Leader of the Oodua Peoples’ Congress and founder of the Oodua Progressive Union, Chief Gani Adams, is one individual, who has brought himself to an enviable level of reckoning in both regional and national politics. From practically nowhere to a vantage position today, he has shown that self-development is the most potent of human development options, having gone back to school to bag a degree and other diploma in leadership, which is fast enabling him to rub shoulders with the high and mighty in the society, including serving as a representative in 2014/2015 national conference. For someone often dismissed as a “nobody”, who took over the OPC from an educated medical doctor, Adams has provided the kind of leadership that was lacking in the group today and has changed the image of the OPC from what it used to be (the rejects of the society) to a gathering of refined fellows. Today, the OPU is in over 76 countries with enlightened and educated membership from all walks of life, a majority of them professionals. To cap this, he is now being considered the next Are Ona Kankafo, the topmost war general of the Yoruba race. In this interview with Olawale Olaleye and Shola Oyeyipo, Adams tells the story of his journey so far, his vision for his many groups apart from OPC, his positions on the state of the nation and the way forward for Nigeria. Excerpts:
There has been a bit of lull in the activities of the Oodua Peoples’ Congress. Things are more or less quiet now. Is anything the matter?
Well, because we have given OPC a new face, a new direction and moderate way of operation. You cannot expect an organisation that was formed in 1994 to operate the way it started. At least, for one decade of the existence of any organisation, there will be a way of changing strategy let alone an organisation that has been in existence for two decades and three years. So, we tried to sample the mindset of the people we are fighting for and we realised that when you are too harsh in your approach, you can’t achieve what you want.
So, we had to diversify the organisation by forming another group called Olokun Festival Foundation (OFF). It is saddled with the responsibility of promoting Yoruba culture and tradition, while OPC still remains as a self-determination organisation and a watchdog to fight for the interest of the Yoruba race. In a situation, where there is anything that could affect the interest of the Yoruba race, OPC will be ready to protect the interest of the people.
In our about 23 programmes in a year, OPC has just three: June 12, Heroes Day Celebration, and leadership training seminars for our leaders in different states. The Olokun Festival Foundation, a purely sociocultural group handles not less than 18 programmes. My foundation, Gani Adams Foundation handles two. So, the remaining are social programmes within the calendar. With this calendar, you will realise that the activities of the OPC is minimal. When you don’t have an issue you don’t jump into the newspapers and start shouting. They will turn you into a political nuisance and people will think you are looking for cheap publicity.
Don’t forget we have another group in the diaspora, a purely sociocultural group, which is different from the OPC and this is the group we decided to form to bring unity among Yoruba people in the diaspora. Before now, different countries have their own Yoruba associations that were not linked to any other countries. Yoruba is about 250 million people in the whole world and we have the next population here – about 30 per cent, which is just 55 million. A bunch of the population is in the diaspora. We have minimum population in the homeland. So, we decided in 2011, through my initiative, to form a group called Oodua Progressive Union (OPU).
One, we have an opportunity to discover our potential, to annex them for the development of Nigeria and onward development of the Yoruba race. We have many medical doctors scattered all over the world. I am just back from the lesser hajj and about 15 per cent of the resourceful medical doctors in Saudi Arabia are from Yorubaland and we have them all over the world. Even there was an article I read that said the level of education of Nigerians, not just the Yoruba, is becoming higher in comparison with American citizens. So, you can see a number of Yoruba persons that can be resourceful to the homeland, but no group to annex and coordinate them.
Do you know that most of our people abroad do not really understand the context of true federalism? I remember vividly, whenever we send any message about true federalism and restructuring to our group chat in OPU worldwide, they will not respond to it, but for the period of about five or six years of the existence of OPU, they started understanding the concept of true federalism and Yoruba was founded as a race with ideologues before all the ‘amala’ and bribery politics.
In the 90s, every living Yoruba will tell you they were Awoist. They believed in true federalism. They believed in restructuring but now because the bourgeois have taken over our political system. We have been infiltrated to the extent that even when some educated persons are talking, irrespective of how educated he or she is, they are not ideologues at all. So, we need a group to reshape that. We have been doing our own part in Yorubaland but we need a group abroad. We can’t be doing something at home and leave our people abroad to go astray.
