Yoruba self-determination struggle suffers setback

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Within the past three years, the agitation for self-determination for Yoruba nation in Nigeria was pursued with renewed vigour. Probably, the seriousness of the TV TV agitation sent shivers down the spines of the powers that be in the country.

Though, there have been several struggles in the past to carve Yoruba nation, also known as Oodua Republic, out of the present Nigeria by different groups, the coordination and publicity that the struggle received under the leadership of Professor Banji Akintoye, an emeritus Professor of History and Second Republic senator, were unprecedented.

The agitators for self-determination for Yoruba nation predicated their agitation on the grounds that Nigeria is slowing down the progress of the Yoruba right from the time the regional government was scrapped. They also mentioned incessant killings, maiming,  kidnapping for ransom, using cattle to destroy farmlands by herdsmen, and ploy by an ethnic group in the country to dislodge the Yoruba from their ancestral land.

Nigeria, according to them, has failed to solve the challenges of peaceful coexistence. They alleged further that politicians, especially  political office holders, are rather in government for their selfish benefits. They also argued that the demand for restructuring of the country into regional lines, as it was in the First Republic, which gave every region the opportunity to develop at its own pace, would not be sufficient and would not be an all-inclusive package in the long run, like having and independent Yoruba nation.

EMERGENCE OF AKINTOYE

Investigation has shown that the recent struggle for self-determination for Yoruba nation started on Thursday August 22, 2019, in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State. It was the day that the 87-year-old Prof Banji Akintoye,, purportedly became leader of the Yoruba nation, courtesy of the Assembly of All Yoruba Groups Worldwide.

Chief convener of the meeting Victor Taiwo, said: “From this point, we are good to go in tackling and resolving all the multifarious challenges on the ground under a single, veritable leadership, and coordination among the people of Yoruba race.”

But the Yoruba World Assembly under Akintoye crumbled barely one year after his emergence. He renamed that organisation as Ilana Omo Oodua. This name change attracted wide criticism and many foundation members of the Yoruba World Assembly left the group. This made him to fall apart with the Baale of Ekotedo in Ibadan, as well Dr. Victor Taiwo, two major conveners of the Ibadan programme.

RALLIES FOR YORUBA NATION

Akintoye, however, assembled new set of people to embark on the self-determination for the Yoruba nation. In the process, he brought in the Yoruba nation activist, Chief Sunday Adeyemo, fondly called Sunday Igboho. With the support of Igboho, the Ilana Omo Oodua organised rallies, held in Abeokuta in Ogun State, Ibadan in Oyo State, Osogbo in Osun State, Akure in Ondo State, Ado-Ekiti in Ekiti State, and Ojota in Lagos State.

But security agencies seriously clamped down on the participants in the rally that took place in Lagos State on Saturday July 3, 2021. It was widely reported in the media that the rally in Lagos would be the grand finale of the struggle. But the security agencies ensured that the rally in Lagos was not successful.

RAID ON IGBOHO’S HOUSE

Barely two days to the grand finale of the rally in Lagos, combined security forces raided Igboho’s residence in Ibadan on the grounds that he allegedly stockpiled arms to destabilize Nigeria. The duplex was damaged and many expensive cars in the compound were also damaged. Two persons were killed, while more than 10 persons met in the house were arrested and taken to the headquarters of the Department of State Security (DSS) in Abuja. The arrested person’s were later taken to court.

Igboho, who was reportedly in the building when the combined security forces raided the house mysteriously escaped being killed or captured alive.

IGBOHO’S ARREST

He could not be found until the news came some weeks later that he was arrested at one airport in Cotonou, Benin Republic, when he tried to travel to Germany. He was taken to court in Cotonou and after much fireworks, he was admitted to bail on health ground. The court ordered that he must not move out of Cotonou, pending the determination of the case.

Akintoye, joined Igboho in Cotonou and mobilized legal support for him. As gathered, Akintoye, has not returned to Nigeria for more than one year. But he coordinated the activities of Ilana Omo Oodua from Cotonou for many months. He also mobilised Yoruba people in the diaspora to stage peaceful protest and demand for Yoruba nation at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) held in New York, United States of America, last year.

Investigation revealed that Akintoye had the support of some Yoruba people for the actualisation of self-determination for the Yoruba nation. Some Yoruba leaders, who could not support the struggle openly, also supported the movement in confidence.

Igboho, though in Cotonou, dragged the Minister of Justice/Attorney-General of the Federation, as well as DSS to the Oyo State High Court, over the bloody raid on his house in the night of June 31 to July 1, 2021. The case, which started in August of the same year, was finally determined in September by Justice Ladiran Akintola.

The court awarded over N20billion against the Attorney-General of the federation and DSS. But the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division, was reported to have in August 2022 upturned the judgment of the lower court in favour of the Attorney-General of the federation and the DSS.

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CRACKS IN THE STRUGGLE

In the midst of the struggle, news came that Akintoye has dumped the Ilana Omo Oodua for the foreign-based Yoruba Self-Determination Movement (YSDM). The development made a number of opinion leaders in Yorubaland to conclude that a crisis has hit the self-determination movement for Yoruba nation as the arrowhead of the struggle, Akintoye, dumped the apex Yoruba self-determination organisation, Ilana Omo Oodua Worldwide (IOO) for YSDM.

