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Now that an Afenifere is in The Presidency, what next for Yorubas?
By Wale Adedayo
The Yoruba Nation appears to be at another crossroad in its history, especially so since Nigeria’s independence in 1960 with the appointment of Brig-Gen. Jones Arogbofa from Oka-Akoko, Ondo State as the new Chief of Staff to President Goodluck Jonathan. The new Chief of Staff is a younger brother to General Secretary of the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Chief Seinde Arogbofa.
Afenifere has, subtly, in the last three years being rooting under the table for Jonathan, and indirectly the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). But the Yoruba group began an open association with The Presidency about one year ago culminating in the appointment of one of its key figures, Senator Femi Okurounmu, as chairman of a body to midwife the proposed National Conference.
Some already believe Arogbofa got his appointment on merit and based on his personal relationship with Jonathan. Goodluck to such believers. I have no doubt Arogbofa’s appointment is a direct consequence of the mutually beneficial relationship between Jonathan and Afenifere, which has been at the forefront of agitation for a Yoruba to be in a visible political position at the federal level. Jonathan needs Yoruba votes badly at the coming 2015 general elections, which is promising to be a keenly contested event, with most Northern political figures bent on working against the president.
A middle-of-the-road member of its inner sanctum told me last night, “Wale, we need to get one of our own inside there. That is the younger brother of our General Secretary, they are from the same father and mother, so it should make some sense to you. I won’t say more than that.” So, after the ‘gift’ of reconstructing the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway, the Yoruba Nation should be thanking Jonathan for this appointment, which seems to have redressed the marginalization of South-West indigenes at the federal level?
It was in the year of my birth, 1966 that the Yoruba Nation lost a golden opportunity to get what we have been sweating for since the 1990s in Nigeria – an equitable Federal System of Government, instead of the unitary system foisted on the country by Gen. Thomas Umunakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi shortly after he became Head of State.
For me, it was the appointment of Chief Obafemi Awolowo as Vice Chairman of the Federal Executive Council and Minister of Finance under Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon that encouraged those who killed Aguiyi-Ironsi to strengthen a naïve decision by a military man who accidentally found himself in political office. The bargaining chip was Biafra. But moving from a neutral region that was desirous of a Confederacy to a ‘One Nigeria’ side destroyed the chip for the Yoruba Nation, thus confining the Yoruba to where we are today. Offers that should have been rejected were accepted.
Standing firm became difficult in the early days of Gen. Sani Abacha’s regime too. The offers ‘to serve’ were too ‘tempting’ forcing the Afenifere to send some of its best materials to the dark-goggled dictator as ministerial nominees. He did appointed popular former Lagos State Governor, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, and former Director of Organisation of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Chief Ebenezer Babatope, as ministers.
Had the Afenifere under Senator Abraham Adesanya refused to accept Gen. Sani Abacha’s initial hand of fellowship through nomination of ministers into his illegal government, it is possible he would not have lasted as long as he did. It was the same scenario in 1999, when contrary to its earlier decision to insist on a Sovereign National Conference before any election, the Afenifere capitulated and joined the military regime of Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar’s transition programme. And this happened after a visit to Abdulsalami in Abuja, after which the song of 1966 and 1993 was repeated.
Towards the 2003 elections, former President Olusegun Obasanjo also made his moves with governors of the now moribund Alliance for Democracy (AD) and Afenifere. It was the PDP that gained mostly from that adventure. Today, even babies know the Afenifere is for Jonathan, thus PDP. But as an organization admired by a lot of Yoruba with its pedigree as a welfare seeking organization, which believes in communal well-being ahead of individual gains, what could possibly be in store for the Yoruba in this romance with Abuja?
When Okurounmu was declared a failure in his assignment recently, Afenifere pretended as if the group had nothing to do with the man’s appointment. Some of its leading figures suggested the group had nothing to do with his short-sighted recommendations. I guess we have to wait and see what Arogbofa’s appointment will fetch for Yorubas from the federal level.
Afenifere. Ire Owo! Afenifere. Ire omo!! Afenifere. Ire alaafia – Oodua a gbe wa o!!!