We proudly present the citation of Professor (Senator) Adebanji Akintoye, a distinguished African of our time, a famous alumnus of the great Ibadan School of History, a scholar of international repute, an eminent Professor of History, a distinguished Senator of the Nigerian Second Republic, a solid, dedicated and resilient Awoist, a progressive to the core, for years a strong promoter of restructuring for the Nigerian federation, a foremost advocate of desperately needed policies and programs for the good of the youths of the Yorùbá people, , and now the foremost promoter of Yorùbá Self-determination.
Prof Banji Akintoye is one of the most versatile persons in our world today, judging from the several good things into which he has put his fingers. He obtained the B. A. Honours degree in History at the London University and a Ph.D in African History at the University of Ibadan. He began his teaching career at the then University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University where he rose rapidly through the ranks to become a Professor of History and the Director of the Institute of African Studies at a tender age.
In addition to his illustrious service at the Obafemi Awolowo University, he also taught African History in American universities – first at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida, and later at the Eastern University in St David’s, Pennsylvania. His distinguished record as a scholarly writer includes several top-grade academic papers for scholarly seminars and symposia, several scholarly articles in leading academic journals at home and broad, many famous books, and hundreds of articles in the popular media. Some of the books are Revolution and Power Politics in Yorùbáland 1840 – 93, Emergent States of Africa: Topics in 20th Century African History, Ten Years of the University of Ife, 1962-72, An Outline of Yorùbá History, Coming Revolutions in Black Africa, and his monumental book on Yorùbá history – A History of the Yorùbá People.
A truly revolutionary historian, some of his predictions have begun to manifest going by the Arab uprisings of recent years, the series of Fulani devastations that came to rock Nigeria and some other parts of West Africa during the second decade of the 21st century, and the nationalist self-determination agitations that are now striving to carve new countries out of Nigeria.
Prof Akintoye is not only a great and revolutionary historian, he is also an activist in the politics of his time. He has combined his exemplary scholarship with a very high level of involvement in the politics of his Yorùbá people, of Nigeria, and of Africa. Born and raised in an ancient royal lineage, from a chiefly family that is well known for sacrificial service to their people, he early became active in the politics of his people. As a university undergraduate and postgraduate student, he became a notable figure in the politics of his university community as well as in the pan-African politics of the years of the late 1950s, the years of the advance of African countries towards independence. In this latter context, he was part of many delegations of Nigerian students to international student conferences in Africa and in other parts of the world. He was leader of some of the Nigerian student delegations.
At the same time, he was one of the founders of the Action Group Students Association in his University College Ibadan. Later, he served on the highest leadership of the Action Group National Youth Association of the 1960s, the association that provided the leadership in the defence of the Yorùbá Western Region against the oppressive aggression of the Nigeria’s Federal Government in the years 1962-1966. Years later, in the 1970s, as a university professor, he was one of the intellectuals who contributed enormously to the creation and building of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), under the leadership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He was a leading person in the writing of the position papers of the Unity Party of Nigeria, and he ultimately wrote the Manifesto of the party, a manifesto that, among other good things, promised the extension of Free Education to Secondary Schools in the Yorùbá Southwest of Nigeria, and that made it possible for millions of people who had no means of accessing Secondary School education to have access to free Secondary School education from 1979 when the UPN formed the government in all the States of the Southwest. It is of great significance that the expansion of Free Education to Secondary Schools in the Yorùbá Southwest, the gift that was promised by Prof. Akintoye in the UPN Manifesto, has opened the doors to Secondary School education, and thereby to university education, for generations of Yorùbá youths since the 1980s. To this man belongs, therefore, the joyful and proud testimony that his labour of service to mankind has produced bountiful fruits.
Prof Akintoye was elected as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under the banner of the UPN in 1979 in addition to the various positions that he has held before that time. He is remembered as one of the most informed and most famous Nigerian Senators of his time. He served a meritorious four-year term in the Nigerian Senate and then chose to move on to face certain pressing challenges in his Ondo State – and was asked to serve as a Commissioner in the Ondo State Government, which position he held until the military coup of December 1983.
