Afenifere: A Derailment Foretold

Keen observers of the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, in recent times, may not totally be taken aback by the revelation of its leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, that the group had derailed in its goal and direction. What should rather agitate our minds is why the once influential and vocal socio-cultural group so deviated from its founding credos that it has become a public butt for caricature. This is exactly the crux of this article.

Formed in 1951 as Action Group (AG) and later coined Afenifere by the late political icon, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, with its major objective to unite the Yoruba and mobilise them into one political umbrella while at the same time protecting their interest in the "geographical extraction" called Nigeria, the group did sustain these ethos for a very long time until the money-bag and disgruntled politicians began to hijack it to satisfy their insatiable political greed. One recalls with nostalgia the role the group played, alongside other progressive forces, during the country's military dark era.

The group stood as a signpost in the struggle to reclaim Nigeria from the wicked claws of the military despots, especially the authoritarian regime of the late Sani Abacha. In those years of military junta, Afenifere was the darling and envy of other socio-cultural groups in Nigerians, as it constantly set agenda for return to civil rule in the country. But alas, it soon began to rubbish this admiration by trading the group's goals and dreams in exchange for financial benefits and political patronage.

The derailment alluded to by Pa Reuben Fasoranti while turning in his resignation letter (which he now purportedly withdrawn) remains an open secret before the public. Only that Afenifere's leadership had played the Ostrich with same. The once united piece mouth for the promotion of the interest and beliefs of Yoruba nation in particular and downtrodden Nigerians at large, had long while ago metamorphosed into a political platform for the highest bidders. The group no longer serves as an entity for the promotion of probity and accountability in government, neither does it care about social welfare of its members as enunciated by its founding father, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Rather, it has sold its soul to the oppressors of the poor in the society .

The indication that Afenifere's had derailed in her goals became manifestly glaring in the build up to the 2015 general elections when it regrettably allowed itself to be enmeshed in the politics of 'endorsements'. It is a public knowledge that the group, against the general wish of it members and public cries, adopted the ex President Goodluck Jonathan as its sole presidential candidate in the Presidential election.

To the genuinely concerned Nigerians, that thoughtless decision was the beginning of end to the group's unity and whatever it represents. This is so, because under the Goodluck Jonathan regime, the Southwest was notoriously sidelined and marginalised in terms of political appointments; a fact the ex President and the group leadership publicly acknowledged .

Yet, Afenifere''s Chieftains went ahead to endorse the ex-president in a clear violation of the group''s own philosophies and credos. The argument by the group leadership that the re-election of the former president would ensure the implementation of the 2014 Confab report, which according it would best serve the interest of the Yoruba nation, could not fly, especially given the fact that the group's major agenda before the so-called Confab were roundly defeated. One had wondered how the implementation of the Confab reports would serve interest of the group and Yoruba nation in the circumstances.

One person who may have contributed largely to the group present quagmire is the Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko. It was Mimiko who surreptitiously, before March 2015 presidential election, railroaded some Yoruba leaders-including leaders of Afenifere-to Ibadan, capital of Oyo State, for what he dubbed "submit of Yorubas".

The so-called submit was believed to have been financially bankrolled by the Presidency with a clear mandate to secure an endorsement ex-president Goodluck Jonathan reelection bid. And the governor did eventually succeed in securing the tainted and controversial endorsement for him, but not without the group's unity and public image taking suffering further depletion.

The socio-cultural group has indeed struggled to come out of that self inflicted crises since after the elections. Chief Reuben Fasoranti's initial resignation is apparently a direct consequence of that unpopular action, and ironically, but expectedly, some of the leaders of the group are already playing Ostrich to the issues cited by the Octogenarian in his resignation letter instead of addressing same.

It is sincerely hoped that other socio-cultural groups such as Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo will learn from this. And this is to say that the Protection of members interest and advancement of national cohesion should be paramount in their goals at all material times. They should stop sacrificing these objectives on the altar of financial gains. It is gratifying that leaders of Afenifere have promised to henceforth adhere strictly to its founding goals and idea, however, it needs be stated that any move at reviving the group without first identifying and frontally addressing those pitfalls that brought it to its present regrettable situation will end up bringing temporary succour but will cast the future of the group in pepertual bleak and uncertainty.

Okoro Gabriel, Esq. Lagos

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Articles by Okoro Gabriel Bryne