The Israelites coordinate their people in the diaspora. They are the greatest tribe in the whole world. Even the Arab community, they coordinate their people in the diaspora, likewise, the Indians, likewise, the Portuguese, French and the Spanish people. But a race like Yoruba, which falls among one of the twenty greatest races – not in the area of financial or technological capacities but in terms of intelligence – Yoruba is among the twenty. So, I pray that God should give me the responsibility to work on that. I have been trying my best within my little capacity and resources. And I thank our people in the diaspora. They don’t say, ‘who is Gani Adams that comes from nowhere and founded OPU’? They are doing very well.
We were in Oyo for the world congress. We were with Kabiyesi Alaafin. We spent about three days in Oyo in January. Last year, we were at Ile-Ife. We spent two days with Ooni of Ife. The first world congress was held at the Airport Hotel, Lagos. In the future, we are thinking of projects that each country will come and do in Yorubaland. Definitely, we have a lot of things on our table beyond OPC as an organisation. Most journalists believe that everything about Gani Adams is only OPC. If I don’t break it down now, you will not know that we have different organisations saddled with different responsibilities.
You have talked about four of such organisations now under your leadership. What about the coordination without one interfering with the other?
Every group that I am involved in has their own executive. Talking about OPC, it has five finger structures. We have the National Executive Council in which we are 13. We have the National Coordinating Council. That is the second layer. We are 156. We have all the 57 local councils in Lagos State. We have all the senatorial districts in Yorunaland. We have all the state coordinators in the 28 states that we have structures in Nigeria and we made some people – about 70 of them as ex-officio. We are training them. We can transfer them to any state to be supervisory coordinator. Even some are sent to some local government to supervise the local government based on your capacity, intelligence and how you can cope with us in the National Coordinating Council.
The third level is the state coordinating council, which is not my own beat. It is for the state coordinators and their executive. The fourth is the local government executive. The last layer and the most grassroots-based is the zone. Three or four streets can form a zone. People have expressed surprises over how I have been able to coordinate a group with about 6 million members conveniently. I have a limited responsibility unless an issue that comes to the national level that I would come in and we normally meet every Tuesday. We normally hold National Coordinating Council executive meetings but sometimes the local government that hosts us will have a general meeting for which we would have nothing less than 20,000 members in attendance. About five people will address them and give them information on what is trending. After we conclude the meeting, we would hold an inner meeting of the National Coordinating Council. That is for the OPC.
The OPU has chapters. They have about three structures now – 78 countries for now. Second is continental structures, we had two before. We now have a new North American coordinator that coordinates Canada, Mexico and America. We have African Union with about 56 countries under him. We have European Union with 28 countries. We have the Asia. I don’t know how many countries are in Asia presently, but about three months ago, we had a new continent and we are planning to fix somebody to coordinate North America.
So, we have the third structure which is the worldwide executive council. It comprises seven people before but now we have increased it to 13, because we gave slot to each continent to bring a representative. By the grace of God, before the middle of next month they will join us in the world executive council. The three structures will still be broken to four, because the chapters must have layers under them depending on the level of mobilisation. They should have province or state within them. So, with the three structures, it has been so easy for us to run.
Talking of Olokun Festival Foundation which is the group that we use to promote culture and tradition, we have Olokun Festival Foundation Committee. We are about 27 of which I am the chief promoter. We normally hold meetings once in a month to brainstorm. We evaluate the programmes we have done and plan for other programmes. So, Gani Adams Foundation, there is coordinator for that. We have four people that run that for me. I normally meet them every Thursday in the morning at least twice in a month to see what we can do in a year. My vote for Gani Adams Foundation in a year is between six to seven million every year. It is used to assist the less privileged and upgrade the youths in the area of sports. We normally organise football tournaments and at the same time we do charity.
You were one of the representatives to the national conference organised by former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan about three years ago. To start with, what was your experience at the conference like?
