Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
The leadership crisis rocking the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) on Thursday finally polarised the council into two formidable factions with two sets of executive councils in place.
The council at its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held at the council’s secretariat, Bodija, Ibadan under a heavy security presence, appointed retired Justice Ademola Bakre as the new President-General of the council, also known as Igbimo Agba Yoruba, during the meeting, where about 20 policemen provided security.
Bakre was appointed to lead a seven-member executive council to replace Col Ade Agbede (retd), who led an interim executive of the council from 2018 till Thursday when the new executive emerged, following the death of the third former President-General, Chief Idowu Sofola.
The participants at the meeting graced by delegates of the council from the United Kingdom and United States unanimously voted to replace the interim executive put in place last year.
It was observed that some leaders of YCE were absent at the meeting held on Thursday, including Col Agbede, the interim president, Prof Adetoun Ogunseye, Chief Anthony Merayebu, Elder Ayorinde Ojebode, Chief Jibade Oyekan, Dr Rasaki Siyanbola, Chief Mike Omoleye, Chief Adegboye Onigbinde and others.
The chairmen of the council in Oyo, Osun and Ondo states were also absent at meeting. But delegates from Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, and Kwara states were in attendance.
At the meeting that produced Justice Bakre as president-general, the council enjoined the governors of Yoruba states, comprising Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Kwara, Ondo and Kogi to rise up to deploy technology to monitor their forests and flush out from the forests, criminals masquerading as herdsmen.
The leadership tussle had witnessed a running battle between Agbede and the council’s Secretary-General, Dr Kunle Olajide, which purportedly led to the suspension of the scribe, who summoned the meeting which held on Thursday in Ibadan.
Olajide in a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, however, described the YCE crisis as ‘storm in a teacup’ as he thanked “all compatriots and well wishers who through phone calls and visits, expressed concerns about the unconstitutional suspension of the council’s Secretary-General.
“The council most especially appreciates the Diaspora UK/USA chapter of the YCE for showing grave concern as to travel home to participate in the healing process. The council assures all Nigerians that the storm is over and the organisation is fully restored to continue to contribute to nation-building.”
But Agbede has described the emergence of another executive under the leadership of Bakre as a ‘mother of all jokes,’ saying a proper NEC meeting of the council would hold next week, during which proper reaction would be made to the new development.
His words: “They have no credibility and the purportedly elected person from Ogun State, the same state where the late president, Chief Idowu Sofola hailed from. That’s injustice and it cannot stand. They are not serious people.
“Funnily, the purported newly-elected president had initially conceded the position to me. Both the said new president and Prof Oluwasanmi have surreptitiously been disturbing the council.
“The convener of the meeting, who has been suspended as the YCE secretary lacked the legal backing to call the meeting in the first instance. Even if not on suspension, a secretary cannot call a meeting without the permission of the president. So, whatever might have been said to have been done remains illegal, null and void and of no effect. Proper national executive council meeting holds next week during which proper reaction to the theatre of absurd will be made.”
But the new president-general, Justice Bakre, who extended an olive branch to Agbede to support YCE in the interest of Yoruba and put all rivalry behind him, said he was ashamed that people being called elders were doing wrong things, adding that he, as the leader of the council, would not go cap in hands begging the governors for any largesse.
The communiqué issued at the end of the meeting signed by the new president-general and secretary-general, YCE, lauded President Muhammadu Buhari for suspending the RUGA project.
The communiqué read in parts: “The meeting paid glowing tributes to the memory of the third and immediate past president of the council, Chief Idowu Sofola.
“The meeting thereafter, and unanimously appointed, in the tradition of the council, Justice Ademola Bakre (rtd), as the fourth president of the council after due consideration of his experience in public administration, judiciary and his fatherly role in Yoruba Council of Elders.
“The YCE commends the president for suspending the RUGA project but he must do more to restore the dwindling confidence of Nigerians in his administration.
“His public pronouncement at the APC award ceremony, for him that at this stage of our democratic evolution what we need now is true federalism must be followed by concrete action.
“The president must, without delay, revisit the 2014 National Conference reports and the El-Rufai Committee Report on devolution of powers. As soon as possible, relevant bills to commence this process must be forwarded to the National Assembly.
“YCE acknowledges that grazing route of the pre-independence era and the first republic have been wiped off and in most cases taken over by housing estates. Nomadic grazing is therefore no longer feasible because the cattle would destroy farmlands and impoverish our people, who are predominantly farmers. Some of the herders have been known to kill, abduct and rape our women.
“The YCE believes Mr. President can heal the gaping wounds in the polity by reassuring Nigerians with his actions, walking the talk on his preachment on unity.
“YCE assures President Buhari of our support to build a truly egalitarian, Federal Republic of Nigeria where justice and progress will reign supreme.
“YCE appeals to all Nigerian to avoid making inflammatory statements in these difficult times. All our efforts and speeches must be to unite our people, not to polarise them.”
On the daughter of Pa Reuben Fasoranti, leader of Afenifere who was murdered along Ore road by suspected herders, the council urged South West governors as well as the governors of Kwara and Kogi states to “deploy technology to monitor our forests and flush out criminals masquerading as herdsmen from our forests.”