By Arogbonlo Israel
Afenifere was formed as a socio-cultural organisation for the Yoruba people of Nigeria.
Today, the Yoruba group marks his 70th anniversary amid the rising security challenges in the country.
Here are 70 facts to know as Afenifere clocks 70:
1. Afenifere was coined out of Action Group (AG), a political party founded by Chief Obafemi Awolowo (AWOL) in 1951.
2. Action Group Political Party among others was dissolved by the Military decree and Public Gazette in January 1966, but it’s MOVEMENT called AFENIFERE remains the only one of its kind that precedes Nigeria’s political independence.
3. Action Group as a National Political Party was the brainchild of the late sage, Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo, SAN, GCFR and his untiring efforts, grim determination to prepare and get the Western Nigeria ready for productive responses to the then on-coming constitutional exigencies which the Richard Constitution provisions would demand on Nigerians.
READ ALSO: Lagos govt pays 358 retirees N1bn for April
4. After Egbe Omo Oduduwa had decided not to take part in politics and approved of Chief Awolowo’s pioneering efforts to form a virile political organization, he invited about 60 persons for a meeting. Of all these invitees just the following seven persons namely: Mr. S.O. Shonibare, Chief Abiodun Akerele, Chief S.T. Oredein, Mr. Olatunji Dosumu, Mr. J. Ola Adigun, Mr. Adeyiga Akinsanya, Mr. Ayo Akinsanya; attended the first meeting.
5. The first meeting held on Sunday, March 26, 1950 at 9.0’clock in the morning at the Oke Ado Residence of Chief Awolowo in Ibadan.
6. Before the public announcement of its existence, nine secret meetings of the Action Group had been held between 26th March 1950 and 4th March 1951.
7. The secret meetings were necessitated to avoid the virulent attacks and hostility that could have been unleashed by Dr. Azikiwe and his media stable.
8. The Action Group was publicly inaugurated at the historical hall on the hill in Owo, Town in Ondo Province on the 28th of April 1951 and had representatives from 22 out of the 24 Administrative Divisions of the Western Region.
9. After the inauguration of the Action Group in Owo, the leaders returned to Ibadan to campaign and for a public inauguration and presentation.
10. It is important to state that AFENIFERE from its inception remained a MOVEMENT of people who are committed to the greatest welfare of the people as enunciated by Chief Obafemi Awolowo SAN, under the philosophical caption of EGALITARIANISM, LIFE MORE ABUNDANT.
11. AFENIFERE was never a registered political party but it was the propelling Movement of people behind the Action Group that was registered.
12. The formation of the Action Group became a kind of necessity because the sage observed that the performances of the Western Region Representatives in both Regional and General Conferences for the review of the Richards Constitution exhibited lack of organization and they were lacking programme and effective leadership.
13. The Action Group was the first to propose and establish the institution of “SHADOW CABINET”.
14. The Action Group was the first to have a party motto: FREEDOM FOR ALL, LIFE MORE ABUNDANT.
15. In the 1951 Regional Election, the Action Group was the only party that published policy papers as well as a manifesto.
16. Voting by symbol was introduced into Nigeria by the Action Group and was first practised at the Local Government Elections in Ijebu-Remo in 1953.
17. Steel ballot boxes and security-printed ballot papers were first used in the Western Region in 1956, at the instance and insistence of the Action Group Government.
18. The first motion calling for Nigerian Independence was moved by Chief Anthony Enahoro, CFR of the Action Group in 1953.
19. The first motion ever for the creation of a new Region – in this case for the creation of a Midwestern Region now broken into Delta and Edo States – was moved in the Western Region House of Assembly by an Action Group Member of the House.
20. It was only in the Western Region that the Leader of Opposition was elected Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly.
21. It was also in the Western Region that Ministers of Finance and of Works were withdrawn from the Tenders Board, and the membership of the Board was restricted to Officials headed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, together with known members of the Action Group.
22. Agricultural Settlements and Institutes were first established in the Western Region.
23. It was in the Western Region that a minimum living wage was first introduced in Nigeria, and paid to workers in the Region.
