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How Obasanjo, Soyinka, Afe Babalola intervened in Yoruba leadership crisis

By Dayo Johnson, Dapo Akinrefon, Ola Ajayi & Rotimi Ojomoyela

AKURE— FOLLOWING the election of Prof Adebanji Akintoye as the new Yoruba leader in Ibadan, indications emerged, weekend, that former President Olusegun Obasanjo; Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, and Chief Afe Babalola may have intervened in the leadership crisis.

This came as Prof. Akintoye, yesterday, denied being asked to step down as Yoruba leader.

Akintoye was, last week, elected by some Yoruba leaders in Ibadan.

Vanguard gathered that Yoruba leaders, including Obasanjo, Soyinka and Babalola impressed it on Akintoye not to cause disunity in Yorubaland.

It was also gathered that the former President and others have spoken with Akintoye on the need not to dance to the tunes of those out to cause disaffection in the region.

Akintoye meets Afenifere leaders in Akure

Meanwhile, Prof. Akintoye was summoned to the country home of Afenifere’s national leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti and he assured him (Fasoranti) that “he would not do anything that will affect the unity of Yoruba and its leadership.”

Fasoranti, who presided over the meeting, had in attendance the Deputy National Leader, Pa, Ayo Adebanjo; its National Secretary, Basorun Seinde Arogbofa; the Publicity Secretary of the group, Yinka Odumakin; Supo Shonibare, Olaitan Osun and Demola Folarin, among other leaders.

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The meeting was to douse the tension the election of Akintoye raised last week by some group of people.

Vanguard gathered that the meeting was held behind a closed door.

It was gathered that the caucus members had earlier scheduled a visit to Fasoranti weekend to  condole with him over the death of his daughter, Funke Olakunri, killed by herdsmen recently.

Akintoye and other caucus members, led by Pa Adebanjo boarded the same aircraft back to Lagos from Akure last Saturday.

No one asked me to step down — Akintoye

But when contacted, Prof Akintoye said he was not asked to step down his new position.

Speaking with Vanguard, he said: “Nobody has asked me to step down and I will not step down. I am an 84-year-old man, I don’t rush things, I will state my position in due time.”

On whether former President Olusegun Obasanjo called him (Akintoye) to step down, he said: “Obasanjo did not call me to step down, he only called to wish me well.”

There’s no crisis — Afenifere

Also when contacted on the matter, Afenifere dismissed insinuations of any crisis.

Afenifere’s spokesperson, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said: “There is no leadership crisis in Yorubaland. But there is no  way such eminent Yoruba would hear such things and not ask questions. Former President Obasanjo spoke with me on Saturday morning for instance and he was assured we have no issue at all.”

Mixed reactions trail leadership crisis

Meanwhile, notable Yoruba leaders have expressed mixed reactions over the crisis.

Speaking on the election of Akintoye, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae said: “As far as we are concerned in Yorubaland, Pa Fasoranti remained the leader of the Yorubas. That position is not vacant. Fasoranti remained the Yoruba leader until he chooses to step down.”

Also speaking, national scribe of Afenifere, Bashorun Sehinde Arogbofa said: “I don’t want to say that they are faceless but they are people who don’t have too much at stake in what we are doing. Akintoye is with us, if some people gathered in Ibadan, it is unfortunate. All we need is for all Yoruba to support Pa Fasoranti.”

There is no controversy about that. They should check history how leadership emerged from the time of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Adekunle Ajasin, Chief Abraham Adesanya and now Pa Reuben Fasoranti.”

No group can choose a leader for us — YCE

On its part, the Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, dismissed the election with a wave of the hand.

YCE’s General Secretary, Dr. Kunle Olajide said: “The Yoruba nation is the largest ethnic nation in Nigeria and  in Africa, Yoruba are in prime positions in the professions, academia and business.

“A group of people cannot arrogate to themselves the right to gather in a hotel to choose a leader for such sophisticated people. That exercise trivialises the essence of our being. Certainly, Prof Akitoye that I know very well and respect must have been embarrassed. He could not have been part of the charade.”

They are all jokers — Shittu

Reacting, the immediate past Minister of Communication, Mr. Adebayo Shittu said: “They are all jokers. It’s not possible. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was he elected? No, he emerged because of his contributions to the Yoruba nation.  Most of them are PDP apologists. We should just ignore them.”

Akintoye deserves it — Akinfenwa

But former National Chairman of Alliance for Democracy, AD, and a prominent Yoruba leader, Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa, described the decision of the group as a round peg in a round hole.

He said: “Prof Akintoye is an eminent Nigerian and a complete Yoruba man. In as much as the election or selection cuts across various groups in the Yoruba nation, I think he deserves it.”

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