By Rotimi Ojomoyela – Ado Ekiti
Secretary of the Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, Dr. Kunle Olajide, in this interview, speaks on the implications of the purported election of Prof. Banji Akintoye as the leader of the Yoruba.
The election of Professor Banji Akintoye as the leader of the Yoruba is generating controversy across the South-West. What do you think is responsible?
The Yoruba race is about a hundred and fifty million people, scattered across the globe and they are very hospitable, very enterprising, very liberal and very accommodating. They don’t want to be cheated and don’t believe in cheating others. When you talk about the leadership of such people, a lot of factors must be taken into consideration.
Are you talking about leadership in the political arena, religious arena, business arena, or in academia? We just have to be clear. If we are talking about overall leadership, one has to be extremely careful, because we are in a constitutional democracy now, where there is freedom of choice, freedom of association and freedom of speech.
In other words, only political leaders are elected through properly conducted elections. And Nigerians above the age of 18 who have the right to vote can vote. But if we are talking about Yoruba leadership, people can sit down to choose their leader and you can’t fault their choice because there is freedom of choice under the constitution.
Would the Yoruba accept the leadership?
Whether the leadership would be accepted by the majority of the Yoruba is another question. We heard about an election conducted by some groups from the Yoruba race recently and for such groups, they have the right to choose a leader. Their choice is a very well respected Yoruba leader. We respect him, and we adore him. He is quite competent and has the necessary credentials to be the leader. But you begin to worry about the process and the motive of those who gathered. Even the leader that was chosen was not at that meeting where he was chosen. Again, one begins to wonder whether they have his consent to choose him. Does he support it? Is he part of it? Therefore the process that should produce Yoruba leadership must as much as possible be all-encompassing. I am talking about carrying our foremost traditional rulers along. Their consent must be sought. The Ooni of Ife, Alaafin of Oyo, Owa of Ijesha land, Ewi of Ado Ekiti, Olowo of Owo, Olukare of Ikare, Awujale of Ijebuland, Eleko of Lagos and host of others. The task is for the Yoruba and our leaders must have known over the years those, who have paid their dues in the service of the Yoruba nation. When you hear that a few young men sat down somewhere and claimed to have chosen a leader for the Yoruba race, one begins to wonder how much they know about Yoruba race. We are gifted as I said earlier. Yoruba nation is endowed, even in the religious arena, our people are prominent. A few of us don’t understand the situation because we have not even heard a word from the elected leader, who happened to be one of my leaders. He is somebody I know and have respect for. He hasn’t said a word whether he is accepting the responsibility or not. I think the election and the whole idea are flowing in the air.
Would you say that the action of these people is a deliberate attempt to cause a crisis in the Yoruba nation?
It is difficult for me to pass that kind of judgement because we are yet to know those behind it and in any case, it is over a week now and the supposed leader is yet to talk to us on whether he is accepting the position or declining. He has not even said that he is commencing a process of regularising the irregularities. I don’t know the agenda behind it.
Some people have come out to say that action is connected to the 2023 presidential ambition of some leaders. Do you share that opinion?
It is not unlikely but I’m not a mind reader. I cannot read the mind of those behind it. And talking about 2023, I think the prayers of every reasonable human being now should be to even survive this 2019 because we are yet to see the end of 2019. As I am talking to you there would be some of us who may not be fortunate to see 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023. And people are talking about 2023.
It was said that two names were presented at the election. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Professor Banji Akintoye were listed and Akintoye was said to have emerged. Don’t you think the election was an attempt to instigate a rift between the two leaders?
I am not too sure whether the two people mentioned were aware of the meeting. I think it is immoral for anybody to present names of people without seeking their consent whether they want to contest for the office or not in the first place. That is immoral. The Yoruba have developed far beyond that. You can’t just pick two names and say one scored two million, the other scored five million. They didn’t seek their consent. For me, it will be wrong to begin judging the situation from what we read in the papers. Let the actors speak. None of them has spoken. Let us wait for them to speak.
People are beginning to think this would cause crisis among other leaders of the Yorubaland?
I think the Yoruba are much sophisticated and developed. You can see beyond such puerile trick. We are very much developed and much sophisticated. Many challenges are facing us now. We have a lot to do than to be talking about leaders who are not recognised by the constitution.
In the Yoruba race now we have the Afenifere led by Pa Fasoranti and another lead by Pa Fasanmi. There is also the Afenifere Renewal Group and the Yoruba Council of Elders.
It is a sign of our sophistication. We are in a free world. For instance, when a group forms a socio-cultural Yoruba group, nobody would fight the group. But when they want to choose a leader they must make wide consultation in a sophisticated nation like the Yoruba nation. Traditional rulers are very important if not the most important. You must talk with them and seek their consent because they are the representative of gods on earth. The academia and other Yoruba groups should also be carried along in choosing who leads the Yoruba.
Don’t you think it is high time the Yoruba formed a group like the Area Consultative Forum?
No! Don’t make such mistake by calling Arewa consultative Forum a strong umbrella group. We can’t have such a thing in the Yoruba nation.
What about Ndigbo?
Ndigbo don’t have a well-structured organisation. At the time we had our first medical doctor there was none in these two parts of the country you are talking about. When Bishop Ajayi Crowther came to Nigeria none of these two parts of the world had anything to do with education. The Yoruba nation is different. We can interact, have a common agenda and work together for the good of Yoruba nation but we are too sophisticated to be restricted to a single socio-cultural organisation. You must work to earn your leadership position in Yoruba land. It is not just given to anyone who has served the race creditably.
Are you not worried about the possible implications of this issue?
I am not worried because Professor Banji Akintoye, a knowledgeable Professor of History, is a respected Yoruba leader. He is a politician of note. He was a senator in the Second Republic He is the Chairman and Founder of Oodua Foundation worldwide. He is one of my foremost leaders.