THE buffaloes move as a herd with unalloyed loyalty to the leader. Like the soldier ants, they move in a convoy. But unlike soldier ants, they only take instructions from their leader and if by chance the leader dies, they just stand around waiting for the instruction that will never come. That is how buffaloes are getting extincted. Papa Awolowo on campaign rostrum at Jos in the 60s said: “We are an ideological indomitable straight tree (referring to Action Group members who drew their numerical strength from Yoruba)”.
That curves only as a natural response to a straight condition. The Yoruba are not buffaloes neither could any mortal nor any group of persons direct them sheepishly in political permutation and manipulation of the Nigerian state. Yoruba acknowledge the structure of leadership and pay due allegiance to the constituted authorities. The loyalty and faithfulness of the Yoruba to their political leaders since 1952 must not be in vain and the race must not be turned into political mining ground for never- do- well politicians, who lack virtue and moral trait of leadership.
The Yoruba are intrinsically proud people who cherish their freedom. Long before the British King Charles literally lost his head in a revolt against intolerable oppression; the Yoruba had established a tradition for taming intolerable despots.
Despotic kings were either forced to commit suicide or banished, the same is applicable to the modern day political opportunists. My involvement in the actualisation of June 12, 1993 presidential poll brought me very close to some members of Afenifere between 1993 and 1999. Afenifere leaders talked at a time freedom of speech was prohibited. Papa Ajasin for instance suffered the humiliation of being tongue lashed in his own sitting room by Navy Captain Tony Onyerugbulem, the then military administrator of Ondo State.
The irony of the matter was that the then maximum ruler, General Sani Abacha, died and Onyerughulem embraced democracy and he too died before his governorship ambition materialised. Chief Abraham Adesanya survived assassination attempts and later the same people who killed Kudirat Abiola detained the old man for murder. Uncle Bola Ige was arrested and detained at Makurdi prisons, Lam Adesina that was arrested inside his bedroom was declared a Prisoner of War (POW) by Colonel Usman who was then the governor of Oyo State. Afenifere provided vibrant opposition to Abacha government during the tenure of Papa Ajasin.
Afenifere’s views on national matters were respected not only by the Yoruba but other progressive minded Nigerians across the country. Afenifere fathered Alliance of Democracy and unlike the Committee of Friends of Papa Awolowo that metamorphosed into UPN in1978, Afenifere did not dissolve into A.D. but rather it became a referee, a game commissioner and the judge outside the recognised AD structure.
Today Alliance of Democracy is on death throes caused by a cross breed of the virus of political myopia, putrid hegemony and rascality symptoms that I would describe as Afenifere Inertia Decrepit Syndrome (AIDS). The present Afenifere leaders do not believe in the salient democratic principles which Awolowo was known for, transparency, rule of law and respect for a fair and free electoral process at party level. The present Minister of Housing, Chief (Mrs) Mobolaji Osomo, allegedly won the I999 AD governorship primary election in Ondo State but the Afenifere allegedly turned upside down the result at their Ijebu Igbo meeting.
Afenifere forgot that the pillar which party democracy is built upon is freedom of choice, not regulated and without authoritarian style with some funny intellectual’s standpoint.
Chief Ayo Opadokun was removed as secretary-general of Afenifere. Among other allegations leveled against him was his closeness to the former governor of Kwara State, Alhaji Mohammed Lawal. But Alhaji Ganiyu Dawodu left AD and became PAC governorship candidate in Lagos State and still retained him membership of Afenifere. In fact he was part of the members who endorsed Akinfenwa AD faction leadership. This is double standard.
Afenifere leadership lacks the capacity to convert purpose and vision into action. Neither can they generate and sustain trust; the trust factor was the political glue that keeps any political organisation cohesive and committed as was witnessed during the tenure of Papa Awolowo and Papa Ajasin. Some people have hijacked the leadership from Adesanya and the result is the chaos presently witnessed in A.D. In 2001 Afenifere celebrated its 50th anniversary.
The celebration was a misplacement of event. Afenifere was a name given to Action Group (AG) (a political party) established in 1951 and banned in 1966 along with other parties by the military government .AG was called Afenifere in Yoruba speaking areas as a brand name. Afenifere was completely different from Egbe Omo Oduduwa (Oduduwa Descendants Union) which was a socio cultural and ethnic organisation formed in London and re-launched at Ile-Ife in 1948. Papa Adeyemo Alakija and Papa Awolowo were elected president and secretary-general respectively. In a nutshell Afenifere stood for Action Group.
