Otunba Gani Adams is the National Coordinator of Odua Peoples Congress,(OPC). The 45 year chieftain of the congress was recently a guest of Rockcity F.M , Station, an Abeokuta based privately owned media outfit where he bared his minds on many issues including the formation of OPC, how the organisation became a household name, the crisis within the organisation, the role of former Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel in the crisis resolution, his(Adams) persecution experiences, why he parted ways with former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and why the OPC threw its weight behind the second term bid of former President Goodluck Jonathan during the 2015 general elections. Our Ogun State Correspondent, Ladi Kayode monitored the radio interview. Excerpts:
At what stage did you realize that you must get yourself in the struggle against military rule?
In 1993, we were one of the people that were protesting against the annulment, later we realised that we needed an organisation for Yorubaland. We formed an organization for Yoruba movement in April 1994 and there was a man called Tony Egurube, an Ijaw man who advised us that we couldn’t do it alone and that we need elders and women in our group so that we would solidify the course of the Yoruba people. So in August 25 1994, we named a new organization called Oodua Peoples’ Congress. People sat down at 1.15pm, Palm Avenue Street in the office of Opeyemi Bamidele and we agreed to pick Oodua Peoples’ Congress out of the two names on ground that day. 7 out of 9 people there agreed that we should pick Oodua People’s Congress rather than Oodua National Congress and Dr. Fasheun was picked as convener of the group. Talking about the struggle, we moved it to 1998, before the demise of Abacha. In 1999, there was crisis within the organization based on partisan issues and not just that, it was also based on lack of constitution within the leaders of the group. That was what led to the creation of two factions of the group.
Who were the leaders of the group at that time?
Dr. Fasheun was the leader of the group at that time but there was a problem when Obasanjo was coming on board, (as President) which was lack of consultation within the group. But thank God in 2005, we resolved the issues between various members attacking themselves based on the factional group crisis. Otunba Gbenga Daniel was the instrument God used to solve a lot of problems within the OPC. He was the one that called the meeting when he was the Governor of Ogun state and said that he was not speaking as a Governor, but as a son of Oodua and that it was his responsibility to resolve the issue, and he asked for explanations from both sides, and I explained for a period of 30 minutes, and Dr. Fredrick Fasheun said it will be better to resolve the issue first. People like Niran Malaolu, the Commissioner of Information, Engr. Banjo, the state coordinator of my group, Muse Nikujimo and Wale Adedayo were all on seat that day. We agreed on positions and I was given the position of the National Coordinator and Dr. Fasheun was given the of the position of founding father and spiritual leader because the contention within members was that he should stop calling himself the founder because OPC is no one’s property, it is a Yoruba organization, and nine of us sat down to form the organization, so it is not his initiative and he is not the one sponsor of the organization, the organization is a grass roots one that people willingly contribute to. That was how the hostility and crisis in 2005 was reduced.
Some people have described you as ‘’Alagidi- omo’’ (stubborn child) in Yoruba language, and that is why you eventually got yourself into this, what do you have to say about that?
The alias ‘’Alagidi-omo’’ does not arise in my character. I have always believed in Justice from the beginning of my life, while I was in Ansarudeen secondary school, Surulere. I was given a nickname ‘’ganger’’, it reflected that I will stand by justice even though you’re more powerful and influential than I am, in the school, I will stand by what I believe. That doesn’t mean I am ‘’Alagidi-Omo’’, you cannot call Gani Fahwenmi and Beko Ransom-kuti ‘’Alagidi-omo’’ and even Femi Falana and other civil society leaders and human right activists cannot be described as ‘’alagidi-omo’’. In the whole world, a country that does not have civil society and human right group cannot be develop. These are the kind of people that will check the excesses of the authority, It is possible to be in a position of authority and devoid of an organization that will be a watch-dog either for or against what you are doing and without them, there is no way you can know whether or not you are making a mistake. The politicians will be hailing you because of the economic and political advantage they have over your government but having a watchdog that will serve the purpose of checks and balance in the system will help a great deal.
