Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba spokesman, on Tuesday announced plans to launch a political party ahead of the 2023 elections. Daily Trust on Sunday reports that the quest is generating more hits than kudos for socio-cultural and political organisation.
O70 years ago, Afenifere was established as a socio-cultural organization for the Yoruba people of Nigeria, with Chief Abraham Adesanya as Chief and also late Chief Bola Ige as Deputy Chief.
Other founding members were Pa Onasanya, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Adegbonmire, Okurounmu Femi, Ganiyu Dawodu, Olanihun Ajayi, Olu Falae, Adebayo Adefarati, Alhaji Adeyemo and Ayo Adebanjo.
The ethnic organization was never a registered political party, but was said to be the propelling movement of the people behind the action group that was registered.
Furthermore, when the Alliance for Democracy (AD) was formed in 1998, it took Afenifere’s agenda as its official manifesto. Notably, Afenifere has been known to show partisanship in elections by adopting a political party‘s candidate since 1999.
In the 2015 elections, Afenifere’s management endorsed former President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid in a presidential election, which he lost to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The decision was made in Akure, Ondo state, after a 90-minute meeting attended by Jonathan at the residence of the group’s former leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti.
In the 2019 polls, Afenifere supported People’s Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar.
They supported Atiku, alongside five socio-cultural groups, including the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and the Middle Belt Forum (MBF).
The Yoruba ethnic spokesman remains one of the regional groups that have held President Buhari’s feet under fire for the past seven years.
At the top of her demands are restructuring, which she says is achievable before the 2023 elections; equitable distribution of appointments, security and the fight against corruption.
However, last month, the organization during its annual general meeting held at the country house of acting chief, Chief Ayo Adebanjo in Sanya Ogbo, Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, hinted at the establishment of a political party before the 2023 elections.
Adebanjo revealed this when he spoke to reporters after the meeting, which saw Afenifere leaders and members from all the states of the Yoruba country, as well as the Delta, Kwara and Kogi.
Adebanjo said that in 2023 the body will not support any candidate as it is ready to form its own political party.
He said the organization was not convinced to participate in the next elections unless the constitution was revised and the country restructured.
“We will still decide whether we will participate or not. But we are a political party. We are not supporting anyone,” he said.
But findings from the Daily Trust on Sunday revealed that some people present at the meeting were opposed to the idea of launching a political party.
Opponents of the plan, they gathered, argued that for Afenifere to remain the “true voice” of the Yoruba, the formation of a political party should not be encouraged.
“No consensus was reached during the meeting. Baba (Adebanjo) respected the opinions of all individuals,” our source said.
The meeting brought together leaders of the group, including a former governor of Kwara State, Chief Cornelius Adebayo; former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Senator Kofo Bucknor-Akerele; Senator Femi Okunrounmu; Chief Supo Sonibare; the Secretary General, Chief Sola Ebiseni; Senator Femi Lanlehin and Jumoke Ajasin-Anifowose, among others.
But the development generated more blows than kudos for Afenifere’s leadership.
A political scientist, Dr Gbade Ojo, described the development as bad news for Afenifere and the Yoruba, saying the establishment of a political party could mean the end of the organisation.
Speaking to Daily Trust on Sunday, Ojo said: “The socio-cultural organization is respected as the voice of the voiceless in Yoruba land, so for them to step into the murky waters of politics this time may signal their Firstly because they don’t have the means to finance a political party, and I would be surprised if the Independent Electoral Commission registers such a party.
“The provision of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) states that an association must be national in scope. Afenifere is reserved for the Yoruba. It cannot be the voice of the Igbo, nor the voice of the Hausa/Fulani.
“So for me as a political scientist, it will be difficult for the organization to fulfill the constitutional requirements to be registered as a political party.”
But the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said Afenifere leaders had the right to form a political party but said Nigerians would demand a party with a spirit broad, inclusive and without ethnic coloring.
“I think they are looking for more progressive, ideologically driven political parties that can come up with programs that would help them get out of poverty, provide economic diversification, inclusiveness; Transparency and accountability built into governance.
“I think these are the things that Nigerians are looking for in political parties, not people who use religion, ethnicity or geographical sentiment to float political parties, just to, as usual, exploit innocent people “, did he declare.
Public affairs analyst and PDP leader Segun Showunmi has warned that it is dangerous to float a political party with a tribal agenda at a time when Nigeria is “struggling to be united”.
He said: “The concept that every tribe has a political party with a tribal brand is long dead. No one who loves this country will ever support such an idea; and it has nothing to do with not allowing them space to open up, make comments and present their views.
“In any case, every part of Nigeria has representatives in the National Assembly. This is more than enough location for them to make sure their views are pushed and protected.
“We also have a responsibility to sponsor and escalate candidates into the existing structure so no one leads us to the ugly part.
“The country must strive to move forward and become a united entity that works for everyone, without clinging to the crisis that has led it into trouble in the past. Nigeria can rise above that.
But the chairman of the Yoruba World Assembly, Chief Taiye Ayorinde, who is also the Baale of Ekotedo, called Afenifere’s plan a welcome development.
He noted that such a party would ensure that the views and aspirations of Yoruba and southerners are heard.
” It’s not a bad idea. The intention is to convince the Yoruba and ensure that their views and aspirations are heard within the community of states.
“Afenifere is like Ohanaeze in the Southeast, which has the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). Everyone who uses the party there has won. This means that if we form such a party, it would belong to southern Nigeria. And if a candidate is elected, the opinions and aspirations of the South will be heard in the community of states,” said Ayorinde.
Yinka Folarin, a former national secretary of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR), also noted that the development would be healthy for Nigerian democracy.
Folarin added that if the Afenifere were to form a party, “the ability to convince and advance their manifestos will determine how far they can go. I feel it’s good; it is healthy for our democracy.