Since many Yoruba organizations met together in Ibadan on August 22 and announced that they had elected me to lead our Yoruba nation in our nation’s current desperate and mounting challenges, I have been inundated with requests for comment from friends, media practitioners, and friends and associates from across the world. Thousands of Yoruba individuals and groups at home and abroad have sent congratulatory messages to me.
Many respected patriots at home and abroad have put forth statements in the media and in the ubiquitous social media to assert their confidence in my worthiness for highest leadership positions in our nation. I have taken time to consult with my family and close friends and with a broad spectrum of Yoruba notables.I have now decided to make public my responses on this very important matter. My responses are altogether a message of unity, strength and hope for our Yoruba nation.
I deeply appreciate the persons, the organizations and the leaders who met in Ibadan on August 22 and took the step of electing me. I am convinced that all of them, individually and collectively, were motivated in this action by the desire to see the interests of our Yoruba nation further advanced, especially in the circumstances in which we Yoruba people find ourselves today in the context of Nigeria. The dangers facing our nation are staggering. We are faced by nothing less than an invasion of our ancestral homeland, and by unrelenting harassments and killings of our people on our farms, villages and highways. In the atmosphere of the ethnic cleansing that is going on in Nigeria, many of our people can no longer be sure of basic safety in their daily lives. More and more of our farming folks are abandoning farming altogether. The danger of food insecurity, even the danger of economic collapse, stares us in the face. Day by day, there are reports that large numbers of armed militiamen are being infiltrated into our forests and our towns and cities in all parts of our homeland in the Nigerian Southwest and in Kwara and Kogi States.Our people have reason to fear that the infiltrated forces are only waiting for a signal to unleash a wholesale and coordinated attack on us in our farmlands, roadways, towns and cities.
While I frankly admit that the efforts of those who held the meeting in Ibadan on August 22 could certainly have included a broader pattern of consultations,I nevertheless thank them for the patriotism that underlined their action. I also thank them for their acknowledgement of the roles I have been playing here at home and among the large Yoruba Diaspora across the world to raise the level of awareness among our people in order to strengthen our preparedness to resist and defeat, or ward off, those who threaten our homeland. I am indeed humbled that I was so highly regarded by those who assembled at the Ibadan meeting even though I was not present and was not party to their meeting.
I am glad that those who assembled at the Ibadan meeting and took the decision are all in agreement with me in my firm and unshakable conviction that what we Yoruba nation need most today is our unity – our unity and collective resolve to stand together in order to demonstrate to would-be invaders of our land that though we are a civilized people who love the beautiful life, we are nevertheless a very strong nation,that the threats to come and “kill, maim and destroy on our land, the threats to come and “banish” us from our land, do not frighten us – and that we will very definitively and decisively crush any invaders of our homeland – just as we did before in 1840. For our Yoruba nation at war, these are no times for any form of contention over anything whatsoever. We must not stumble into the mistake of even letting it seem as if we are disrespecting, despising, or jettisoning the forces and the persons that have been fighting in the Yoruba cause, or as if we despise and belittle the worried, distressed, and mostly young masses of our people. Doing either will hurt our Yoruba nation immeasurably and weaken us in the face of current dangers. We must proudly proclaim our nation’s gratitude to all the known and notable persons in our thousands of years of history of exceptional civilization building.
And we must respect, encourage and energize our young people, the ones whom we depend on to stand in the frontlines and defend our nation in any case of violent attacks against our land, the ones who, after all, are the future that we are working for. We must be cognizant and respectful of the very important fact that Yoruba people of 40 years of age and under constitute about 74% of the total population of all of us Yoruba people in Nigeria today.We must also be respectful of the fact that these large masses of mostly educated younger people are, as things stand today, going through seriously brutal stress, and that they are therefore seriously impatient for change, for dealing decisively with the difficulties and threats that challenge our nation. Therefore, I unhesitatingly affirm Afenifere’s prominent stature in the Yoruba struggle of our times. I am proud to have long been a member of such a highly esteemed Yoruba organization.