The people that rub minds with the military, who front for them and are even enjoying the military government in power, run into politics because the people that fought for the democracy of this country, 98% or 99% of them come from the South. So most of the people that connived with the military in the North and few of our people who did not even support us, practically hijacked the power back in 2003, that is the reason we are back to square one, the only difference is that we have the civil rule that we can call minor democracy. So talking about ‘’Alagidi Omo’’, it does not arise with somebody who believed in the truth, who fights for a just course. Look at the sacrifices I have made for Yorubaland, I was detained for 14 months because I was fighting for Yorubaland. In the beginning, I was detained for 3months in Abeokuta prison, for two weeks, in Elewe- eran, and with all these persecution, I didn’t compromise my principle. For you to fight for your people, the will power has to be in your veins and blood and must have been a part of your destiny. To be in this world as a missionary, you will have a mission that God has set for you and talking about that ‘’alagidi omo’’ does not relate to this.
You talked about your sacrifice, I doubt if there’s anybody who will take that away from you. Since 1999, when we had the civil rule, we have had some people come in and they are now seen as ‘’Honourable members’’, ‘’distinguished’’ and some of them refer to themselves as champion of democracy, why did you not go into politics since 1999 , till now?
Majority of our people who are involved in politics, you can see that immediately they got into politics, their integrity diminish. The only way they package themselves is through media. They ask the media to repackage them. The truth of the matter is that it is not the same person that goes into government, with power, that comes out of it well. Some of them don’t even want to associate with you again because they have gone to Abuja, they have been part and parcel of the people who share from the ‘’National Cake’’, on our commonwealth. When you see a country that wasn’t properly structured and you acquire power to change the structure constitutionally, no matter the brilliant idea you have, no matter the principle you have, you will be consumed. A good example is Buhari, I believe it is not what Buhari planned before getting into power that he is seeing now because the system is rotten. The way Nigeria is right now, if it is not put in proper place, even an angel will not be able to change Nigeria. That was one of the reasons the former President of the country put together a national conference, to decide how to move the country forward and we put forward a very brilliant recommendation. In the Western region, we believe in regionalism and a parliamentary system but when we got to the conference, we realized that people do not agree with what we believe in. Even majority of our governors in Yorubaland kicked against parliamentary and regionalism, so we had to rub minds with the various zones and then agreed on statetism and that every state should develop at their own pace.
Nigeria must be properly restructured and every state should develop at its own pace. If we do not do so, we will not move forward. About 18 states are indebted to their workers, our recommendation was that every state should develop at their own pace and they should control their solid mineral resources to develop their own states. Talking about Osun state, it has about 24 good solid mineral resources, assuming they developed these solid mineral, they would need little from the federal governments’ oil money. Unfortunately, most of our governors did not see beyond that, their target is just to go to Abuja and collect money to run the state. The economic shut down has affected various states and even the president was saying that he may not do enough because of what he met on ground, despite the fact that some people said they left about $30 billion in the treasury and even with that, he may not be able to do enough. That was one of the reasons we brought up the idea to restructure this country because if it is not well-structured, people like me will not have the guts to go into politics.
With the way Nigeria is going, there is no way we can have a proper leader to represent us either in the parliament or executive structure because a politician will give people money and take their vote and when they get our vote they will disappear into thin air. That was one of the reasons we said Nigeria has to be restructured for many credible people who have very good plans to move this country forward, but they will not go to into politics with this kind of system. The problem in the national assembly where lawmakers were fighting themselves like students in the higher institution because almost all of them went into politics for economic advantage and not because they want to serve the people. A lot of things are wrong in this country, that has not changed and if we think it is the personality that will change this country then we are deceiving ourselves because when the personality gets there, he will find it difficult. The same people who destroyed the structure, who do not want the structure to be put in place, will now be an obstacle to the progress of that personality.
During the campaign for the last elections, there were stories that you, as the head of one of the OPC group collected money and worked for former President Goodluck Jonathan, what do you have to say to this?
There was a lot of stories during the elections and the elections were run on the basis of garbage propaganda. What they do is that immediately they realize that you cannot shift to their own side, they will look for every way to assassinate your character, but after darkness, there is always light. When you plan to lie against somebody to achieve your aim, at the end of the day, you that lied to achieve whatever aim you have, will be disgraced.
