* Says Fasoranti is my leader, Afenifere my group
Eminent academic, Professor Banji Akintoye has turned down his election as the new leader of the Yoruba ethnic nationality.
Akintoye, 84, has also reaffirmed his membership of the apex Yoruba group, Afenifere, under the leadership of veteran Awoist, Pa Reuben Fasoranti.
The reverred academic was elected Yoruba leader at a meeting of some groups in the nationality in Ibadan, Oyo State August 22, to, according to the meeting, succeed the late Chief Abraham Adesanya, who had succeded the late Chief Adekunle Ajasin.
In a press statement issued on Sunday, Prof. Akintoye affirmed his long-standing relationship with Fasoranti who, like Ajasin and Adesanya, headed the Afenifere and equally proclaimed leaders of the nationality.
He thanked the eminent persons who voted for him in absentia and without his knowledge, for counting him worthy of the position, but pleaded for unity rather than division that the purported election of a Yoruba leader would cause.
In its statement announcing Akintoye as the new leader, the meeting had noted that it settled for the academic after another iconic Yoruba elder, Chief Ayo Adebanjo turned down several appeals to that effect.
Akintoye’s statement reads:
“MY RESPONSE TO THE DECISION OF THE MEETING THAT TOOK PLACE IN IBADAN ON AUGUST 22, 2019.
“Since many Yoruba organizations met together in Ibadan on August 22 and announced that they had elected me to lead our Yoruba nation in our nation’s current desperate and mounting challenges, I have been inundated with requests for comment from family members, friends, media practitioners, and friends and associates from across the world. Thousands of Yoruba individuals and groups at home and abroad have sent congratulatory messages to me. Many respected patriots at home and abroad have put forth statements in the media and in the ubiquitous social media to assert their confidence in my worthiness for highest leadership positions in our nation.
I have taken time to consult with my family and close friends and with a broad spectrum of Yoruba notables. I have now decided that it is time for me to make public my responses on this very important matter. My responses are altogether a message of unity and strength of our Yoruba nation.
“I deeply appreciate the persons, the organizations and the leaders who met in Ibadan on August 22 and took the step of electing me. I am convinced that all of them, individually and collectively, were motivated in this action by the desire to see the interest of our Yoruba nation further advanced, especially in the circumstances in which we Yoruba people find ourselves today in the context of Nigeria. The dangers facing our nation are staggering. We are faced by nothing less than an invasion of our homeland, and by unrelenting harassments and killings of our people on our farms, villages and highways. Many of our people can no longer be sure of basic safety as they go about their daily tasks. More and more of our farming folks are abandoning farming altogether. The danger of food insecurity, even the danger of economic collapse, stare us in the face. Day by day, there are reports that large numbers of armed militiamen are being infiltrated into our forests and our towns and cities in all parts of our homeland in the Nigerian Southwest and in Kwara and Kogi States. Our people have reason to fear that the infiltrated forces are only waiting for a signal to unleash a wholesale and coordinated attack on us in our farmlands, roadways, towns and cities.
While I frankly admit that the efforts of those who held the meeting in Ibadan on August 22 could certainly have included a broader pattern of consultations, I nevertheless thank them for the patriotism that underlined their action. I also thank them for their acknowledgement of the roles I have been playing here at home and among the large Yoruba Diaspora across the world to raise the level of awareness among our people in order to strengthen our preparedness to resist and defeat, or ward off, those who threaten our homeland. I am indeed humbled that I was so highly regarded by those who assembled at the Ibadan meeting even though I was not present and was not party to their meeting.
I am glad that those who assembled at the Ibadan meeting and took the decision are all agreed with me in my firm and unshakable conviction that what we Yoruba nation need most today is our unity – our unity and collective resolve to stand together in order to demonstrate to would-be invaders of our land that though we are a civilized people who love the beautiful life, we are nevertheless a very strong nation, that the threats to come and “kill, maim and destroy” on our land, the threats to come and “banish” us from our land, do not frighten us – and that we will very definitively and decisively crush any invaders of our homeland.
