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 under the philosophical caption of Egalitarianism, Life More Abundant. The name Afenifere was not the registered political party. It could not have been as was not a political party for the Yorubas alone, as for instance, Northern Peoples Congress ( NPC) or Northern Elements Peoples Party ( NEPU) where unapologetically Northern & restricted to the North. Afenifere was adopted as a local synonym to be descriptive of the welfarist, egalitarian society covenant of Action Group. Egbe Afenifere was the propelling Movement of people in the Yoruba speaking areas in Western Nigeria behind the AG National political vehicle, which was registered. It was expected that other Ethnic groups would have their own local synonym, descriptive of the covenant and welfarist philosophy, of Action Group.
There has never been a time when Afenifere was a cultural organisation. Egbe Omo Oduduwa which was a cultural organisation for all Yoruba could not be a political organisation as the Yoruba people cherish pluralism and not all Yoruba people would subscribe to the political philosophy of evolving an egalitarian society.
Moreover, out of the 8 founding fathers of the AG, only Chief Obafemi Awolowo in his student days in the United Kingdom (UK) and Chief Abiodun Akerele, who was also studying in the UK had been members of Egbe Omo Oduduwa, which had been formed in the UK as a response to Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s address to the Igbo State Union in London, extolling the virtues of the Igbo people above all other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. Out of all the delegates from all parts of Western Region of different ethnic identity, at the inauguration of AG in Owo in 1951, 99% of them had never been members of Egbe Omo Oduduwa or had any association with it. This is clear evidence that Afenifere couldn’t have been an offshoot of Egbe Omo Oduduwa. There were more members of Egbe Omo Oduduwa who were either affiliated to the NCNC or opted to join it.
Although the Yoruba ethnicity constituted a majority of the ethnic nationalities in Western Nigeria, there were still several other ethnic groups in the Region. This is further evidenced in the composition of the first exco of the AG. However, detractors and those opposed to AG, particularly all the almost 16 Publications of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe kept on propagating the narrative that the AG was the political wing of Egbe Omo Oduduwa.
When the election into the Western Region House of Assembly was completed in November 1951, the Action Group won 38 out of the 80 seats contested in the first set of elections. Independents who had been part of the inauguration of Action Group( Egbe Afenifere) had however won seats as Independent candidates.In Ibadan, the Ibadan Peoples Party( IPP) won all the six seats up for grabs while in Lagos; the NCNC won all the available five seats. Before the elections were held, Action Group & NCNC were making conflicting claims on the membership of the candidates. This was in spite of individuals like Chief Anthony Enahoro, who had been previously a card carry member of NCNC, before the formation of Action Group, publicly declaring for Action Group & attending the inauguration of Action Group at Owo in February 1951. NCNC may have been confident or hoping that since it was a more well established political party, that those who had gone to embrace the new political party, would return to the flock. It refused to publish its list of candidates & relied on a postulation that it wasn’t a legal requirement for a political party in sponsoring their members & candidates contest the election.
In an action to intervene to set the records straight, Mr. Harold Cooper, the Government Public Relations Officer, wrote to the parties to furnish a list of the candidates contesting election on their platforms. Only the Action Group complied with this request and its list of candidates was as follows: Ijebu Remo Division – Obafemi Awolowo and M.S. Sowole; Ijebu Ode Division – S.O. Awokoya, Rev. S.A. Banjo and V.D. Phillips; Oyo Division – Chief Bode Thomas, Abiodun Akerele, A.B.P. Martins, T.A. Amao and SB Eyitayo; Osun Division – SL Akintola, J.O Adigun, J.O Oroge, S.I. Ogunwale, I.A. Adejare, J.A. Ogunmuyiwa and S.O. Ola; Ondo Division – P.A. Ladapo and G.A. Deko; Okitipupa Division – Dr. L.B. Lebi, C.A Tewe and S.O Tubo; Epe Division – S.L Edu, A.B Gbajumo, Obafemi Ajayi and C.A. Williams; Ikeja Division – O. Akeredolu-Ale, S.O Gbadamosi and F.O Okuntola; Badagry Division – Chief C.D Akran, Akinyemi Amosu and Rev. GM Fisher; Egba Division – J.F. Odunjo, Alhaji A.T. Ahmed, C.P.A Cole, Rev S.A. Daramola, Akintoye Tejuoso, S.B Sobande, I.O Delano and A. Adedamola.
