- 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.