Chief Obafemi Awolowo
  • Yoruba leadership crisis worsens

By OLUSESAN  LAOYE

The unexpected acceptance  of Prof. Banji Akintoye  to lead  the  Yoruba nation as further heightened the tensed  atmosphere in Yorubaland which  had emerged prior and subsequently to the issues in  the  past  few  months, bothering on leadership tussle of various pan  Yoruba organizations and especially the  overall leadership of the  entire race. His election was seen as controversial as some groups rejected his choice so many people thought the sleeping dog would allowed to lie.

Hence when Prof. Akintoye announced that he was going to address a world press conference few one knew what would be his pronouncement. He even  suspended  the conference  twice  until  when he did,  and  stunned  the  whole  world  that  he has  accepted the offer to lead the entire Yoruba  nation. With  his  acceptance, he will  therefore  be  the 4th  person  that would  so widely  wear  that  tag of leading one of the major ethnic nationality in Africa.

The  professor  of history  whose work  and  pedigree are  known  all  over  the  world especially  his  activities with the  United  Nations and presidency of many world  bodies, even  when  he  was  a student, told the  world  that his acceptance of his  nomination was  made  possible  after wide  consultations  with  all  the  stakeholders, in the  Yoruba  agenda,  including  traditional  rulers  who  gave  him the nod  to accept  and  move  ahead  to pursue  the  interests  of the  Yoruba  nation.

Professor  Akintiye  who is also a staunch  member  of Afenifere and holds  the  leadership  and  the  elders in the  group  in high esteem, and  a second  Republic  Senator of the Federal  Republic  of Nigeria, said that  with  the  recent events  of the  invasion  of the  Region  by external  forces, killing, maiming and  raping  its sons and  daughters, he  had  accepted  to lead and  put  a stop  to that.

He  stressed  that  he  would  be  apolitical  and work  hard with everybody to defend  the  Yoruba  nation  from  attacks, saying  that those  who  were  opposed  to his election  should  go back  to  history, because  he was  not  the  first  to  be so  elected  to  that  position,  adding  that  the  late  sage , Chief  Obafemi  Awolowo  was  elected  to lead  the  Yoruba  people  in 1967 because of the  danger  that faced the  Yoruba  people  at  that time

According  to him, he had taken  his  time  to consult  widely with  his family,  a broad  spectrum of Yoruba notables and  had  decided  to publicly lead  with  a strong  message of unity, strength and  hope “for  our  Yoruba  nation  and  I hereby  humbly  respond, yes,  to your call, fully  and gratefully  confident that  you  all  will  rise and  work in dedication and work  with  me in all  efforts to advance  the best prospects, the  best achievements and  the  right destiny  for our Yoruba nation”

The  former  Head  of Department  of History  at the  Obafemi  Awolowo  University Ile  Ife  proclaimed  his happiness that the people  at his  age of 84 years recognised his roles for  the struggle  of the  Yoruba race , saying  that  he is assistant  leader  to  Pa  Rueben Fasoranti, Pa Ayo  Adebanjo  and  that  he  affirmed the prominent  position  of the  group in the   Yoruba  struggle.

Prof. Akintoye’s acceptance has  not doused the earlier controversies  and  misgivings  which his  nomination  generated when  the  groups  of Yoruba organisations  coverage  at  Ibadan  to pick  him out  from  the  main  body  of the  Pan  Yoruba  Association, Afenifere  known  as  the  strong  voice  of the  Yoruba  people and  pronounced  him  as  the leader  of the entire race.

What  is now  bothering  the  people  is the  silence  of the  main  Afenifere  body after  his  acceptance. Before  his acceptance there were reactions  from  some  members  of the group  while  others  who  may be  privy  to his  emergence kept  mute.  The  silence  of the  main  body  now,  it  was  believed  could  have  been that they  have accepted him in principle.

A source  hinted  that  what  informed  the  silence  of  Afenifere  was  the  fact that  Akintoye  is part  of them  and a trusted  assistant  to the  leaders  and  elders  of the  body. The  source  hinted that  if  it were  from  a group  not  trusted,  they  would  have  kicked  strongly  against  it.