For instance somebody sent a press statement that was used and by the time you want to send your own rejoinder to disclaim the press statement is, editor tells you now that the false information has already been published without calling you to get the rejoinder, that shows that our system is corrupt to the extent that it has affected the mirror of our society, which is the media and not the judiciary. The judiciary is not the last hope of the commoners, the media is the last hope; because they will remove them or kill them but the media stood by the commoners. There was a lot of garbage propaganda against our group, against my personality during the election and when you want to refute it, most of the media practitioners refused to hear my side. When the head is polluted, there is no way it will not affect your toes, that is why virtually all the sectors have been affected and it was so glaring in that election.
Some editors have made up their mind that they will not listen to what you are saying and they encourage negative news about you to the extent that they celebrate negative news that is coming without your rejoinder. A good example was during the presidential elections, a newspaper wrote a headline on Sunday, the second day of the election that Musiliu Obanikoro, Bode George, Gani Adams lost their polling station. They called us during the election and gave them the figures and they went ahead to give wrong information about me during the election without even giving the dictate of the election. I then called the editor and asked him where he got the information and he said from Facebook and I told him that his reporter called my personal assistant and my PA gave him the correct figures and he apologized and told me to send a rejoinder and he is an editor on Sunday and another editor will be on ground the next day, we sent a rejoinder on Monday, they couldn’t publish it.
I had a relationship with President Goodluck Jonathan, even when he was a vice president under President Yar’adua and I’m a person that believes in relationship. If we are relating together and you don’t offend me, I will be with you even when you have problems, I will stay with you. So when you’re talking of supporting Goodluck Jonathan, I supported him in 2011 elections, and most of the people against him now, supported him then and there was no noise coming from any quarter, we came out boldly. In the previous elections, we don’t support candidate, you will realize that Afenifere does the same thing, Yoruba council of elders does the same thing, many liable organization in South-West and in the South and some parts of the North support for him is because of the restructuring of Nigeria, our own blood brothers who were there refused to organize it but this man organized it and gave us a blank cheque, apart from touching the unity of the country which is non-negotiable, according to his own position, the remaining can be touched and he agreed to implement it and that was one of the reasons we supported Jonathan.
You realize there was a conference we held in Akure, we said because of the national conference we are supporting Jonathan. We held it in Ibadan and the same thing happened, we later held it in Lagos and all Yoruba leaders agreed, not only Gani Adams and it wasn’t because of money. OPC is self-determination; it’s not about politician giving us money. We have some politicians in the South-West and even governors, I have never collected a dime from them for the period of 6 years and we are surviving. We have a vision and most of the oppressors within the Yoruba did not want the vision to materialize, they were using every means to discredit us. How many people saw me collect money from Jonathan? I am a friend to Jonathan and he is a brother and a friend. A day before the elections, they rolled out propaganda that OPC has collected army uniforms from ‘’Odogiyan’’ army barracks to rig an election and the story came from a prominent Yoruba son, Lai Mohammed to discredit us a day to the election, to preempt that we want to rig the elections, and during the elections nothing like that happened. A day to governorship election, they rolled out another propaganda that president Goodluck Jonathan met me, Obanikoro, Bode George, to rig elections for Agbaje and during the day of election, the media besieged my polling unit, they saw me and there was no crisis.
They asked the people around if they’ve seen OPC partaking in any rigging of elections, they said NO. We are not politicians, so why should we rig elections? Politicians are the experts in rigging, we are partisan, we are only supporting a candidate, who is the president, so why would you have it in mind that the president will sit down with me and plan how to rig an election? When we were very close to them, I wasn’t reported to be rigging an election with them, we have political differences now, we don’t belong to the same camp and they are now reporting all kinds of scandalous news about me to destroy my character. Now we know what is happening in the country, most of the people who wanted to dent our image are in trouble, those who were abusing us on facebook are being abused now, the stone they threw at me is now bouncing back at them. The Yoruba land is very sensitive and you cannot compare it with other places. You can betray people in other areas and get away with it and wait for God’s judgment, but in Yoruba land, your judgment will be on earth before getting to heaven.
You have agreed that you have a relationship with Goodluck Jonathan, while in government; a lot was said about who he is, his ability to manage or his inability to manage. Who is ex-President Goodluck Jonathan?