24. The first-ever industrial estate and housing estate in Nigeria were established in the Western Region.
25. The first television service in Nigeria, indeed in the whole of Africa, was established in the Western Region in 1959.
26. The very famous Liberty Stadium was the first and the best of its kind in Nigeria when it was built in 1959. In terms of elegance and comfort, it still remains the best in the country.
27. Before 1952, the Nigerian Government had never awarded as many as twenty university scholarships a year to Nigerian students.
28. In that year (1952), the Western Region Government became the first ever to award two hundred university scholarships in one year to students of Western Region origin.
29. It was in the Western Region, on 17th January 1955 that Free Universal Primary Education, and Free Health Services for children up to the age of eighteen, were first introduced in any part of Nigeria.
30. It was also in the Western Region that a six-year primary course, instead of the then existing eight-year primary course, was first introduced.
31. Major General Johnson Thomas Aguiyi Ironsi, the new Military Head of State and Commander In-Chief on the 24th of May 1966 issued supplement to Official Gazette Extraordinary No. 51, Vol. 53, 1966 part A in a THE PUBLIC ORDER DECREE 1966 where in section 1 he announced the Dissolution of Political Parties, Tribal Unions and Cultural Organizations.
32. As soon as Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the sage left and resigned from General Gowon’s Government, on July 1, 1971, (General Gowon’s response to Chief Awolowo’s resignation is hereby attached as Annexure 3), he and his closest allies started to brainstorm on the prospect for Nigerian political future ie the Second Republic.
33. The group eventually crystalized into what was known as “The Committee of Friends”.
34. Part of their resolutions had to do with the name to be adopted for whatever political organization they formed.
35. The Committee was composed of star studied people in several respect, quite a number of old faithful and respectable guards of the Action Group were the initial frontliners.
36. Arising from the variously adopted policy options, the group adopted the name UNITY PARTY OF NIGERIA, UPN which was a National Political Party but was equally known as EGBE IMOLE in Yoruba land. So, AG/AFENIFERE became muted.
37. At a meeting held in Chief Bola Ige’s, Ibadan residence sometimes in 1992, the group examined the prospect of adopting a name for its organisation.
38. A committee was constituted to verify whether or not Afenifere was among the organizations dissolved.
39. 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. Hence, Members were happy to rename the group with its original appellation, AFENIFERE.
40. It will interest you to know that it was the names contained in the Register of AFENIFERE in all Yoruba States including Kwara and Kogi that were used to register Alliance for Democracy.
41. AFENIFERE therefore, was the platform upon which the AD was constructed and upon which the six candidates in Yoruba States contested and won.
42. AD was the National Name, but songs/lyrics were waxed on Afenifere whose leadership had been the FRONTLINERS of the NADECO struggle.
43. Some younger folks from New Generation and Idile Groups in 1999 joined the Yoruba Nation against the onslaught of violent repression and humiliation by Gen. Sanni Abacha assisted Afenifere to consolidate its credible leadership.
44. 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.
45. 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.
46. In the Second Republic, the UPN Governors and parliamentarians fought titanic battles for restoration of federal constitutional governance.
47. As a Movement of ideas, the burden of standing in gap for Nigeria against the successive military dictatorship and their military in civilian dress tyrannies have been the lot of Yoruba Nationalists and Activists principally along with other compatriots since pre-independence till the present time.
48. The Afenifere Leaders who along with other like minds and elder statesmen, retired senior citizens, professionals, civil society groups, students, women, religious and traditional rulers etc. established the National Democratic Coalition, (NADECO)
49. Afenifere leaders have creditably led their colleagues to campaign vigorously for a return to FEDERAL CONSTITUTION upon which Nigerian secured its independence in 1960.
50. 1960 Independence and its follow up 1963 Republican Constitutions are the only legal and legitimate constitutions of Nigeria.
51. Since the Military staged it’s violent toppling of Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa’s government in 1966, Nigeria had been governed arbitrarily and illegitimately, (stricto senso) through military decrees including the 1999 Constitution which was brought into existence by Decree 24 of 1999.