I am very proud of the roles that God has given me the privilege and the capabilities to play in the patriotic struggles of the Yoruba nation throughout my life – from my boyhood until this time of my advanced age. I am very proud to have had the privilege of using my talents and my courage in unwavering and undiluted commitment to the Yoruba cause under the leadership of highly distinguished sons of the Yoruba people starting with the ever-shining star of our Yoruba nation, our father, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. I am proud to have had the privilege of contributing in recent years to the patriotic struggles of Afenifere as one of the leading assistants of our papa, Chief Reuben Fasoranti and of his deputy, Chief Ayo Adebanjo. Hardly any other fighter in the Yoruba struggle today has worked as long or as closely with Chief Fasoranti as I have done. Hardly any has known Chief Fasoranti as a patriotic son of our Yoruba nation as long as I have known him. None knows my record in the fight as long or as fully as Chief Fasoranti does. Hardly any admires Chief Adebanjo’s loyalty and fortitude more than I do. I am also very deeply concerned about the horrific challenges that face our youths today, and very conscious of the need for us their parents and elders to show respect to their expectations and their yearnings. It is my very clear belief that any deliberate and purposeful gathering of these mostly young Yoruba people deserves to be respected and honoured.
With all sense of humility and modesty, at age 84, I believe, with joy in my heart, that my people at large recognize and appreciate that I have given much in the struggle for the freedom, and the improvement in the quality of life, of our Yoruba people, and the integrity of our Yoruba nation – in my work as an academic, and in my contributions to our people’s politics as one of the young founders and leaders of the Action Group Students Association in the University College Ibadan in the late 1950s; as one of the topmost leaders of the powerful Action Group Youth Association which fought hard and relentlessly for the dignity of our Yoruba nation at a time in the early 1960s when only brave youths dared to stand up for the Yoruba nation; in my frontline patriotic activities that led the people of my home to nominate me, on their own, as their candidate for the 1964 election to the Federal House of Representatives (making me, at the age of 29, the youngest candidate in Nigeria in that federal election, which election. I was winning grandly until our alliance of parties ordered us candidates to boycott it because of blatant rigging of the electoral processes);in my intellectual, policy and planning contributions to the making of the Unity Party of Nigeria in the 1970s, my authorship of the UPN Manifesto, and my leadership role in going to live in various parts of Nigeria for months as leader of the party’s efforts at mobilization of support; in my position as Senator in the Nigerian Second Republic; in my doing all these as, ultimately, one of the closest sons, and under the inspired and inspiring leadership, of our father Obafemi Awolowo; and in my later roles as mobilizer and inspirer of the intellectual and other resources of the Yoruba Diaspora worldwide for the strength of the Yoruba nation.
I and all who will work with me will, in all things, uphold and showcase the Awolowo legacy as the noblest and proudest modern legacy of our Yoruba nation – the pure spring with the waters of which I was nurtured by his awesome hands. I am proud that when I returned home from years of academic life abroad, Afenifere welcomed me back warmly and immediately called on me to serve as the Chairman of its Political Committee, and I am grateful for the great regard they have had for my many contributions in that position. Realistically but humbly, I recognize that the choice that I am making today, after painstakingly wrestling with the mountain before me, takes me to tread a different path in the service of our nation. However, I am confident, and I will do my very best to ensure, that the love, trust and respect that have existed between me and my long-time friends and associates will not only continue but will actually grow. We are very mature and experienced men leading a great nation that is going through very hard times and facing very potent threats. Moreover, we, individually and collectively, have the duty of helping our whole Yoruba nation’s political class to re-embrace the old Yoruba wisdom that not all things that are at variance are necessarily at enmity, and that persons who are working positively in widely different ways in society are all nevertheless, serving the king. I absolutely desire to see strong solidarity among my Yoruba people, the nation which I have proudly shown to the world, through the best and most respectable historical scholarship at my disposal, as a great and proud nation of civilization builders in the world.
Finally, while expressing my heart-felt gratitude to our brothers, sisters and organizations that met in Ibadan and adjudged meworthy of their consideration, I perceive that the real meaning and intention of your action was to serve on me a specialclarion call to rise to sharply increased levels of intensity and quality of servant hood to our nation in the things that you have hitherto seen me doing and more, things over some of which very many of you have fruitfully worked with me. It is in that light and spirit that I hereby humbly respond yes to your call, fully and gratefully confident that you all will rise and work dedicatedly and faithfully with me in all efforts to advance the best prospects, the best achievements, and the right destiny, for our Yoruba nation. I personally will increase the frequency of my public speeches and statements by which I seek to reinforce our people’s awareness about the challenges facing our nation, and by which I seek to energize our nation to the best and most noble advancements in all fields of human endeavour. I will publish more books on our nation, some of which books I have already completed writing. And I will encourage our world-famous intellectuals, and our general population of educated citizens, to write more books on our nation.
