National Coordinator of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) Otunba Gani Adams, first came to the limelight when the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo incarcerated him over attacks and reprisals by rival factions of his group.
Since that episode and eventual reconciliation with the founder, Dr Fredrick Faseun in 2005, he has worked towards putting the OPC at the forefront of promotion of Yoruba culture and tradition in Nigeria and abroad, with accolades to show for his efforts.
He was a member of the 2014 National Conference and one of the key figures in the South-West region that publicly endorsed ex-President Goodluck Jonathan for re-election.
Adams, In this interview with Wale Odunsi, speaks on his battle to wade off forces against his leadership of OPC, the general elections, President Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign, his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) among others.
Recently, you raised an alarm over plans by some persons to overthrow you and other OPC council members, can you shed more light on this?
Ordinarily, I should not talk about those expelled since 2007. They are no longer our members. When they started making noise, our publicity secretary was always quick to respond and we’ve been taking them headlong.
These people woke up one morning and said they want to remove someone who, against all odds, co-started an organisation in 1999. Someone who has on the same platform founded, funded and promoted seven other organisations.
The mistake they are making is that they have no idea of what they want. These people are not even political mercenaries because they don’t have any ideology whatsoever. They are thugs engaged in land grabbing, overthrowing motor parks’ managements, politically-motivated violence among others.
Before the election, a prominent Fuji musician took them to (ex-Lagos Governor) Bola Tinubu. This was after our protest march. Already, Tinubu was looking for ways to discredit us, so the two camps blended. Then we got a leaked letter dated August 4 2015, signed by all of them. About fifteen. The worrisome part of the content, which under normal circumstance should be subject of investigation by security agencies, was the plea to Tinubu to help ‘get rid of Otunba Gani Adams as the National Coordinator of OPC’.
I am not surprised, he once placed a bounty on my head. He had told some groups that any of them that successfully attacked me would be rewarded, but they all reasoned and refused to do what he said.
A major allegation is that you siphon money belonging to the group. Is this true?
Absolutely no. Four to five years ago, we asked our members to get their membership cards; we said every member would pay N200 monthly to run the organisation. We have five structures: National Executive Council, National Coordinating Council, State Coordinating Council, Local Coordinating Council and Zonal Coordinating Council. Despite this, 90 per cent of the fund used to run these structures was from my purse. It got to a time, the contribution were no longer coming. At that point, I took it upon myself to source for funds to run the group.
We have our office at Sipeolu street in Palmgrove and we pay rent. We have a number of staff and pay salaries. We maintain the group in general; we make donations to charity, few groups, market men and women, artisans, sponsor culture related events in whatever way we can and so on. However, some persons are accusing us of diverting money and are yet to provide a single proof.
To actualize their plot, Tinubu has given money to these vagabonds about three times which further proves that he wants me out at all cost. The question is: why are they seeking the help of this man out of all the Yoruba bigwigs in the country?
Maybe because they see him as Yoruba leader…
(Cuts in) Leader of which people? Tinubu doesn’t need to support illegality, create confusion or bring the roof down if he desires such position. Awolowo did not destroy any group before he became Yoruba leader. If you are lucky to meet him Ikenne, he would sit with you for a thorough discussion. Baba Ajasin did not destroy any group before he became Yoruba leader; Baba Adesanya did not sponsor any group against another before he became Yoruba leader. Rather, he was a rallying point for every self-determination organisation. You did not need to have a portfolio or be popular to see baba at his office in Lagos Island.
Honestly, I was not happy the way majority of the print media handled the threat by the expelled members and I want to appeal to them to stop playing down stories. Online is now our saviour because you people helped us push that issue to the limelight. Over a dozen persons signing what looks like a death warrant and editors of newspapers taking it as less news worthy!
Have you reached out to security agencies to investigate the letter?
Who are the security agencies that Tinubu cannot buy. But public opinion will drive the people who should act to do so. That is why we spoke out. In countries where life matter, those individuals should not be in circulation now.
And you should understand why one is not letting this matter lie low. How many high-profile political killings in this country have been resolved? Bola Ige, Funsho Williams, Saka Saula, Marshall Harry…the list is endless. Till date, nobody is in jail for these deaths
But why do you believe Tinubu is against you?
Please ask him in because I personally want to know. This is not the first time he is after me. Since 2001, most of the people that left OPC were because they had Tinubu’s backing. He was behind Coalition of Self Determination Group, among others. My point is this: If there are those not comfortable in OPC, they are free to go and form their own group, not try to forcefully overthrow a constituted authority. In the South Africa struggle, it was not only ANC that was in existent, there were more than 28.
