Akintoye’s leadership will unite Yoruba nation, says Tola Adeniyi
Amid growing agitations for purposeful leadership in the country and self-determination by various interest and socio-political groups, a former Managing Director of Daily Times, Tola Adeniyi told OLAWUNMI OJO and SEYE OLUMIDE that the new leader of Yoruba, Prof. Seth Akintoye, must rally every group in the region for a common cause. He also warned that the Fulanisation agenda is real and could consume the Yoruba nation if no critical steps were taken to thwart it
‘… Multiplicity of groups in Yorubaland for common good, not disunity’
There have been sustained calls for a redefinition of the basis for the continued existence of Nigeria as a nation. Would you lend your voice to the agitation?
Nigeria is a merger of all sorts of characters. Before the British came, we were organised – all the nationalities were organised. There were beautiful kingdoms in Southern Nigeria – the Oyo Kingdom, Ijebu Kingdom, Benin Kingdom, Ondo Kingdom and so on. There were the Hausa kingdoms. But they were all destroyed.
Today, Nigeria is a country where anything goes, because there is no structure, system, and paradigm. When you have an admixture of all sorts of people who are not compatible in a society, this is what you get. And with the spells of bad governance that we have had, I do not see any future for all the nationalities within the context of Nigeria.
You mean as Nigeria currently exists?
Yes. Any idiot should be able to know that this country is gone.
Do you subscribe to the demand for restructuring?
We have gone beyond restructuring. If we restructure Nigeria, the Fulani will still be coming into other parts of the country, and the Igbo will still be Nigerians. When you restructure, you cannot stop a Yoruba man from going to Zamfara to kill people, neither can you stop a Fulani man from going to Enugu to kill people. He will tell you that, as guaranteed by the constitution and as a citizen of Nigeria, he is entitled to moving all over the country to carry out his business. So, restructuring cannot stop all the madness; it cannot stop a part of the country from practicing Sharia Law and other things.
Depending on how far you go when you restructure, we will still have a federal police, army and others. Even at that, you will still have the 36 struggling states that cannot pay salaries. The 36 states were created to weaken all the confederating units so that they can have this unworkable structure. No part of the country is strong enough to challenge the centre. It is part of the politics. So, we have gone beyond restructuring.
I recommended restructuring many years ago and my idea was to lead to a confederation. When I say restructure, I canvased for confederation, which is what late Pa Antony Enahoro, late Chief Bisi Onabanjo and the late Ozumba Mbadiwe canvassed for years ago. It would make us have a Yoruba region, for instance, that will be like Ontario in Canada, like California in United States of America, and Scotland in Great Britain. That will make you semi-autonomous; you will have your parliament, your police and so on.
But you are not saying anything different from what some Nigerians have suggested, are you?
What are they saying? I am talking of confederation, but we have even gone beyond that. Now we have come to a stage where about four, five or six countries should emerge from what is currently Nigeria. A number of countries have gone their separate ways – Yugoslavia, USSR, former India that broke into Pakistan and Bangladesh and so on. Even recently, we had Sudan breaking into Southern and Northern Sudan after a lot of bloodshed. But we don’t want that. This is why people like me have been canvassing for peaceful separation, which was what the late Nnamdi Azikiwe asked for in 1964 based on a conviction that the basis for co-existence was not there. Former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon also said the same thing in 1966. The basis for unity is just not there.
Some say that achieving separation would still need the ascent of the National Assembly…
You cannot go through the National Assembly where we have almost 95 per cent of lawmakers that were rigged in and are in the pocket of the executive? We also have the judiciary and all security apparatus in the pocket of the executive. How has the National Assembly reacted, for instance, to the killings all over the country, especially the one continuously perpetrated in Benue and Taraba?
How do we then achieve this confederation? Would it be through violence?
I said we have gone beyond confederation. But we must dialogue. We don’t want bloodshed.
How do we kick-start the process?
The agitation is going on and it is all over the country already whether you try to suppress it or not. It doesn’t matter if you imprison Omoyele Sowore, the convener of #RevolutionNow or me; the groundswell of the agitation is massive.
