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87-year-old leader of Yoruba self-determination group, Ilana Omo Oodua, Prof Banji Akintoye, moved from Nigeria to Benin Republic shortly before the arrest and detention of a leading arrowhead of the Yoruba Nation campaign, Sunday Adeyemo, alias Sunday Igboho, in the francophone country. KAYODE OYERO caught up with the octogenarian in Porto Novo where he shares his views on the struggle by his group as well as the state of the Nigerian nation
How has your group’s struggle for self-determination of the Yoruba been so far?
It has been as one would expect because we are trying to take a nation out of another and it cannot be easy and it has not been easy. Personally, for me and the people closest to me, like Prof Wale Adeniran, who is my deputy in Ilana Omo Oodua, it has been dangerous at times because we are dealing with a cultural setting in which killing people is commonplace. We knew from the beginning that we could get killed in this struggle but the question is: do we hold onto our lives and let our people continue to get killed the way they are being killed and let the Yoruba Nation perish the way it is likely to perish, if no intervention occurs? So, we decided to risk everything and when the people who are inclined and used to killings decided to threaten us directly, we decided that for this struggle to continue, we must leave.
We got very categorical information that they were after our lives and what they did to Sunday Igboho in his home was exactly what they planned to do to us (Akintoye and Adeniran). We got information that they would kill me and my wife and cut us to pieces. I couldn’t just imagine that Yoruba people will wake up one morning and hear that Professor Akintoye has been shredded to pieces. So, we left Nigeria and came to Benin Republic to be among families, kinsmen and friends.
Does your leaving Nigeria mean that your group has slowed down on the struggle for Yoruba Nation, perhaps to restrategise?
No, it is speeding up because we have reached the point of popular mobilisation. We have moved into getting the world to know what we are doing, to have the support of the wider world. The Yoruba people must have a country of their own which we can run properly and in which our young people, when they graduate from university, can get jobs and have opportunities that other people have in other countries.There are feelers that the candidacy of the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, will whittle down the agitation for Yoruba Nation. How would you react to this?
That is understandable; he is one of us and we have people who think, ‘Let’s try this one, whether he would perform; let’s see whether this one would bring some good results’. Naturally, we expected that, but we were also able to look in-depth at a level that an ordinary citizen will not be able to look. For instance, why did the northern governors suddenly turn around to say they were supporting Tinubu? They turned around after Atiku (Abubakar) emerged as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party. Up to that point, they were saying they didn’t recognise rotational presidency and there was nothing like rotational presidency but when Atiku was nominated, the next hour, they said they supported a southern candidate – Tinubu. So, there is something hidden in that. A lot of people don’t know it but when we looked at it, we know that the interest of northern governors in Tinubu’s candidacy is not genuine; it is not honest. What they have decided to do is to give him (Tinubu) the nomination, and then support their brother (Atiku) in the PDP. That is where they will migrate to and give him (Atiku) the victory and that is what is going to happen. So, it is not worth giving up the (Yoruba Nation) struggle for.
Does Tinubu have any relationship with your group? Does he reach out to you?
No. I think Tinubu knows me; he knows I am an unusually focused person. I took that from my upbringing and I took it from (the late) Chief (Obafemi) Awolowo. I am focused on the quality of life of our people and I have come to the conclusion that leaving Nigeria and building a separate country of our own is the only way to protect the quality of lives of our people. I have no problem with Bola Tinubu. No issues. He is my younger brother and I am his elder.
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