The conference, for me, was a learning process. We can call it a quasi-parliament. I have never been in any parliamentary structure in my life. I haven’t earned any political post. I haven’t visited any state House of Assembly, House of Representatives or Senate but that conference gave me an opportunity to see how they run a parliament. You move a motion, you plan towards it, you can prepare a bill and we learned about it within a month. It is unfortunate that most of our politicians in Nigeria don’t have the right focus of where they are going. Some of them are wheeler-dealers – anything goes.
If they see something that tallies with their ideology coming from their opponent, they will criticise it. Unlike what is happening in civilised climes. In the US, you saw same Republicans vote for Obama healthcare. How you will know is that the Democrats have just about 182 members but by the time they voted, you will realise that 12 Republicans joined the Democrats to show you the level of maturity of their democracy and institution. Even in Britain, if the Labour sees that the Conservative is doing a good thing, they will support it irrespective of their party differences.
But Nigeria is the country I see decamping day and night. Somebody who used the platform of a party to get to the National Assembly will just wake up one morning without even talking to your constituency – you just wake up in Abuja, collect money and say “I have decamped” to another party. You will see a party that has not been in existence for 10 years, they will say they want to change the name of the party.
From 1999 till date, the main political parties have changed name. It is only the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that has not changed name and that is about to happen, because we are already seeing something like APDA. In the PDP, with just a little trouble, some of them have been decamping to APC. Some of them want to go to APDA. So that will show you the kinds of politicians we have in this country.
But the Jonathan conference experience was a very good experience. For me, I am a student of history. I may be born in 1970 but I have done research a lot about our race and Nigeria from the Portuguese explorers in 14 century. So, I know what I can say within every decade. So, from my history, the MacPherson constitution, the republican constitution of 1963 and even the constitution given to use by the colonial masters in 1960, the only constitution that is nearer to what we did by our recommendations in 2014 was the 1963 constitution. As a matter of fact, we don’t even need to waste time. If Nigerians lift the 1963 constitution and adopt it, the country will change within two years. Not even going back to our 2014 constitution.
We recommended 633 modest demands that can solve the Nigerian problems. Some of the best brains in Nigeria were in that conference. We had more than 11 Senior Advocates, who are the best in their fields. We had three retired Appeal Court judges; two or more Supreme Court judges; about 52 professors from different fields. No fewer than seven permanent secretaries from different ministries and all the service chiefs. The generals we had in that conference were between 18 and 20. And we had the good products of the civil societies. All of them were well represented.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) sent their representatives. The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) sent their representatives. The Nigerian Union of Journalists sent their representatives (NUJ). The Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) sent their representatives – it cut across. I can easily say the recommendation of that conference led by Senator Okunroumu is excellent. By the time we met we didn’t even know the product that was coming. I was seeing people that I had been seeing on the television for over 25 years, who have triumphed in this country and when you know see the kinds of contributions they made, you learn everything: you will learn grammar. You will learn how to be articulate. You will learn how to be submissive and you will learn how to accommodate win-win situations on issues.
When we started the conference, we first agreed on two-third majority voting pattern. It took us about three weeks to agree on the percentage of voting. The recommendation of the committee was that three-quarter should be the majority on decision but we fought that. All over the world, you cannot be expecting three-quarter to agree. We wouldn’t move forward until we agreed on two-third majority. It nearly truncated the conference. Fortunately, 99 per cent of our decisions were based on consensus. No voting. The only thing was the derivation principle about oil, not solid minerals. It took us about three weeks.
You know anything about oil, Nigerians will raise eyebrow to it. People like us said they should give Niger Deltans, who own the oil. My state is also an oil producing state – Ondo State. But we agreed that we should give them 25 per cent but funny enough, some of our lazy politicians in the South-west said no. We will not be able to pay salaries again if we pay them 25 per cent. We told them that we had agreed that the states should control solid minerals and there is no state in Nigeria that does not have solid minerals. Even the northern states have more solid minerals than the South.
I was with a former governor of Kano State for two days. He showed me a brochure. Kano State has 44 solid minerals and most states in the South-west have at least 30 solid minerals. So, I kept asking myself that why are some northern states fighting because of oil? South Africa does not have oil. South Africa depends on tourism and solid minerals and they are the richest country in Africa. I was in South Africa watching a news report and they gave an insight into how much they make from tax alone. When I converted that money to our own naira, it was almost ten times more than our annual budget – on tax alone. That’s a country with a population of less than 60 million people. Now the population of Nigeria is getting to 190 million.