So, you think the build up will continue?
Of course! Those who say the chaos is being exaggerated say so because their wives and children have not been kidnapped. Let a wife of any of them be abducted and raped by seven dirty, stinking kidnappers, then he will know that we are in danger. But because it has not happened to them, they keep talking nonchalantly. We cannot remain in this kind of animalistic and barbaric society. And this has nothing to do with Igbo, Fulani or Yoruba; it has gone beyond branding. We have had the Fulani in Nigeria for many years; I grew up to know Fulani in my uncle’s house. I have gone beyond generalisation. It is about a particular agenda of wanting to import Fulani from all over West Africa into Nigeria, and by so doing, drive away everybody into Internally Displace People’s (IDP) camps, kill as many as they can, terrorise as many as they can, just to attain that agenda. That is the agenda we must attack. Kidnapping and highway terrorism are just symptoms.
So you believe that such agenda to take over the country by the Fulani exists?
Of course, anybody should know that. Look at Southern Kaduna, Zango Kataf, a place was earmarked for the Fulani herdsmen but that place has now developed into a big local government with all the necessary facilities and even the citizens of Zango Kataf cannot go there. So many communities have been taken over in Benue. As we speak, there are more than half a million IDPs in Benue – driven away from their homeland.
Would you hold the incumbent government responsible?
I am not talking of who is responsible. We know that it is happening and President Muhammadu Buhari is not stopping it. The Yoruba say, ‘Ti naninani ba nnani, ti eni to o ye ko sope ma na won mo ko ba soro, o tunmo si pe oun loni ki won ma na.’ This means that if there is a misunderstanding or crisis, and the person who is in position to stop it deliberately refuses to intervene or make peace, then he is the one instigating the action. I am not accusing anybody, but any discerning mind knows where the action is coming from. The late Abacha said that if insurgency in any country lasts more than two weeks, then government is involved. Professor Aldo Moro, an Italian Prime Minister, was kidnapped in 1978 and killed, and his parts were distributed across the state. Till today, nobody has been arrested or punished because the state was involved. Till today, nobody has also been convicted for the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy. because the state was involved.
Considering your call for separation, does the level of disunity among Yoruba leaders and seeming inability to speak with one voice in championing a common cause not bother you?
I think I have to correct this; there is no society on earth where we don’t have voices of dissent. Even in a family, there are voices of dissent. So, to expect that any society, especially a society so enlightened, blessed and endowed with the largest concentration of graduates and post-graduates, a society with a long history of civilization would be without dissenting voices is an anomaly. Go and check; when the Yoruba were wearing three-piece suits, agbada, dansiki and sokoto, many cultures in Europe were going about naked. I am not the one who said this; a white man said it. When we have a nation like Yoruba with high level of civilization, you should expect voices of dissent. We don’t settle our quarrel with bows and arrows. Therefore, to come back to your question, we don’t have disunity in Yoruba land and among our elders; we have voices of dissent.
And in any case, we can’t all be thinking the same way. We believe in diversification, choices and choice-making. In Yoruba land today, there are over 100 socio-cultural organisations. Even Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) has about six different divisions. We have Afenifere of the great men like Pa Reuben Fasoranti and Pa Ayo Adebanjo, but we also have the Pa Ayo Fasanmi faction and the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG). So as we speak, I think we have about four or five different factions of Afenifere groups. We have the Agbekoya, one to three. We also have Yoruba Koya, led by Otunba Osibogun. We have Yoruba Koya Ijinle, Voice of Reason, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Yoruba Liberation Command, the one that has been talking about Yoruba independence for the past 10 years, led by George Akinola.
So, we have all of them and that does not mean disunity. What it means is that so many Yoruba organisations have come up fighting for the same goal. The goal is for the liberation and emancipation of the Yoruba race. The fact that we have several of such bodies, like we have many of such in the Southeast, does not mean disunity. They are just fighting for the actualisation of their Biafra dream. And it doesn’t mean that their elders are not respected. I am sure they all have respect for Chief Emeka Anyaoku, one of the most cultivated men in the country. I am sure Pa Fasoranti and Adebanjo meet on several occasions. The Yoruba elders have been in this struggle for years and nothing can divide them.
