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Ojota rally: How conflicting interests foil protest for Yoruba nation 

By Seye Olumide Southwest Bureau Chief, Ibadan 
27 January 2023   |   3:21 am
With less than five weeks to the 2023 general elections, the leadership of Yoruba self-determination group is still at a crossroads over their strategy and objective. Protesters, who claimed to be acting under the directives of Professor Banji Akintoye....

Prof Banji Akintoye

With less than five weeks to the 2023 general elections, the leadership of Yoruba self-determination group is still at a crossroads over their strategy and objective.
Protesters, who claimed to be acting under the directives of Professor Banji Akintoye, immediate past leader of Ilana Egbe Omo Oodua, the group that has been clamouring for secession of Yoruba nation from Nigeria, recently engaged police at the Freedom Square, Ojota, Lagos, where one person was killed and several injured.

The fracas came almost two years after a sales girl, Jumoke Oyeleke, was killed at the same spot, during a similar protest, organised by the Yoruba nation agitators.
However, following the last incident, there has been disagreement regarding the group’s involvement in the protest.
While Professor Akintoye, who is known to have advanced his agitation for Yoruba nation from restructuring and true federalism to secession, with a deadline of December 2022, other leaders are opposed to the separatist agenda. They decried the rally on the ground that not many Yoruba citizens agreed to the idea of secession for now.
The incident worsened the crisis of confidence, which made Professor Akintoye to recuse himself from the leadership of Ilana Egbe Omo Oodua. Professor Wale Adeniran immediately emerged as new helmsman of the group, but his leadership did not last, as he stepped aside pending the outcome of investigation being conducted over allegations of mismanagement of funds.
However, one of the issues in contention among the leaders of Ilana Egbe Omo Oodua, is who authorised the January 9 rally in Ojota? In a video posted on social media, Professor Akintoye was heard calling for the secession of Yoruba nation out of Nigeria.
To the octogenarian, self-determination is an inalienable right of every nation and therefore of the Yoruba nation. He said: “We, Yoruba nation have about 60 million people in South western Nigeria, we want to inform all that today is the day that we want our freedom from Nigeria.

He said: “I greet every one of you. Professor Banji Akintoye is the one greeting you. Today is the day that we Yoruba people wanted to tell the entire world and especially Nigeria that we are ready to take the self-determination of our own nation out of Nigeria. The name of our country that is different is Ile Ede Yoruba. We are no longer part of Nigeria and that’s what we begin to say as from today.

“I greet all our children and elders because all, including young and the old, must participate in the rally. I learned that many people have assembled at Ojota in Lagos State, you are all welcome; this is the day that the Lord has made for the Yoruba nation. Do not be afraid because there is nothing anybody can do against us. The entire world is looking at us. Let us make noise, so that the world can hear us. As long as the whole world is hearing us, there is no government that has the right to attack us.”
Akintoye further stated that the rally will be held in all Yoruba land, “so that the whole world will know we are out of Nigeria. It is our right and duty to do what we need to do, so that we will be free. Let’s take this country away from Nigeria without any violence and breaking of the laws. We are a lawful nation, our movement is lawful, we are going to pursue our purposes peacefully and by law abiding ways and means let the world know that.”
When contacted on telephone, Professor Adeniran said: “You must have heard the recording of Professor Akintoye that was posted on YouTube. It was done last year. He put together a group of nine of us and the focus of the committee was to organise a rally. I was uncomfortable with the idea because I felt we have passed that stage. When we first organised rallies in major towns of Ibadan, Abeokuta and others, a few years ago, the rallies were to sensitise Yoruba people, but we have passed that stage.
“My question to my colleagues, who the Professor assembled was if the first set of rallies were to sensitise Yoruba people, how far did it go and did we really achieve the expected objective after doing the final analysis? Nobody could give me the answer to the question.
“I then said, we have to be honest with our people. My reason is that Prof. Akintoye and co. are just calling for rally as a face saving device, having known that they would not be able to deliver the Yoruba nation that they promised at the end of December 2022. I then advised that rather than risking the lives of innocent Yoruba people, I said the right thing to do was for Prof. Akintoye to come straight out, apologise to Yoruba people and say look we have not been able to deliver the Yoruba nation as we promised to do by December 2022, due to certain inadequacies, please forgive us.
“But now we are re-strategising and we will do everything to ensure that a sovereign and independent Yoruba nation would be delivered soonest. To me, that would have been the honest way out, but they just rejected it. I even consulted the state coordinators of Ilana Egbe Omo Oodua in Nigeria, but not one of them was in favour of organising the rally that was held on that fateful Monday in Ojota. I reported back to Prof. Akintoye. I also called a meeting of state coordinators of Ilana Omo Oodua and they were all against the rally.
“I even went as far as talking to Aare Ona Kankanfo of Yoruba land, Iba Gani Adams, and he advised us against organising the rally. The gentleman did say emphatically that he was more concerned was addressing insecurity in Yoruba land. That was his position and, therefore he would not advise a rally in Nigeria. He said if people in the Diaspora wanted a rally they are free because they are in a tolerant environment.
“This was the position of many of us about organising a rally at home. But when I reported the state coordinators position to Prof. Akintoye, he didn’t believe me. So, I said he should call a meeting to discuss my findings and the meeting was called with rally declaration as agenda, but when the meeting started, Prof. Akintoye brushed aside the agenda, rather he deliberated on the lack of unity in Yoruba land.”
Many leaders of Yoruba ethnic groups apart from Adams, who dissociated his own faction of O’odua Peolpes Congress (OPC) from the secessionist group, said the rally was Prof. Akintoye’s personal agenda.
In separate statements, President of another faction of OPC, Otunba Wasiu Afolabi, said none of the members of the socio-cultural organisation was part of the rally. Adams said: “OPC is not against the liberation of Yoruba race. However, it is a fact that the struggle for secession is an inalienable right of all Yoruba to champion. We are not part of the rally held in Ojota.
“Our position on regionalism is very clear. It is sacrosanct, because that is what we are seeking at the moment. Nigeria should be restructured to full regional autonomy, where each region will be at liberty to operate at its own pace. It is unfortunate that reports linking us to the rally was done in bad faith to discredit our organisation.”
In a similar vein, Afolabi said he made phone calls to his members around the axis and elsewhere, they said they knew nothing about the incident. He said: “Nobody should drag OPC into a matter that does not concern us and the crisis was none of our business.”
The immediate past Secretary General, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Dr Kunle Olajide, said violent approach must not be part of demands for self-determination by any ethnic nationalities or groups.

