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Afenifere Elders Caucus: 21 Wise Men To Stabilise Leadership And Give Voice And Credibility To A Troubled House

…To Take The Gauntlet From Docile Legislators

Since Afenifere’s formation in 1952, it has always remained relevant in the scheme of things in Nigeria.

Such was its relevance that its motto, “Life more abundant for the people,” found its way into the political ideology of mainstream Yoruba and indeed formed the plank for the introduction of Free Education by the Action Group, AG- a party formed in 1952 as a counterpoise to Ibom Union of the late Nnamdi Azikwe, who took advantage of the demise of Herbert Macaulay to use his tribesmen to dominate the National Council of Nigerian Citizens, NCNC.

The AG, with “Life more Abundant“ as its theme adopted from Afenifere’s credo, ultimately shaped and changed the political ideology of Yoruba South West and to a large extent affected Yoruba political thought and attitude to Nigeria.

Even when the military came in 1966 with its dilution of political process, Afenifere still evolved in the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, in 1979 with its four cardinal programmes of Free Education, Free Health Services, Integrated Rural Development and Full Employment.

Whatever programmes and manifestos today’s political parties evolve, it all encompasses life more abundant either through Free Education or Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, which all the parties and politicians gave various names to cajole, deceive and corner resources for tokenism to the poor and less privileged.

However, to say things have not been well with the Afenifere house since return of politics in 1999 is an understatement.

Since then, it has seen a gradual erosion of influence and power especially in Yoruba South West where in 1998 prior to the 1999 elections, its word was law.

It was such that it led to the formation of the defunct Alliance for Democracy, AD, which eventually housewared Progressives politics of the South West and took power by winning Elections into five states of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo,.Ekiti and Ondo.

But since Afenifere drank the poison chalice via a pact with then President Olusegun Obasanjo prior to thev2003 election, in what Honourable Wale Oshun, a top member of NADECO and Afenifere describes as romance with Infidels, it has been a gradual descent from power and influence by the mainsrream Yoruba group.

It was indeed, a kiss of death which Afenifere is still grappling with.

Afenifere since 2003 has witnessed a gradual and consistent erosion of its influence in all the states and its baby the AD, and lost its credible voice and power in South West nay Nigeria’s politics.

Hence, last Wednesday’s decision in Akure to name and set up a 21-member Elders Caucus is a bold attempt to reposition Afenifere, rescue it from divided leadership and followership since Chief Ayo Adebanjo broke ranks with his leader Chief Reuben Fasoranti. The setting up of thevElders Caucus made up of the old Progressives elite from different Progressives tendencies of Yoruba is an attempt to give unity, voice and relevance to a group torn among and between itself, especially at a time other major ethnic groups like the Hausa/Fulani North and South East Ohaneze of Ndigbo are dominating the political landscape with coherent thoughts and actions on Nigeria’s present and future.

To constitute an Elders Forum with leaders like Alani Akinrinade, Olu Falae, Bolaji Akinyemi, Banji Akintoye, Prince Olusi, Olu Bajowa, Bishop Ayo Ladigbolu, Dr SAJ Ibikunle, Professor Rope Sekoni and Cornelius Adebayo, is a bold move to return National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, soldiers into the Yoruba mainstream political fold.

It is also a clever move to whittle down the divisive political drift and Influence of Chief Ayo Adebanjo, whose leadership is seen as a diminishing influence on the group and a ‘betrayal’ of mainstream Yoruba political goal in Nigeria’s politics.

The removal of the Acting position and Deputy Leader in Afenifere is a deft political move by the remaining Progressives forces in Afenifere who query Adebanjo’s role prior to the last general election when he led agitation and opposition against Yoruba interest and support for President Bola Tinubu. It is seen as a move to have a united house at a time other ethnic groups like Arewa elders and Ohaneze are subtly organizing criticism and opposition to Tinubu -a Yoruba man.

Afenifere constituting the 21 Elders is a move to wrestle it back from undue influence of Yoruba Conservative political thought which Adebanjo represents with his strange romance with Obasanjo -a man who loathes Yoruba political thoughts and actions.

Thus in a way, the Fasoranti leadership sought to wrestle and take Afenifere away from ‘infidels’ which Adebanjo and others represent of late.

The inclusion of Dr Femi Okunrounmu, Dr Kunle Olajide, Seinde Arogbofa, Kofoworola Akerele and others who are political bedfellows with Adebanjo is seen as a move to divide the latter’s rank and incorporate the tendency seen as against Tiinubu’s Presidency into a new Afenifere fold.

The raising of its voice for the creation of state police, devolution of power through Restructuring and introduction of Yoruba language in institutions and homes in South West is a deft move aimed at restoring Yoruba identity lost over the years by the intrusion of infidels in the Yoruba leadership position.

The contention of a group is that why should Afenifere loses its hitherto strong voice at a time her son is the President of the Republic when other major ethnic groups like Arewa, Ohaneze and South South are openly fighting for their regions’ political interest.

The Arewa and Hausa Fulani response to the movement of some departments to Lagos by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and Federal Airport Authority, FAAN, and the mute passivity of Yoruba National Assembly representatives is seen as a betrayal of their people.

More confounding is the apparent loss of voice by representatives of the Yoruba in both National Assembly, Senate and House of Representatives, by elected members from the South West since the Muhammadu Buharis days.

“They are obviously not in NASS to represent Yoruba interest but to make money and build privilege for themselves and their families. It has never been this bad for South West/Yoruba representation in legislative matters in the history of Nigeria,” remarked an analyst on Yoruba in national affairs.

What is more? The inactivity of legislators of Yoruba descent from all the parties in South West in NASS is seen as a complete rrsion and disservice to Yoruba collective interest in Nigeria at a time the country is passing through challenges of insecurity and economic downturn.

While retaining Adebanjo-who is yet to respond to the Restructuring of the Afenifere leadership, the leaders move led by Falae, who came back from ‘retirement’ , is seen as a calculated move to reduce his (Adebanjo) pervasive influence in the group among equally strong Elders who can hold their own, considering their pedigree.

This is to prevent a situation whereby the Afenifere is left open to a dangerous drift which the Adebanjo acting leadership has led it.

Thus, the 21 Elders are expected to fight for Yoruba interest, galvanize a strong house to defend gradual Restructuring moves being effected by Tinubu through his policy thrusts and actions.

If the 21 wise men are able to harness their influence, then the Afenifere would have rescued Yoruba from poor representation in the NASS and inevitably redirect the region’s politics to strong and progressive political actions which the present representatives in NASS from all the parties from the region has negated.

By their apparent inaction and inability to fight for and defend Yoruba interest in the unfolding Nigerian nation bogged down by serious security and economic challenges with its effect on the nation’s stability they have failed those who elected them into power.

The actions of the Elders Caucus in the days ahead will definitely shape the nation’s evolving political discourse.

The nation waits.

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