In Nigeria, we only channel our focus on oil. It is just recently that we started talking of making money from tax. People from foreign countries are making money here without paying taxes. Most of our governors don’t know the context of restructuring. The context of restructuring will give them the opportunity to take advantage of inflow of ideas to develop their states beyond becoming ‘fine bara’ (beggar) – going to Abuja to collect money, beyond being a servant of another Commander-in-Chief every week. Things like that do not happen in America. Every governor is even more powerful than a vice president. They are just like a mini-president in America. We adopted federalism from America but immediately it got here, Nigerians reshaped it and repackaged it to our own unitary system of government and that has been the bane of our problem.
Thus, talking of the conference, it was a beautiful experience. If Nigeria loses the recommendations of the conference, forget Nigeria. If Nigeria does not implement the recommendations of the conference, forget about Nigeria. Every region has its own interest now. Even if you want to kill 30 per cent of Igbos, they will not drop the Biafran cause, and when you are talking of the Niger Delta, they have their own plan. Even though they are not eyeing secession, they are not interested in unitary system of government anymore.
And if not because some Yoruba are being cowed or because of political selfish interest, an average Yoruba man will wake up and say they want to develop at their own pace because we benefitted from it from 1954 to 1959 during Chief Obafemi Awolowo. We know what we achieved within five years. It is what most of these South-west governors inherited and are collecting tax on today. The Ikeja industrial estate was built by Western region government; Ilupeju industrial estate was built by the western region government; Apapa industrial estate was built by western region government.
I now ask the Lagos State Government that is making about N33 – 34bn from tax now; you are making almost 60 to 70 per cent from these industrial estates, how many industrial estates have they built? And that was what Baba Awolowo did between 1954 and 1959. Oodua Investment with about 22 companies is still there. The Cocoa House is the tallest house in Oyo State, after it was built in 1957 or 1958 – a 25-storey buildings. The Oyo State Government has never built 10 stories building. There is no state government as a state project that has built 20-storey buildings in the 36 states of the federation.
We talk of the University of Ibadan built Baba Awolowo. Apart from the University of Ife that has very good structure, tell me any good university that has a very good structure like University of Ibadan and when we are talking of the best political scientists today, you will take nothing less than 70 per cent from the University of Ibadan. So, you can see the idea and vision of the late sage and our fathers by then but unfortunately, instead of our politicians to emulate that, they are deviating because the unitary system that we are running now benefits them selfishly – to milk, to steal money on the basis of impunity. They are running from pillar to post.
Please, tell me, after the death of Awolowo in 1987, how many heroes, politically have we produced? There are no political heroes after the demise of Awolowo. All of them are bourgeois embezzling our money. They buy estates, enrich themselves, turn themselves to godfathers, install governors, install governments and expand their wealth with money taken from government. Tell me, how many estates did Awolowo have? Maybe the Park Lane in Apapa, his house in Ikenne and a house in Ibadan; Awolowo did not have a house in Ibadan. He was one of the people that agreed that the capital of Nigeria should be taken to the centre of Nigeria. He was the one that nominated Justice Akinola Aguda to head the panel but Awolowo did not have a house in Abuja. He didn’t have four houses in Lagos but today, Awolowo’s name still stands beautifully as if he was still alive.
So, the national conference recommendation will solve the Nigerian problem. It will save Nigeria from disintegration. It will save Nigeria from issues of insecurity. It will save Nigeria from the issue of not having basic policy as a country. It will give Nigeria stability. It will change the kind of mindsets people have about Nigeria. If you get to some ports of entry and you show your passport, some immigration will put you aside to recheck your history, because you are a Nigerian.
I was in Malaysia last November and I was almost deported by the Malaysian authority. I had my visa, I had everything; just because I am a Nigerian and they saw me with about seven people, they were not comfortable with me because of the experiences they have had with Nigerian citizens in their country. It took the intervention of the Nigerian embassy before they allowed me entry. The Nigerian embassy had to call them that the person leading the delegation is an important person; that he is not a security threat before they allowed us into their country. So, you can imagine how dented the name Nigeria is, even the passport green and white. But by restructuring, we can sanitize this country – every region will monitor their leaders. I am not saying you can eradicate corruption but it would be reduced to the barest minimum.
