Otunba Gani Adams is the National Coordinator of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC). In this interview with FREEDOMONLINE, he speaks on the marginalisation of the Yoruba by the Federal Government in political appointments, the relationship among Yoruba monarchs, the 2015 election, future of the South-West and the rivalry between him and OPC founder, Dr. Frederick Fasehun.
What is your view about the 2015 general elections?
Well, to me, I believe it’s early for us to be making comments about the election and to give a categorical picture of what the election would look like. Now, the PDP has not done its convention and the APC was just registered. To be sincere with you, more parties are coming for us to have a clear picture of the elections.
Is OPC supporting any party?
I want you to know that OPC is not a partisan organization but we have the constitutional right to exercise our opinion on who is to run this country and based on the population of our organisation which is about six million, our members will vote for the candidate of their choice. But like I said earlier, it is too early to talk about 2015.
The leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force, Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, said recently that if President Goodluck Jonathan is not re elected, that Nigeria would cease to be a country.
That is Dokubo for you. Every individual has a different approach to political view, the issue of the presidency is something that concerns the entire people of this country, and I don’t believe in over-heating the polity, threatening other ethnic groups in the country. Even when we were fighting for June 12, we never threatened anybody, that if the late Moshood Abiola was not sworn in, that the country would not be in peace.
That position of Asari Dokubo, I think, is not okay, but he is my friend and I would be the last person to crucify him. Northerners are also saying something similar to that. We knew what General Buhari said in 2011 and some other Northern leaders that Nigeria will be ungovernable for President Goodluck Jonathan. Personally, I believe he is entitled to his own opinion.
What is your view about the registration of the All Progressives Congress (APC)?
It is a welcome development for the nation and democracy. I will never support those people who said a two party system is the best for the country. I want those who are clamouring for a two-party system to know that what happened to us in the Third Republic was because of the two party system we were practising then. When the late Abiola won the election, most of the candidates that lost out were not happy. Immediately he won the general election, some of the aggrieved party members were the ones who went to the military to annul the election, and that action set this country backward to where we are today. Assuming we had a multi-party system, like 10 to 15 political parties, the military wouldn’t have listened to those who came to them then. But in a situation where you have a two-party system, that will not allow some other people to come in. I went to India recently and the President of that country and the Prime Minister went into an alliance and formed a government. Because some political parties do not have the strength to win an election, they will team up with bigger parties and form a coalition to form government. This will encourage new breed of politicians to develop themselves. But in a situation where you have two political parties, those who have been in power for long we still be controlling the system. Therefore, I am not in support of a two party system.
How will you assess South-West governors?
They are doing their best. They are constructing new roads. But it has been speculated that some of the projects were highly inflated. Sometime, I read a statement by Mr Yinka Odumakin that a contract awarded at the rate of N50 million during the tenure of Adebayo Alao-Akala is now awarded at about N1 billion by the present government, which I believe is not okay for our democracy. My appeal to these people is that they should not heap the debt profile for any government that will take over from them because that will amount to underdevelopment for the state. A state like Ogun, the debt profile is on the high side, likewise Oyo State. My question now is who will pay the debt? A state like Lagos, I see no reason why their debt profile is high, because they have more financial muscle than any other South-West state.
What of bond?
The issue of bond is a shameful act in South-West. I read in a newspaper that Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State does not take any bond and he is doing very well in his state. I also learnt he is a businessman before he came into politics. What I gathered is that Ogun State internally generated revenue now is about N2 billion. What are these governors doing with all the huge amount of money they claimed they are collecting all in the name of bond?
Baba Bisi Akande in Osun State did not take bond, Baba Adefarati in Ondo State did not take bond and Otunba Niyi Adebayo also did not take bond. He did well too while in government and they performed excellently well. When did we start the attitude of taking bond before surviving in a state? Can you imagine that when Bisi Akande was in government, his allocation from the Federation Account was not up to N1 billion? The present administrations are collecting huge revenue yet, they still go for bond. We must act fast, because we would not allow these people to kill us, there are new generations coming after us. Is this what we are leaving behind for them as a legacy?
Are you in support of local government autonomy?
When a house has a bad foundation, you don’t say you want to crack some parts of the building. The best thing to do is to make another foundation and reconstruct the house. What I am saying in essence is that the 1999 Constitution was written by the military. So, Nigerians need their own Constitution, this so called 1999 Constitution caused a lot of controversies in Lagos State when Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu was in government and he created 37 new council development areas couples with the 20 on ground before. It is stated in the Constitution that the House of Assembly has the right to create LCDAs, therefore, the governor then performed its constitutional right and the House of Assembly endorsed the councils but the National Assembly did not approve it. That was why the Federal Government refused to recognize and fund the councils and Lagos State resorting to using the 20 recognised local government allocations to fund the other 37 LCDAs. The whole Ogun State of 1976 still remain with 20 LGAs, and Ondo State of 1976 also has 17 LGAs, after Ekiti State was created out of Ondo State. Ibadan city, with a large land mass, is big enough to have attained the status of a state. The city of Ibadan is up to three states in the North. Even Shagamu in Ogun State is more than a state in the North. That was why we are calling for a constitution restructuring and to go back to regional structure. Let us develop at our own pace. We cannot continue like this. We all must ensure that council autonomy becomes a reality for the grassroots to enjoy the dividend of democracy.