Also  a strong  member  of Afenifere  who confides   in BusinessHallmark  said  they  have tactically  resolved  that  Akintoye  should  be  in that  position because  he  would  be  bold  enough  to pursue  the  agenda  of the  group which  is the  no-going back  on the  restructuring  of the  country.  Akintoye  too  has  never  hidden  his  feelings  about  restructuring of Nigeria and  that  was  why  he  frankly  and boldly  declared  in his interview immediately after  his  acceptance  to lead  the  Yoruba  nation that  it is  either restructuring  or Nigeria  would  die.

Meanwhile, since  his  acceptance,  there  had  been  more  reactions  for  and  against and  this has continued  to be the  issue in the  South  West. A group that  emerged  in Osogbo under  the canopy of Itesiwaju  omo  Oduduwa led by Chief  IPadeola Adegbenjo believed  that  it was  time for  the  Yoruba  nation  to move  forward and  shun pettiness. The  group  comprising  mostly  of youths was  of the  opinion  that  pettiness  and self centeredness   have  been the  bane  of the  people  in the west

The  group  among  other  issues  discussed wants to lead the  Yoruba  race to  achieve  the  greatness  now needed. They  argued that  whoever  will  lead  the  Yoruba should  be  a neutral  person who  is not  self-centered and  who  would  not  be  partisan  to use  the  advantage for  his personal  gains  both  politically  and  other wise.

Although  the  group  did not  endorsed  any particular person,  the  body  language  of those at the  gathering  tilted  towards   accepting Prof. Banji  Akintoye. Some  of the  participants  who confided in Business Hallmark  said  they  have  accepted him  in principle and  would prefer  Akintoye  to lead the  Yoruba  race  as  a neutral  person  who  has  not  got  his hand  soiled  in politics which  has  been  the cause  of hatred  among  the  so called  Yoruba  leaders.

Also  a new body emerged  in Akure calling  itself a coalition  of youths and  came out  in total  rejection  of Prof.  Akintoye. The group in a communique signed  by the National  leader, Eric  Oluwole and  the  spokesperson,  Ojo Bright described the  process  that produced  Akintoye as lopsided which  they  believed  would not  help the  unity of the race

But  at the  same  time  the so-called  youths  were  rejecting  Akintoye, he was  at the  Western  Region  Parliament  building delivering  a lecture to Mark  the  1886 anniversary  of the Yoruba  Peace  treaty and  imperative of Yoruba National  unity. He was  called  for  the  lecture  as an historian and  his capacity  as the  new  leader  of the  Yoruba.

Apart  from this  group  other  leaders  and  those  in the  political class  have  reacted  to the  issue  and their  stands  have  further  deepened the  crisis  which  has  been trailing  the recent  declaration and  acceptance of  the  renowned historian as  the  new leader  of the Yoruba worldswide.

The  professor  was  proclaimed  the  fourth  leader  of  the  Yorubas  by  groups of  over  130 organisations at home  and  in the  diaspora at a ceremony  tagged “Assembly of all  Yoruba groups world-wide”.  The groups include OPC new  era,  Odua Redemption Alliance,  Majiwade, Odua vanguard,  Awari Omi oduduwa  and  other  organisations.

Chief  conveners were comrade  Victor Taiwo, founder  Odua Redemption Alliance, Elder  Taiye  Ayorinde, Baale  Ekotedo in Ibadan,  Chief  Deji  Osibigun and  surprisingly  a 135 year  old  man Pa Olamilekan  Akekaka, was  with them and  nominated  Akintoye. His  nomination was endorsed  and  seconded  by Sheikh Abduraheem  Aduramigba, the  Chief  Imam of Yorubaland in Kwara  and  Kogi  states.

Some  of  the  attributes  which  those  who  singled  Akintoye out  said  they  found  in him  include, his patriotism towards the  cause of Yoruba, passion, commitment, bravery and  uncompromising trait. Other  qualities mentioned are, probity, honesty,  truthfulness, integrity, friendliness  sense  of  arbitration,  physical agility,  mental  alertness  accessibility  and amiability.

One  of the  convener  of the  meeting that  led  to  Akintoye’s emergence  Chief  Deji  Osibogun  who  is  radically passionate  about  Yoruba  emancipation,  especially  the  issue  of  restructuring  of Nigeria said that  they  did  not  make  a mistake  about  the  professor, saying  that  they  studied  all  the  present  leaders  in all the organisations  in Yorubaland before  they  went  for  Akintoye.