Very fundamental to the socio-political development of the Yoruba nation is the issue of Yoruba (Asiwaju) leader, which people do not want to talk about. The first level of leadership is position. This is when authority is conferred on a person. At that level the person becomes a leader of the people because he has been elected or selected by the people to lead them. Awolowo and Ajasin enjoyed the position as Yoruba leaders. Let me buttress my point with documented evidence on why the present Afenifere leaders cannot exercise the full power of Asiwaju of Yoruba. Awo said in his book, Adventure in Power (page 314), "After my release, Colonel Adebayo who was military governor of the Western Region convened a meeting ...including the leading Obas (Royal Majesties) in the region were also there. Leaders of all shades of political opinion in the region were also there……
I was elected by the governor to preside over the deliberations at the meeting. At the very outset, the question of electing a leader for the Yoruba people was raised. I ruled it out of order...The vocal among them were former members of N.C.N.C. and N.N.D.P. As the debate proceeded, certain thoughts ran through by mind. When one of the speakers pleaded that I should reconsider my ruling, I gave in. There was a big applause for my compliance and so without any further debate a motion was proposed, it was seconded by acclamation and unanimously passed; electing me the leader (Asiwaju) of the Yoruba People”.
On September 12, 1966, Awo attended the ad-hoc conference for constitutional proposal as head of the Western Region delegation. To be sincere, Awo’s selection by acclamation would be the first after Oduduwa the illustrious progenitor of the Yoruba people. The Arole Odua, Ooni of Ife confirmed the people’s wishes by giving his royal and spiritual blessing to the selection of Papa Awolowo as Yoruba leader. Today, we have Asiwajus who cannot lead their respective local communities not to talk of the Yoruba people.
After the death of Papa Awolowo, Oba Okunade Sijuade, Ooni of Ife led other Obas and political leaders to Papa Ajasin home country at Owo Ondo State. He was informed of the decision of Yoruba Obas and leaders of his selection as the leader (Asiwaju) of Yoruba, he reluctantly accepted the position.
As a leader of the Yoruba, Awolowo was able to persuade the Agbekoya (farmers reject hardship) uprising. Agbekoya was an association of peasant farmers formed to protest high taxation during the civil war. They held the government of Western Region to ransom, which led to the riots of June and July of 1967. Awolowo made a tour of the states appealing to the farmers, before they laid down their arms. Papa Ajasin as Yoruba leader did not disappoint the people during the dark days of Abacha regime.
Ajasin and Awolowo were courageous and principled, neither did they allow Yoruba leadership to be hijacked and Yoruba land turned into a theatre of war in the name of any organization. Papa Awolowo and Papa Ajasin recognised the spiritual and supreme head of Ile-Ife. Papa Awolowo made it a point of duty to visit Ooni at least twice in a month to discuss the general well-being and development of entire Yoruba nation.
That brings us to the question of how Adesanya emerged the Afenifere leader after the death of Papa Ajasin. More than 90 per cent of Yoruba sons and daughters appears not to believe in Adesanya leadership. That is why Afenifere could not settle the feud between the OPC factions.
During Modakeke-Ife killings, Afenifere was no where to be found in terms of bringing the people to a round table for settlement. How many times has Papa Adesanya met with the Ooni to discuss Yoruba matters? The Ooni has a significant role to play in this matter of Yoruba Asiwaju selection. He has the charisma and capacity to organise a conference where an acceptable Yoruba leader will be selected. Ooni has been projecting the socio-cultural values of the Yorubas and uniting them across the world over the years. The Yoruba in Cuba, West Indies, Brazil, Togo, Republic of Benin, Haiti and Southern part of Ghana recognise the Ooni spiritual and supreme headship of the Yoruba. A race of more than 184 million people across the world needs a focused and trusted leader whose concern goes beyond local political arrangement in this 21st Century.
We want to see an International Federation of Yoruba Chambers of Commerce and Industry where the likes of the Adenugas, the Jimoh Ibrahims, the Akindeles, the Fatoyes, the Awosikas, the Otudekos, the Folawiyos, the Akinruntans and many others would work together with their Yoruba brothers in Brazil, West Indies, America etc for the development of Yoruba people and international business. The sunset of Adesanja-led Afenifere does not mean the political righteousness preached according to the sage Awolowo is rejected.
Awolowo achieved so much because he consulted widely with the intelligentsia, the academics and Obas before he took a position on any issue and he was focused. We must not allow some elders to rewrite our history as a people. The Afenifere must realise above all things else in approaching their political ambition at this juncture in our history that they must eschew crises and allow their thinking and reasoning to be guided by objectivity and rationality.
Aduwo is a human rights activist and a social commentator