If there is no disunity, how can all these groups form a common front to achieve the liberation you talk about?
It has happened before. On September 23, 1966, at a gathering of many such groups in Ibadan, a 37-year old Richard Akinjide stood up to say that the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was ‘our leader’ at that time, and that was all. No voting and nobody countered. Awolowo was celebrated as Asiwaju of Yoruba land, but after that, we had voices of dissent that were saying he was a mere leader of the Action Group (AG). Until his death, however, he remained leader of the Yoruba.
So, who is the Yoruba leader now?
The new Yoruba leader that has just been elected is Professor of History and Second Republic Senator, Seth Banji Akintoye.
Why did you say that because the man in question said he wasn’t at the venue where the election took place and Bola Ahmed Tinubu, whom he defeated in the election, was not even aware of any such process?
He doesn’t have to be there. When Winston Churchill was pronounced leader of the British, he was not there. When the French people were in serious trouble and they needed a powerful leader, they went for Charles Jules-Joseph de Gaulle. So you don’t have to be there. I am sure you know that people have been elected or chosen in absentia before and that is not strange.
What validates the process of Prof. Akintoye’s emergence as the new Yoruba leader?
It is a process; about 60 organisations that are worried about the situation in Yoruba land and in Nigeria say they want a vibrant leader. The people in the 60 organisations that initiated the movement invited every necessary organisation in Yoruba land, including all the factions of Afenifere, OPC and others. They invited Yoruba Assembly, led by Farounbi, Ataiyese led by Ajasin. Some of them sent their leaders and their representatives.
All the 60 organisations were there. I take exception to some people querying the calibre of people that nominated Akintoye? The man behind the gathering is about 61 years old. Victor Taiwo is not a small boy; he is over 69. Osibogun is 65. George Adesokan is 62 or 63. So, what are you talking about youth? These are elders of Yoruba land in their own right. Or is it because they are not moneybags and are not flying in jets? In Yoruba land, money has never been foremost in Yoruba value system. In our value system, money is number five.
What are the first four?
The first is laaka’ye, which is the application of ogbon, imo, oye (knowledge, wisdom, understanding). For instance, my grandfather was like the chief judge in our homestead, Adelegun, and our town in Ago-Iwoye, in his time. He was an illiterate and not even the richest but he was reputed to have wisdom. When the late Pa Abraham Adesanya and Adekunle Ajasin were made leaders, they were not the richest.
The second is valour. That is why Baloguns are second-in-command to the leaders in Yoruba land. Baloguns are people that can lead them to war. Yoruba have no respect for cowards.
The third is integrity. Someone with integrity is a man of his words. If you have all the wealth in the world but lack integrity, it means nothing. Integrity is combined with iwa – character, which we regard as omoluabi. The fourth is having a visible means of livelihood. A person must be identified with a visible means of living; that is, his or her profession or job. The last in the Yoruba value system is money. If you have money in place of the earlier four, you are nobody.
I don’t see any Yoruba person with a sound mind that is not worried about what is happening in the Southwest now. Everybody is afraid to travel to his hometown because of kidnappers. How and when did we get to this stage in Yoruba land that people could no longer travel confidently because of kidnappers? These are some of the reasons people concluded that, “Oh! we thank all our elders for their efforts, you have carried us so far. But, we now need a leader who does not belong to any political party. We need a leader who will welcome Tinubu, welcome Fasoranti, Pa Fasanmi and everybody.”
So, they were looking for somebody who is not in any political party, affected by religion, place of birth or anything, but has all the qualifications I mentioned earlier. People might complain about the process; I even heard some people asking that how many traditional leaders were there? How many were there when Awolowo, Ajasin and Adesanya became leaders? It was the late Ooni who called Pa Ajasin and said you will lead the Yoruba race and that was all. Nobody voted for late Pa Adesanya.
But Pa Fasoranti, who is the incumbent leader of Afenifere is still alive while Prof. Akintoye has emerged. Is this not an aberration in Yoruba land for a new leader to emerge when the incumbent is alive?