He  revealed that  they  were  convinced  that  Akintoye  would  succeed  even  with  his  first  steps by consulting  the  likes of Chief  Olusegun  Obasanjo,  Prof. Wole  Soyinka,  the  Alaafin  of Oyo  , the Ooni,  Awujale  of Ijebuland, the Alake  of  Egbaland and  other  notable  traditional  rulers  and  Yoruba  leaders.

Akintoye’s  first  meeting with  the Afenifere in Pa  Fasoranti’s  house in Akure, late  August, when  Osibigun  group picked  him,  speaks  volumes. At the  meeting  which  was  attended  by virtually  all the  leaders  with  Pa  Ayo Adebanjo, Chief  Supo  Sonibare,  Chief  Olu Falae  and  others, Professor  Akintoye  assured  the  group that  he  would  not  do  anything that  would  affect the  unity  of the  Yoruba and  it’s  leadership.

It  was said  that  the meeting  went  amicably  as  both  Akintoye  Pa Ayo  Adebanjo, and  other  members  of  Afenifere went  back  to  Lagos  on the same  flight,  a sign of unity  within  the  group which signaled  the  tactical  endorsement of Akintoye

The embattled  and  controversial General  Secretary  of the  Yoruba  council  of  elders,  Dr.  Kunle Olajide who  is one  of the  voices  opposed to  the emergence  of  Akintoye  said  Yoruba  nation is  such  a large one  in Africa, that no group of people can arrogate to themselves  the  right  to gather  in one  place  to choose  a leader  for  such  a sophisticated people.

One  of the  Yoruba leaders  and former National  Chairman  of the  Alliance  for  Democracy (AD), Senator  Mojisoluwa  Akinfenwa, who  passed on last week, and backed  Akintoye  as  the  leader, said the  professor  of history  is a round  peg  in a round  hole, adding “. Akintoye  is eminent enough  to be  in that  position because his pedigree cut  across various groups  and  organisations in the  Yoruba  nation and to be honest he  deserves it”.

The  president  of  Voters  Assembly  of Nigeria, and  human right activist  Comrade  Moshood Erubami said  it was  unheard of in the  history  of  Yoruba leadership  succession,  for a small  group  to handpick   a leader because  Awo,  Ajasin, Adesanya  and  Fasoranti were not  handpicked from  a non representative, unannounced hidden meetings.

He  told  BusinessHallmark  that  no one  would  deny any  Yoruba  man right  and  freedom  of preference  for  a leader  but  definitely  not for all  unless the  chosen leader is  being prompted  for  recognition, saying  that many  of the attendees  were  not  known figures that  have  been part  of Yoruba nationality  movement, adding   that  as  a member of the  Yoruba  Unity  forum and  that  of Afenifere  he  was  not  aware of any  meeting to elect or nominate  a leader  and  as such the  position  of the  groups  that  elected  Akintoye  was  not well  placed  and  was  a total  error on their  part.

He pointed  out that  he  was  one  of the people  that proposed the  first  pan  Yoruba forum  for  collective  leadership  with  the  support  of Afenifere leadership of Mr. Ayo  Opadokun, Chief  Conelious  Adebayo, Pa Ayo  Adebanjo,  PA  Olanihun  Ajayi  chief Bola Ige,   Yinka  Odumakin,  Dayo  Adeyeye  and  host of others to shift the Afenifere  meeting to Ibadan  instead  of  Ijebu  Igbo for  a broader  meetig where the  likes  of Chief  Adisa  Akinloye  Dr. Omololu  Olunloyo, Prince  Akinbiyi, Bishop Ladigbolu were mobilised to attend  with  Abraham  Adesanya  leading  Afenifere  whille Chief Akinloye  led the  other  group; arguing that  it  was  strange  for  a group  that  wanted to pick  a leader  of the  Yoruba  race  would  ignore other  groups  including  that  of  Asiwaju  Bola  Tinubu even  if he  would  not  be  a nominee  but  should  have  been  carried  along.

