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Afenifere: There is no killing the beetle

By Alade Rotimi-John
16 November 2022   |   3:55 am
Perhaps, no socio-political plank in Nigeria has impinged on our consciousness or has excited our admiration for the values of dedication to cherished ideals and goals more than Afenifere – the pan-Yoruba socio-political platform.

Chief Ayo Adebanjo of Afenifere

Perhaps, no socio-political plank in Nigeria has impinged on our consciousness or has excited our admiration for the values of dedication to cherished ideals and goals more than Afenifere – the pan-Yoruba socio-political platform. In a society where shifting compromises and mutually-conflicting philosophies are lumped together just to score some cheap debating or political point, Afenifere has stood out as a genuine re-creation of a sincere search for solution to the myriad of problems besetting Nigeria. Founded in 1951 as an open window for brandishing the proud bearing and venting the considered expression of the people of its constituency, its enduring nature contrasts starkly with a general foreground of aborted, still-born or short-lived organisations.

For 70 years on, Afenifere has adhered firmly to her foundational strategy in precise observation, discipline and clarity of vision. She has thereby positioned herself as the ruling socio-political ethic in Yorubaland – its primary constituency. Other groups espousing similar or identical values like her are dimly outlined against the towering stature of Afenifere. Stripped bare even of all the trappings of political brinkmanship, she stands out like a statue in an attitude that is brimming with hope and, as the occasion calls for it, foretelling of harm, danger or difficulty as things are not done right. One is left wondering if Afenifere’s founding fathers are of the same stock with us given today’s general repudiation of the values of forthrightness, sincerity, doggedness, valour and integrity.

Afenifere is the Yoruba rendition in crisp and memorable catch-call phrase of the social welfare policy programmes of the defunct Action Group. “Afenifere” loosely translated as those who seek goodness and welfare for all is the other name for people who are in the vanguard of progressive development in all its social welfare dimensions. In the early days, Afenifere was the propelling movement of the people behind the Action Group. The philosophy of the Action Group has been the fundamental objective and the directive principles of Afenifere policy. Afenifere draws deeply from the sublime character traits of its founders – accountability, work and efforts, merit, faith, human sympathy, etc. A product of the required apt responses by the people of the Western Region to the contentious provisions of the Richards Constitution, Afenifere was an effective, efficient vehicle. Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s effort in this regard is notable. He had envisioned a virile political platform as an all-purpose vehicle for confronting the challenges of agriculture, health, education, the economy, employment, social insecurity, etc. He encapsulated the envisaged achievement of all these goals in what he insightfully referred to as progressive democracy and responsible leadership. Awo characteristically did a critical analysis of the issues and resolved that the conditions for peace are a sine qua non for progress. He intoned: “No progress of any kind can be made in an atmosphere of strife, disorder or violence. And as nature does not favour standing-still, it follows that in a period of turmoil, society must retrogress.”

The Afenifere ideology has become household in South-West Nigeria such that every political party, no matter its colouration, has laid claim to and promised the pursuit and performance of the Afenifere programmes if voted into power. This has expectedly occasioned, for most times, the unfortunate emergence of all manner of political merchandising masquerading as belonging to the Awo creed or school of thought. They have, in many cases, taken over the stage – manifesting revisionism, charlatanism, turncoat-ism, nihilism, etc. The people are however not deceived for long. They soon identify the con-men for who they are. Having lived through a glorious period in history, the people are apt to recognise signs, symptoms and symbols that are inconsistent with what they know or had experienced.

Afenifere, as an unyielding advocate of a truly federal constitution for Nigeria, has been a very active and constructive participant in all the patriotic efforts, gestures, conferences, etc. which have taken place since 1953 and which efforts along with those of others with identical clarity of mind and single-minded purpose, have culminated not only in the attainment of independence but in the production of the 1960/63 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. That self-same constitution has been self-gratifyingly violated and replaced with a fraudulent copy thereof by the military. Afenifere has valiantly been in the patriotic vanguard for a return to the provisions of a truly federal constitution. Her calls for restructuring must be noted as co-terminously linked to the body’s ceaseless battles for the emergence of a constitution in the mould of the 1960/63 constitution with all the incidents of classical federalism.

It is the case that the mystique of Afenifere is also her Achilles heels. Loved by many as the vanguard of the people’s cherished hopes and aspiration, Afenifere’s mores are popularly jealously guarded and sustained. Notable vicious assaults have however been directed at her by her detractors to destroy her foundational ethos. To the eternal glory of her truthful or sincere thrust, all the attempts against her soul have been futile.

To be continued tomorrow

Rotimi-John, a lawyer and commentator on public affairs wrote vide lawgravitas@gmail.com