By Adebisi Onanuga
Some Nigerians in the Benin Republic have urged the Federal Government to help resolve a leadership crisis in the county’s chapter of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO).
The outgoing president, Adebowale Ajani, at a briefing in Lagos, also urged the newly appointed ambassador to the Republic of Benin, General Tukur Buratai, to intervene.
Ajani was accompanied by the Provost of NIDO in Benin, Wilfred Imasuen and Secretary to the Seriki Hausawa, Mohammed Sani Mohammed.
He said they wished to bring the looming crisis to the attention of the Federal Government, the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) and well-meaning citizens.
According to him, a splinter group was sponsored by powerful interests to disorganise the union.
Ajani said it was the turn of northerners to produce his successor in line with the union’s zoning arrangement but he fears the cordial relationship among the Nigerian ethnic groups in Benin is being threatened.
Ajani said the problem started when a group decided to impose a leader illegally, contrary to the provisions of the organisation’s constitution.
He said he assumed office after the demise of the former president from his ethnic group and served for two terms.
He said his four-year tenure was to end in March 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to hold an election.
Ajani said his executive committee met in March to plan the handover to new executives.
According to him, a group petitioned the Nigerian Embassy in the Benin Republic, following which it was agreed that rather than having an interim leadership, the zoning arrangement should be maintained.
“It was at this point that the organisation, which has remained peaceful, was hijacked by some individuals who are not even the Hausas,” he said.
Ajani said the Hausas settled for the Seriki Hausawa, Alhaji Ahmadu Danbaba II, but a dispute arose, and a court ruled in favour of Alhaji Danbaba.
Ajani said it was surprising to see a splinter group working against the court order by installing another leader from among the Hausas.
He insisted that the purported inauguration of another person other than Alhaji Danbaba is illegal, null and void for being in contravention of Article 1, Section 3 (d) of the association’s constitution, which provides: “The Union shall respect the laws and constituted authorities in Benin Republic.”
Ajani said he remains the bonafide president of NIDO in Benin until the Hausas agree on an authentic leader to take over from him.
He said the two contending Hausas are his friends, but that he was only insisting on due process based on an advice he received from Nigerian Embassy officials not to endorse “an illegality”.
Ajani believes the issues could snowball into a major crisis if left unresolved.
“What makes the issue so pathetic is that on the day of this illegal inauguration, respected members of the Nigerian Embassy who are aware of the court order were seen at the event.
“So, I am calling on the government to look into this matter to resolve it before it escalates into a crisis that will portray Nigeria in a very bad image. We also wish to draw the attention of the incoming ambassador, Gen. Buratai, to the crisis,” he said.