Banji Akintoye: Beyond Yoruba triumphalism as UNPO member
In July 2011, this writer was one of the starry-eyed guests invited to witness the birthday fanfare organised for Otunba Gani Adams, now Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland. The 40th birthday was superbly twinned with a lecture titled “The Yoruba Race: Forging a Common Front”. The assemblage on the high table included a robust mix of Ambassador Segun Olusola, Professor Ibidapo Obe, Akogun Tola Adeniyi, guest speaker, Mohammed Fawehinmi, Dare Babarinsa, and Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the people’s Oranmiyan. The guest speaker, Akogun Tola Adeniyi could not hide his passionate embrace of Otunba Gani Adams and his rebellious cause. Akogun fits the bill of any hardcore rebel in and outside his different personas. As Akogun, as Araba, as Aba Saheed what flows through these different personas is nothing but rebellious rebuke both in his journalism, his oratorical skill and other polemical exercises.
The baby-faced, seemingly ageless and handsome Akogun Tola Adeniyi, as the guest speaker, did not disappoint his Oodua audience. Akogun is the Yoruba irredentist, historiographer, cultural ambassador and connoisseur, defender, documentarian, provocateur, pundit and purist. There was a Delphic wisdom of ‘Know Thyself’ in his “The Yoruba Race: Forging a Common Front” when he began to drop the bomblet of his lecture on the audience. Akogun Tola Adeniyi calibrated the ugly dichotomies, complexities, the valour, heritage, cultural superiority, nomadism and trail blazing spirit of the race, its present maginalisation, its gloriana, past exploits and now its cultural, social, political, educational, economic and material subjugation by the exploding forces of modernity that had caught the Yoruba nation napping.
Akogun as a cultural rejuvenator, fixer and observer, observed: “our collective failure are in four core areas: first our dwindling, almost vanishing political relevance, our bastardization, vulgarization, subjugation and outright liquidation of our cherished cultural values, our loss of sense of history of who we really are, as well as the loss of our pride of place in the comity of nation.” The profundity of Akogun Tola Adeniyi’s observation and challenge went deeper than his moralizing rhetoric of Yoruba collective failure. To bail out the Yoruba nation out of its dwindling fortune and cultural cul-de-sacs, Akogun Tola Adeniyi found solace in the radical new concept of Omoluwabi as urgent intellectual and cultural imperative that will catalyze a new set of value systems among the Yoruba.
Today, Yoruba is forging ahead in the creation of Amotekun, the South West security outfit and the new induction into Unrepresented Nations and People Organisation, (UNPO). UNPO, formed on February 11, 1991 in The Hague, Netherlands, is an international membership-based organisation established to empower the voices of unrepresented and marginalised peoples worldwide and to protect their fundamental human rights. Members comprise indigenous peoples, minorities, unrecognised peoples or peoples of occupied territories. Professor Banji Akintoye, President of the Yoruba World Congress, in a statement, noted that the Yoruba-speaking nation membership was contained in a letter addressed to him through the YWC Coordinator for Europe by the Secretary-General, Ralph Bunche. He said UNPO membership affords the Yoruba nation an opportunity to participate in advocacy training, worldwide cultural festivals, election monitoring/observation and sports activities, among the unrepresented nations.
Akintoye said: “Some former members, such as Armenia, East Timor, Estonia, Latvia, Georgia and Palau have gained full independence and have joined the United Nations, UN, as full members. The peoples represented within the UNPO membership are all united by one shared condition: they are denied their equitable level of representation and voice in the institutions of the countries to which they currently belong and in international governance. “As a consequence, their opportunity to participate on the national or international stage is limited and unfair, and they struggle against difficulties in their effort to realise their rights to civil and political participation and to control their own economic, social and cultural development”. “In many cases, they live under pressure of the worst forms of violence and repression, such as is being perpetrated by armed herdsmen and militias, as well as by terrorist outfit like Boko Haram, that terrorises many peoples of Nigeria, including our Yoruba nation. This violence and repression are being adroitly and surreptitiously supported by the government of Nigeria. In some cases, members of UNPO need serious help because they live in countries and under governments that actively resist their progress and destroy their achievements, as our Yoruba nation lives in Nigeria. The UNPO is able to address issues that often remain hidden because UNPO has the freedom to raise issues that others cannot raise due to political or funding constraints.
Today, UNPO has more than 40 member-nations.” Professor Banji Akintoye is a concentrated Yoruba nation theorist, activist, mouthpiece, motivator, guardian angel and its most tireless advocate. Akintoye’s shining star in the struggle for Yoruba nationhood rests on his resilience, his digital activism, his angry cadences, his incantatory knack for organisation, his audacious call for the Balkanisation of Nigeria into many competing sovereign nations and his subjective passion for a reimagined Yoruba nation of prideful prosperity, power, peace and progress. He is the Yoruba nation’s independent-obsessed global diplomat! He understands the fierce urgency of now or never!
However, beyond the recent glad cry of triumphalism as 45th member of UNPO, Yoruba race should come under an urgent hard talk on collective unity.