You have been agitating for the convening of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) but it is like the Federal Government is opposed to the move. What do you think is responsible for this?
Nobody knows why the government is opposed to it and that is why the issue of Boko Haram is everywhere now. The issue of a Sovereign National Conference started in 1991 through Alao Aka-Bashorun of blessed memory. When we came on board in the struggle in 1993, even the late Abiola said as soon as he assumed office, the first thing on his agenda was SNC to clear the mess of the country through a round table conference. That was why on a daily basis, we are wasting money on security. I also learnt that the Chief of Army Staff is demanding for more funds for security, despite the fact that the Joint Military Task Force in Maiduguri, Borno State, aside the security votes from the Federal Government, is still being paid about N300 million by the government of that state for security purpose every month. Even at that, lives are still being lost, properties destroyed and the image of the country tarnished abroad. Because of this, foreign investors are also afraid of coming into the country. Nigeria is now on the security watch list of the international community as a security threat state. There is no amount of money spent on security that will work if we don’t have a well organised and structural government where states would be able to operate their own policing system. Unlike in the First Republic when the regions had autonomy, what we have now is a bad system. You hardly see politicians sending their children to public universities again in Nigeria. What they do is to send their children to a foreign land to study. Private university is everywhere now and pitiably, it is not meant for children of the poor. Go to Ghana, Benin Republic and Togo, you find mostly students from Nigeria flooding the campuses, where are we heading to in this country? In the 21st Century, you still see university lecturers using chalk to write on the board. When I went to one of the universities in South Africa, their school is well organised and neat but the reverse is the case in Nigeria. Now, university lectures are on strike, we still have a long way to go. In the United Kingdom, 85 per cent of their GDP comes from school fee of foreign students flooding the country for quality education. Somebody who does not know how secondary school is being run wants to run a university and also govern a state, while at the end of every month, he shares the allocations from the Federation Account. If all things are not properly well organised, we will continue to have the Boko Haram crisis, corruption and other vices because a bad system, they say, breeds corruption.
What do you think is the cause of the crisis in the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF)?
If I must be sincere with you, what is happening at NGF is as a result of the 2015 election. The presidency suspects that Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State is nursing the ambition of becoming a running mate to a northern presidential candidate and you know President Goodluck Jonathan is from the same zone with Amaechi. So, if Amaechi succeeds in getting the running mate ticket, it would be a problem for the President who is from the South-South region with Amaechi. So, the presidency must ensure that Amaechi no longer wields power as the Chairman of NGF. What I expected the chairman of NGF to do is to respect the President, given his position as the Commander-in-Chief. Amaechi should have a rethink and learn from Joshua Dariye of Plateau State and former Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State when a state of emergency was declared in their respective states by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. I am urging Governor Amaechi to put his house in order as Buhari, Tinubu will not be compatible with him. At the same time, I am not saying he should be a puppet of Mr. President. Where is Jim Nwobodo and Savannah Bank today? The bank was one of the strongest financial institutions in the country but Obasanjo crippled it.
Some Yoruba elders complained that the South-West is being marginalised? Do you agree?
Obviously, the Yoruba nation is being marginalised. Most of the juicy appointments in the country are not given to the Yoruba. The Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) had issued statements on this marginalisation. I’m using this opportunity to appeal to Mr. President to correct this. This is due to the fact that during the period Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was the acting president when former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was sick and nobody was in charge, the Yoruba went to the streets that he should be made the acting president. He was eventually confirmed and when Yar’Adua died, he became the President. uring the 2011 elections, the Yoruba voted for him, irrespective of political affiliation. Even members of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria voted for him. I believe that shows the kind of love we the Yoruba have for President Goodluck Jonathan.
It would be sad for him to be in power and forget those who voted for him. In the regime of the late President Musa Yar’Adua, a Yoruba occupied the number four seat. It is unfortunate the Yoruba have been relegated this time around.
With due respect, I believe Mr President needs the South-West most in the forthcoming election.
Are you saying the Yoruba compromised the 2011 presidential election?
Those who did not vote for Honourable Mulikat Akande as the Speaker of the House of Representatives did it based on their political interest, but we expected the President to use his influence to assist the South-West in securing that post. Well, that has become history now.
Dr. Frederick Fasehun, the founder of Oodua Peoples Congress is drumming support for President Goodluck Jonathan? What is your own position?
I believe it is too early for me to endorse when the President has not declared his intention to contest.
If eventually he declares his interest, will you support him?
That is why I said you should wait till 2014 as many things will unfold at that time. It is early for me to support anybody.
Recently, some suspected members of Boko Haram were paraded in Lagos by the military. What is the OPC doing to protect the South-West from insurgency?