These are no times for cracks in our unity and resolve, or for any form of contention over anything whatsoever. We must not stumble into the mistake of even letting it seem as if we are disrespecting, despising, or jettisoning the forces and the persons that have been fighting in the Yoruba cause. Doing so will hurt our Yoruba nation immeasurably and weaken us in the face of current dangers. Therefore, I unhesitatingly affirm Afenifere as the apex Yoruba organization in the Yoruba struggle of our times. I consider it a privilege to be counted worthy of membership of such a highly esteemed Yoruba leadership organization. I am very proud of the roles that God has given me the privilege and the capabilities to play in the patriotic struggles of Afenifere for the Yoruba people throughout my life – from my boyhood until this time of my advanced age. I am very proud to have had the privilege of using my talents and my courage in unwavering and undiluted commitment to the Yoruba cause under the leadership of highly distinguished sons of the Yoruba people starting with the ever shining star of our Yoruba nation, our father, Obafemi Awolowo. I am proud to have had the privilege of contributing to the patriotic struggles of Afenifere as one of the leading assistants of our papa, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, our current leader. Hardly any other fighter in the Yoruba struggle today has worked as long or as closely with Chief Fasoranti as I have done. Hardly any has known Chief Fasoranti as a fighter for our Yoruba nation as long as I have known him. None knows my record in the fight as long or as fully as Chief Fasoranti does. I stand in unstinted affirmation of Chief Fasoranti’s leadership especially at this time when a calamity of no mean proportion – the cold-blooded murder of our leader’s daughter – has just befallen our Yoruba nation! I cannot even think of doing anything that may in any way amount to an undermining the Afenifere legacy or its leadership. With all sense of modesty, at age 84 this year, I believe, with joy in my heart, that my people at large recognize and appreciate that I have given much in the struggle for the freedom, and the improvement in the quality of life, of our Yoruba people, and the integrity of our Yoruba nation – in my strivings as an academic, and in my contributions to our people’s politics as one of the young founders and leaders of the Action Group Students Association in the University College Ibadan in the late 1950s, as one of the topmost leaders of the powerful Action Group Youth Association which fought hard and relentlessly for the dignity of our Yoruba nation at a time in the early 1960s when only brave youths dared to stand up for the Yoruba nation, in my intellectual, policy and planning contributions to the making of the Unity Party of Nigeria, in my position as Senator in the Nigerian Second Republic, all under the inspired and inspiring leadership of our father Obafemi Awolowo, and in my later roles as mobilizer and inspirer of the intellectual and other resources of the Yoruba Diaspora worldwide for the strength of the Yoruba nation. I would absolutely not want to leave a legacy of division among my Yoruba people, the nation which I have proudly shown to the world, through the best and most respectable historical scholarship at my disposal, as a great and proud nation of civilization builders. I am proud that when I returned home from years of academic life abroad, the Afenifere leadership welcomed me back warmly and immediately called on me to serve as the Chairman of Afenifere’s Political Committee, and I am grateful for the great regard they have had for my many contributions in that position.
Once again, I express my deeply heart-felt gratitude, and the gratitude of my family, my relatives and my close friends, to our worthy brothers and sisters and organizations who, in Ibadan on August 22, considered me worthy of their consideration. I perceive that the real meaning of your election of me was to serve on me a special call to rise to sharply greater levels of intensity and quality of servanthood to our nation. I, in that spirit, humbly bow to your will and answer yes to your call. I unreservedly commit my energies to continuing to work with our Afenifere organization, with the tens of other organizations that have sprung up and are springing up among us to defend the interests of our Yoruba nation, and to reverse the retrogression that our nation has been made to suffer increasingly in Nigeria since 1962. I commit myself unreservedly to all efforts to move our Yoruba people forward and upwards again in the direction that would revive their vitality, their enterprising character, their creative energy, their love of elegance, and their love of sensitive leadership and governance dedicated dutifully to the wellbeing and prosperity of the all our people. I unreservedly commit myself to serious efforts to forge the quality of Yoruba unity and morality that will impart serious strength, confidence, sense of oneness, and sense of duty to our nation as a treasure in the world – to the Yoruba farmer on his or her farm, the Yoruba worker in his or her place of work, the Yoruba entrepreneur and businessperson creating or managing a business, the Yoruba teachers and their students in our educational institutions, the Yoruba politician in our politics, the elected Yoruba public official and the Yoruba professional bureaucrat at every level of government in Nigeria. I commit myself to the promotion of the kind of unity that will be inclusive of all Yoruba. I commit myself to continuing as resolutely non-partisan as I have been for decades now, and to join, support or oppose no political party, so that I may be able to move and communicate without inhibition among all our people. But we must all develop the culture of respect for all important persons in our political life, and the habit of encouraging them to use their political power and influence for the greater benefit of our nation and our people. Our resolute thrust must be that we Yoruba people will fully and definitively reject henceforth the mindset of the underdog in the affairs of Nigeria, and that we will stride boldly to assert our strength, our dignity, and even our dominance.
I humbly thank all our Yoruba people. I pray that God will continue to preserve all of us, our families, and our whole nation, and bless our efforts for our nation’s liberation, progress and prosperity.
I thank you all.