52. Chief Obafemi Awolowo as early as the 1950s was ready to spend up to 40% of the government income on education. Japan, South Korea of today not to talk of other ASIAN TIGERS have proven that a country that places high premium today on education and as a result is lacking in one or other services is most likely to win back in multiple folds what it currently lacks.
53. It was the Registers of Afenifere membership in Yoruba States including Kogi and Kwara that were used to register AD in 1998.
54. When the election into the Western Region House of Assembly was completed in November 1951, the Action Group was surprised it won only 29 out of the 80 seats contested.
55. In fact, the (AG) lost in all the constituencies in Ibadan; the capital city of the Western Region, Nigeria and likewise in Lagos, the capital of Nigeria.
56. At the close of polls on 24 September 1951, the Action Group had won 38 of the 72 seats in contention in the Regional Assembly.
57. There were a total of 80 seats. Lagos had five seats in the West Regional Assembly all won by the NCNC in the election of 20 November 1951, while Benin had three won by Otu Edo candidates in the election of 6 December 1951.
58. The poll had been postponed in Lagos and Benin following security concerns.
59. Of the 68 candidates on the list furnished by the Action Group to the Government PR Department, 38 of the elected AG members were from that list. And they were as follows: Ijebu Remo – Obafemi Awolowo and M.S. Sowole; Ijebu Ode – Rev. SA Banjo and S.O. Awokoya; Oyo – Bode Thomas, Abiodun Akerele, ABP Thomas, TA Amao and SB Eyitayo; Osun – S.L. Akintola, J.O. Adigun, JA Oroge, S.I. Ogunwale, I. A. Adejare, J.A. Ogunmuyiwa and S.O. Ola.
60. In addition to the Action Group and the NCNC, there were local/divisional parties such as the Ibadan People’s Party (IPP), led by Chief AMA Akinloye; Ondo Improvement League, and Otu Edo of Benin.
61. In addition to the Action Group and the NCNC, there were local/divisional parties such as the Ibadan People’s Party (IPP), led by Chief AMA Akinloye; Ondo Improvement League, and Otu Edo of Benin.
62. At the end of poll, the standing of the parties was as follows: Action Group 38; NCNC/Independents 25; IPP 6 and Ondo Improvement League 2. Otu Edo candidates won the three Benin seats, namely, Chief S.O. Ighodaro, Chief Humphrey Omo-Osagie and Chief Chike Ekwuyasi. Chief Ighodaro opted for the AG, while the latter two went to the NCNC.
63. And of the six IPP elected members, only Adegoke Adelabu joined the NCNC. The rest of them: AMA Akinloye, Chief DT Akinbiyi (who later became the Olubadan of Ibadan), Chief SO Lanlehin, Moyosore Aboderin and SA Akinyemi, opted for the Action Group.
64. The NCNC National Secretary, the late Chief Kola Balogun had sent declaration forms to the IPP assemblymen asking them to declare for the NCNC but Chief Akinloye returned all the forms uncompleted.
65. The three AG secretaries who had run as independents – Adegbenro, Osuntokun and Hassan, five IPP members, one Etu Edo, and one Ondo Improvement League, Chief F.O. Awosika; and Chief Timothy Adeola Odutola (Independent, Ijebu Ode) had swollen the number of the AG elected members.
66. All the transactions had taken place before the inauguration of the Regional Assembly on 7 January 1952. These were not known members of the NCNC, nor did the party publish their names on the list of its candidates.
67. For over a half century, the NCNC is yet to provide evidence to back its claim that it had won the West Regional election in 1951.
68. In the 1954 Federal elections, when both parties went head to head; the NCNC won 22 seats in the House of Representatives of Nigeria while the AG secured 19 seats.
69. In 2008, the Afenifere Renewal Group (alias ARG) was formed with the stated intent of reuniting the feuding factions, but perhaps as an alternative to the faction headed by the older generation of leaders.
70. After Pa Fasonranti, the leader of the group stepped down in March, 2021, the former deputy leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo has been acting as national leader while the former financial secretary of the group, Oba Oladipo Olaitan, the Alaago of Kajola Ago, Atakumosa East Council Area, Ilesa, Osun State, was named the group’s deputy leader.