Yoruba Nation arrowhead, Prof Banji Akintoye, has said that the Federal Government won’t descend so low to outlaw his Yoruba Nation separatist group.
The octogenarian professor of History was reacting to a statement by the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), that the government is considering all options against the Yoruba Nation separatist group including the proscription of the group.
Sunday PUNCH had reported that Malami’s Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Umar Gwandu, said the Federal Government would explore all options within the context of the law — including proscription — to ensure a peaceful and united Nigeria.
Reacting, Akintoye’s Communications Manager, Maxwell Adeleye, said that the government of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), won’t want to descend low to outlaw the Yoruba Nation group led by his principal.
Adeleye told our correspondent that Ilana Omo Oodua was not a terrorist group but a peaceful self-determination association with a belief in referendum and sensitisation through rallies.
He said, “There is no basis for the proscription of Ilana Omo Oodua. The government can only proscribe a terrorist group and not a peaceful group like Ilana Omo Oodua. All our members arrested in Ojota (area in Lagos), were charged with disturbance of public peace but later released. Why weren’t they charged with treasonable felony or murder?
“If the government proscribes us, we are going to challenge it in the court of law because we have committed no offence. It is an organisation that believes in peaceful agitation for self-determination. We even released a manual on peaceful agitation for self-determination as authored by our Leader, Emeritus Professor Banji Akintoye.
The spokesman for Akintoye also said the group had no association with the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra led by detained Nnamdi Kanu and does not believe in the sit-at-home order issued by the group in the South-East.
“Sit-at-home is never in our plan. Ilana Omo Oodua has no association with IPOB, so comparing IPOB methodology with ours is heretical. Our modus operandi is totally different. With all due respect to the members of IPOB, the only thing we have in common is that they want Biafra Nation and we want an independent Yoruba Nation.
“We are for peaceful self-determination; we believe in referendum, we don’t want war, we are not going to shoot a gun or carry a cutlass to attack anyone. We do not have any military wing. We are for peace and we believe the best way to achieve this is by NINAS (Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination) strategy of referendum and that is why we have been holding rallies to sensitise our people,” he said.
This newspaper had earlier reported that the Federal Government was plotting the arrest of Akintoye, who has since left Nigeria for neighbouring Benin Republic, ostensibly, to escape plot for his arrest, had said he was not afraid of any arrest.
Akintoye, the leader of the umbrella body of the Yoruba self-determination group known as Ilana Omo Oodua; and embattled Yoruba Nation agitator, Sunday Adeyemo also known as Sunday Igboho, have been seen together at press conferences and rallies championing the cause to secede from Nigeria and establish the Yoruba Nation.
The 86-year-old scholar had said he was in Benin Republic to ensure the release of Igboho and would return to Nigeria as soon as the embattled 48-year-old agitator was freed.
Igboho, who narrowly escaped the bloody raid, was subsequently declared wanted for allegedly stockpiling arms to destabilise Nigeria under the pretext of Yoruba Nation.
The DSS had also alleged that it recovered seven AK-47 rifles, three pump-action rifles, one stun gun, 221 live rounds of 5.56mm ammunition, 1,295 live rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, one jackknife and a walkie-talkie during the raid of Igboho’s house on July 1, 2021. Igboho had denied the allegations.
After going underground for 19 days, Igboho found his way to Benin Republic but luck ran out on him and he was arrested around 8 pm on July 19, 2021, by the Interpol at the Cadjèhoun Airport in Cotonou, when he tried to board a flight to Germany.
Igboho was arrested after the Federal Government notified its West African neighbours — including Republic of Benin- that he should be captured.
He was arrested with his wife, Ropo, but the Cour De’appal De Cotonou ordered the release of the wife based in Germany saying there were no allegations against her.
The Cour De’appal De Cotonou, however, ordered that Igboho be in prison custody in the country while further investigations would be carried out on the case against him.
Igboho, who is now seeking asylum in Benin Republic, is facing allegations bordering on trafficking in arms, inciting violence and causing disunity in Nigeria.
Some of the other offences said to have been committed by the activist bordered on entering the Benin Republic illegally and alleged planned intent to cause social unrest in the West African country.
Though currently in detention, the court granted the 48-year-old agitator access to medical care while his lawyers continue to battle for his release and kick against his extradition to Nigeria.