If we could force inclusion into UNPO through genuine debate, campaign through international diplomacy and the co-production of broadly plausible arguments for a Yoruba nation, then the harder task now is to initiate a process of persuasion to forge oneness, unity, reconciliation, cohesion and a common destiny among the disparage Yoruba race. Akogun Tola Adeniyi in his 2011 lecture mentioned that the Yoruba race was faced with bastardisation which was a byword for disunity. Unity is one of the core areas of failure or challenge, if you like, among the modern day Omo Oodua. We are in profound disarray throughout the world. Associated with that is the difficulty of unity among scattered, vociferous and independent-minded people. What is in circulation is this distorting banal picture of saints and sinners who articulate their own selfish vision and strive to realize it, not minding the damage to the collective will of the Yoruba people. Some dark conjurers say that Yoruba disunity is foreordained in the character of the average member of the race. Disunity may have understandable roots, like say, in our natural assertiveness, free thinking mentality, love of independence, hatred of grovelling subservience, personal ambition, but its consequences have been far-reaching in its conflictual predilections and infelicities.
In taking account of the complex social and cultural changes occurring within the ranks of the Yoruba race, a younger vociferous arm of the race has broken free of their traditional submissive and or coercive anchorage to redefine new loyalty and sounder articulation of vibrant mix of new philosophy and ideas. There is currently palace disquiet against the fixity and failure of the older member of the Family to accommodate ambiguous and radical voices. All too readily, stuffy conservatism, preservation of tradition and the limiting power of ageism are associated with the older generation still stuck in the traditional analogue ways of charting a homeland from the Yoruba. Therefore, confined to a prosaic explanation and by its sheer moral absoluteness, Yoruba World Congress, Oodua Peoples Congress, Afeniferere, Afeniferere Renewal Group, Egbe Omo Oduduwa, Yoruba Legacy Forum, Egbe Omo Olofin, Yoruba Koya and Yoruba Elders Forum, provide us with something extraordinarily solipsistic about the ideal of brotherly fraternity. One common headache to illuminate the complex new reality of the Yoruba race is in the array of its leaders: Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Professor Banji Akintoye, Chief Bola Tinubu, the Asiwaju of Yorubaland, Aare Ona Kakanfo Gani Adams, Chief Bisi Akande, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Jimi Agbaje, Yinka Odumakin, Wale Adebamwi, Bisi Adegbuyi and others. Each of these leaders captains its own ship. Two captains, as the saying goes, cannot captain one ship. Hope is not lost. We have the leading lights like Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu, Bishop Mo Fape, Femi Okunrounmu, Sen. Tony Adefuye, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Prince Segun Adesegun, Senator Suleiman Salawu and recently the cerebral Prof. Anthony Kila of Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies (CIAP) and Secretary-General of Yoruba World Congress who have been holding the torch of reconciliation and the erection of a cohesive fabric to shut down voices of factional rascality. To reclaim a common sense of destiny, purpose and unity, Yoruba need a bridge building Alchemist. Yes, a sage, in the towering mould of the revered Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who will reinvent a new cocktail of unity, peace, stability, progress, renewal, energy, moral conviction and intellectual credibility on all the incendiary forces that daily combust the Family. Lest we forget, Ogoni nation was inducted into UNPO as far back as 1993 and is represented by the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP). Today, Ogoni’s old valorized quest for self-determination, led by late Chief Ken Saro-Wiwa has now been quieted by internal dynamics of disunity, existential survival of its leaders and the reality of a sustained war of ideas and reason with the Fulani/Hausa internal oppressors that are bent on holding Nigeria in perpetual, forced unity. Yoruba was inducted as member of UNPO on the 20th April 2020 and almost immediately Yoruba republicans worldwide began to unfurl their Oduduwa Republic flags, sing their anthem and display future currencies. Fanciful triumphalism you might say. Whether our inclusion is merely symbolic, time will tell. Whether we shall sit on UNPO shelf like a dummy, time will tell. Ogoni is a timely lesson that induction into UNPO is nowhere near any self-actualisation into a sovereign nation.
Yoruba nation can only morph into a sovereign and independent nation when we discover an Awolowo clone that will bring a belated closure to bear on the ongoing demarcations, factions, dirty in-fighting, online and offline, in the form of juvenile effusions, stupid elucidations, careless rants and angry outbursts among competing Yoruba leader-actors dying for their 15 minutes of vulgarised fame. The burden of all Yoruba is in their ambition, complexity, arrogance and distrust of the members of the race. A way out of this family war could be located in the words of Prof. Akintoye in his maiden online global town meeting held on the 15th May 2020. Like a lone prophet, he has called for “Yoruba Renaissance that will accelerate active global alliance in pursuit of the defense and promotion of Yoruba culture and people all over the world as this is the best way to attain safety and prosperity of everything Yoruba”. Excuse me! Where is the sentiment of Yoruba homeland? Where is the sentiment of separate destiny? Where is the sentiment of self-determination? Where is the sentiment of Oduduwa Republic in the rhetoric of the man who forced our inclusion as a conqurered tribe into the hall of fame of UNPO?