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Home >> Politics
What is Afenifere?

Ibiyinka Solarin

The purpose of this article is two fold.
1 The first is to contribute to the general quest to ‘reinvent’ and redefine issues-based political party system in our country.
2 The second is to attempt to clarify political positions and beliefs within the broad political spectrum in the southwest geo-political zone. There are two questions here that need to be answered. [A] Is the Afenifere  an umbrella grouping , inclusive of all identifiable political tendencies in the southwest, thus by this definition, a mere socio-cultural organization? [B] Is the Afenifere  the Yoruba socio-linguistic abstraction/interpretation of a definable political praxis/beliefs and thus a political party made up of members who identify with and subscribe to these beliefs and positions of the party?
We should  take it granted that for a person to understand a phenomenon, particularly a social phenomenon, one has to study its origin and history. So, to history we must go.
In 1951, the year of self-government in Western Nigeria, the Yoruba were largely illiterate. In that same year, a political party was born in Owo, which gave itself the name,  ‘Action Group’. The chiefs and elites who formed this party had specific objectives in mind, to wit, to embark on a radical socio-economic transformation of western Nigeria, particularly in education, health, agriculture. Pursuant to this singular agenda, they commissioned among themselves, position papers that would form the fulcrum of the transformative agenda if the political party were to win elections in western region and become the government in power. But the leaders faced a dilemma, how to inform and propagate the ideals and positions of the Action Group to a people who do not speak nor understand the foreign language. So they came up with the name, ‘Egbe Afenifere’ . The group [political party] that ‘loves you and wishes good things for you or wishes you well’ And the ‘good things’ this [egbe] party wishes you include ; [a] all school age children in western region  will now be enrolled in primary school at government expense [b] medical expenses in the hospitals for all children from birth to the age of eighteen will now be free, that is borne by the government.

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These epoch-making policies, needless to say were unheard of in the annals of the political history of colonial Nigeria. The British, starting from 1861, in a hundred years of colonialism never came up with any plan to transform Nigeria, in education, health, agriculture etc. Theirs was for Nigerian produce, to feed British industries, with scattered church- missionary driven  education. To demonstrate how radical and all-encompassing in transformative impetus  the Action Group agenda was, ‘schools for Adults’ literally translated ‘Ile Eko Awon Agba’ were established in western region to teach artisans, farmers, market women etc to read and write; the goal being to eradicate illiteracy in this region within two decades! The Action Group believed that it will be difficult to misrule a literate people because they will defend their rights. I know people in southwestern Nigeria today who are products of these schools, they are able to read and write the Yoruba language today because they went to the ‘Ile eko awon agba’. One of them told me the biggest thing for her is that she could go to the bank and sign her name today, fifty years after.
The  propagation and enunciation of these policies by the emergent government of Nigerian nationals attracted thinly-veiled hostility, derision and ridicule from the colonial government and Obafemi Awolowo , the leader of this group was dismissed as a mere ‘flash in the pan’, that is, until the party won the election and commenced the implementation of what it had promised the electorates.
The policies of the Action Group ‘The Egbe Afenifere’ set the party apart from OTHER parties.  It was ONLY in Yorubaland that the Action Group was known as the ‘egbe afenifere’ for easy translation and identification in the mind of the largely illiterate people and to DIFFERENTIATE the Action Group from all OTHER parties in the region.   That is to say the Egbe Afenifere was NOT an all-inclusive umbrella  for all political tendencies in Yoruba land, it was an umbrella ONLY for those who subscribe to its ideology and praxis. There were many outstanding Yoruba political personalities that remained outside the Afenifere ‘The Action Group’, like Chief T O S Benson, Chief J M Johnson, Chief Kola Balogun, Chief Olu Akinfosile, Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya, Chief OsuOlale R. Akinjide, Chief Babatunji Olowofoyeku, Chief Richard Akinyemi and Sir Odeleye Fadahunsi etc, all who were members of the National Council of Nigerian Citizens, the OTHER party that was in parliamentary opposition in the western region.

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View Comments
bello kazeem a.
Date:Apr 23, 2013
Afenifere needs to undergo comprehensive transformation as a mAtter ?????f urgency now.

bello kazeem a.
Date:Apr 23, 2013
Afenifere needs to undergo comprehensive transformation as a mAtter ?????f urgency now.

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