Not many Yoruba people would have reckoned that Yoruba World Congress (YWC) that was launched in August 2019 and which elected Emeritus Professor, Banji Akintoye as its leader would get enmeshed in leadership crisis barely a year after it came into being.
There had been allegations and counter-allegations over who is the authentic leader of the congress between factions of the founding members. The faction loyal to founding members such as Chief Tola Adeniyi, Dr. Amos Akingba, Professor Anthony Kila and Mr. Solagbade Popoola, who were recently relieved of their executive positions for alleged misdemeanors in the congress, have gone to the press to claim that they had also removed Second Republic Senator as protem leader of YWC, Akintoye, and Spokesperson of Yoruba Liberation Command, George Akinola. But the latter have dismissed Adeniyi and his group as mere jokers.
Akintoye and Akinola wondered where four suspended members that were disciplined and removed from the various executive positions they occupied derived power to remove the leader.
The trouble in YWC started this year when one of its strong financiers and founder-member, Otunba Deji Osibogun, suddenly resigned as organising secretary, saying he needed time to focus on other areas that would benefit the Yoruba nation.
None of the current warring leaders did anything to dissuade Osibogun from exiting in controversial circumstance. However, some of the factors that led to Osibogun’s resignation are now unraveling.
While reacting to some of the claims made by Adeniyi in an interview with The Guardian, Akintoye described Adeniyi, Akingba, Kila and Popoola as jokers, who were only driven by selfish motives and not the general interest of the Yoruba, which the congress was formed to champion.
On the allegation that Akintoye lied that he’d left Afenifere on which condition he was elected as leader of YWC, the professor said: “I find it difficult to believe that Adeniyi would say such. I didn’t tell anybody I was leaving Afenifere. As at the time I was elected the leader of YWC, there was a big question across Yoruba land in terms of insecurity and other critical challenges and I made it clear, even to some of the leaders of Afenifere, that there was a big task ahead of Yoruba, which I needed to heed if the mantle fell on me. I have met with Afenifere on many occasions after my election as leader of YWC and, up till today, I don’t think there is any brawl between me and leaders of Afenifere.”
Akintoye told The Guardian that he only knew Adeniyi as a media guru and not one of those who have been part of the struggle for the emancipation of Yoruba nation or as a progressive.
“I did not know Adeniyi before. He was a journalist and that is the way I still look at him. I don’t have anything against him and I wonder why he is going about to denigrate me.”
The retired university don also flayed Adeniyi for accusing him of having been hijacked by politicians, stressing: “We know those who are tied to the apron strings of politicians. They have been playing their game to destroy YWC, but we shall forge ahead.”
MEANWHILE, in a separate interaction with The Guardian, Akinola said the claim by Adeniyi and others that they have removed Akintoye as YWC leader was not only laughable, but impossible.
“How can people under suspension for anti-YWC activities claim they removed our leader?” he asked. The truth is that we discovered a secret plan that those in question were into a particular machination to remove Akintoye and we moved quickly ahead of them to stop their coup.
“How did we discover the plot? YWC used to have a 15-member council but there was a particular meeting Adeniyi and his loyalists summoned without the knowledge of other members of council. We suspected their agenda and moved swiftly.”
Akinola added that it was even wrong for anybody to say they were removed, saying, “What happened was that the 15-member interim council that was in place was disbanded and, as I speak to you, there is no council in place except Professor Akintoye, who remains our leader.
“Akintola, Kila and others were still part of YWC by our own reckoning, but if they decided to exit YWC, we cannot stop them. YWC has no quarrel with anybody; the minor ‘skirmish’ is a mere distraction.”
He also put a lie to the allegation that Prof. Akintoye is romancing with politicians, as against the laid down objectives of YWC, adding, “There is no iota of truth that any politician or the national leader of APC, Bola Tinubu, is the one financing Akintoye and also paying his accommodation bills.
“I don’t want to join issues with anybody on this spurious and unfounded allegation on the ground that Akintoye is a professor emeritus, a former senator, and prolific writer, who has made wealth. He also has children both biological and those ones that learnt under him. They are all capable of financing him if it comes to that.”
Akinola added that it was not also true that Akintoye is rigid or running a one-man show in YWC as alleged.
“This is mere fabrication of drowning people in YWC,” he said. “There is no leadership crisis, although we cannot rule out misunderstanding in any organisation as wide and sophisticated like the council. We don’t have to look at the distraction.”
Speaking on the way forward, Akinola said YWC would mark Yoruba National Day where all Yoruba sons and daughters at home and in the Diaspora are expected to gather to chat a way forward for themselves in Nigeria. He also said the council has also extended its hands of fellowship to Afenifere, Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF), Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), and all political leaderships across parties to forge a common front for Yoruba nation.
Akinola also disclosed that several moves had been initiated to reconcile with Adeniyi and others, saying, “Three separate meetings have been called in Ibadan to address the issue but they (Adeniyi and others) refused to attend.”
Akinola also denied insinuation that Osibogun resigned from YWC based on the same reasons Adeniyi and his friends have alleged against Akintoye, noting, “I want to say categorically that Akintoye is still in touch with Osibogun and others.”