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The travails of Prof. Banji Akintoye

Turnpot

On Tuesday, November 30, 2021, Prof. Adebanji Stephen Akintoye, erstwhile chairman of the Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-determination (NINAS), announced his resignation both as leader and member of the organisation. Akintoye also pulled his Yoruba self-determination group, Ilana Omo Oodua (IOO), out of NINAS while announcing the formation of another umbrella organisation for southern Nigeria’s (East, West, Niger Delta and Middle Belt) self-determination groups to be known as the South and Middle Belt People’s Sovereign Movement (SOMPSOM). Only the initiates will find their way through the labyrinth of intrigues and petty politics that led to the unravelling of NINAS and the exit of a leader that has given it much credibility and respect locally and abroad within the short time that Akintoye lent his name, connections, contacts, influence, credibility and prestige to NINAS. As they say, there is no smoke without fire. The Yoruba put it this way: Ti ko ba n’idi, ise kii se” The rumblings within NINAS had been on for some time, albeit underneath. Some Ilana Omo Oodua big wigs, under the leadership of a woman nominated into NINAS by Akintoye, had become chubby with the NINAS dictator. NINAS is a one-man Riot Squad, a one-man show more or less. Akintoye as chairman was just a facade and convenient ruse to rope the Yoruba self-determination groups aligned to Akintoye’s IOO into NINAS to beef up its credibility and prestige and give it the status of a serious self-determination group with widespread acceptability across the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria. Why Akintoye aligned with NINAS in the first place and why he put up with the excesses of a self-conceited and self-opinionated fellow for so long remains a puzzle to me. I sat in on just one ZOOM meeting of NINAS anchored by this fellow and was put off by his arrogance and dictatorial tendencies. At a point I could no longer put up with it and had to scold him openly. He was unrepentant and defended his uncouth and abusive language against those who called in because, according to him: “It is because you don’t know them. They are Nnamidi Kanu’s boys”! He was so intolerant and abusive and wouldn’t allow callers air their views. This fellow maintained his truculent, saucy, and irascible approach throughout the meeting. Akintoye, busy in another corner of the room, sat through it all, only coming in on and off to shed light on this or that issue and to calm frayed nerves when the dictator ran into stormy waters. With democrats and freedom fighters such as these, no one needs a dictator! The fate of the Nigerian indigenous nationalities’ struggle for freedom and liberty from oppression is doomed ab initio with the type of dictators and traitors in the driver’s seat of NINAS.

Before his resignation, Prof. Akintoye (Yoruba and representing IOO) was NINAS chairman; somewhere along the line, another IOO leader and Yoruba (a woman), was also named as the vice-chairman of NINAS. How can that possibly be? What of the other nationalities in NINAS? Was anything afoot? Sometime in 2020, Prof. Akintoye relocated from his Lagos abode first to somewhere in the hinterland before reportedly leaving Nigeria for a neighbouring country. Some reports said his change of location was for security reasons and or for him to effectively coordinate efforts to get Sunday Igboho, the Yoruba self-determination activist, out of detention in Benin Republic. With Akintoye and Prof. Wale Adeniran, his next-in-command, out of the country, the mantle of leadership fell on this woman, touted as one of the closest Akintoye allies, who was named the IOO vice-chairman. The same woman doubles as the NINAS vice-chairman. Yoruba, NINAS chairman; another Yoruba, NINAS vice-chairman! Penultimate week, the masquerade came fully into the market square when this woman addressed a press conference where she reeled out allegations against Akintoye and declared a split in IOO. Going by the generally-perceived closeness of this woman with the NINAS dictator, tongues wagged about the possibility of a liaison between both. Stabbing an 86-year-old man on the back and another instance of Et tu, Brute? For many IOO personalities and groups standing with Akintoye, the NINAS dictator’s offer – or is it efforts – to negotiate peace between the fall-away IOO turn-coats and Akintoye not only rankles but is also suspect.

