*Ex-President reportedly launches moves to ‘save’ Yoruba agitator
By Soni Daniel, Dayo Johnson, Shina Abubakar and Rotimi Ojomoyela
Amid the report that former President Olusegun Obasanjo may have launched moves to save Chief Sunday Adeyemo (aka Sunday Igboho) from being repatriated from Benin Republic for trial over alleged treason linked to his agitation for the Yoruba to break away from Nigeria, Afenifere, pan-Yoruba group, says it is working with the former Nigerian leader to “restore hope to Nigerians and to all the children of Oduduwa”.
Afenifere told Sunday Vanguard, yesterday, on the heels of the report of the Obasanjo alleged intervention in the Igboho case, that it is working with the former Nigerian leader to ensure “there is light at the end of the tunnel”.
As a first step towards achieving his goal to get soft-landing for the Yoruba agitator, the former Nigerian leader reportedly travelled to Cotonou last Sunday and met with President Patrice Talon of Benin Republic and pleaded with him to save the face of the Yoruba nation by resisting the moves by Nigeria to get him repatriated to face treason charges in Abuja.
The former President, according to top diplomatic sources, also asked his host to limit Igboho’s alleged offences to immigration-related issues and ignore the bid by Nigeria to get him tried for treason so as to save his life.
Obasanjo, who sources said did not want to be seen to be interfering in the Igboho matter, was said to have carefully programmed his travel arrangements and meetings in order not to give out the real purpose of his mission.
For this reason, he reportedly first travelled to Zanzibar, an Island in Tanzania, and then headed to Cotonou where he first met with a former President of the country, Nicephore Soglo, to sympathise with him over the death of his wife, Roseline, on July 25, 2021.
“After the ‘sympathy visit’, the former President went quietly to meet with President Patrice Talon and tabled Igboho’s matter with his host,” one of the diplomats familiar with the visit said yesterday.
“He also met with President Patrice Talon with the sole aim of seeking soft-landing for Sunday Igboho.
READ ALSO: Igboho and Nigeria’s shaky unity
“During the short meeting, Obasanjo pleaded with his host to grant Igboho the status of an asylum usually given to political prisoners so as to prevent the Nigerian government from seeking his transfer home for treason trial over his secession bid”.
It will be recalled that the Yoruba separatist was arrested by Beninese security forces last month while trying to flee Nigeria to Germany with his wife.
Subsequently, the battle to extradite him is raging at a Beninoise court.
When Igboho appeared in court penultimate week, the judge ordered that he remained in prison pending investigation into his case
He had fled Nigeria days after operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) raided his Ibadan home in the early hours of July 1, killing two people and arresting 12 of his supporters, who have now been granted bail by a Federal High Court in Abuja.
Recently the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, raised a team of prominent Yoruba people to look into the Igboho issue and other challenges faced by the people of the South-West zone.
Meanwhile, the Media Communications Secretary of Ilana Omo Oodua, Maxwell Adeleye, told Sunday Vanguard that the alleged Obasanjo visit to Benin Republic on the Igboho issue could not be confirmed, hence the group, led by Professor Banji Akintoye and in league with Igboho over the agitation for Yoruba nation, could not comment on the development.
But the Organising Secretary of Afenifere, Apogun Kola Omololu, in a reaction, said: “Let me exclusively reveal that Afenifere and former President Olusegun Obasanjo are working together to restore hope to Nigerians and to all the children of Oduduwa, that there is light at the dark end of the tunnel.
“ No immigrants that came to our soil in 1804 can seize our lands or chase us out. Some human remains, carbon, said to be seventeen thousand years old, were discovered in between Ile Ife and Akure some time ago.
“This is to tell the world that we are the aborigine, their tactics of intimidating us by using the crudest means available will not work . The more they do it the more they put Nigeria in disrepute.
“This is a government which believes in going after soft targets to teach other ethnic groups a brutal lesson, because their people are in powers.
“Any diplomatic means to stop them is welcome.
“President Obasanjo was in Cameroon last week where President Paul Biya shut down the country for him. Baba, a proud Oduduwa son, is a world statesman.
“The implication of the former President’s visit to Benin Republic to the rulling power in Nigeria is negative. This is the sorry state we have found ourselves”.
On his part, the Secretary-General, Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE , Dr Kunle Olajide, described the alleged intervention of Obasanjo in Igboho’s saga as “a welcome development, because all of us are very much concerned about Sunday Igboho’s predicament and we have been sending emissaries there and, with the personality of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, definitely, the music would change for the better for us and Igboho, I’m sure, would be able to enjoy his freedom and be able to move out of that country to wherever he wants to go.
“Remember that Chief Obasanjo, a former President of Nigeria, would have been Secretary General of the United Nations over 20 years ago and he was one of the members of the Eminent Persons Group raised by world leaders. His reputation definitely would turn the tide in favour of Sunday Igboho and that has the support of the Yoruba Council of Elders; we are very excited about it. We would in fact get in touch with him to commend him for his love and sacrifice for Yoruba nation”.
‘Unusual of Obasanjo to make such diplomatic move’
But a former Ambassador to the Philippines, Dr Yemi Farounbi, said it is unusual of former President Obasanjo to make diplomatic move for individuals or against the interest of a country.
According to him, Obasanjo may be critical of this government but is not critical of Nigeria to make diplomatic move on behalf of Igboho.
He added, “I want to be sure it is true, but as a former President, he can engage in diplomatic issues for countries, but I doubt he will offer such for individuals. Thirdly, I haven’t seen or heard anything from him that he negotiates on behalf of anyone; if he is doing so, it will be in the greater interest of Nigeria.
“It seems strange to me, I know he has actively participated in diplomatic issues, solving problems between countries and between incumbent President and former President like in the case of South Africa. But you really never get to hear of it, That is why I never make any sense out of this, because engaging in diplomatic move at that level would not really befit his status and I haven’t seen anything in the past few weeks to show that Obasanjo identifies with what Igboho is doing.
“I know he is very critical of this government, but he is not critical of Nigeria; so, I really find it difficult to think it is true. If it is true, I will be surprised that he makes a diplomatic move that has come to the public knowledge”.
Vanguard News Nigeria