Besides, Akintoye also wrote a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, requesting for a direct negotiation with a view to realising self-determination for the Yoruba. He also called for the establishment of a sovereign nation-state. He wrote the letter on the platform of a United States of America based foundation, known as Yoruba Self-Determination Movement (YSDM), on behalf of the Yoruba people.

In the letter, he said  the self-determination agitators want the Federal Government to set up a negotiation team that would meet and dialogue with Yoruba nation’s representatives latest Friday September 30, 2022.

But the letter, dated August 6th, 2022, generated ripples within IOOW on why Akintoye allegedly took the unilateral decision, without consulting with strategic stakeholders in the movement. It was argued that Akintoye did not write the letter on the platform of IOOW that agitators have known him with, but on the platform of YSDM. As gathered, IOOW, known as the apex body of Yoruba self-determination groups, was formed with chapters established in all continents of the world. But YSDM was said to have been formed in July 2021 by some Yoruba Elites, who are mostly based in the Diaspora. The formation of YSDM reportedly took place in less than two weeks after  Sunday Ighoho was arrested in Cotonou, Benin Republic.

Akintoye purportedly acted against the run of play by asking the “Nigerian Government for an audience and negotiation in his 20-page letter to President Buhari, where he affirmed that having possessed vast population, natural, human and mineral resources, the Yoruba people have decided to assert their rights to self-determination by leaving Nigeria.

A source in IOOW stated further that Akintoye’s conduct is a betrayal of trust and a fraud against the members of Ilana Omo Oodua. He said it is unfair for Akintoye to take the status and legitimacy that Ilana Omo Oodua has worked hard to build for three years and hand over everything to a group of some elites known as YSDM that has less than 20 real members.

“Also, Akintoye stays abroad with his wife and all his children and he is saying no to a referendum in Nigeria alongside some commercial agitators in diaspora. Baba is indirectly inviting Nigerian soldiers to come and exterminate peace-loving Yoruba people in the homeland, who are demanding their rights to self-determination through the conduct of a referendum.”

AKINTOYE’S OPEN LETTER ON EFFECTS OF SLAVE TRADE

In the last Sunday of August 2022, Akintoye, wrote an open letter of apology to the Yoruba people, in which he did not address himself as a leader of Ilana Omo Oodua or YSDM. He simply addressed himself as a Yoruba leader and Head of Yoruba nation self-determination struggle. In the letter, he spoke on the spirits of Yoruba people that were sold by their forefathers for peanuts to Portuguese and Dutch people as slaves. According to him, the spirits of the victims of the slave trade were behind the lack of growth, development, progress, peace and unity in Yorubaland. Akintoye, in the letter, apologised to the victims of Trans-Atlantic slave trade in Yorubaland, saying some of the victims of the slave trade cursed the future generation of Yoruba people over the unholy collaboration between the then leaders of the Yoruba people and the Portuguese and Dutch businessmen, who came to Africa for the business of slave trade in 18th century. PL

As gathered,  more than one million Africans, including the Yoruba people, were exported to Europe and America as slaves by Europeans, bringing salt to Africa in 18th Century through Porto Novo and Whydan Kingdom in the present day Benin Republic, through the collaboration of some local warriors.

Akintoye said the curses placed on the Yoruba people by victims of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, many of whom jumped into the Atlantic Ocean, during their forced trips to Europe and America, need to be cleansed in order for the Yoruba people to enjoy God’s favour, cohesion, unity and progress. The open letter of apology, however, attracted mixed reactions.

Some people commended him for pointing the Yoruba to a spiritual direction for a spiritual solution to the challenges in the land. But to a lot of other people, the letter was more of comedy than the serious business of self-determination for the Yoruba nation.

Saturday Sun, however, gathered from some Yoruba leaders, who preferred anonymity, that the agitation for self-determination for Yoruba nation has lost the steam and seriousness it had at inception of the struggle.

One of the leaders said: “Without an iota of doubt, you will agree with me that the struggle for self-determination has lost its steam and seriousness. It is the same Prof Akintoye that joined forces with the Middle Belt and other parts of the Southern Nigeria to demand self-determination on the platform of NINAS. In fact, he was their president, before he left the group.

“They said they did not believe in the constitution of Nigeria and that off-season elections would not be allowed to hold in Ekiti and Osun States. The group went to court and lost. Then, the governorship polls were held in Ekiti and Osun States in June and July this year respectively. What are we talking about? Now, how do you want the Federal Government to take them serious now?

“It was the invitation of Igboho into the struggle that has become his albatross now. Do you know what has happened to Igboho’s business? Without joining the struggle, the young man would still be enjoying his money with his family by now. I can say that it was the demands of the struggle that pushed Igboho into the problem he is now.

“Going forward, we have to go back to the drawing board. The present struggle, I don’t see how it can achieve the self-determination for Yoruba nation. There is no how this struggle can succeed without the support of some notable Yoruba leaders. We must find a way to persuade them to join the movement, either openly or in confidence.”

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