Prince  Ayoade  Adewopo, a governorship aspirant  in Osun  under  the  platform   of  the  Peoples  Democratic  Party  (PDP)  believed   that  the  issue  of Yoruba  leadership  is a contentious  matter of the  Yoruba  question in recent  times. Prince  Ayoade  in a Whatsap  message  to  BusinessHallmark said  that Yoruba  is so large  with  it’s  extensions in  Brazil, Caribbean,  Cuba and  Haiti,  which  make  it the  largest  in Africa.

This, according  to him, in essence  makes leadership  very  complex  and  makes  it  to fall  into two folds –  political  and  traditional, while  he pointed out  that  they  are  all  related  with historical insight. According  to him,  the post  modern  Yoruba traditional leadership  has  been fractured  by cultural, religious and  political  allegiances, with modern politics contributing  significantly to the development.

He said  that in the first  and second republics  Chief Awolowo  provided  a rallying point because of his  unassailable  charisma but  there has  been huge  gap  after  his demise while  since  then,  different  personages  not  without  challenges have attempted  to  command  Yoruba  ethnic  leadership.

Awo, he said, earned the leadership of the people because he was the exponent of Yoruba educational    ascendancy and superiority.

Another diehard Awoist who served as Nigerian Ambassador  to the  Philippians, Dr.  Yemi  Farounbi  agreed  that  the  issue  of Yoruba  leadership is daily  becoming  controversial. According to Ambassador  Farounbi  in a Whatsap  response  to the  BusinessHallmark on the  emergence  of Akintoye argued that  before 1967 there  was  no such  thing, as  leaders in pre colonial  days  were  in various  kingdoms which  consisted  of  sub -ethnic  units at war  with one another,  saying  that  at the  peak of all,  Yoruba  was  under  the  Oyo  empire.

He  pointed  out  that  Awo became  the  first  Yoruba  leader in the  face  of  external  regression.  He said  in 1967 it was  clear  that  the  Yorubas  were  under serious threats as they did  not want the  Northern  troops  within  its region  and  simultaneously  the Igbo  were  threatening  the  Yoruba via  Ore and in the  face of this  Yoruba  got  united across  political  and religious divides  in western  hall  to unanimously  elect Awolowo  as  leader  due  to his demonstration as leader of the region in government by setting incomparable  standards  in governance.

He said  another  threat  to the  Yoruba  nation  during the regime Gen. Sani Abacha  produced Chief AdekunLe  Ajasin and  after  Ajasin  the  situation  became  worse  and  this  led  to the emergence of  Senator  Abraham  Adesanya  being appointed as  spokes person  for  the  Yoruba.

However, his position  was  eroded with  the  coming  of the 1999 elections which  marked  the  beginning  of the present  political  dispensation  and  because  of his  partisanship  of identifying  with  a political  party, the  Alliance  for  Democracy those  who  did  not  belong  to his  political  party  rejected  him  as  their  leader  and  that  was  the  position before his death.

Ambassador  Farounbi said that however  since 2018, during the  regime of President  Buhari the  security of the  south  west  was  threatened by the  Fulanis to fulanise  Nigeria and the  urge came  again  in the  region  for  the  need to have  a leader  who  is not partisan that  will  lead,  to  confront  the growing external  aggressions. He said  ordinarily Tinubu  should  have  stepped in to occupy  the  leadership  of the  Yoruba   but for  his partisanship he was  reject because  all the  Yorubas  are  not  in his political  party  the  APC.

The  partisan  position  of  Tinubu, Dr. Farounbi  said  led  to a new  search for  a credible and  committed  person as leader.

‘”I believed  that was  what  led  to some  Yoruba  groups that  elected  Akintoye  who  is the  greatest authority in Yoruba history today. He is very political but not partisan. He is widely known, he has been a senator and was involved in the struggle for the democratisation of Nigeria. To me he is not a bad    choice.

Also  one  of the  close  associates  of Senator Bola Tinubu  Hon. Busayo Adebayo who  was  a  member  of the lagos state  local  government service Commission told  Business Hallmark that  it was  wrong  for a group  of people to gather themselves and elect  a leader  for  the entire Yoruba nation without  consulting  others, especially  the  political  class where Asiwaju  Ahmed  Bola  Tinubu belong.