The others were as follows: Egbado Division – J.A.O. Odebiyi, D.A. Fafunmi, Adebiyi Adejumo, A. Akin Illo and P.O. Otegbeye; Ife Division – Rev S.A. Adeyefa, D.A. Ademiluyi, J.O. Opadina, and S.O. Olagbaju; Ekiti Division – E.A. Babalola, Rev. J Ade Ajayi, S.K. Familoni, S.A. Okeya and D Atolagbe; Owo Division – Michael Adekunle Ajasin, A.O. Ogedengbe, J.A Agunloye, L.O Omojola and R.A. Olusa; Western Ijaw Division – Pere E.H Sapre-Obi and M.F Agidee; Ishan Division – Anthony Enahoro; Urhobo Division – WE Mowarin, J.B. Ohwinbiri and JD Ifode; Warri Division – Arthur Prest and O. Otere, and Kukuruku Division – D.J.I. Igenuma.
Of the names on the list, only M.A Ajasin from Owo Division, which comprised Akoko then, did not run because of party solidarity and unity in Owo. He stood down for A.O. Ogedengbe and R.A. Olusa to contest two of the three seats, which they won, while D.K. Olumofin won the third for the NCNC. Three secretaries of the Action Group, who ran as independents and won were: Alhaji D.S. Adegbenro, Egba Division; J.O. Osuntokun, Ekiti Division and S.O. Hassan, Epe Division.
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. 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. The poll had been postponed in Lagos and Benin following security concerns. 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. S.A Banjo and S.O. Awokoya; Oyo – Bode Thomas, Abiodun Akerele, A.B.P Thomas, T.A Amao and S.B Eyitayo; Osun – S.L. Akintola, J.O. Adigun, J.A Oroge, S.I. Ogunwale, I.A. Adejare, J.A. Ogunmuyiwa and S.O. Ola.
Other elected AG members from the list were: Egba – J.F. Odunjo, Alhaji AT Ahmed, Rev. S.A. Daramola and Prince Adedamola; Egbado (now Yewa) – J.A.O. Odebiyi, D.A. Fafunmi and A. Akin Illo; Ekiti – E.A. Babalola and Rev. J. Ade-Ajayi; Badagry – Chief C.D Akran and Rev. G.M. Fisher; Ikeja – S.O Gbadamosi and O Akeredolu-Ale; Ife – Rev. S.A Adeyefa and S.O Olagbaju; Owo – A.O Ogedengbe and R.A Olusa; Epe – Safi Lawal Edu; Okitipupa – C.A. Tewe; Western Ijaw – M.F. Agidee; Ishan – Anthony Enahoro, and Warri – Arthur Prest.
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 A.M.A Akinloye; Ondo Improvement League, and Otu Edo of Benin. 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. And of the six IPP elected members, only Adegoke Adelabu joined the NCNC. The rest of them: A.M.A Akinloye, Chief D.T Akinbiyi (who later became the Olubadan of Ibadan), Chief S.O Lanlehin, Moyosore Aboderin and S.A Akinyemi, opted for the Action Group. 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.
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. All the transactions had taken place before the inauguration of the Regional Assembly on the 7th of January 1952. These were not known members of the NCNC, nor did the party publish their names on the list of its candidates. For over a half century, the NCNC and the propagators of carpet crossing on inauguration day plenary, are yet to provide evidence to back its claim that it had won the West Regional election in 1951.
Mr Cooper absolved his department of responsibility for the controversy generated by the NCNC after the election. At a post election news conference in Lagos he said that “Of the winning candidates, the names of 38 were on the list sent to me by the Action Group. The six successful candidates at Ibadan were all among those who had been identified to me as representing the Ibadan People’s Party. No claim of any kind had reached us about the party affiliation of the remaining successful candidates.” Why did the NCNC not send a list of its candidates for the poll to the Government PR Department before that poll? The records of the poll conducted in the West and all over Nigeria by the colonial administration are available at the National Archives and can be accessed by any honest researcher. In this matter, it is facts that speak, not what some political/ethnic partisan said or did not say, as shown below.
NCNC probably underestimated the effect of clear policy & programmes of action contained in Action Group’s manifesto. Its prescription of devolution of powers & a Federal system of governance may have endeared it to the polity, as well as its programme on education, health & infrastructural deficit developments. NCNC leadership up till the constitutional conference in London in 1957, had consistently prescribed a unitary system of government template for the Nation . It was Chief Obafemi’s led Action Group which persuaded both Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe of NCNC & Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Leader of Northern Peoples Congress( NPC), at the Lancaster House Conference in London in 1957, that a Federal system of government was the most suitable system for a Country as diverse as Nigeria with ethnic Nationalities to assuage any suspicion of domination. Suspicion of domination was the fear of Northern Nigeria, as they did not have a sufficient manpower base to run the civil service & all other necessary manpower requirements base that were Western education literate Northerners to run a devolved entity & feared that the departure of the British will expose this inadequacy; even at the Centre. They feared being overran by Southerners who had been exposed to Western for several decades. Federal system of government adopted was able to assuage some of these fears.