Peter Obi: Major flaws in Afenifere’s support for Peter Obi
By Yoruba Referendum Committee
A critical review of Afenifere’s support for Peter Obi and the many flaws.
This is to prevent the re-writing of history in our presence and also call the organization to order, since it assumes it speaks for the entirety of the Yoruba, which is not so.
Hence, the Yoruba Referendum Committee states as follows:
(A) AFENIFERE: “the campaign is tending to ethnicize the campaign instead of making it issue-based. Afenifere has therefore decided to address you today and through you educate the public on the ideological and equitable principles which have influenced our decision”.
Yoruba Referendum Committee: The entire issue of “Zoning”, Federal character” etc., is, by itself, the admission of ethnicity as a reality in Nigeria. It is therefore unhelpful to allege anyone of attempting to act within this reality. The “ideological and equitable principles” are not abstractions but embedded within this reality and is expressed through its application. Hence, when representations on “zoning” or “federal character” are required, the affected “zones” usually put their “best foot forward”. Therefore, Afenifere cannot be admitting the ethnicity embedded in the Nigeria problematic and at the same time running away from it under the cover of “ideological and equitable principles” — these are principles that are the sole preserve of the “ethnicity” because what is “equitable and ideological principle” for one ethnicity may not be so, for another, as had been shown by the Nigerian experience.
Furthermore, the entire quest for True Federalism is already abjured by an abstract definition of “equity and ideological principle”—for if there were no fundamental existential differences, the necessity for a Federalism based on Ethno-National and Cultural realities will not be the basis for both the Egbe Omo Oduduwa and the Action Group’s advocacy for True Federalism and reiterated by Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s May 1, 1967, Speech to the Yoruba Leaders of Thought meeting in Ibadan.
(B) AFENIFERE: “In this quest for peace, based on equity and inclusiveness, the Yoruba took the first turn at the zoning arrangement in 1999, and that led to the emergence of Chief Obasanjo, the current Vice President is a Yoruba man and equity forbids us for presuming to support another Yoruba person for the presidency in 2023.”
Yoruba Referendum Committee: This is a FALSE rendering of history to which we are all witnesses. The two Yoruba candidates in 1999 came about because of the need to appease the Yoruba on the heels of the annulment and MKO’s death. More so when the AD was not even qualified to be registered as a political party going by the requirements of the time and was only registered because the Yoruba, by virtue of the anti-military struggles, had the Nigerian State by the jugular at the time. Hence “Zoning” had absolutely nothing to do with the decisions of the military at that time.
Besides, the then Afenifere leadership supported Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003.
Their reasoning at the time was based on their assumptions that Obasanjo will “restructure”. We are also witnesses to how this step led to the neutralization of the AD in the West, except Lagos. This step was taken by the then Afenifere leadership, despite warnings on Obasanjo by various political forces in the land, including the then Lagos state Governor.
Members of the “Action Group”, a component member of the then Alajobi Coalition, wrote to the Afenifere leadership and made the following statement, to wit: “THE OBASANJO LINE: For the Obasanjo regime, the achievement of his goal of “true federalism” using existing institutions of the Nigerian state necessarily implies the creation of a supra-national state. Supra-national here is in the sense that all ethno-national centers of power would have to be neutralized as a necessary pre-condition. And this is to be achieved partly through the creation of alternative and/or new power bases through the instrumentality of presidential patronage. This scheme is more pernicious in Yorubaland where the attempt will be the achievement of the sort of neutralization program that was embarked upon by the Babangida-Abacha-Diya trio.”
Afenifere did not give any consideration to the paper.
This time, Peter Obi has categorically and openly stated that “there is nothing wrong with the 1999 Constitution”. Yet Afenifere says he is being supported on the basis of “equity and ideological principles”?
(C) AFENIFERE: “We cannot continue to demand that the Igbo people remain in Nigeria, while we at the same time continue to brutally marginalize and exclude them from the power dynamic”.
Yoruba Referendum Committee: Again, the Committee affirms that this is False. The Igbo People have remained in Nigeria and boasting about it. They describe themselves as “nation builders” as if they are the only nation-builders in Nigeria. When they support one of their own, as they are presently doing with Peter Obi, they ascribe it as “nationalism” or “patriotism”; when others support one of their own, it becomes “tribalism”. This has been the nature of Igbo Politics in Nigeria since 1944.
Furthermore, it is not true that they are “marginalized and excluded from the power dynamic”. No one prevented Igbo delegates to any of the party conventions from voting for any Igbo candidate. There were Igbo candidates in the PDP when Peter Obi was contesting on the party’s platform. Seeing the writing on the wall, including the reality that Igbo delegates will not vote for him, he went to the Labor Party where the then Igbo candidate, Pat Utomi promptly stepped down for him. Afenifere will now want us to believe that this is not ethnicizing politics?