You’ve always been an advocate of regionalism and this you also pushed for at the conference. Now, looking back, would you say that the agitation is still as relevant?
A good agitation doesn’t normally die in a society. The truth is very constant. It is very hard to bend the truth. The spirit of the truth can never be driven away from any society. Any society that drives away truth will never witness peace and tranquility. So, when you are talking of the issue of regionalism, let us ask ourselves: how did we get independence from the colonial masters? The agreement to have independence on October 1, 1960 was to have three regions; we will remain as three regions. That was how the colonial masters gave power to Tafawa Balewa as the Prime Minister and Nnamdi Azikiwe as the ceremonial president and there were regional heads in the three regions.
By then we haven’t had the mid-west. So, that was how we got the independence. What brought sudden change was the military incursion into our polity – Aguyi Ironsi on January 15, 1966. It was because of his selfishness that if we control the entire country with his centralist-minded structure, we will be able to dictate everything that happens in the country. He changed regionalism to unitary system.
Sometimes, there is a limit one can blame the north. They saw the opportunity that will benefit their own interest and they grabbed it. We, the southerners started it through Ironsi. And by the time Gowon got the power back on July 15, 1966, he hammered on it. He brokered regionalism, first to 12 states; from 12 to 19; from 19 to 30 states and from 30 states to 36 by the military.
Those who broke our regions are not the civilian politicians; they were the politicians in army uniform that used decree. There was no conference. Even the 1979 conference, constitutional conference of 1996, did not agree that we should be running this country out of federal system of government to unitary system of government. So, anybody who believed that regionalism is not popular is not a student of history and is a person chasing shadow to sustain the country. Such person does not believe in the real solution to the problem confronting the country. We have some people who will come to this world without making an impact. Yoruba calls it a snake that passes through the rock without leaving a mark. They are many in Nigeria but somebody who wants to make a mark and who wants to be a hero – even if you are a minority you can do it.
There is no reason you should follow a majority on a wrong cause. And those who change society are as low as one per cent in some cases. A good example, we were the ones that fought against the military between 1993 and 1999 before democracy. You cannot write the history without putting Gani Adams. I led most of the major protests in Lagos. When the police in Lagos cowed people in the mother-of-all rallies organised by the Olisa Agbakoba-led UAD in 1995; we were in Yaba; people saw police and entertained fear. I just got there as a young man; I wasn’t a student union leader; I said what are you waiting for? We are almost 100 here, what are you waiting for? Greatest Nigerian students! By the time I stretched my hands the pick pockets there stole my wrist watch. I didn’t even know that they had taken it.
But by the time we got to Alagomeji, I didn’t know that some people had hung around; they couldn’t lead the protest for fear of the police – before getting to Alagomeji, we were more than 1000; before getting to the middle of Oyingbo, we had reached about 4000. People kept joining us. By the time we turned back at Herbert Macaulay we were more than 10000. No police could curtail that protest again before most of the leaders, who had run away, came to corner us with vehicles and started granting interviews.
In 1998, I was one of the living forces. I was 28 years old, I led OPC. When Tunji Abayomi was in Joint Action Committee led by the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, he brought an idea that we should carry a coffin to show a symbol that Abacha killed our daughter, Kudirat Abiola on June 4, 1998. We said we should carry the coffin to Alausa (the seat of power in Lagos State). We were 106 organisations. It was only the OPC that succeeded in carrying the coffin to Ikeja before the police came to disperse us. I led the protest.
Eight days after, on June 12, in Yaba, it was only the OPC and some civil society groups that succeeded in breaking the barricade before they used armoured cars and everything to dispatch us and we reconvened again at Ojuelegba. When some people see Gani Adams they think they are seeing a rabble rouser. I just laugh it off because they don’t know my history. I was the one that distributed all leaflets that we used against Abacha in 1996 and 1997. I have never said this to any reporter. I remember one day at Oshodi, when I was going with the leaflets, SSS just surrounded me up. I was with one of my friends, Taiye Abass.
