As an Octogenarian inching towards becoming a Nonagenarian, Professor Stephen Adebanji (Banji) Akintoye (born 1935), should be enjoying a well-deserved retirement and rest rather than being in the trenches against retired Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’s creeping fascism, complicity with, and duplicity on the vexed issue of insurgency and the Fulani expansionist aggression that have combined to lay to waste a sizeable portion of the country while also endangering the peace and security of virtually everyone else. Akintoye has laboured and deserves to have some peace and rest in the twilight years of his sojourn on Mother Earth; he deserves to look back on his many struggles and toils, his daring exploits and close shaves with death, and the comforts he had forfeited and the sacrifices made – all in the quest for a better and greater Nigeria, and a just and egalitarian society fulfilling its mantra of “where no man is oppressed” and “where peace and justice shall reign”. Alas! Akintoye’s efforts – and those of the other nationalists and patriots like him – have, in this respect, all amounted to nothing but a waste of precious time and resources. The lofty dreams, the nationalistic fervour, the patriotic zeal of our founding fathers, and the labours of our heroes past have not only been in vain, they have also all been eaten up in the same manner that Fulani cows eat up farms all over the country, causing food scarcity and an exponential increase in the cost of living never before experienced in this country.
Akintoye qualifies as one of the “last of the origins”, being, as he was, a disciple of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, as against the present-day caricature “Awoists” defined only by their Awo caps and spectacles! Akintoye remains one of those forged in the crucibles of struggle in the Awo era; a trusted foot soldier, a power-house of the intellectual fervour that set Awo and his political party apart from his contemporaries, and a reliable confidante that gave his all to the Awolowo “deutsche machine” that remains, till today, a reference point in the developmental strides it engineered way back ever before Independence in 1960. In the academic field, Akintoye leaves a formidable presence and is still counting; his curriculum vitae are, to say the least, intimidating.
According to Wikipedia, Akintoye attended Christ’s School Ado Ekiti from 1951–1955 and studied history at the University College (Overseas College of the University of London), Ibadan (1956–1961), and doctoral studies from 1963-1966 at the University of Ibadan where he was awarded a Ph. D. in History in 1966. He taught at the History Department at the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile-Ife where he became a professor and Director of the Institute of African Studies from 1974-1977. He also taught African History in universities in the United States, including the University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida; Montgomery County Community College, PA, and Eastern University, St. Davids, Pennsylvania. Akintoye has written four books, chapters in many joint books, and several articles in scholarly journals. He took a leading part for some time in the politics of Nigeria and served on the Senate from 1979–1983 during the Second Republic. Akintoye is one of the current leading scholars on the history of the Yoruba people. His most recent work, A History of the Yoruba People (Amalion, 2010), draws on decades of new findings and thinking on Yoruba studies that challenge some previously dominant notions about the origins of the Yoruba. This work dispels the Middle Eastern and Arabia origins propounded by such scholars as the late Samuel Johnson (1846–1901) and also gave prominence to the works on the Pre-Oduduwa Period by Ulli Beier, among others. Akintoye also gave prominence to the role of Ilé-Ifè over that of Oyo. A reviewer, Prof. Wale Adebanwi, notes: “…this book directly contests and shifts the focus of Yoruba history away from what many have called the Oyo-centric account of Samuel Johnson… Where Johnson avoids the creation myth that positions Ife as the sacred locus of Oduduwa’s original descent and the orirun (creation-source), Akintoye, justifiably, restores Ile-Ife to its proper place as ibi ojumo ti mon wa’ye (where the dawn emerges)…”
Scripture says from the mouth of two or three witnesses, the truth of a matter is established (2 Corinthians 13: 1); so let us consider what another source (Careerbridge Africa…serving the disadvantaged) says of Akintoye on the occasion of its appointment of the erudite professor as chairman of its Board: “Prof. (Senator) Stephen Adebanji Akintoye brings to the service of Careerbridge Foundation a dignified career of high level service in academia and scholarship, governance and political leadership, assistance to businesses and entrepreneurship, experience in international relations, and extensive travel and contacts throughout the world.
“Prof. Akintoye attained his Doctor of Philosophy degree at the University of Ibadan in 1966, became a lecturer at the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) immediately, and rose very rapidly to the position of full professor in 1974, based on the exceptional quality of his academic work in research, publications, and impressive teaching. He was subsequently appointed Director of the Institute of African Studies in the same year. Prof. Akintoye has led an exemplary academic career spanning nearly five decades in Nigeria and the United States.
