Akintoye said that the Yoruba would deploy their intellectual gifts rather than fight a physical battle, adding that the group was sure of victory.
“We are a people uniquely gifted to fight and win by intellectual means. That is what we are doing, and we cannot lose,” he said.
Ilana Omo Oodua is the foremost umbrella body of Yoruba self-determination groups and Akintoye, who has led the organisation since its inception, recently relocated abroad.
Explaining the reason for his movement abroad, Akintoye claimed that his life and that of others close to him were under threat.
“I and some persons close to me in the struggle for Yoruba Self-determination needed to get away from Nigeria to preserve our lives. The right to self-determination for all nationalities of the world is a right recognised by the entire world. It is a right guaranteed by the international laws to which Nigeria is a signatory—laws that are therefore part of the laws of Nigeria.
“In a truly modern country, we should not fear any danger on account of our belief in self-determination for our nation. Especially because we also sincerely believe and constantly proclaim and show that we will always push our quest for Self-determination by peaceful and law-abiding means.
“We do operate in a peaceful and law-abiding manner and teach our young to do the same and they do so. We respect the government and the laws of Nigeria. Therefore, there should be no danger to us in our propagating our belief,” he said.
He claimed that his group received “credible intelligence” that unidentified leaders in the country “were planning to take our lives in our homes, we decided it was time to put ourselves far beyond their reach. That is what prompted my leaving Nigeria for another country.”
Akintoye said having moved abroad, his life was no longer under threat, adding that “but it was seriously under threat in Nigeria. Notice was even served on me in the form of attacking and destroying the assets of my daughter-in-law who is a very creative person. Yes, in Nigeria, my life would be in danger; the same is true for many people who are fighting for Yoruba self-determination even though they are fighting peacefully and in a law-abiding manner.”
Last month the Ilana Omo Oodua initiated moves to secure the release of Yoruba freedom fighter, Sunday Adeyemo alias Igboho, who is detained at a prison in the Benin Republic.
The academic referenced the attack on Igboho’s home in Nigeria as, in his view, an example of the plot to silence Yoruba self-determination advocates.
“We all know what happened to Chief Sunday Adeyemo some weeks after I left Nigeria. When agents of the Nigerian government invaded his home, their intention was to kill him, but mercifully, he managed to escape. Nevertheless, they massively and viciously destroyed his property. A lot of other Yoruba persons have been fleeing Nigeria,” he said.
As to whether he was being persecuted, he replied: “I don’t believe that anybody in the world can persecute me. They might try, but they would not succeed. I am not afraid to believe what I know to be right and to propagate it.
“If anybody thinks that they can persecute me to give up my ideas and principles, they are deceiving themselves. Nobody can frighten, bully or buy me.
“I have carefully considered all things and options concerning the Yoruba Nation and I believe that what will be best for the Yoruba Nation and the world is that the Yoruba should have their own separate sovereign country in the world. I am sure that it is my responsibility, God’s will for my life and God’s commission over my life to contribute to the creation of a separate sovereign Yoruba nation-state.
“I arose from the stock of brave warriors, and when I grew up and left home, I providentially entered into the circle of the bravest and the most principled warriors that Nigeria has ever seen. A warrior for what is right, a warrior for the good quality of life for common people, a warrior for decency and beauty in the affairs of the country, warrior for the best quality of life for the common people. I refer to Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He was a man that nobody could buy, bully or frighten, and I am grateful to God that God positioned me to have been close to him in all my political involvements in Nigeria.
“I know that very many members of the Yoruba elite are shocked by the clumsy attempts being made by functionalists of the Nigerian states to compel me to give up my belief. You all know of persons who have been hired to cook up stories about me to present me as a person secretly planning violence.
“For instance, when I patriotically wrote a letter to the Southwest governors about impending danger to the Yoruba Southwest, some federal agents put forth a letter that I was planning to destroy security in the Southwest and suggested that the (Muhammadu) Buhari government should arrest me accordingly.
“When our young people abroad struggled to get me to speak before the United Nations Organization, some agents of the state published a long letter urging the United Nations not to allow me or Ilana Omo Oduduwa to speak because, according to them, Ilana Omo Oduduwa and I are agents of insecurity and national destruction. But I assure all Yoruba people that I am beyond persecution,” he explained.
But is the Ilana Omo Oodua a threat to Nigeria’s security? Akintoye disagreed.
“Definitely not; we do not constitute any threat to the national security, we do not constitute and we do not intend to constitute any threat to security. We will continue to do what we have been doing, namely, confidently and strongly proclaiming our views and doing so lawfully and peacefully.
“When the masses of our youths rally in the streets, they do so lawfully and peacefully without constituting any threat to security and without clashing with security operatives. We respect the laws and the government of Nigeria. In fact, we have become the most obvious guarantee of peace and security in Nigeria,” he added.
AkIntoye explained that in furtherance of this, his group had written petitions agitation for the Yoruba nation
“As you all know, we have produced several petitions. For instance, you all know about the petition which we wrote to the International Criminal Court. We wrote that petition because, for more than five years, herdsmen and militias armed with sophisticated weapons have been coming to destroy our farms, kill our farmers, destroy our villages and farmsteads, viciously rape and kill our women, force countless of our farmers to abandon farming altogether.
“All these without any resistance from the Federal Government of Nigeria; sometimes even with collusion from Nigerian official agencies, for the campaign to free Igboho, he said the group was deploying a political solution “in addition to the use of the legal solution,” he emphasised.
Akintoye, however, did not confirm any alleged plot to eliminate Igboho.
He said: “Of course, it is extremely difficult for people, including even we who are Sunday Igboho’s parents and who are watching carefully over his affairs, to confirm authoritatively that such a plot exists. But Nigeria is a country in which strange things happen, even at the highest level. If such a plot exists, its purpose of course would be to stamp out the Yoruba self-determination struggle.”
The don did not rule out resolving the group’s grievances against the Nigerian state through negotiation.
“Our stated objective is to push responsibly to the negotiating table and not to street brawls or battlefields. And in general, negotiation is inevitable in all situations of difference among men. So, hopefully, someday, there will be a negotiating table upon which responsible representatives of the Yoruba Nation will plead the Yoruba cause peacefully, and from which they will bring forth the Yoruba nation-state in all peace, responsibility and friendliness.
“A Yoruba Nation that will be a friend to its neighbours and that will be happily involved in all the future, in collaborations in good policies and programmes that will benefit the lives of citizens in all directions. We, after we get our own country, do not wish or hope to live in hostility with our neighbours.
“We want to be a blessing to all our neighbours and we hope that our neighbours will be a blessing to us too,” he concluded.