They shouted: “What is in your bag?” I said it was church leaflets. They said “open it!” As I made to open it, one of them just said, leave it. You can go. If I had opened it that day and they saw what I was carrying, I would have been taken to Abuja on that day. Maybe that would have been the end of Gani Adams. We took a lot of risks. Writing things on the major streets of Lagos in the nights but we haven’t benefitted anything from the democracy. I haven’t held any political position and some of the people, who did not even know about how we fought for democracy, are abusing us that are the freedom fighters and that is why some of them are dropping everyday and I am moving forward. I am not in haste to be in power.
Your advocacy for culture and the value system have been quite profound over the years. In what ways have they helped to shape your ideology?
I think in my ideology for liberation, culture is another potent tool. If you want to liberate your people, if they don’t sustain their cultural identity, particularly their language and their tradition, there is no way you can do that. So, talking of having liberation ideology, culture is another veritable tool to liberate oneself. If you lose touch with your language, you wear suits, you don’t wear Yoruba clothes and you don’t believe in the Yoruba tradition, the spirit of Yoruba will not support you. And the war you don’t win in the spiritual realm, you can’t win in the physical.
Go and read the Bible and the Quran very well. Most of the wars won by Prophet Mohammed were supported spiritually. The war won by David against Goliath was not just about the stone that was thrown on Goliath that killed him. There had been spiritual undertone. That is why you don’t see me just issuing statements anyhow.
Some journalists will come here, I would say no comment because I haven’t prepared up to that stage. By the time you see me talking, I must have prepared more than just taking.
So, when you are talking of culture, it is a strong tool. You will remember the story of South Africa. What did Obasanjo tell them in 1978? He said: “You are wasting your time. Go to your tradition and your culture. Use them to fight. We will give you money!” That was when the global village started listening to South Africa after four years. Peter Botha refused to listen to them. God removed him and put Fredrick De Clark. God touched his heart and he gave them soft landing. That was how Nelson Mandela was released and allowed to contest. By going back to their tradition, God paved the way for them.
You know, the Jomo Kenyatta struggle was all about Cultural Revolution. They went to their culture and tradition, they defeated the colonial masters and they got their independence. And you know the story of Chairman Mao of China. He was basically an advocate of Cultural Revolution, and when he liberated China for them, the people now embraced culture as food. If you tune to Chinese television station everything they show has cultural background. Today, if China is not the richest country in the world, it is one of the richest because they cherish their culture.
One of the major reasons we are having problems is that a Yoruba elite will not encourage their children to speak Yoruba anymore. Some of them will use spoon to eat amala. They will not use hand because they want to copy the culture of westerners, whereas there is hardly any westerner that is prepared to assimilate your culture. When I am traveling, I go with my agbada. Some of them ask: “why are you wearing parachute? I ask them, do you want it? They will now ask from which country and I will tell them from Nigeria. I am selling my culture to them. Some of them will ask how they could get the cloth.
By the time you lose your culture, you are losing the support of your spirit. By the time you lose your language, you become a slave in your own land. Your oppressors do not need gun to capture you. They will impose their language on you. You will feel inferior with your language. They will impose their culture on you. You will feel inferior about your culture. They will impose their tradition on you. You will feel inferior about your tradition. That is what is happening in Ilorin. They only thing they couldn’t take away from Ilorin is the Yoruba language. There is no culture that is superior to the other. It depends on how the people project it to the world.
Your name is being touted lately as the likely next ‘Are Ona Kakanfo’ of Yorubaland and this news has excited your camp but one would have expected that you will be worried, owing to the history of how the last two holders of the Are Ona Kakanfo title ended. Are you really worried or excited?
Well, I have a background that when I have done my research about an issue, I don’t normally entertain fear about it. In fact, I have taken a lot of risks in this country. I have passed through life and death more than 60 times. Talking about the Are Ona Kakanfo, I don’t believe that it is coming ordinarily. It is a divine intervention through God. It has been occurring in different spiritual consultation in the past eight years. I didn’t know it would be Are Ona Kakanfo, but that I will be given a chieftaincy position that will reflect the interest of the entire Yoruba race.
