A letter written to President Muhammadu Buhari by a Yoruba leader, Professor Banji Akintoye, asking for the support of the President for the South-West people to secede from Nigeria has divided the Yoruba leaders.
Akintoye, who wrote on behalf of the Yoruba Self-Determined Movement, YSDM, told Buhari that the South-West wanted a “peaceful break away” of the Yoruba nation from Nigeria.
He said in the letter that an overwhelming number of the Yoruba want out of the country because of their “worsening and painful plight.”
The letter read in part: “Mr President, the Yoruba Self-Determination Movement now serves you notice of the decision of the Yoruba people to assert their right to self-determination which is an inalienable and unquestionable right of every indigenous nation in the world.
“Upon asserting this right of self-determination, we the Yoruba nation shall be free to determine our political status, pursue our economic, social and cultural development according to policies chosen independently by us, and to live under the government independently chosen and ordered by us”.
The letter has, however, engendered disunity among the leaders and stakeholders of Yorubaland. Expectedly, the disagreement is between those who are in support of the Akintoye group’s move and those against.
‘Akintoye is right’
The Secretary-General, Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, Dr Kunle Olajide, is one of those on the side of the YSDM leader. One of his reasons he gave for his decision is that people could no longer go to their farms due to insecurity.
Olajide said: “Prof. Akintoye is right and the YCE is in support of what he has said. You and I know that we have not sat down anywhere to properly plan, discuss and have a majority agree that it must happen on a particular day. “However, there is still room for discussion because we have some of our men and women in this Federal Government as well. We must not see the FG as being different and we, the Yoruba, as different.
“We have Yoruba ministers and, presently, a Yoruba is the Vice President.
“ I would advice Akintoye to look for an opportunity to invite our son, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and one of the Senate leaders to sit together and take a decision.
“If we are not free to go to our farms and walk safely in the country because government cannot guarantee our safety, then you do not blame anybody in this country that is considering the other option.”
Nothing is wrong – Arogbofa
A former General Secretary of Afenifere, Bashorun Sehinde Arogbofa, echoed Olajide’s sentiment, saying there was nothing wrong in seeking self-determination.
“I don’t see anything wrong in that, at least, it will be on record that such request was made to the government. He’s in order, what he has written is supported by us”, Arogbofa noted.
Important step – Ajibulu
The General Secretary of the Ekiti Council of Elders, Elder Niyi Ajibulu, said the letter was an important step in resolving the protracted issues in the country.
“It is only through discussion that issues can be resolved. I think it’s the right step in the right direction; rather than creating problems, the best thing is for them to write a letter and for the Federal Government to respond”, Ajibulu said.
“The request is for a meeting to discuss, it shouldn’t be too difficult for government to sit down with any group and discuss how to solve the problem confronting the nation”.
Nobody is happy – Ogunsakin
On his part, the Chairman of Ekiti Traditional Chieftaincy Title Holders, Chief Olu Ogunsakin, stressed that Akintoye spoke the minds of the Yoruba people.
“I read the letter and I don’t think there is nothing wrong in that. At least, he expressed the minds of the Yoruba people in that letter and I don’t think I have any objection to that write-up”, Ogunsakin said.
“He spoke on behalf of the Yoruba and, with the way things are going, nobody is really happy with the situation in the country”.
Also speaking, a public affairs commentator, Zadok Akintoye, said it had become necessary that civil channels like the one used by Akintoye be encouraged in place of violent agitations like the one done by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPoB, among others.
“I commend this effort and believe it has become important to take this route as a path to the actualization of more independent regions”, he stated.
A former gubernatorial candidate in Ogun State, Ogbeni Lanre Banjo, said, “The tone of the letter is to seek peaceful separation or allowance of regional governments.
“The decision to have a separate nation is that of an overwhelming majority of Yoruba worldwide. Submission of over five million signatures required by the United Nation to substantiate that requirement has been complied with.
“One of the other steps is to notify the President of the country. The letter specifically stated the sufferings of other ethnicities in the hands of the President’s tribe.
“Furthermore, the President complicates matters by being the Patron of Fulani herdsmen allegedly terrorizing Nigerians without deterring actions.
“So, it is a requisite step to be fulfilled to merit the approval of the separation of the Yoruba nation from Nigeria”.
Meanwhile, a member of the Yoruba self-determination group, Ilana Omo Oodua, IOO, which Akintoye also headed, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard in confidence, accused the history professor of trying to use the organisation as a political bargain.
She said: “After serving Buhari a notice that the Yoruba people want to exercise their rights to self-determination and justified it, Baba, in the same letter, is demanding for a negotiation meeting. Who does that?
“How do you request for negotiation from someone that is oppressing you and has an immense advantage over you in terms of power, arms, sovereignty, money and everything?
“What does Professor Akintoye have outside five million online petitions that warrant him to demand for a negotiation or worthy of being negotiated with outside his media noise?
“Buhari should be the one to reach out to us for negotiation, not Akintoye asking for a negotiation.
“What Akintoye did was against the run of play. When Ambassador Buratai visited Sunday Igboho in Benin prison for negotiation, he did not write the Nigerian government for negotiation, they came and Igboho turned them down. That is what is called a fighter and activist”.
Meanwhile, a political analyst, Hon Ayo Fadaka, said the letter by Akintoye to Buhari was unnecessary.
“Akintoye heads an organisation that assumes it has the responsibility to speak for the Yoruba people even when such mandate has not been given to it”, Fadaka stated.
“He is not the only one in that classification as there are many others too who equally claim to be fighting for our liberation.
“The letter was unnecessary because, for a President with Buhari’s mindset, it is just an exercise in futility. The letter, with its content, drive and desire, remains a mere exercise in futility.”
Also, the Ondo State Chairman of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, Stephen Adewale, said, “The fact that almost all of the leaders who have promoted such agitation have resorted to running away when the going gets tough is one of the contributing elements to the failure.
“When the circumstance occurs, all activists give up on the cause.
“This further demonstrates the self-serving motive of these ethnic leaders, especially those who are currently leading the Yoruba agitation.
“History has demonstrated that there is no guarantee that the citizens of Yoruba or any other ethnic nationalities in the country will be better off under a separate nation.
“The same leadership crisis that bedevils Nigeria will definitely assail the so-called new nation.
“The solution to the country’s problem, therefore, is to ensure that we all do the right thing in 2023 by voting for the right candidates that have what it takes to take the country out of the woods.”