Also, while serving as Director of African Studies at Ife, he entered into involvement in certain problems on the African problem – particularly, the titanic fight of the Black peoples of the Union of South Africa against the evil system of Apartheid, and the struggles of the peoples of the Western Sahara, and of Southern Sudan, each for their self-determination. In the two years before his election to the Nigerian Senate in 1979, he served as Secretary of the Nigerian Anti-Apartheid Committee, and he followed that as a Senator with an intrepid support of the anti-Apartheid fight in the Nigerian Senate. As Senator, he served on the Nigerian Government Delegation to the World Conference against Apartheid that was held in London in 1982 and, back home in the Senate after that conference, he powerfully mobilized support for the African National Congress of South Africa in its fight against Apartheid. He served on the Senate Committee that interviewed an ANC Delegation in 1982 and that made strong recommendations for seriously escalated financial and diplomatic Nigerian support for the ANC – the escalated support that played a significant role in the ultimate victory of the people of South Africa in the war against Apartheid. In the Senate, he became interested in the self-determination struggles of the Saharawi people of Western Sahara and of the peoples of Southern Sudan, and he gave his very influential support to both. In later years, he belonged to various groups of African Intellectuals that tried to help Southern Sudan.
Prof. Akintoye must rank as one of the most travelled persons in our world. His travels abroad started in his university student days when he served on or led Nigerian student delegations to international student conferences. Those early pan-African travels took him to conferences in Tunisia and Egypt in North Africa, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Senegal in West Africa, Ethiopia and Kenya in East Africa, the Union of South Africa in Southern Africa, and Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and Denmark in Europe. His postgraduate researches in Yorùbá History took him repeatedly to most parts of the Yorùbá homeland in Benin and Togo Republics. As Lecturer, Professor of African History and Director of the Institute of African Studies in Ife, he travelled more widely in Africa, taught in universities in the United States, and his studies in the History of the African Diaspora took him to research ventures and learned conferences in Brazil and Argentina in South America, as well as Barbados, Haiti and Cuba in the West Indies. These were years when the world was taking seriously the growth of knowledge in African Historiography – that is, methods of the study of the history of non-literate African peoples. Prof Akintoye’s works in Yorùbá History highlighted him as one of the African scholars most knowledgeable in African Historiography. As a result, he was often invited to present papers by universities or academic groups holding seminars or conferences in African Historiography. Such invitations took him to the United States a number of times, to some countries of Asia (India, Hong Kong, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan), to Brazil, Jamaica and Barbados in the Americas, and to many countries in Africa (especially Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Congo). As Senator of the Nigerian Federation, especially as Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on International Relations, he served on many Senate delegations to various countries of the world – to all countries of West Africa, to Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt in North Africa, to Lebanon in the Middle East, to Singapore, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan in Asia, and to Russia and Uzbekistan in the then Soviet Union. From 1990 to 2015, he lived and taught universities in the United States.
As Nigeria sank relentlessly to low depths of decline, poverty, corruption and insecurity, as Nigeria dragged down with it all the many peoples in it, as Prof Akintoye’s Yorùbá nation lost all the developments and assets that it had achieved before independence, as governance in the Yorùbá homeland in Nigeria fell deeper and deeper into the abysmal depths of insensitivity, greed and corruption characteristic of Nigeria, and as the Yorùbá people groaned more and more painfully in this hopeless condition, Prof. Akintoye became more and more preoccupied with the fate of his Yorùbá people. According to some persons who were close to him in the years of his sojourn in the United States in 1990 to2015, pain was often visible on his face whenever he talked about home, especially about the masses of Yorùbá youths back home – most of them highly educated, but most of them unprovided for in the scheme of things, roaming the streets jobless for years, unable to get married and begin to raise families of their own, continuing to depend on their increasingly impoverished parents for economic support, some slipping into various kinds of deviance (such as crime or criminal cults or drugs), many fleeing abroad to other countries, some even taking the extremely dangerous step of trying to reach Europe through the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea and often dying in the desert or the sea. Irresistibly, Prof Akintoye sought for ways to make impact on developments in his Yorùbá homeland in Nigeria. During the years of Sani Abacha’s murderous dictatorship in Nigeria in the late 1990s when the Yorùbá nation came under vicious attacks from the Federal Government of Nigeria, he served as a focal mobilizing force among his Yorùbá Diaspora people in America. He helped to found and then to lead for two years, one of the main chapters of Egbe Omo Yorùbá North America, the Philadelphia Chapter. And during Nigeria’s corruption-racked years of the first decade of the 21st century when the Yorùbá nation was being painfully devastated, he contributed significantly to the Yorùbá struggle for survival by founding a worldwide think-tank organization, Oodua Foundation, which intensively studied the impact of Nigeria on the Yorùbá nation and wrote countless proposals for the revival of Yorùbá strength.