So about three years ago, someone mentioned it, and I said no, God forbid then. It continued to reoccur again and again – people continued to mention Are Ona Kakanfo and I kept saying I wouldn’t take that position. Do you know that I have had about 47 chieftaincy titles and about 17 are still in the pipeline and I can say categorically that I am the only Yoruba person that has chieftaincy title from the entire Yoruba states, even beyond the South-west – in Kwara and Kogi States?
Hardly will you see any Yoruba that has chieftaincy in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo, Kwara and Kogi. I was honoured with chieftaincy title in Yoruba speaking part of Benin Republic. I didn’t pay a dime to get any of it. So, you can see that we have already cut across everywhere that the Yoruba exist. Ogidi, in Okunland of Kogi State, where I got a chieftaincy title, they are just about 25 per cent of Kogi State. In Yoruba speaking parts of Kwara State, they gave me about three chieftaincy titles. People don’t know the background and I am not a kind of person that blows my trumpet.
But on the issue of Are Ona Kakanfo, I can tell you I was reluctant to even agree with individuals let alone Kabiyesi Alaafin. If an individual meets me and says, “You will be the Are Ona Kakanfo”, I always said you are not serious. There is a man by the gate of our estate, since I packed into my house two years ago, if I am moving out three or four times in a week, he would call Are Ona Kakanfo twice. So, when he heard in the news, he said haven’t I told you? By then I was just seeing him as a joker.
If I become the Are Ona Kakanfo, I will be the sixteenth. Some people think it is a political position. It is not a political position. They thought that it was because Abiola was so rich that he got it. It is not a position conferred on people because of wealth. It is for someone, who has an antecedent as a warrior; somebody who is culturally inclined. Not a politician. It is not even for philanthropists. There are differences between a philanthropist and a warrior.
In term of philanthropy, I have done my own best with my foundation but even without my foundation, if I have money in my pocket, you can’t come here and be asking for money and I wouldn’t give you. I can give out 50 per cent of what I have if I see that what you need to do with it is important. There are times I give out money that my aides are not happy with, because most of them may not even have up to N1000 in their pocket and they will just see their oga giving out N50,000 to someone that just walks in – that is not working with us. But I tell them, we are building our future. Sometimes, my wife too is not happy with my spending habit. So, when you are talking of philanthropy, I have done my best. Even the palace of our king, I am the one building it.
Tell me, which state in the South-west that we have not been promoting culture. It is only Ekiti and that is because we haven’t seen any community that has signified interest. We promote culture in about six states in Yoruba land, including Kwara – Oya Festival. In Oyo State, we are promoting about four festivals in a year. We just came back from Igangan – Obatala Festival with 100 per cent funding from Olokun Festival, not the community. In Osun State, we partnered Osun Osogbo and we are the 100 per cent sponsor of Oodua Festival in the past six years – the progenitor of the Yoruba race. In Lagos State, we are promoting about four festivals; in Ogun State, we are promoting one. So, when you are talking of antecedent, I have paid my price.
In terms of culture, tradition…talking of freedom fighters…who stopped the aggressiveness of the Ijaw against Yoruba in Ajegunle? Our group and through my leadership! In Ajegunle, before, the Ijaw people always harassed the Yoruba because they are many. We stopped it! You are living with us, you can’t harass our people. Who stopped the harassment of Yoruba people at Mile 12? We stopped it, although we paid the price. Obasanjo hit us seriously and dealt with us mercilessly when he was in power.
Psychologically, who stopped other ethnic nationalities from seeing Yoruba as cowards – amala people? Is it not OPC? How many politicians issue statements when they hit Yoruba because they want to get votes from Ijaw, Igbo, Hausa and all of that? They will not say anything, rather, you will see them talking to journalists to call us to issue statement. Those who will not call us when there are good things coming will now be saying, “Come to our rescue”.