And it is sad that Tinubu is playing god because he wields strong influence in Nigerian media. With the level he has attained in his life, why is he after people like us. Am I in court to challenge (Lagos Governor) Ambode’s victory? Or after the election, did I instigate former President Jonathan to contest President Buhari’s victory at the tribunal?
Election has come and gone and we must move on but some people are still angry because we refused to support their candidate.
What do you think of the internal crisis in the APC?
Without doubt, parts of the crisis in the party are the fault of Tinubu. Like face-off in the national assembly, the witch-hunt of (ex-Lagos governor) Fashola, one of the heroes of the party who many perceive performed very well.
But why would Tinubu work against someone seen as his protégé?
He is because he may have received information that Buhari will appoint Fashola into a key position. The fact is that the president likes Fashola and Tinubu is not comfortable with this. I have never seen a man who is not happy about the rise of his junior or someone he trained. Although I am not exonerating Fashola from whatever allegation he is being accused, but I see Tinubu’s hands in all of these.
Debo Adeniran (Director of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders) who is making the claim is my friend and brother and is entitled to his right. But he is not someone that can be used. He is unpredictable, once he sees that any allegation has political undertone, he will make U-turn.
We shouldn’t continue to destroy ourselves because of earthly things. Most of us do not like to align with Obasanjo because if he builds you, he will destroy you. But Tinubu’s own way is now even worse than that of Obasanjo.
Tinubu doesn’t believe in the Yoruba race, he only used the people to negotiate. In the thick of our crisis, Tinubu dealt with (Fredrick) Faseun camp separately, Adams camp separately. Until former Ogun Governor Gbenga Daniel resolved the crisis in 2005. After that, Dr Faseun, I, Bayo Banjo, and Aregbe (Osun Governor) went to Tinubu’s house at Bourdilon to put finishing touches to the deal to stop the unnecessary bloodletting of Yoruba youths. He told us that he has nothing to do or say because Daniel used the truce he brokered to achieve publicity for himself. We were all shocked.
The South-West is the base of the OPC, how have you been dealing with the Governors?
Tinubu never really supported our promotion of culture and tourism. He did nothing the time we sought his support. According to reliable information, Tinubu in 2011 deliberately warned the five APC governors not to assist OPC. It got to a point, he was not happy with Aregbesola because the governor was liaising with me. But Aregbesola knows who I am and what I stand for.
Of all the events we hold in South-west states, it is only Aregbesola who sends representative because he appreciates our efforts. Governor Ajimobi (Oyo) has never given us a dime for cultural promotion which drives tourism to his state. I’m not from the state but till date we join the Alaafin of Oyo to promote Oranmiyan; we promote Oke-Ibadan in Ibadan; we promote Obatala festival in Igangan-Ibarapa; we promote Oro Ebedi in Iseyin…yet, no support from the governor. But I really don’t blame them; the influence of Tinubu has affected their courage and will to support us.
He created division between Fashola and I. Before his threat, whenever I sent the former governor text message, he would reply within five minutes; he assisted for Olokun Festival and a few others but that later changed. Afterwards, we got reliable information that Tinubu pointedly told Fashola that (mimicking Tinubu’s voice) – ehn ehn, iwo lo fe maa fun Gani l’owo ni si’n (oh, so, it is you who wants to now fund Gani?).
What is your take on Boko Haram recurrent attacks?
It is very hard to tackle this insurgency because Nigeria has about 1500 illegal routes. I was a member of security committee at the National Conference. Go and look where Immigration officers are staying at Benin Republic, it’s an eyesore. Idiroko border is even funny, Shaki border too is funny. We have to change the orientation; we must repackage these agencies.Those going to the field to secure the country will be able to do such tasks with all their hearts because they know their families are in good hands.
Adamawa State University just resumed and have recruited 80 vigilante men and hunters for security, Borno, Yobe and some others are also using civilians as security in some areas. This shows that we have serious crisis. Everywhere in the world, security is not just government alone like we do in Nigeria. Stakeholders must be carried along to a certain level.
That is why I support the call for state police. If states recruit people they know can do the job, Boko Haram will be overpowered. Imagine North-eastern states attacking the sect in their respective states, they will certainly deal with the insurgents mercilessly. So, instead of deploying people from different region every now and then, states should be allowed to contribute its own force, this will go a long way.
Security is not about equipment but about sincerity; so we must get it right. We must boost morale of troops. And if care is not taken, this war will not end because some of those in the battle-front don’t even know the terrain like the residents. For instance, a Borno indigene will be more than willing to kill Boko Haram members because if he doesn’t, they will come for his family. So it would be a fight for survival.