I chose to speak openly on this issue for many reasons. The English say “once bitten, twice shy” How many times will the Yoruba self-determination groups be bitten before they feel shy of repeating the same mistakes again and again? Many respectable and influential Yoruba sons and daughters have, as a result of the serial treachery, pettiness and vaulting ambition amongst Yoruba self-determination groups, lost interest in the agitation for an Oodua nation. At about this time last year, the Yoruba World Congress (YWC), formed with fanfare in Ibadan a year earlier, unravelled badly. Everyone laid claim to the name – Yoruba World Congress. A group of top echelon YWC leaders squared up against the leader, Prof. Akintoye. Peace efforts floundered. In the end, Akintoye and his loyalists abandoned the YWC and founded Ilana Omo Oodua (IOO). Ironically, all those laying claims to the YWC also jettisoned the name, chose other names and went their different ways. It was a sad day for the Yoruba self-determination effort! Of all the groups that rose from the ashes of the YWC, Akintoye’s Ilana Omo Oodua appears the front-runner, subscribed to by majority Yoruba self-determination groups and individuals (including Sunday Igboho, according to some reports). But now, this! Many of those who goaded – yes, goaded – Akintoye into parting ways with his leading YWC lieutenants are the same people said to be fuelling the current storm in a tea cup in IOO. But for how long will so-called Yoruba leaders behave like the chicken that gathers only to scatter the same with its legs? “Isasi abi edi?” Greed and selfishness make many so-called self-determination activists count their chickens before they are hatched! They fight for positions and jostle for relevance. I watched many of them do all sorts of incredible things to curry favour. They milled around the leader and made his home their second home. They lobbied his wife and were often seen in her kitchen. They tried all sorts of things to have Akintoye’s son in their corner. They created or fuelled problems; they drove a wedge between the leader and those who wished selflessly to help push forward the self-determination struggle; they loathed the truth and therefore ensured that honest views and opinions did not see the light of day. They manipulated themselves into sensitive positions in the organisation and ran rings around the leader. When the leader began to see through their tricks and decided to act independently, they labelled him a dictator and called him all sorts of names. When the scales began to fall off the leader’s eyes and he started to demand accountability, transparency, and openness, they told awesome lies against him, intent on shredding his reputation. Reports say all manner of politicians have infiltrated the Yoruba self-determination struggle. Apostles of “One Nigeria” no less! It was when I moved with politicians that I knew that some people can deliberately tell bare-faced lies against their fellow human beings without batting an eye. “E je ka pa’ro mo! Iro kabiti! Ko ni bo ninu e!“

Some of the allegations against Akntoye are as ridiculous as they are laughable. When the YWC crisis blew open, Akintoye was accused of behaving like a father and not like a leader! Whatever that means! An 86-year-old should not be fatherly? Akintoye’s disposition is that of a mother hen who gathers its children under its wings but some others wanted a guild-like leadership where only a few people take decisions. Akintoye prefers to bring as many people as possible on board, especially if he sees that you have something to offer. I side with Akintoye! Another accusation was that Akintoye was a dictator and that he took decisions without consulting. At his age, Akintoye’s passion, zeal, and commitment to the Yoruba self-determination struggle baffles me. He works round the clock. He throws everything he has into the struggle. He cannot stand to have anyone drag foot. He is anxious to keep the momentum going. So, when others are not forthcoming, he goes ahead and acts. They also accused Akintoye of flinging the door open for all sorts to troop into the self-determination struggle: “iru wa, ogiri wa” sort of. Noting how two Bible figures, David and Jephthah, made good use of the hoi polloi to achieve success and fame, I side with Akintoye’s style of flinging the door open for all and sundry to contribute their own quota to the Yoruba self-determination struggle. When you hear them say that Akintoye hobnobed with politicians, the question you should ask them is who put pressure on him to do the little that he grudgingly did? Pressure was mounted on him to set up a meeting with a top Yoruba politician with rumoured presidential ambition. In the end, he consented and they made the call but as fate would have it, the man at the other end said he was not interested in any meeting whose agenda was the Yoruba self-determination pursuit. A close ally of Akintoye parted ways with him simply because he (Akintoye) would not introduce the fellow to a serving South-west governor!

My Owo people have a saying which I will try to paraphrase here: The first mishap can be taken as a mistake; the second, as a scare but the third may harbour untold consequences. It is time for the Yoruba self-determination struggle to critically examine the pitfalls of the past and painstakingly and objectively re-examine its modus operandi before jumping – or as it jumps – into the bandwagon of another omnibus alliance. Strong structures make for strong organizations. Therefore, create strong structures for IOO. Square pegs in square holes deliver an efficient system of administration. Therefore, carefully select the best and shun nepotism and sentiments. As Akintoye himself was fond of saying of the late sage, Awo, he should emulate Awo’s style of administration and borrow from his template of organizational dexterity. When rules are set and everyone plays by the rules, openness, transparency and accountability is ensured. Therefore, let all be subject to the same rules – the leaders and the led alike. Careful attention must be paid – and due consideration given – to the hurdles at which the Yoruba self-determination effort has faltered again and again. Time to bell the cat is now!

By Bolanle Bolawole

turnpot@gmail.com 0705 263 1058

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