By Wale Adedayo
I’ve often tried to review the past whether one made a mistake supporting the old guards of the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, at a time there was loads of money to be made in demonising them. Who was at fault? Alhaji Ganiyu Olawale Dawodu, who insisted on the supremacy of the party or Senator Abraham Adesanya, who did not want to offend the ‘younger generation’ with their loads of cash and extensive media influence?
Dawodu, a veteran of many progressive political battles, who stood like the rock of Gibraltar when others have either been hounded into exile, prison or hiding, was wickedly portrayed as a thieving old man, who had done nothing positive for Lagos State or the Yoruba Nation for that matter. The old man was forced to leave a platform he helped to bring into existence by men of straw pretending to be the real issues. Instead of a well-deserved graceful exit, Dawodu was heart-broken, feeling betrayed by the people he served with a better part of his life.
But reading a piece, a few days ago, by Mr. Segun Oyebolu, Chief Press Secretary to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, while he was Governor of Lagos State, there was a satisfaction of being right when so many colleagues and political commentators supported the destruction of Afenifere and the Alliance for Democracy (AD) beginning from the year 2000. Why should a Governor turn the political party that elected him/her into a parastatal under his Government?
By the theoretical arrangement fashioned through the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, an elected official, especially those in executive positions are expected to work on the programmes of their respective political parties while in office. They could not have been so elected without belonging to a political party in the first place. But beginning from 1999, almost all the political parties have suffered terrible damages in the hands of members in executive positions with AD and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) being the hardest hit.
Governors elected on the platform of AD and ANPP sought to muscle the executive committees of their political parties. They wanted control. The haemorrhaging of AD and ANPP was thus assured, but with a secure exit for the Governors who designed how both political parties literally died. That of AD was spectacularly sad because the party was modeled on the defunct Action Group (AG), which had coalitions from other ethnic groups in Nigeria.
Afenifere was the dominant partner in AD, because the South-West voted overwhelmingly for the party in 1999. But unknown to today’s later-day historians, the South-East, South-South, North-East, North-West and North-Central components of AD contributed their quotas through stunning victories. AD had a Senator in Enugu State in 1999. Bayelsa State also gave AD a Senator in 1999. Up till 2003, AD was a force to be reckoned with in parts of Imo State, as I remember that Obowu Local Government was firmly in the party’s control. In Kaduna State, not only were House of Assembly seats won by AD members, some local governments had massive AD presence. It was the same in the North-East and North-Central.
But when the scheming for control of AD began, it was natural to destroy Afenifere from within. And the take-off point was the media. I remember a meeting called at the instance of the Leaders shortly after AD’s disastrous outing in the 2003 elections at the Aguda, Surulere home of Chief Ayo Adebanjo. It was a who’s who of Yoruba top journalists. The old men wanted to know from their assembled ‘sons’ how and why ‘their’ party failed so miserably.
Of course, the old men failed to realize that the same men who did them in were the ones at the meeting, at least a substantial number of the guilty ones. I was angry, and told the gathering so in no uncertain terms. It was only recently that some of those old senior colleagues began regretting roles they played in destroying the once formidable Afenifere. Their slogan at the time was that Afenifere should not be partisan, it should be separated from AD. They usually claimed all Yorubas should be part of Afenifere, forgetting that a Yoruba Leaders Forum already existed for that purpose.
None of them, at the time would listen to the fact that Afenifere was just one of many sub-groups within the AD. And that all Yorubas cannot have the same political leaning, since Afenifere was political with definite orientation about what should happen in a polity like ours. The old men were accused of being tribalistic without any sense of Nigerian nationalism. Unfortunately, those who aligned with the old men to form AD had a credible progressive pedigree right from the First through the Second Republics.
In the ensuing civil-war, most, if not all the other groups from the other ethnic nationalities left the AD. Today, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) wears the toga of the old AD being the dominant party, again, in the South-West. Yes, there are a few victories outside of Yorubaland, not many people question the background and progressive credentials of those coming on board. A political party ought to be a meeting point for persons with similar beliefs in how a polity should be run. Today, loads of angry for members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), especially those with loads of background working for the military are on board the ACN vehicles.
We have a very large number of AD die-hards in ACN courtesy of the politics and strategy of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. But beyond rhetorics, it is very clear that the soul of an off-shoot political party as envisioned by the founding fathers of AD is not in ACN. That is why I feel ACN National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, should not have hurled abuses at the Afenifere leaders who went to Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko’s declaration for a second term campaign in Akure.
I certainly have my reservations about some of the old men, especially Sir Olaniwun Ajayi and Chief Ayo Adebanjo. But as pointed out in one of my columns in The PUNCH newspaper a few years ago, it was bitterness engineered by unforgiveness that destroyed Ahithophel. The old men need to review the past and forgive one another as they get closer to their graves, so that maybe they can still leave a worthwhile legacy for the younger generation.
But one is happy that lessons are being learnt by those who assisted in the orchestrated crisis that engulfed Afenifere and eventually destroyed the AD. May the soul of a great Leader, G.O.D, continue to rest in peace!
*This piece was first published a few years back