Footprints of a colossus movement (2)

  1. At a meeting held in Chief Bola Ige’s, Ibadan residence sometimes in 1992 we examined the prospect of adopting a name for our organization. A committee was constituted to verify whether or not Afenifere was among the organisations dissolved. The report of the committee was received at a meeting held in the Lagos, Ilupeju residence of Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande (now late). The report findings indicated that Afenifere was not listed in the Military Decree of May 1966. Members were happy to rename the group with its original appellation, AFENIFERE. The Gazette is already attached to this piece for ease of reference as Annexure 2.

After the death of the most brutal dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha and the emergence of General Abdulsalami Abubakar, GCFR, we eventually reverted to our familiar MOVEMENT name. How did it happen?

18 (i) There was a Southern Leadership Forum which was holding in Chief Olu Falae’s house many times in 1998. Hitherto, in the absence of Senator Abraham Adesanya who was abroad, Chief Ige who presided at an Afenifere meeting in Ijebu-Igbo read out dates for meetings he had fixed with other political organizations. And about four of us from Afenifere met with the Umaru Shinkafi Group for about one hour at Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja in a business manner like but which revealed that he had met severally with the group and perhaps reached some agreement to which we were not privileged to know until later from outside sources.

(ii) Meanwhile, the movement had asked me sometimes in September 1998 to attend a meeting with groups which later established the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and was hosted by Prof. Jerry Gana. The Movement nominated Chief Bola Ige and Ayo Adebanjo to also attend the second meeting. When Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu and Dr. Sola Saraki were sighted by the duo, who were my own seniors, the duo asked us to withdraw our participation because we should not be found associating with such people. After a lot of exchange of views, with many colleagues, we rejoined the meeting. Chief Bola Ige was appointed to chair the Constitutional Drafting Committee and I was appointed as the Secretary. The meetings were to be held at Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos.

(iii) On the date that we returned to Chief Falae’s house for a continuation of the Southern Leadership Forum meeting, Chief Falae was abroad. The meeting was dispirited when Chief Bola Ige informed members that we should not attend the Constitution Drafting Committee meeting because, he had it on good authority that the group had made up its mind as to who will be its presidential candidate. I opposed this position by restating that we were in a vantage position to marshal out superior arguments that could enable us win the coveted ticket. But I was alone because Senator Adesanya himself was absent.

(iv) Later on, the meeting decided that we should go to Abuja to hold a crucial meeting with the Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi group, a day before the National Convention to agree as to whether or not we could jointly form a political party together. Chief Olu Lulu-Briggs (now late) was elected to be our Team Leader. And the meeting was fixed for 7. 0clock pm at NICON HILTON HOTEL, ABUJA.

19 (i)  However, for reasons that should not be discussed here, it happened that Chief Ige had gone ahead to hold a meeting with the Shinkafi group around 7pm, and at about 10pm he came out to invite Chief Adebanjo. When the rest of us waited till 1am, without being invited to attend the scheduled meeting, we all moved to Chief Lulu Briggs suite and we concluded there and then not to have anything to do with whatever may be the resolution from the ongoing meeting with the Shinkafi group from which we were alienated. Even though we never planned to form a Political Party when we left Lagos, the event recorded here led us to decide to form our own political party. Chief Bola Ige on return to his suite was dispirited when we met him and he returned to Lagos the following morning and played no part in the registration of AD/Afenifere.

(ii) Unfortunately, one of those with us in Chief Briggs suite was a plant of the Adedibu collective. We were shocked to find out in the morning when we got to INEC office to find that the name Action Congress/Action Alliance which were our first choices had been applied for just about an hour earlier by Alhaji Adedibu’s lieutenant.

(iii) Therefore, we had to utilize our industry and reach to adopt the name AD. The process to get a befitting Constitutional Draft, Manifesto, Logo, Emblem, Slogan were arrived at. We amended a draft constitution which I took along just for exigencies and apportioned responsibilities. Mr. (now Dr. Jimmy Imo) handled manifesto, Senator Mrs. Kofo Akerele Bucknor handled logo and emblem. The duo are alive to confirm the authenticity of this information. And just before the 5pm deadline we were able to submit our application along with the necessary requirement at the INEC National Headquarters Office.