Sometimes, all my phones will be dead. It is Gani Adams they will call, especially what happened in June, when the militants invaded Ikorodu and Ibafo communities. Deliberately, because of what they did to us in 2015, I kept quiet but by the time I went to Sweden and came back, the pressure was much. Journalists were calling me while abroad. I said wait, let me come back. When we came, I sat here with about ten print media and issued a statement. When we did, the tension doused down about 50 per cent.
We then went to the abode of the criminals to hold a general meeting and sent message to them that we are ready to do everything to crush you people. I then called all our leaders to go on spiritual consultations so that enemies will not come and threaten us on our land. After that, most of them were captured by our members and we were handing them over to the police. That was just last year.
When the Hausa invaded Ile-Ife, how many people issued statement? Who were the leading voices? OPC and Afenifere! Few others later came in. We issued statements more than six times. And now, tell me any community in Yorubaland that OPC is not securing. So, tell me the ground that I am not worthy to be the Are Ona Kakanfo Yorubaland. I have never been given funding by government. I have been doing it as selfless service and you can see what we have done. I was in the national conference and didn’t disappoint Yoruba.
I was one of the leading voices when our people wanted to betray us. I was saying it that some people wanted to betray us on the Yoruba agenda. I have never deviated from the Yoruba agenda since 1993 that I started this struggle. I have paid a lot of prices for the Yoruba race. Some want to misinform the media about me. They say I am an illiterate, hooligan and all that but when you call me names but God does not call me names, who are you?
When we talk of Are Ona Kakanfo, I am not desperate. I can tell you categorically that I am not desperate. Gani Adams has been a household name. The chieftaincy will just give me an opportunity to operate more. Pupils in a state will know the governor of their state, some will not know the governor of other states but any person that is current in Nigeria will know the name of Gani Adams. Globally, my name has reflected beyond where I have ever been. When you Google me, you can read about me for three days without stopping, either for positive or negative things.
So, why would anyone think I would be desperate to get Are Ona Kakanfo? I have met Kabiyesi Alaafin and we have agreed in principle but Are Ona Kakanfo is not something you just jump to. Kabiyesi has some processes – it is on process now. I will tell you categorically. There are spiritual and ritual processes that must be undertaken before conferring anybody with the title of Are Ona Kakanfo. Me too, I have some processes that I have to undergo on my part. I cannot jump to it like that too, because we knew what happened to Abiola and we knew what happened to Akintola. Akintola was just a year. Nobody in this life will wake up and say he wants to die early. I am just giving birth to children. So, I want to prepare myself very well.
It is not a child’s play. If you play political games with Are Ona Kakanfo you will die. If you say you want to block it, you will die or destroy yourself. It is chieftaincy that has a lot of spiritual background. It is not something any governor can call and say he wants to block it; you will die! They will die! I don’t have business with anybody. If God has destined that I would be Are Ona Kakanfo, I would be it. If it is not destined, Gani Adams is enough. Let me continue with what I am doing. Let God pay me back with what I have done. It is not a position for Senator. It is not a position for governors, House of Representatives or state Houses of Assembly. It is a spiritual and warrior position that no human being can toy with. If God does not destine you to get it and you get it, you will be in trouble.
Before I agreed, I had done my research beyond the ordinary imagination. I started having interest after the World Congress in Oyo. Some people had asked me, “Why can’t you be the Are Ona Kakanfo?” Trust me, I started doing my research. I did that for about a month and half before I sent some people to Kabiyesi. It took me another two and half months before I met Kabiyesi in camera. One-on-one, I told the Kabiyesi I am interested. He said you have the criteria; you are a warrior, a culture promoter and you have built OPU in 78 countries – that with these three factors, I was qualified. But he said he knew that I was spiritual but that I needed stronger spiritual powers to get this position and I told the Kabiyesi there was no problem.
The title does not earn me salary from any state governor. It is not because I am expecting any financial benefit that is pushing me. But it is a platform if I have, it will give me the opportunity to do more for the Yoruba race. I will be more useful to the race. So, I am not desperate about it but I am still saying: anybody who wants to cross it should jump to it. I am not desperate. Anybody who wants to contest it should jump to it. If I don’t have spiritual clearance, I would have debunked the reports. I have done my research. I have seen that my destiny accepts it. And by the time I get to the peak of my research, you can’t change my mind anymore.