustainable. The usual resort to allegations of conspiracy theory that those who speak truth to power want to delegitimize and or remove the current government from office illegally or through the back door remains a disingenuous defence mechanism
The campaign to give education its prime importance

25. The future of any nation as to its future depends on the standard and quality of education it gives her young ones. Chief Obafemi Awolowo as early as the 1950s was ready to spend up to 40% of the government income on education. Japan, South Korea of today not to talk of other ASIAN TIGERS have proven that a country that places high premium today on education and as a result is lacking in one or other services is most likely to win back in multiple folds what it currently lacks. After the USA bombed Hiroshima, Japan was busy teaching her young people under whatever shades it could find. Today, JAPAN is the Leader in Automobile, Electronics, Electrical, ICT etc. The same can be true of us if our leaders stopped been ungodly, immoral, and selfish. Their own wards study in elitist schools in Nigeria and abroad while the public schools are left to rot. In spite of UNESCO recommendation in 1976 that member nations should allocate not less than 26% of their budget into education, the Nigerian State for most times allocates averagely between 5-10% to education only to set up unproductive and corruption prone agencies for its administration. The underbelly of Nigerian education reveals that in some states, private schools are 500% more than public schools. Teachers in public schools particularly tertiary ones are equally on strike for almost 50% of school calendar. Those whose disposition to education is suspect and contemptuous of Western Education are the ones forced down on us to manage education for the whole country. The product of Free Education of 1st and 2nd Republics are leaders in various areas of Nigeria needs today. That is why anyone who wants to marginalize education in Yoruba land will always end up in shame and sorrow because education is the leveler that can make children from poor homes become top leaders of tomorrow. And our people will ultimately reject such political merchants who mostly got so elected through diversed electoral miracles/ manipulations to satisfy the interest of military loyalists, surrogates, acolytes’ sympathizers and conduit pipes to cover up their tracks.

Qua Vadis Afenifere?
26(i) Since we have historically and factually established that Action Group was the registered political party but Afenifere had always being a Movement in Yorubaland of those who subscribe to Chief Awolowo’s Political Philosophy of Life more Abundant and that it was the Registers of Afenifere membership in Yoruba States including Kogi and Kwara that were used to register AD in 1998, it stands to reason that those who may still desire to pursue their political ambition outside whatever the “progressive” political camp adopted as close to the Action Group tendency should be bold and honest enough to leave Afenifere. The platform should no more be used for political expediency. The unfortunate inconsistencies of some of those who are associating themselves with Afenifere when it suited them only to railroad themselves into Afenifere again after their political misadventures and or miscalculations have negatively impacted on the credibility and acceptability of the Movement. After all, Yoruba tradition and culture support plurality of views and opinions but that the best of such should lead our Nationality. We all must be mindful of the Yoruba proverb which enjoins our people not to sleep and position their heads in the same direction. The others should be free to present their programs along with others from which our people should be free to make their choices.

(ii) The most important pre-occupation of any serious minded political group in Yoruba Nation today is to make room for reconciliation so as to unite their ranks. The past political misadventures and or miscalculations, unprincipled politics leading to inconsistencies of colleagues and their sister organizations should be forgiven in the overall interest of the Yoruba Nation if those inconsistent members resolve to discipline themselves and stop playing politics at all costs and or without any moral value. The situation is dire and we must fend off in one accord those who have contempt for our nationality values. It has been done before; it can still be done.

(iii) The various political platforms in Yoruba Nation must appreciate that their focus must be on how to legally and legitimately secure freedom and liberty for our people to pursue their individual and group ambitions to showcase their talents and ingenuity to benefit themselves and the society at large as Nigeria returns to Federal Constitutional governance which can guarantee all Nigerians fair play, justice, equity, respect for as well as protection defence and consolidation of the rule of law.

(iv) As a matter of relevance, significance and consequence between dedicated and unrelenting pursuit of ensuring that Nigeria returns to Federal Constitutional Governance and Parliamentary system of government on one hand and the rat race for 2023 election, those who have genuine publicly spirited commitments and have experience and deep understanding of the inter-play of forces in heterogeneous societies, the choice for them as a priority would most likely be unmistakenly for securing a federal constitutional governance.

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(v) If you ask those running the rat race for any election what quantum of tangible gains have accrued to our people as a result of many elections that have been held since 1999? You probably will be amazed at their responses. Political operators and their minions and surrogates as well as their families may be celebrating their ungodly and immorally amassed and underserved wealth, but they should be reminded of the injunction from the Bible “Godliness and Contentment is a great gain” “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out”1Timothy 6:6-7. Our people are experiencing excruciating anguish and unbelievable level of poverty that must be arrested NOW and IMMEDIATELY before something gives. Some of us paid heavy prices to restore the current hybrid democratic/civilian governance currently in experiment. Those who have amassed so much money that they can always relocate to the middle east and western countries should be mindful of the consequences of their actions which have held Nigeria down without possibility of any progress unless we return to Federal Constitutional governance for the greatest good of all Nigerians. Those who have opposing views to the necessity for Federal Constitutional Governance in an heterogeneous society are welcome to let us do realistic comparative analysis of Unitarism and Federal System in an enlightened setting, not wanting to please the current power holders. There are enough credible and educative authorities that have intellectually provided superior rationale necessitating the choice of Federal Constitution in any heterogeneous geographical space or country.

(vi) We can decide to make a nation out of this country called Nigeria if Afenifere adherents resolve to bury the hatchet, unite their ranks and ensure that anyone who will seek for the votes of our people must prove his abiding faith in the just struggle for our liberation from this suffocating forced union whereby some have assumed a higher status of being the Owners of the Nigerian project while the rest of us are treated as spectators and onlookers. The current national structure is unsustainable, and so therefore, pretentious unitarism and centralized governance can only permanently imperil the Nigerian project to which all Nationalities should have ordinarily and willingly subscribe.

May God Almighty grant us the grace to witness more AFENIFERE anniversaries. And may we continue to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Thank you for your attention.
Long Live Afenifere!
Long Live Oodua Sons and Daughters!
Long Live the Yoruba Nation!
Text to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of Egbe Afenifere, issued by Mr. Ayo Opadokun, former general secretary of Afenifere, former General Secretary and spokesman of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), founding convener, Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reform (CODER) and former Assistant Director of Organisation of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) on April 27, 2021.

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