When you are talking of Goodluck Jonathan, I will not tell you that he doesn’t have his own short-comings. I think the disadvantage of Jonathan is lesser than the advantage of Jonathan. Jonathan is a liberal human being. He is someone who believes in justice, he is someone who has a background that fits for democracy. Look at the insults they are passing to Jonathan, passing to his wife. No President in the history of Nigeria will accept that. He is the most insulted President we have in the history of this country. I am not exonerating him that he does not have his own shortcomings. But Jonathan was fighting with the people who have control of over 90% of the media while he is in power. Apart from resources, he has more influence to balance the equation. I don’t know his advisers; suddenly they hijacked the media from him. By and large, the issue of Boko Haram is a serious issue that confronted Jonathan, and he was not the one that caused it, but tried to manage it when he started with the soft side the opposition said that he is soft on it, when he hit them, they said he was committing extra-judicial killing. And at the same time, we realized that some zones in the country were feeling the crisis. And till the end of his tenure, he could not solve the problem. The worst part of it is the 200 and something girls that were missing or kidnapped from a school in Borno, (Chibok) that one drew a list of sympathy against him especially from the women. And when you have women against you, you are in trouble. That one gave him serious problem and the opposition used that one to work against him. And when you are talking on the economic side, he (Jonathan) has limited control among some of his ministers.
It looks as if some ministers practically hijacked the government from him especially the issue of NNPC. The minister of petroleum was becoming too powerful than the president. Even the minister of finance who handled the economy, the woman did well but she was so powerful that most of the instructions the president will give, she may not listen to that instruction. Even the secretary to the government of the federation, the man had issues because in some of the appointments, he had already decided to favour his own zone rather than other zones. All these factors affected him seriously and before he realized this, it was towards the election and the opposition capitalized on this to work against him.
On INEC, we protested that the South-West was being short-changed. A sitting president could have done something about it. If he summoned Jega, and said’look, do something about this within one week or I will take serious decision’, but he couldn’t do that. We have a new government and we don’t want to over heat the polity. We want to give the new government the chance to do something to move Nigeria forward. But I am just saying this because of a bad precedent. A precedent that our people should not permit, how did you get the power? Is it through the power of the gun or of voting? So we are appealing to our people, if people that have been in the opposition are happy that this thing happened. There is no permanent friend in politics. They should remember that there are no permanent enemies. Your best friend today may be your worst enemy tomorrow. Your worst enemy today may be your best friend tomorrow. So they should not allow bad precedent because of their political adversaries because they don’t know the person who will be their best friend in politics tomorrow. So we have to be very careful.
Still on the struggle, at the early stage of the civil rule, you were declared wanted. The police, the security agencies were all looking for you. In fact, when the then commissioner of police, Mike Okiro arrested you, he celebrated it. How do you feel when you look back now?
If Okiro did not declare me wanted, I will not be as popular as I am today. If I want to thank anybody apart from God and our ancestors, I will thank Okiro for giving me unnecessary publicity. And the unnecessary publicity now worked to my advantage. As a young man who believe in the liberation of his people, who even partook in the liberation of Nigeria, I don’t think I deserve been declared wanted as a criminal then. But by and large, there is no person in Yoruba land who became a great person who did not pass through that kind of ugly incident. Right from Chief Obafemi Awolowo, you know what “papa” passed through, he was even jailed, he was imprisoned for three years. Wole Soyinka was in solitary confinement for almost three years too. And even most of the people in Afenifere today passed through all those ugly incident. You know most of these people who connived to put most of Yoruba’s sons and daughters in trouble, their popularity faded almost within a short period of time. I believe its part and parcel of Yoruba history.
Anybody who will be a great person in Yoruba land will be persecuted; will be victimized by the state, by the oppressors. But with time, God will now use the persecution to turn the person to a hero. Today, here I am, not only Okiro that caused the problem, even our son who was the president then, partook on the sentiment. This was despite the fact that I was the one that coordinated the distribution of posters to free Olusegun Obasanjo when he was in detention. The daughter of Beko Ransome Kuti was the one that sourced for fund to print at least five thousand colourful posters for twenty-four people in detention under Abacha.