We Removed Prof. Akintoye Because He Cannot Lead Yoruba Anywhere – Tola Adeniyi.
Akogun Tola Adeniyi is a media guru and one of the founders of Yoruba World Congress (YWC). In this interview, he spoke with MUYIWA ADEYEMI (Head, South West of The Guardian) on the infiltrations of politicians with intent to hijack YWC, the mission and vision of the global group, which is apolitical and why its protem leader, Prof. Banji Akintoye, was removed.
There are some issues within Yoruba World Congress (YWC) suggesting that there is crisis within the fold. What is your take on this?
WELL, there is no crisis in Yoruba World Congress. What we have is a minor misunderstanding and miscommunication; that is all. The Yoruba World Congress, a global organization, is very solid, very united and very focused. But what we do have is a collection of some organizations, which elected Professor Banji Akintoye, the former protem leader of Yoruba World Congress, as Yoruba World leader and that idea came about when Akintoye hinted that he was leaving Afenifere, which we later found not to be true. And then to give some prestige to YWC, the title ‘Yoruba Leader,’ which takes a cue from the likes of Obafemi Awolowo, Adekunle Ajasin, Abraham Adesanya that might mean something to the local population was adopted.
But you would also realise that the idea of Yoruba leader never extended beyond Ketu. In other words, Yoruba leader has always been restricted to the territory of homeland Yoruba. The Yoruba in Benin Republic, in Ivory Coast or in Sierra Leone or in Cuba or in Brazil do not come under the title of Yoruba leader; it’s just for Yoruba. When the late Chief Richard Akinjide suggested or nominated Obafemi Awolowo as Yoruba leader in the 1960s, immediately Adekunle Fajuyi was assassinated, it was just for that purpose and this did not extend to the political era. Anyway, the miscommunication I am talking about, unfortunately, to some of us who founded YWC, as far back as late 2018 and early 2019 and have been meeting regularly in Professor Akintoye’s house and in other places, did not envisage that a time would come that a collection of organizations in Ibadan would see themselves as rival to YWC. And this was because we said that YWC was open to every Yoruba person and it was going to be absolutely non-political and non-partisan. Every Yoruba person in Benin Republic, in Cuba was qualified to be a member and to that extent, we allowed some of the groups that elected Prof. Akintoye to come into YWC if they so wished and they must also register to be members.
So, that was the situation. And then Yoruba World Congress, because of its vision and because of the level of its sophistication, intellectualism, we believed that there must be ranks and hierarchy. The people who elected him leader could be useful in some areas, but certainly they did not come into the hardcore leadership of Yoruba World Congress. But we failed to make that particularly very clear and so it came to a head when Yoruba World Congress insisted, rightly, that the leadership structure must be pure and that if anybody was going to be invited to join that leadership league, the person must be vetted by the leadership itself or leader’s council which unfortunately, Prof. Akintoye, would always argue that he didn’t believe in structure, in hierarchy, in order. That means when senate in the university is meeting, even the messenger of that university has a right to attend that meeting. If editorial leaders in the newspaper were meeting, reporters and even stringers would be allowed to attend that meeting. If generals were meeting, recruits should also be allowed to be in the meeting. That has been the main bone of contention and it appeared that every effort to persuade Akintoye that leadership is not run that way, that leadership is not a popularity contest, that leadership doesn’t have to be populist, failed.
It was also clear that when we discussed YWC for Yoruba in Cuba, Benin and in Togo, the challenges they are facing are quite different from the challenges Yoruba in the homeland here are facing. And so, if YWC was meeting, the people who constitute the body that elected him leader have little or nothing to do with it because it’s just Yorubaland here. So, that mixture, that confusion, that misunderstanding came to a head when we called a meeting and contrary to all norms in the world, the former protem leader, invited people who are not bona fide members of YWC to attend the meeting without even informing anybody.
