The Federal Government is plotting the arrest of the Yoruba Nation arrowhead, Prof Banji Akintoye, Sunday PUNCH has learnt.
It was reliably gathered that the octogenarian professor of history has since left Nigeria for neighbouring Benin Republic to escape the plot for his arrest.
The regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has in recent months turned maddening heat on separatists.
Akintoye, the leader of the umbrella body of the Yoruba self-determination group known as Ilana Omo Oodua, and the 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 the Nigerian state and establish a Yoruba Nation.
A top source privy to the matter confided in our correspondent that security forces plotted Akintoye’s arrest before the raid of Igboho’s residence in the Soka area, Ibadan, Oyo State.
However, the source said the 86-year-old scholar left Nigeria to the French-speaking West African country three months ago because he needed to be “faster than his enemies.”
The Department of State Services raided Igboho’s residence around 1am on July 1, 2021 before he was arrested in Cotonou, Benin Republic on July 19, 2021.
The secret police had said it killed two of his associates and arrested about 12 others during the bloody raid.
Igboho, who narrowly escaped the bloody raid, was subsequently declared wanted for allegedly stockpiling arms to destabilise Nigeria under the pretext of Yoruba Nation, an allegation he denied.
After about three weeks in hiding in Nigeria, Igboho found his way to Benin Republic but luck ran out on him and he was arrested around 8pm on July 19, 2021 by the Interpol at the Cadjèhoun Airport in Cotonou.
Igboho was arrested after the Federal Government notified its West African neighbours — including Republic of Benin- that he should be captured.
Igboho was arrested in Cotonou when he tried boarding a flight to Germany after the Nigerian government notified Interpol.
He was arrested with his wife, Ropo, but the Cour De’appal De Cotonou ordered the release of the Germany-based wife of the activist, saying there were no allegations against her.
The Beninese court, 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 Republic of Benin.
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.
Speaking with Sunday PUNCH, a top source close to Akintoye said the professor left Nigeria “about three months before Igboho was arrested.”
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak on the matter, said, “It is true that the Federal Government wants to arrest him (Akintoye), they want to intimidate him and detain him.
“There were plans to pick him up and intimidate him and put him behind bars in an attempt to kill the struggle but the plot was uncovered and he left. He didn’t step out of Nigeria for more than five years before he left some three months back when the plot to arrest him was uncovered.
“But what has Baba done if not only that he is agitating for Yoruba Nation? He is agitating for the sovereignty of Yoruba Nation which is a fundamental human right. They want to charge him for treason. But it is not a crime to ask for self-determination or dissolution of a country.”
“Baba is not hiding; he left Nigeria for Republic of Benin months back. He is not hiding, but you need to be faster than your enemies,” the source added.
On whether Akintoye has met with Igboho in detention, the source simply said, “He has been coordinating the struggle from the Republic of Benin.”
When contacted, the Communications Manager of the Ilana Omo Oodua Worldwide, Maxwell Adeleye, declined immediate comments on the matter. “I will get back to you,” he told The Punch on Saturday but he had yet to do so as of press time.
The DSS spokesman, Peter Afunanya, neither took his calls nor responded to a text message seeking confirmation on the matter.
Meanwhile, Sunday PUNCH reliably gathered that Nigerian ex-President, Olusegun Obasanjo, met with the President of the Republic of Benin, Patrice Talon, in the first week of August.
Obasanjo was said to have travelled to Zanzibar, Tanzania, last week but left for Benin Republic during the week.
A top source in the Republic of Benin told Sunday PUNCH that Obasanjo was in Porto Novo, the capital of the Francophone country during the week.
The ex-President was said to have met with the ex-President of Benin Republic, Nicephore Soglo, who recently lost his wife, Roseline Soglo.
After the condolence visit, the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Obasanjo visited Talon. The source, however, could not confirm whether the ex-President put in a word for Igboho or not.
“It is true Obasanjo was in Republic of Benin and it is true he was on a condolence visit on his way from Tanzania. It is also true that he met with the Republic of Benin President but I cannot confidently confirm whether they discussed Igboho or not,” the source said.
When contacted, the Special Assistant on Media to Obasanjo, Kehinde Akinyemi, told Sunday PUNCH that Obasanjo was in Benin Republic on Monday. “He was in Benin Republic on Monday and he met with the President but nobody knew what they discussed,” he said.
The Nigerian Ambassador to the Republic of Benin, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai (retd.), also met with Talon recently in Benin Republic. The ex-COAS met with the Beninese President to present his letter of credence.
The Beninese President’s meeting with Buratai occurred amid the planned extradition of Igboho but a member of Igboho’s legal team, Pelumi Olajengbesi, had said the new-found relationship between Buratai and Talon would not achieve any tangible result.
He had said Buratai asked for Igboho’s extradition to the DSS headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, adding that the Republic of Benin disappointed him.
“We are not afraid of Buratai. He is doing his best in the interest of the government he represents to see that Chief Sunday Igboho is extradited and not given justice but we are not worried because this matter is before the court and we expect the court to do justice,” he had said.
Buratai, Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff between July 2015 and January 2021, was deployed as Nigeria’s envoy in Benin Republic in June 2021.
Before then, Buhari had presented Buratai’s nomination to the Senate which confirmed the ex-COAS’ nomination despite public outcry over some crimes against humanity allegedly committed by the Nigerian Army under his leadership.
Igboho, aides don’t need financial assistance for bail, says lawyer
Meanwhile, Chief Yomi Alliyu (SAN), the lead counsel for Yoruba Nation agitator, Sunday Igboho, has said that Igboho and his associates do not need financial assistance from anyone to prosecute their cases or perfect their bail.
Alliyu, in a statement on Saturday, said it had come to the notice of the legal team that various groups and individuals that had nothing to do with the case filed by Igboho had been laying claims to sponsoring the suits or criticising decisions of the court.
He also warned those criticising the judge on the conditions attached to the bail granted to Igboho’s aides, stressing that bail was at the discretion of a judge.
The statement read, “We want to be quick to say that as at today no group and/or individual has contributed a kobo to the two cases going on in Nigeria, to wit: his aides case in Abuja and the Ibadan matter. Various peanuts offered by some very loud groups have been turned down by me on my client’s instructions.
“He has been carrying his cross alone with no assistance from home or abroad. People should be brave to challenge any individual and/or group asking them for money on bail on his behalf or those of his aides.
“Bail is free in all courts in Nigeria and as such neither Igboho nor his aides need assistance on bail. Our client is willing and able to prosecute his matters to logical conclusions without peanuts being offered by those claiming to be involved in his struggle. We also wish to educate those criticising the bail conditions ordered by the Federal High Court, Abuja. The criticisms are unfounded and only came out of ignorance of the law on bail. The judge has a discretion which had been exercised by him judicial and judiciously in our matter.”