One of our cardinal objectives is to protect the South-West from invaders like Boko Haram. Although we are not members of the Nigerian Army, Nigeria Police Force, the State Security Service and others, based on our determination, I think we have the right to protect our region, physically and spiritually. Unfortunately, Boko Haram is an invisible being. But as a Yoruba person, those you can’t see with the physical eyes, you can see spiritually because the Yoruba has a way of securing their environment. Well, if Boko Haram members believe they can attack the South-West, they will meet their waterloo as we are prepared for them. My grudge with these faceless people is that if one cannot build his church and own a mosque in the North, then why are we calling ourselves a nation?
There is division among Yoruba Obas. What efforts are you making to bring them under one fold?
Firstly, I must commend the efforts of his Royal Majesty, Oba Akinteru Obateru, the Olugbo of Ugbo Kingdom for his effort in uniting the warring obas in the region. I see it as a serious challenge to the South-West governors and other political bigwigs in the region. They have held the first meeting in this peace initiative. I believe when they are sitting for the second round, with the interference of governors from the region, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, the Alaafin of Oyo, Alake of Egbaland and other obas would grace it physically. I urge the governors of the region to influence the obas and let them see the importance of unity among the traditional rulers in South-West.
What is the cause of the crisis between you and Dr. Fredrick Fasheun?
In a newspaper recently, Baba Fasheun was casting aspersion on my person. It is now very clear to me that Fasehun has chosen to tread the path of perfidy and self-destruct, with all the dire consequences. Ordinarily, I would have dismissed the comments as coming from a drowning man seeking to hold onto anything for survival, having realized his grievous and damning miscalculation, but we have realised that there is the need for me to answer him and put the records straight. While trying to justify his support for Major al-Mustapha, Fasehun, in the story, entitled ‘Gani Adams sponsored to criticise me’, claimed that I was sponsored to criticise him, and that the sponsors were afraid of his (Fasehun’s) acceptance in the North. Laughable as this accusation may seem, I would, however, want him and his cohorts to stick to the subject matter rather than beat around it. My criticism was based on his unholy romance with al-Mustapha, who was fingered in the killing of Kudirat Abiola, a Yoruba woman and wife of the late MKO Abiola, the martyr of our democracy. He also told people that I said his visit to Kano had given his political party a political mileage in the North, and that we are losing members in drove. With his threat, I want him to name those who sponsored me to attack him. I urge Fasehun to come out and name the sponsors now or better still cover his face in shame and keep quiet. Unlike him, whose antecedents have proved beyond any doubt that he has always had a price tag that can be paid for anytime by the highest bidder, I, Otunba Gani Adams, remain consistent with the dream behind the formation of the OPC, which is to fight for the rights of the Yoruba race and the right for self-determination. I want to inform that the same people who are paying his bills tried several times to enlist my support for the release of their man, al-Mustapha, but I rebuffed them on each occasion, remaining steadfast to upholding the Yoruba age-long logic of ‘Oruko rere san j’owo lo’. But it is now very clear that Baba Fasehun knows little or nothing about this age-long practice. Recent happenings have also confirmed our suspicions over the role played by Baba in the crisis that engulfed the OPC in the past. To be sincere with you, Baba had always been a mole eating from all sides.
What really happened?
For the benefits of those who do not know the genesis of the crisis, it started after a large portion of our members realised that his group was trying to use the OPC platform to join Abacha’s five political arrangements in 1998. In those dark days of the battle for the restoration of the June 12 mandate, most of us were always surprised that Abacha and his men
always seemed to know much about our strategies and plans. But we are now convinced that the source of those leaks was no other person but Baba Fasehun. What this means is that his unholy alliance with al-Mustapha predates his trial for the murder of Kudirat. No wonder then, that in 2008, after visiting the Abachas, Baba came out to say that the late dictator was the best president for Nigeria. In trying to deceive the Yoruba race, he also decided to choose the UPN as the name for his political party. He also claimed that his visit to Kano has given his party a political mileage. But nothing can be further from the truth that the party lacks any base in any part of the country. His case is like a builder who starts construction from the roof rather than the foundation. All popular political parties have their strong base and followers in the base of the founder. This perhaps informed the decision of political parties like APGA, AD (later ACN) and the CPC to first build a base in their strongholds before seeking further acceptance outside of their bases. But where can we say is the strong base of UPN? Baba is like the ostrich that covers its head in sand, and forgetting that its anus is open to everybody. There is no gain repeating the fact that Baba is misrepresenting the OPC and the Yoruba race in general. His claim that we are losing members in drove is indeed laughable. Let us state here that the truth of the matter is that true members of the OPC, who are still loyal to the original cause of the group, have left the his group to join our group, and many more have shown interest in joining us having realised Fasehun’s deceit and warped sense of leadership. I hereby throw an open challenge to Baba to join me on a walk on the street of any town in Yorubaland for a popularity test if he is truly sure of his acceptance.