He said Nigeria, in his humble opinion, is better off as a united country than fragmented into different ethnic groups. “For me, Nigeria will make much and better progress as a united country.”
Dr. Olajide said there is need to appeal to all agitators from different ethnic nations to shield their sword and desist from plunging the country into any form of crisis, especially few months to elections.
He said: “They can wait till after the election, when we have representatives in the National Assembly, whatever point anyone wants to make can be achieved through their representatives.”
The Director General, Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) commission, Mr Seye Oyeleye, said those opposed to self-determination must first understand the right to protest is guaranteed in the Constitution. “So, there is no right or wrong in the Ojota protest. But what you can ask is that, is it an auspicious time to protest? They are two different things. Yes, the agitators for Yoruba nation are within their right to protest and that elections are coming. To them, it is neither here nor there because they actually don’t believe there should be election or they don’t really believe in Nigeria and they wanted to exit.
“For them, that election is coming is irrelevant and that’s not what they are thinking. But you don’t want to ask yourselves what are their problems? Considering the constitutional provisions that hold us together, I would have advised that they can never exhaust that table of negotiation and that table is very big; such that grievances must be brought to that Nigerian table and talk.
“The idea that they are engaging in violence will not work. Yoruba land is still within the State called Nigeria, and the hope of the agitators for Yoruba nation would require them to sit down and dialogue and not by organising violence. I didn’t blame them for what happened at Ojota but anything at this moment that can trigger violence must be avoided. Don’t also forget that the State will not just sit back and watch a group of people disrupt its harmony. But, I am glad that some of our elders in Yoruba land have come out to say that violence is not the right way to go at this period. By going violent, you are not going to achieve your aims. My position is that the agitators for the Yoruba nation must go back and design better tactics to push forward their agenda.”
Lagos coordinator of apex Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Chief Supo Sonibare, said people are entitled to agitate for self-determination, but such agitation needs to be peaceful and it must not infringe upon the rights of people, who may have different opinions.

He also said the fact that elections are pending does not preclude people from agitating for an independent nation, “the only condition is that their demand must be done in a peaceful manner and must not disrupt the rights of those who necessarily do not agree with the approach. It must not also be a threat to other citizens.
“In a democracy, general franchise is really the best way of demonstrating. Those who want Yoruba nation should organise themselves into a political vehicle, through which they can demonstrate that their agitation has the support of the majority of the people in the area they are demanding for.”
On the development in the Ilana Omo Oodua group, Sonibare said, “Professor Akintoye is a respected Southwest person, he was a Senator in the Second Republic, but he has been out of the country for several years. It goes back to what I am saying that it is not enough to profess to be representing your people, but you need to show the capacity that you have populist support and one will encourage all the leaders of the group to show the capacity that they have populist support and not to presume that their position belongs to the people they claim to be representing.”
For the Chairman, Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), Wale Oshun, “in democracy, everybody has different ways of proffering solutions to problems. Some may prefer going through election while others are saying, no, they don’t believe in election, but that they would want to opt out. What the agitators did in Ojota was within their constitutional right to demonstrate and demand for self-determination. People have the right to vent their feelings and speak their minds, but if they are not allowed to do so, then it will lead to violence. There was a time the Yoruba nation supporters came to the same Ojota, the then Lagos Commissioner of Police, ensured that there was protection everywhere, he ensured there was no loss of life. The agitators demonstrated and left the scene at the end of the day. I don’t see reason why government deployed security agents to confront the protesters as long as it was a peaceful exercise.”
Oshun said there was nothing to suggest in the first instance that the Ojota protest was not going to be peaceful, but the attempt to disallow the rally must have triggered the violence. “Nobody, even the police, has not given any clear report as to what happened, but they should.”

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