  1. It is critical to state for all to hear this, that it was the names contained in the Register of Afenifere in all Yoruba states, including Kwara and Kogi that were used to register the Alliance for Democracy. Afenifere therefore, was the platform upon which the AD was constructed and upon which the six candidates in Yoruba States contested and won. AD was the National Name, but songs/lyrics were waxed on Afenifere whose leadership had been the frontliners of the NADECO struggle. So when for reasons best known but certainly not for the group interest some elected and Afenifere Leaders started to insist on separation of AD from Afenifere, they knew they were playing dirty politics. The younger folks from New Generation and Idile Groups who in 1999 commended our steadfastness and resilience and courage to provide leadership for the Yoruba Nation against the onslaught of violent repression and humiliation by Gen. Sanni Abacha also appealed to us that they were ready to assist Afenifere to consolidate its credible leadership. And after about 3 to 4 months they were permitted to send 5 representatives each to attend Afenifere meetings. This was their maiden encounter and involvement in Afenifere. AD/Afenifere had already installed six governors before they came to join Afenifere.

It is always suicidal to demystify the platform on which you were elected into political office because the myth would have been deflated and could not be available again for your use. The then President Obasanjo who wanted to win power in the South West at all cost in order to be allowed to run for the second term on the PDP platform used a senior member of Afenifere to weaken the organisation by influencing some governors to treat Afenifere’s advice with levity. Furthermore, the same external influence forced an impostor, named Alhaji Abdulkadir, unknown to most of those who formed the AD, as the chairman of the party. The rest is history as they say.

21 (i) However, the performances of most of the six governors of AD/Afenifere were relatively commendable and pace setting as that of their forebares in the Action Group and the UPN of the 1st and 2nd Republics.

(ii) For example, each of them continued with the Free Education Programme with some modifications and that enabled many poor people’s children to enroll into public schools. Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the governor of Lagos State succeeded in expanding the revenue base of Lagos State beyond expectation. The consequence of that was that he was able to deliver some appreciable infrastructures and services that were relatively novel at that time. Chief Bisi Akande, the Osun State governor with his very low receipt from the Federation Account delivered impactful services including the construction of an enviable State Secretariat that remain his everlasting legacy and many rural roads without borrowing a dime throughout his tenure. There was no area of Ogun State that did not experience the development programme of Aremo Segun Osoba as the Governor (helmsman) of Ogun State. Chief Lam Adesina and Otunba Niyi Adebayo were spectacularly commendable as Governors of Oyo and Ekiti State respectively particularly because they struggled to continue with the free education programme that the Action Group/Afenifere’s Government led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo introduced in 1955.

  1. Campaign for return to Federal Constitution Governance

(i) Let us remember that Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s led Action Group was the main Proponent for Federal Constitution in the First Republic and he succeeded in winning over his colleagues, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe erstwhile proponent of Unitary Government and Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the otherwise proponent of confederal constitution to his side. Nigeria therefore secured its independence on a Federal Constitutional Governance in 1960;

(ii) In the Second Republic, the UPN Governors and parliamentarians fought titanic battles for restoration of federal constitutional governance. For example, in 1981, the then Governor of Bendel State, Professor Ambrose Alli of the UPN filed a writ against the NPN led Federal Government claiming that the then recently passed budget was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled/gave judgment in favour of the Bendel State Government. The deportation of Alhaji Shugaba Darman, Speaker of the GNPP led Bornu State House of Assembly by the NPN Federal Government was successfully fought until Shugaba, was legally allowed to return home and resumed his office. The UPN retained the services of the late distinguished and revered Chief G. O. K. Ajayi, SAN as Alhaji Shugaba’s Attorney. Chief Segun Osoba led Sketch newspapers provided the best intensive and informative coverage of that constitutional crisis and my late friend Prince Sam Akanmode was the Correspondent. Sam compiled his reportage into a book for posterity.

(iii) In this Forth Republic, Chief Bola Tinubu, the Governor of Lagos State on behalf of Lagos State Government, sometimes along with his colleagues of the AD and even with many governors of the other political parties had successfully exploited judicial processes to restore some modicum of federal constitutional arrangement into the current setting. Readers will remember the contest over section 7 and 8 of the 1999 Constitution as amended as they relate with the power of the state to create Local Government.

(iv) The Supreme Court gave favourable judgments in favour of Lagos Government against arbitrary Federal Government actions. Even though the Supreme Court declared that President Obasanjo had no legal nor constitutional right to withhold the Lagos State Local Governments Fund, yet, the President contemptuously refused to pay that money to the Lagos State government until he left office after his third term bid collapsed and or failed.

• Text of a press statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of Egbe Afenifere, issued by Mr Ayo Opadokun, former general secretary of Afenifere, former general secretary and spokesman of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), founding convener, Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reform (CODER) and former Assistant Director of Organisation, the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).

TO BE CONCLUDED TOMORROW

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