Ilana Omo O’odua and Yoruba Nation: Understanding the Contradictions Within
Irohinoodua News Analysis-November 22, 2021
In less than two years, the Yoruba World Congress, (YWC) put together after a remarkable gathering at Ibadan in 2018 has broken into at least three factions. First was the exit of Prof Stephen Banji Akintoye from the YWC, leaving behind Dr Amos Akingba, Mr Tola Adeniyi and others. Akintoye came up with Ilana Omo Oodua, (I00). Last week another faction came from the same 100 following outbreak of fresh hostilities. The first crisis actually led to two or more new factions, one led by Victor Taiwo, who was the main actor whose vision led to the formation of YWC and the other led by Dr Akingba. While Taiwo receded to his O’odua Redemption Alliance, (ORA), Dr Akingba and his aides retained a fragile YWC.
Last week, Ilana broke into pieces again. The latest conflict has seen a faction led by Mrs Folasade Olukoya. But this is not to be understood as just one faction leaving Ilana Omo Oodua or that those who left share common dreams. What happened was delink of a few individuals or groups, for similar but different reasons. A certain Akinola Judge resigned as the Secretary General of Ilana while Mr Maxwell Adeleye, the vibrant spokesperson who has given prominence to Ilana remained. However, Mr Kunle Adesokan, one of the most vibrant brain boxes of several self-determination groups since the 1990s, has equally resigned his position from Ilana. Of the numbers, Adesokan’s resignation appears to be the most impactful. Apart from leading an organization with widespread contacts across Yorubaland, being the founding Secretary for Organisation of O’odua Peoples Congress, (OPC), he is one of the most experienced of all Prof Akintoye’s lieutenants. With the exit of Adesokan, who admitted Prof Akintoye’s prowess and dedication and Prof Akintoye in turn admitting Adesokan’s sterling qualities, Ilana may need to contend with forging ahead with bright leaders albeit with very few foot soldiers earlier provided by Adesokan’s group. This is apart from the fact that though over 100 groups were put together by Victor Taiwo to coalescence into YWC, it appears more than 80 percent of the groups are no longer under the YWC umbrella.
Dynamics of the Crisis
Ilana in a statement issued by Mr Adeleye accused some members of collecting huge sums from the Federal Government to muzzle the group. Prof Akintoye in a voice note said the division was orchestrated by a third force. He specifically blamed Olukoya, who he accused of promoting the 2023 Presidency of Vice President ‘Yemi Osinbajo, of being the brain behind the crisis. Akintoye said she has been urging the group to drop the Yoruba self-determination campaign to support Osinbajo in the build up to the 2023 Presidential race.
Did the Federal Government really infiltrate Ilana with cash?
While this allegation has not been firmly established, it will be naïve for anyone to assume that the Federal Government would not wish to see the demise of Ilana or any other self-determination groups by all means necessary. While Ilana is yet to provide concrete evidence that some members are hobnobbing with the Federal Government to undermine the group, history helps to understand the present. In the year 2000, at the peak of OPC glory, the organization was hit by rumours with very strong flavor that the founder, Dr Fredrick Faseun had collected N20m (Twenty Million Naira) from the then President Olusegun Obasanjo. Some of his accusers within and outside the OPC put the figure at 200million. This rumour, it should be understood appeared to have been fueled by covert security operatives close to the OPC. The OPC itself had laid the foundation for such rumours through its open-field meetings which gave the secret service a viable opportunity to infiltrate the group. YWC made the same error, through its open-door policies without drawing a distinction between State agents and genuine agitators.
In the case of the OPC, instead of setting up a committee to investigate the rumour, it rather spread like a whirlwind. But did Obasanjo actually give money to Dr Faseun? Irohinoodua can confirm that Dr Faseun visited Obasanjo in his Ota farm on a weekend. The former President then issued a cheque of N20,000 (Twenty Thousand Naira Only) for Dr Faseun as a token for his ‘fuel.’ Dr Faseun vehemently refused the money, but Obasanjo wrote the cheque and inserted the paper in Dr Faseun’s car. Unfortunately, no one bordered to cross check the allegations as the group was rocked by internal divisions. This was what led to the emergence of Gani Adams faction. The crisis however, led to deaths on both sides and has been responsible for the cat and mouse game until this day. Many observers were of the view that the N20,000 was a Greek gift was orchestrated to set the OPC on the path of self-destruction. However, at the bottom of the whole is the way some of the self determination groups are organized, which gives room for internal contradictions. The structure, form and content of the different Pan Yoruba groups are fluid. The lack of constitutional guide, the absence of internal democracy, the complete neglect of organizational structure leave most of the groups at the mercy of being ran by the impulse of a few individuals without respect for organizational democracy. Many of them for instance do not have any constitution while most of them place less emphasis on inclusion in decision making processes. Accountability is also a problem. This may not mean guzzling of funds received, but definitely, where accounts are not presented for an inclusive leadership approval, the growth of suspicion will be natural. Most leaders also fail to separate themselves from the accounting procedures. This is not to neglect the fact that there are those who join the organisations for personal gains and would want funds received to be shared to meet individual comfort.
Ilana may be witnessing a repeat of an ugly history. To avoid bringing itself into a shipwreck, Ilana should immediately reorganize itself along revolutionary but democratic norms. It must purge itself of illusion that it can achieve Yoruba self-determination without conflict, propelled by enemies within and without. Decisions by the leaders ought to be taken after extensive consultations. Funds must be accounted for, at least to the leadership of the group, where absolutely necessary. Any self-determination group with its name should see itself as the property of the people, who must own the process. Ilana should also clearly define its mission. It must choose between being a fighting organization or a group specifically for international lobby and diplomacy. There is no way it can successfully combine the two roles. Ilana should also be alert on the incursion of state agents whose sole aim is to destabilize the group and set it on a path of ruin. The state will not stop at recruitment of its top officials and the retention of a mole destined to work tirelessly for the destruction of the group. To achieve an organization of international standing needs a lot of honest admission of errors committed on both sides of the divide. The current crisis should never be conceived as an indicator that Yoruba people cannot organize themselves. Far from it. It should rather be seen as an inevitable hurdle any organization with a utilitarian goal must encounter. The issue now is how it is resolved through the wisdom of those at the helms. Prof Akintoye has no doubt accounted himself as someone who has raised the banner of Yoruba self-determination significantly. History will be kind to him in this respect. In the immediate future lay more challenges that only a group with organizational discipline, honest leaders, effective structure, community driven programmes can succeed in meeting the burning desires of Yoruba people for self-determination.
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