With all of us working as a determined team through the instrumentality of a worldwide Yoruba organization, we shall work closely and positively with, and give encouragement and assistance to, the tens of organizations that are standing up for the defence of our Yoruba nation and the protection and promotion of our nation’s interests. We shall commit ourselves to all efforts to move our Yoruba people forward and upwards again in the direction that would revive their vitality, their enterprising character, their creative energy, their love of elegance, and their love of sensitive, dutiful and decent leadership and governance. We shall commit to fostering and promoting ideas and agendas that will open wide doors of opportunities to our youths and our women. We shall commit ourselves to serious efforts to forge the quality of Yoruba unity and morality that will impart serious strength, confidence, sense of national oneness, and sense of duty, to our people – to the Yoruba farmer on his or her farm, the Yoruba worker in his or her place of work,the Yoruba entrepreneur and businessperson creating or managing a business in the daunting terrain of Nigeria, the Yoruba teachers and their students in our educational institutions, the Yoruba trader in her trading, the Yoruba craftsman in his workshop, etc. We commit ourselves to relating and interacting positively, without discrimination, with the Yoruba politician, the elected Yoruba public official and professional bureaucrat at every level of government in Nigeria, the governments of all our Yoruba states, and the governments of our LGAs, all to the end that they will all consciously employ their positions, their power and their influence for uplifting, uniting, empowering and enriching our Yoruba nation.
We shall evolve a powerful drive for arousing our State Governments and our people to revive our endangered Yoruba language, and to revive the teaching of our nation’s history to our children in our schools. We shall, with respect and family love, encourage our current State Governors to write their names in gold in our nation’s history by pursuing great transformational programs – such as skills development and entrepreneurial development programs for our youths; programs for promoting computer literacy; for promoting the use of solar energy and other alternative energy sources; for transforming our cities to internet-smart cities; for evolving dynamic knowledge hubs in our cities; for promoting modern agriculture; for encouraging among our people a culture of reading, and a culture of inventions. We shall commit our energies to serious efforts at galvanizing our people in the Diaspora towards employing their power, influence and resources to assert more impact on the struggles and development of our nation back home in our homeland. In summary, we are ambitious to encourage our already highly educated nation to arise and join the ranks of the highest and best nations in the world.
Our whole perception of the leadership of today’s Yoruba nation shall be that it does not interfere with partisan politics and politicians, but that it encourages our whole nation and its leading citizens to strive bravely for excellence, prosperity and power, and towards the true national destiny of our nation. In all activities, therefore, I personally commit myself to continuing as resolutely non-partisan as I have been for decades, and to join, support or oppose no political party, so that I may be able to move and communicate without inhibition among all our people, towards the advancement of our Yoruba positions and goals in Nigeria, and towards enhanced progress, prosperity and the right destiny for our Yoruba nation. In all directions, our resolute thrust must bethat we Yoruba people fully and definitively reject the mindset of the underdog,and the treatment as an underdog, in the affairs of Nigeria, and that we stride boldly forward to assert our strength, our dignity, and our dominance. We Yoruba are the people of the light, and we must nowmake that clear,and demonstrate it unambiguously, to Nigeria and the world.
With God blessing our efforts and our nation, we can, and we shall,accomplish all these goals.
Being full text of Prof. Banji Akintoye’s Press Conference Held in Ibadan on August 22, 2019.
WHO IS SENATOR (PROF) BANJI AKINTOYE Stephen Adebanji Akintoye, also known as S. Banji Akintoye (born 1935), is a Nigerian-born academic, historian and writer. He attended Christ’s School Ado Ekiti, Nigeria from 1951–1955, and studied history at the University College (Overseas College of the University of London), Ibadan (1956–1961), and doctoral studies from 1963-1966 at the University of Ibadan, where he was awarded a PhD in History in 1966. He taught at the History Department at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, where he became a professor and Director of the Institute of African Studies from 1974-1977. He has also taught African History in universities in the United States including the University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida; Montgomery County Community College, PA, and Eastern University, St. Davids, Pennsylvania. Akintoye has written four books, chapters in many joint books, and several articles in scholarly journals. He took a leading part for some time in the politics of Nigeria and served on the Nigerian Senate from 1979–1983 during the Second Republic. He currently lives in Pennsylvania in the United States.
Akintoye is one of the current leading scholars on the history of the Yoruba people. His most recent work, A History of the Yoruba People (Amalion, 2010), draws on decades of new findings and thinking on Yoruba studies that challenges some previously dominant notions about the origins of the Yoruba. This work dispels the Middle Eastern and Arabia origins propounded by such scholars as the late Samuel Johnson (1846–1901) and also gave prominence to the works on the Pre-Oduduwa Period by Ulli Beier among others. (Wikipedia)