“Prof. Akintoye was the first employee of the new University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) to take residence on the university’s new campus at Ife in 1967 and during his tenure he earned commendations for his contributions to various aspects of the development of the new campus and university community. He was appointed Hall Master of the first male Hall of Residence, Fajuyi Hall, served for several years as the Secretary of the Ife chapter of the Nigerian University Teachers Association, and as the University Orator and, on commission by the University Council, wrote the first history of the university. Prof. Akintoye has also served as Visiting Professor at a number of American universities and contributed significantly to the establishment of an African and African-American Studies Program in one.
“Prof. Akintoye is one of the most eminent scholars of African History in our time. He has authored two books that are acclaimed as classics in Yoruba History, as well as five other books on various other aspects of African History. Additionally, Prof. Akintoye authored and co-authored many chapters in joint books, articles in academic journals, research papers for seminars and conferences worldwide, and hundreds of articles in newspapers and magazines.
“Prof. Akintoye is also a distinguished and influential elder statesman. One of the best known intellectual leaders in the political life of Nigeria in the era of the Nigerian Second Republic, he served as one of the founders and executive officers of one of the foremost political parties of the era. He was elected to the Nigerian Senate in 1979, where he served with great distinction for four years. He also briefly served as the Commissioner for Health in Ondo State of Nigeria.
“Prof. Akintoye is still admirably busy in the task of contributing to the building of the country of his birth, Nigeria. In particular, he invests much thought and energy in encouraging start-up businesses and growth among Nigerians. It is a great honour and inestimable asset to have Prof. Akintoye as the first Chairman of the Board of Careerbridge”.
Akintoye lived in Pennsylvania, United States for a long time before coming back home finally and was, in August 2019 at Ibadan, the Oyo state capital, elected president, Yoruba World Congress, by a conglomeration of Yoruba self-determination groups. The ovation, however, did not last long as personality clashes and differences in modus operandi between Akintoye and some other leaders of the YWC led to its splintering a year later. After efforts to paper over the cracks failed, Akintoye and his loyalists changed their name to Ilana Omo Oodua in October 2020. Incidentally, none of the Yoruba self-determination groups that fought bitterly over “ownership” of the Yoruba World Congress is making waves with the name today! Every one of them adopted new names and moved on! Akintoye’s “Ilana Omo Oodua”, however, appears the frontrunner of them all. His insistence on self-determination, and not restructuring, sounds the right chord with most Yoruba nationals home and abroad who insist on the Yoruba going their separate ways from a floundering and tottering Nigeria rendered impotent and incapacitated by Buhari and his Fulani clan. Only the unbundling of Nigeria may put an end to its arrested development.
Enter Sunday Ighoho! The street protests by Igboho, actively supported by Akintoye’s Ilana group, have heightened the tempo of the Yoruba or Oodua self-determination struggle. Those who point at the reported tainted pedigree of Igboho miss the point; same also with those alarmed at the sudden radicalization of 86-year-old Akintoye. US President JF Kennedy said “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable” Another speaker said when you drive discussions away from the open place; you drive them into cellars where revolutions are made. Many knew why Igboho had to run for dear life after his house was invaded by the DSS in the dead of the night, with an unconfirmed number of his aides killed in cold blood, but not many were aware that Akintoye himself had been profiled, tracked, hounded and hunted silently by the same agents of the State. Only recently did information about his likely or impending arrest filter into the open. During the COVID-19 lockdown Akintoye discretely relocated from his Magodo, Lagos home to a secret location at Ife. When Ife also became unsafe, he had no choice than to move again, this time outside the shores of the country.
Akintoye has no apologies to offer for “fleeing” Nigeria, even if that is what some have chosen to call it. And he should not be in a hurry to return. He must ensure he does not put himself in harm’s way. He has nothing to prove by hastily returning to the vice-like grip of jackals and bloody hounds who have demonstrated scant regard for justice and low respect for the rule of law. It is to the eternal shame of the Buhari junta if an illustrious citizen like Akintoye is run out of town by fellows inferior to him in all materials in particular. In saner climes, Akintoye will be toasted and celebrated, not harried and hounded. But, then, this is Nigeria! I am sure you know what I mean! A popular saying is that he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day! I also heard the following saying from Mr. Osuolale Mustapha, a one-time General Manager of the PUNCH newspapers, to wit, “It is the cowardly General who tells the story of how the valiant General died in the battle field!” In the contest between two rams, the one that engages the reverse gear does so to muster more strength!
Need I say more? (To be continued).
By Bolanle Bolawole
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