Afenifere’s nods of presidential approvals

Posted by News Express | 12 November 2022 | 705 times

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The answer to who has the support of Afenifere, the decades old socio/political group of the Yoruba, between Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Labour Party’s Peter Obi in the forthcoming Presidential race depends on who you are listening to. The camps of Obi and Tinubu have tried to make political capital from what seems like different endorsements from different heads of the august body. The elder in Akure openly prayed for Tinubu and offered to receive him again for more prayers if he came back with the much coveted crown. This is what most elders – and incidentally what most Obas – do when a ‘child’ intimates them of a higher desire. I want to believe, unless told otherwise, that APC’s Tinubu visited Akure as a sign of respect for his elders and the elders reciprocated by praying for their son. I did not hear any open endorsement in what was broadcast. I did not hear any open disclaimer either. This is quite different from the elder in Ijebu who openly endorsed Obi as his candidate. In fact, he reiterated that endorsement again weeks later for emphasis. His reason was that he has found Obi to be above the other front runners in terms of competence and ability. Besides, justice and equity according to him, dictated that it was the turn of Igbos to rule Nigeria and ‘Afenifere’ had always been about justice and fairness. This promotion of ‘turn by turn’ or another ‘Emi lo kan’ is a topic for another day. Again, the elder in Ijebu has a right to endorse anybody he wants. And if his Exco agrees with him, then as the de facto leader, it becomes the choice of the body.

In this wise, one would say both elders operated within their rights. But the devil as they always say, is in the details. Or in this case, in the undercurrents. The calibre of the Yoruba elders who gathered in Akure to meet with Tinubu meant the occasion went beyond simple prayers. These very old people were not just in town or passing by. They made an effort to be in Akure. There were faces in that august assemblage that cannot easily be induced with material offers. Their presence therefore suggested an implied if not stated endorsement. Their presence also suggested a disavowal of the stance of the current leadership of the body. Should their disavowal matter? After all, they are out of it and should have learnt to let go. I hope I will not be seen as insubordinate when I quote a saying of our elders to the effect that one does not give a ram to a masquerade and still hold on to the rope. The elder in Akure has given the rope to the elder in Ijebu. The caveat of course is that elders love to be consulted. I am not sure enough consultation was done by the elder in Ijebu to carry the elder in Akure along. I am not also sure enough consultations were done by him to carry the rank and file along. Consultation, and an allegiance to higher ideals with Yoruba interest at the core, had always been the bedrock of Afenifere since it was founded. The sacrifices and passion of past leadership in the pursuit of these ideals are what earned the organisation its stripes. June 12 was an example of that sacrifice; that passion. And the reward in term of followership was massive among the Yoruba people. And for a while after June 12, when Afenifere spoke, the Yoruba Nation spoke. It represented the mainstream, the heart of the people and dissident voices were quickly silenced. Now, Afenifere speaks largely for itself and a group of die-hard adherents. How Afenifere frittered such a massive goodwill in just three decades should be of interest to scholars. The role the immediate past and current leadership played in the squandering of goodwill; the role the South-west governors including Tinubu himself played in factionalising and diminishing the organisation should be made into a book. 

  Neither the imperious endorsement of Obi in Ijebu which some people believe is borne out of a personal vendetta, nor the tacit endorsement of Tinubu in Akure truly reflects the true yearnings of the Yoruba Nation at this point of its nationhood. An average Yoruba person feels disconnected from government. They want a system that allows their God given talents to blossom. They are tired of having sacred cows on their farms and bandits in their forests. They want to have some control over their security. They want some control over their resources. They want some control over their livelihood. They find the current system stifling and want the choking knee taken off their necks. There is a reason Yoruba in the diaspora do well and the ones at home underachieve. It has very little to do with Atiku or Tinubu or Obi except if one of them can be bold enough to address the inequitable system we currently operate as a nation and use true federalism as a main campaign issue. None has so far. No pressure group has forced any commitment off any. The best of them has only skirted the issue. In fact, the Vice-Presidential candidate of one allegedly said ‘restructuring my foot’. Everybody is afraid to address the corn on this northern foot.

Afenifere needs to go back to the drawing board and work with other socio/political groups that feel their people are marginalised in the Nigerian space to make a change in the current system of governance. It needs to reconnect with the people. It needs to substitute personal choices with the people’s choices. To do that, it needs to feel the pulse of the people it claims to lead. Only then will it speak and the Yoruba people will hearken. Only then will it find its voice and its followership again. 

•Muyiwa Adetiba is a veteran journalist and publisher. He can be reached via

Source: News Express

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