So, when we went to the meeting and he sat down for a minute, he then went downstairs to meet the people he’d invited without anybody knowing about them. So, we thought he was just going to talk to them for a few minutes and come back. For about four hours, we were waiting upstairs; he didn’t come back. But worse still, and which came to a head was that he was sending minutes of the meeting straight to the media. It is never done anywhere that university council would meet and the minutes of their meeting would be posted immediately to the media; not a press release, but the minutes of the meeting. Or that a family would meet and the minutes of their meeting would be sent verbatim to the media or army generals’ ruling a country would meet and the minutes of their meeting would be sent to the media. That was really provoking.
And we thought that for several other reasons, that his position, the man being protem leader of Yoruba World Congress, needed to be reviewed. But the YWC of which I am a founder-member, not a foundation member, because there is a difference between foundation member and founder-member, I am saying that the YWC is intact. It’s not in crisis; it’s not fighting anybody. It has no problem with anybody and the vision for the Yoruba nation in Nigeria is on, the vision for the Yoruba people worldwide is on.
Are you saying that the leadership style of Akintoye is not in tandem with the vision and mission of YWC?
Certainly not, because the minutes of the meeting being sent to non-members and inviting non-members to the meeting…
Don’t you have constitution that spells out those functions?
A constitution was written by an 82-year-old veteran who is very vast in liberation struggles, very vast in how associations should be run, being a former university don and corporate guru.
Who is the person?
I am trying not to mention leaders of our organization because Nigeria is in crisis. We are in a house where you have one husband and one thousand wives. Every wife would not reasonably be discussing what she and her children are doing, but it is Dr. Amos Arogundade Akingba, who is one of the leading founders; he was NADECO veteran. He wrote the constitution, which we approved but as we speak, Akintoye didn’t abide by it. We set up an organogram; he didn’t want to work with it, because he keeps saying he doesn’t believe in hierarchy. He doesn’t believe in order and we reminded him that even in heaven, God has archangels and also angels. In Rome, you have the Pope and the Cardinals and others.
Is this misunderstanding the reason some exco members resigned, like Otunba Osinbogun and the recent ones?
Well, I am very careful in discussing or mentioning personalities. I am sure you may want to ask Otunba Osinbogun, who is one of the pillars of Yoruba World Congress, who has contributed immensely to the execution of the mission and vision of Yoruba World Congress. But if you want to know why he left, I think I should advise you look for him, approach him and ask for his views.
How would you react to the allegation that YWC has been hijacked by politicians?
If any group was hijacked by politicians, it would certainly be Akintoye. I don’t know any group that was hijacked by the politicians. Certainly, the Yoruba World Congress has not, cannot and will not be hijacked by politicians, because we are above politicians. We believe politicians are the greatest problem of Nigeria. Politicians are the greatest problem of the Yoruba nation, because many bad things have been happening to the Yoruba nation and our politicians, who we believe are mercenaries and commercial agents, have kept mute. So, strong members of Yoruba World Congress or any sane member of YWC will not touch politicians, even with the longest poll. While we recognise their existence, while we recognise that any Yoruba, who has political ambition and is pursuing political ambition has a right to do so, we recognise that as far as Nigeria remains, any Yoruba person has aspiration to be whatever he likes in that contraption, the stand of Yoruba World Congress is that it will never be associated with anything political. As a matter of fact, our leadership has a goal, that even if your son or relations is in active politics, you cannot be in the leadership of Yoruba World Congress.
The Yoruba World Congress that I belong to as a proud founder-member, has not been hijacked. When you see people in a video dancing, singing and jumping up like people in a political rally, then that may be a pointer to the kind of people who are in politics and can be hijacked by politicians, especially the multi-crowd that elected Akintoye as leader in Ibadan.
Many see Akintoye as the face of Yoruba…He is not the face of Yoruba World Congress. He is more comfortable being called Yoruba leader and being the leader of associations, about 60 or so of them, who elected him Yoruba leader, but if you see all the rally he is doing, you can hardly count 20 or 30 people there. I don’t want t