I think we should make clear what many people do not understand. Ajasin didn’t emerge as leader of Afenifere leader. He didn’t emerge because he belonged to an organization. Adesanya was not chosen on the platform of Afenifere and Awolowo was not elected because he was Action Group leader or Afenifere. With due respect, Akintoye is a strong member of Afenifere, a leading member of the group. I am also a member of Afenifere, but the group (Afenifere) has consistently said that it is political. It is a socio-cultural political organisation.
Afenifere, for instance, today, would not want to touch Tinubu. The Afenifere of Pa Fasoranti brought the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who was the presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to Pa Adebanjo’s house; they took him to former President Olusegun Obasanjo. And that is partisan. Not everybody is in the PDP.
When they point at Tinubu, the greatest political leader in Yoruba land today, people must realise that he is not the leader of every Yoruba person. He is only the leader of APC, his party that happens to be ruling the centre. So, Yoruba of PDP affiliation, that are in their millions, have nothing to do with Tinubu’s leadership. He is not their leader. Millions in other parties do not respect or subscribe to Tinubu’s leadership.
Fasoranti is the leader of Afenifere, which is one of the several socio-cultural organisations in Yoruba land. Though, it is the foremost organisation that has represented the Yoruba at several fora does not mean Fasoranti is the leader of those who do not belong to Afenifere. We should make that distinction.
To buttress my argument, Akintoye was in Pa Fasoranti’s house over the weekend last week in Akure and he went in the same flight with Adebanjo. This was after his (Akintoye’s) election. There is no division at all; they were altogether in Akure. So, we still believe that Fasoranti is the father, to a large extent, of the Yoruba leadership. There is no way Akintoye will be leader of Yoruba nation without deferring to Pa Adebanjo or Fasoranti.
Do think Professor Akintoye’s leadership can bring the Yoruba nation together?
That is what these people are trying to do. Akintoye didn’t make himself a leader. And I don’t think he has the moral right to reject the offer made to him by the Yoruba elements that feel they are in the jungle and they want a spokesperson, an intellectual giant in the like of Akintoye, to lead them.
I can tell you that as soon as he sets to work, especially bowing to the pressure of those who elected him, he will meet with everybody, including Tinubu. He has no business with political parties, because this is a time the Yoruba nation needs no quarrel within its camp. This is not the time to find fault; Nigeria is at war and Yoruba is in the midst of that war. During wartime, you don’t trade blame. The first thing is to ensure we win this war, after which we can sit to discuss our differences. The emergent Yoruba leadership has no stomach to quarrel with Tinubu, with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo or with any governor because they are our children.
I said recently that all Yoruba people must support their governors. If APC governors are afraid of saying the truth to President Muhammadu Buhari or the Chief of Staff to the president, there should be someone they can cry to if Abuja wants to punish them. This is therefore saying that the emergent leadership of Yoruba nation will embrace everybody.
From the antecedents of Akintoye, does he share your vision of liberation for the Yoruba nation?
Well, Akintoye is about eight years older than I am. He may have the same fire but he may not be able to express it the way I do. He was senator of the Second Republic. I belong to two organisations, which has Akintoye as our leader. So, he is my leader. I can, therefore, say I don’t see any Yoruba man that is more qualified or competent to lead Yoruba out of the slavery that we are in now.
What agenda would you set for Prof. Akintoye?
There should be a meeting of all the 318 socio-cultural groups in Yoruba land, without leaving out the young ones. The future of Yoruba lies with the youth. He should reach out to the leaders in political parties, commerce, finance and banking, medical sector and others. We expect him to reach out to all leaders. He should have a council of elders and leaders of thoughts. But more than any other thing, he should chart a way forward for the Yoruba. Are they going to go out of Nigeria or defend themselves, because they are being attacked everyday? Are they just going to fold their arms and allow themselves to be overrun or are they to cry out to the international community and tell the world that the Fulani have descended on Nigeria to take our patrimony and send us all to the sea, and create a refugee crisis that will be the greatest in history?
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