Besides, Nigeria’s power politics is the maximum expression of “ethnic balance of power” as reflected in Nigeria’s political contestation for power at the center since Independence which has never been a function of “democracy, justice, equity, or fairness”, but on the balance of forces between the contending parties, mainly between forces of Unitarism and Federalism.
This “ethnic balance of power” is a manifestation of the balance of forces between the political parties as well as the Nationalities, as these examples show: Britain’s acquiescence to the NPC’s demand for majority of seats in the Federal Parliament, the Alliance between the NPC and NCNC to sustain their Parliamentary majority, the success of the January 15/16 Military coups largely dependent on the dominance of Igbo Officers in the Nigerian Army and whose outcome was the neutralization of Nigeria’s Federalism, the “revenge coup” of July 1966 largely due to the command and influence of Officers and rank and file of mainly northern origin, the NPN/NPP Alliance of the second republic, the military interregnum largely dominated by officers of northern origin, the 1999 Transition, anchored on this “ethnic balance of forces” of sustaining Nigeria’s Unitarism by deflecting the “June 12” struggle and deferring to the Yoruba, and subsequent elections since then, anchored on different types of alignments and realignments of various political forces in order to take power.
From all these, the question of justice, equity and fairness is directly tied to the question of Federalism and the forces for or against it, playing out within the contest for the presidency.
(D) AFENIFERE: “Afenifere is the Yoruba interpretation of the social welfarist ideology of Action Group, a political party founded by Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his colleagues in 1951 with strong advocacy for federalism as the best form of government to give the federating units the requisite autonomy to thrive and peacefully compete among themselves for the ultimate development of Nigeria.”
Yoruba Referendum Committee: While Afenifere is correct in saying that the word is the “Yoruba interpretation of the social welfarist ideology of the Action Group”, its practice since the “June 12” struggles has combined this philosophy with its organizational expression. In other words, in 1951, the “Yoruba expression” had no organizational form outside the political party through which it was expressed. With the emergence of NADECO, a new organization known as AFENIFERE emerged and played a significant role in it.
This organizational Afenifere leadership comprised mostly those formerly in the Action Group and the UPN. Unlike the temporary overlapping between the Egbe and AG, the new “Afenifere” mixed up its organizational existence with the philosophical/ideological social welfarism (Afenifere) and claimed proprietary rights to both the philosophy as well as the organization.
However, “June 12” and its aftermath presented a dilemma, to wit: the comingling of the philosophy with the organizational structure, hence the issue as to whether AD is Afenifere or not. Attempting to repeat what obtained during the civil war but without similar conditions, the then Afenifere leader was initially chosen as the “Spokesperson” for the Yoruba, which was eventually converted to “Leader of the Yoruba”.
This conversion formally brought the conflict between AD and Afenifere to a head.
Ordinarily, the issue would have been easily resolvable, in the sense that it had already been resolved by the AG. That is, the AG was the political party that fought the necessary battles with “Afenifere” as its ideological/philosophical weapon of choice, therefore the AD can neither dissolve itself into the “new” Afenifere nor become subservient to it, with the added implication that the leader of Afenifere cannot be the leader of the Yoruba.
From the above, it can be concluded that the only effective leadership for the Yoruba is situated within a dominant partisan political party whose Center of Gravity is in Yorubaland.
If the resolution had followed this trajectory, the AD would either have become a Party comprising Left and Right tendencies, including all sub-tendencies in-between or split as the AG did in 1962. Either of the options would have resulted in having the necessary partisan political platform for the various self-determination and socio-cultural groups caught in the AD/Afenifere crisis. The conflict resulted in the extinction of the AD as a political party, which transmuted into various political formations, and which has now ended up as the “SW APC”.
On the other hand, Afenifere, because it combined the philosophy with its organizational structure, foreclosed other socio-cultural and self- determination groups from appropriating the same philosophy. Yet all these groups define their ideological/philosophical bent in one form of social welfarism or the other, in other words, “Afenifere”. This action on Afenifere’s part informally prevented all other groups, philosophically Afenifere but organizationally distinct, from having any input or stake in “Afenifere’s” organizational structure.
Hence when “Afenifere” promotes itself as the only authentic Yoruba “voice” at the same time becoming an umbrella organization for all sorts of ideological persuasions, it became an organizational vehicle for political parties of which it had no control or influence and whose philosophy and ideological orientation were and still are incongruent with both the political dictates and the philosophy from which it derived its name.
It is clear that Afenifere as an organization, with this categorical statement, is at variance with Yoruba historical and contemporary reality. Therefore, it is incumbent on the Yoruba, especially those of the social democratic philosophical orientation, to distance themselves from Afenifere and pursue a course of action towards True Federalism which will not be tainted by Afenifere’s a-historicism.
The Committee makes bold to say that the course of action is in the Yoruba Referendum, where a “Yes” vote, as contained in the Bill, will ensure the emergence of a true Yoruba Leadership.
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