After his return from America to his Yorùbá homeland in late 2015, he became very busy giving lecture after lecture about Yorùbá history and Nigerian history. These lectures have had the monumental importance of teaching the Yorùbá people many important lessons about their illustrious Yorùbá nation; and have thereby imparted to the Yorùbá people a great deal of confidence and hope about the Yorùbá future. As we all still remember and cherish, he delivered a truly great lecture at the 2017 Annual Obafemi Awolowo Lectures on March 6 at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, and Lagos. That lecture, apart from being well attended by the Yorùbá and Nigerian leadership and intelligentsia, is universally regarded ‘as the most intimately informative among the annual Awolowo Anniversary Lectures’.
It is well known among the Yorùbá intellectual community that this great scholar, in spite of his advanced age, is working on yet another great book on the Yorùbá nation, a book that, according to him, will be far more monumental and more impactful than his History of the Yorùbá People. We are told by those closest to his intellectual work that he intends to give to this coming book the title The Yorùbá People: Foremost Black Nation.
In the course of the decade before his leaving America for home, Prof. Akintoye constantly lent his powerful and influential voice to the demands by the Yorùbá intelligentsia back home for the restructuring of the Nigerian Federation – so that the Yorùbá people might have some breathing space to return to their civilization-building tradition, their enterprising character, and their people-oriented governance. In countless articles and other interventions in the Nigerian media, he argued, with his well-known intellectual power, the benefits of restructuring Nigeria and decentralizing power, and the dangers of continuing to over-centralize governmental power and resource control in a Nigeria that comprises many ancient nationalities. In the first years after his return from abroad in 2015, many of his public lectures were devoted to the same subject of restructuring.
However, as the rulers of Nigeria have unreasoningly and stubbornly rejected restructuring, he has stepped forward to do something historically very important. He has stepped forward to call on his Yorùbá people to dare to begin to seek their self-determination, meaning the separation of their Yorùbá nation from the increasingly poor, increasingly poverty-generating, increasingly insecure, and perpetually stumbling country of Nigeria. At his advanced age (87 in 2022), he dared to step forward to provide his highly informed leadership to the Yorùbá nation’s self-determination struggle. And he is leading the struggle with mighty courage and bravery, with knowledge and idealism, with finesse and integrity, with his worldwide influence, and with tolerance towards those of his Yorùbá people who have made it their duty to obstruct or even to try and scuttle the Yorùbá self-determination struggle.
By nature a loving, charitable and unflappable family man, and father figure among the millions who are fighting for the Yorùbá cause, always dutifully focused on the task of Yorùbá self-determination and prosperity to which he has committed himself, Prof. Akintoye never descends into unpleasant exchanges with anybody, even with those who make it their duty to distract him, or to disrupt the self-determination struggle with their false accusations and their unruly and disrespectful conduct. He strongly believes in the spiritual value of unhesitatingly forgiving others, and he therefore never gives room to anger, bitterness or animosity. Probably because of this inner stability and strength, he is, at close to ninety years of age, elegantly youth-like, with no wrinkles, no bent back, no arthritis, with an ever clear and masterful voice, with eyes that read without glasses, and with a delightful wit. Although he is the founder and leader of just one of the tens of Yorùbá self-determination organizations, he strongly believes that the Yorùbá self-determination struggle needs to be promoted by many self-determination organizations, and he is ever ready to help every one of the self-determination organizations. As a result, he is generally regarded and honoured as ‘father’ of all the self-determination organizations. Like his hero, Chief Awolowo, before him, he is stolidly non-materialistic, and always self-sacrificing, in his service to his Yorùbá nation. For instance, he constantly gives of his retirement income (his pensions) to the organizations and persons working for the self-determination struggle. Largely because of the character and quality that Prof. Akintoye imparts to, and promotes in, the struggle, the struggle has remained peaceful, law-abiding and knowledge-driven, has, as much as possible, avoided conflicts with Nigerian authorities, has mobilized the millions of Yorùbá people in the Yorùbá Diaspora in almost all countries of the world, has learnt to exploit the power of the law and the courts, has learnt how to explore diplomatic possibilities across the world, and has therefore marched confidently into success after success.
Altogether, Yorùbá people are very fortunate to have this highly knowledgeable, highly dutiful, almost supernaturally focused, adorably self-sacrificing and wonderfully tolerant and inclusive man in the service of their Yorùbá nation in the circumstances of today. He is sure that he will see the new Yorùbá country (ORILEDE Yorùbá) of his heart, and all the millions of his ‘sons and daughters’ in the Yorùbá Self-determination Struggle in all countries of the world fervently join him in that resolve and hope.