By Dayo Johnson, Dapo Akinrefon, Ola Ajayi, Rotimi Ojomoyela & Shina Abubakar
MIXED reactions have continued to trail the acceptance of Prof. Banji Akintoye as the leader of the Yoruba nation.
Akintoye was elected as Yoruba leader by various Yoruba organisations on August 22 in Ibadan, Oyo State.
The emeritus Professor of History at a news conference in Lagos organised to give his acceptance of the election, said that what the nation needed was a Yoruba leadership that would be non-partisan.
Meanwhile, mixed reactions have elicited Akintoye’s acceptance.
While some Yoruba groups chided the former lawmaker for accepting the position, others said it was a welcome development.
Akintoye can’t speak for Yoruba – Falae
Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Chief Olu Falae, yesterday, insisted that the Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti remains the leader of the Yoruba.
Falae said: “If the 50 to 60 million Yoruba have met and have chosen anybody as a leader that is okay but have they met? A handful of people can always meet to say they have chosen a leader for that handful group, not for Yoruba people or Afenifere.
“Certainly I am not one of those who elected a Yoruba leader. The Afenifere leader, Papa Fasoranti is the person we recognised as the leader of the Yoruba.
“There is no position called the Yoruba leader. Afenifere stands for the Yoruba as a proxy in times of crisis, defend the Yoruba and therefore, earns the respect of the Yoruba nation that is why we call Papa Fasoranti the leader of the Yoruba.
“Let me remind us that in 1967 when the national crisis was up, the leaders of opinion from various areas and communities decided to meet. The Yoruba Leaders of Thought met in Ibadan and decided to offer the position of the Yoruba leader to Papa Obafemi Awolowo who refused and said that the Yoruba by our nature can never be monolithic. The Yoruba organisation is like the Greek city-state, each headed by an Oba.
”We are all one people but semi-autonomous. Awolowo said he could only take the position for the duration of the crisis because he knew that after the crisis each group will go back to its base. That’s Awolowo and I am sure my friend, Banji Akintoye, knows what I am talking about. So, if some people call any person leader of Yoruba, they are free to say so but that does not mean that the rest of us should take notice of such action.”
It’s a welcome development — YCE
Reacting to Akintoye’s acceptance, the Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, said his (Akintoye’s) choice is a welcome development.
Secretary-General of the council, Dr. Kunle Olajide said the unity agenda he hinged his acceptance speech on is what the Yoruba nation needs at this time.
Olajide said: “I was impressed by his acceptance speech. What is paramount to the Yoruba nation at this time is unity which he spoke extensively on in the speech. But, Prof Akintoye needs a lot of leg walk and consultation to broaden his support. Whether he will handle this well or not, time will tell.”
Also, the Convener of Voters Assembly, Comrade Mashood Erubami, said his leadership will only be acceptable to all Yoruba if people like Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu and his numerous loyalists support him.
Erubami said: “There is nothing wrong in appointing him as the Yoruba leader and his nomination is very appropriate but it is not acceptable to all Yoruba nation. He can only be acceptable to all Yoruba if somebody like Tinubu and his loyalists accept his leadership. If not, it will be difficult for him because it was just a group that nominated him without the inputs of other prominent Yoruba people and organizations present.”
But the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, in Ekiti State, described the acceptance as a huge joke.
Afenifere Chairman in Ekiti State, Chief Biodun Akin Fasae, said: “Afenifere Ilosiwaju Yoruba has nothing to do with any Yoruba group picking its leader. No single Yoruba group has the prerogative of appointing a leader for the whole race.”
Akintoye is leader of his group — Prof. Ajala
On his part, a Professor of Anthropology, Aderemi Ajala described the purported election as self-serving.
Speaking with Vanguard, Ajala said: “It is an aberration to elect a leader for the race, rather leadership among the race is usually through a charismatic disposition of the individuals, Late (Obafemi) Awolowo, Bola Ige, Abraham (Adesanya) and (Adekunle) Ajasin all emerged through consensus. Yoruba sees virtues in leaders before accepting them.
“You should not forget that the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) was created to fight the Afenifere by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and besides, he was elected by a faction of the group, so he only emerged as the leader of his group.
But if he has the charisma and can speak for Yoruba with courage he would eventually be accepted by many. But another problem he is likely to face is identifying the interest of the Yoruba considering the socio-political complexities in the country or within the region presently.”