Former President Olusegun Obasanjo believes that no single person can bear the title and honour of being regarded as the leader of the Yoruba.
This was covered in chapter 31 of his book, “My Watch: Political and Public Affairs,” where he spoke about his “Nigerianness and Yorubanness.”
Obasanjo said, “Just as there was no single oba having sovereignty over the whole of Yorubaland, there was no individual as leader of the Yorubas in Yorubaland. As it was then, it remains till now.”
Speaking of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the former President said that supporters of the first Premier of the Western Region, were the ones who gave him the title of Yoruba leader during the Civil War.
Obasanjo said this happened when Awolowo presided over the meeting of the Yorubas in Ibadan, adding that some people, including Chief Adisa Akinloye, did not accept Awolowo as the leader of the Yoruba.
“In the course (of the meeting), Chief Awolowo presided. His supporters then fixed the title of Yoruba leader upon him.”
“I did not encourage this. ‘My Yorubaness’ and ‘my Nigerianness’ must go pari passu, and one must not stand in the way of the other.”
“I bear Owu tribal marks. And better or worse still, I speak English with my Owu dialect. I have always maintained and felt proud of my ‘Owunness’, ‘Yorubannes’ and ‘Nigerianness’ in that order.
“They are all parts of my cherished identity. But I have always refused and I will always refuse to be constrained, diminished or reduced to the level of Yoruba leadership.
“Without being immodest, I am a national leader, an African leader and a world leader in my own way. I strongly believe that Nigeria needs nationalists to propel it forward. Myopic tribal barons and tendencies will not take us too far.”