…I once celebrated my birthday in detention, Gani Adams encourages separatist
Embattled Yoruba Nation agitator, Sunday Adeyemo, also known as Sunday Igboho, on Sunday, clocked 49 years old in a detention facility in Cotonou, Benin Republic.
This is as the leader of the umbrella body of the Yoruba self-determination group known as Ilana Omo Oodua, Prof Banji Akintoye, assured Igboho that he has not been forgotten and would soon be released to celebrate his next birthday as a free man.
Akintoye’s spokesman, Maxwell Adeleye, made this known in an exclusive chat with The PUNCH on Sunday.
He said, “Igboho is a prisoner of conscience; he is a man of the people. People like him are never forgotten. He has chosen to stand by his people and I have never seen someone who stands by his people and is defeated. Igboho can never be defeated.
“So, on behalf of all organisations under Ilana Omo Oodua, we wish him Happy 49th Birthday. He can be assured that his 50th birthday would be celebrated globally and we shall laugh last at the end of the journey.”
Also, the Aareonakakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams, in a statement on Sunday, congratulated Igboho and urged the Benin Republic government to release the Yoruba nation agitator unconditionally.
The statement titled, ‘Gani Adams congratulates Igboho on 49th birthday anniversary’ was signed by Adams’ Media Assistant, Kehinde Aderemi.
“The struggle for the liberation of our race is one struggle that cannot die, and no matter the threats or injustice meted out to each and every one of us, we remain unshaken that the struggle for a just society where life is meaningful is a dream that can only become a reality in a Yorubaland.
“I once celebrated one of my birthdays in detention and in those trying moments, I felt the urge never to look back but look up to God and that actually raised my spirit that whether now or later justice will triumph. I will be set free from the bondage of injustice. And it all came to pass.
“Unfortunately, this same experience is playing out in the case of Igboho as he turns 49 today, but I am sure that he will surely be set free because the activist is not fighting a wrong cause but a cause for the liberation of our race,” Adams was quoted as saying.
Born on October 10, 1972, Igboho and Akintoye had been seen together at press conferences and rallies championing the cause to secede from the Nigerian state and establish a Yoruba Nation.
Igboho’s troubles started when the Department of State Services raided his residence around 1am on July 1, 2021.
During the raid, the secret police had said it killed two of his associates and arrested about 12 others during the bloody raid. Ten of the detainees had since regained freedom after an Abuja court granted them bail while the DSS has refused to release the other two aides of the agitator.
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.
However, luck ran out on him as he was arrested in Cotonou on July 19, 2021 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.
A frustrated Igboho had been heard in a leaked audio recently lambasting his Cotonou-based lawyers over their inability to secure his release for about three months since his arrest and incarceration.
There had been reports that the Nigerian government push for the extradition of the activist.
Akintoye, 86, had said he left Nigeria to the French-speaking West African country to kick against the planned extradition and secure Igboho’s release.
An Oyo State High Court recently awarded N20bn in damages against the DSS over the invasion but the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), had said the Federal Government would appeal the judgment.
The regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has in recent months, turned maddening heat on separatists.
During his speech on the occasion of Nigeria’s 61st Independence Anniversary on October 1, 2021, Buhari had accused a serving National Assembly member and Very Important Personalities of being sponsors of Igboho and the detained leader of South-East separatist group, the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu.
The President had also vowed to expose and prosecute the financiers of the two separatists.