The story of Otunba Gani Adams is a study in human metamorphosis. He has worn many colourful caps that make him a cynosure of all eyes. More adorable is the royal cap he now wears as the 15th Aare Onakakanfo of Yoruba Land. Call it luck or destiny, the social activist has always had his place among the high and mighty, thus, defying his humble background. A typical son of the soil, this is not missing in his carriage, dressing, words and lifestyle. Adams is indeed dazzling in his new garment as the Yoruba Field Marshall. He bares all to Omolabake Fasogbon, about his passion for the Yoruba race, life as Aare Onakakanfo, challenges, marriage and plans to revive his interior decoration calling
He never dreamt or imagined his present position when he set out for activism which he said was simply altruistic, but he can’t hide the fact that he feels better than good in his new position that gives him privilege to serve his race. “I must confess, I feel excited, not only because the title earns me deeper respect but also gives me the opportunity to connect more with the Yoruba race,” the Yoruba Generalissimo enthused.
But good thing rarely comes on a platter of gold; it takes hardwork amongst other commitments. The life of Gani Adams further lends credence to the words of Gianni Versace that “in the past, people were born royal but nowadays, royalty comes from what you do.” Adams was not born with a silver spoon and was nowhere close to the palace. Like any aspiring young man, he was committed to his career as an interior decorator before fate led him to humanitarian cause. As an activist and a faithful of the Odua People’s Congress, (OPC), he was loyal to the cause. He never had any inkling about his present except that he recalled that his mentor, late Chief Gani Fawehinmi used to address him as the Generalissimo of Yoruba Land.
“Maybe he foresaw it, I don’t understand but each time late Chief sees me, he does not call me by any other name other than the ‘Generallisimo of Yoruba land’ and this was since 1999. I didn’t take it seriously as I only laughed it off. I’m not surprised that I’m here. I see this as a reward for hardwork. I consider it that for me to be here today; I have been tested and trusted. The Yoruba race believes in me and I’m obliged not to disappoint them.”
Getting to a lofty position may be tough, maintaining such may be tougher and this is not restricted to business elites or politicians, even the royal class have the challenges they address on a daily basis. In his own case, he said: “The Office of the Aare is capital intensive, it requires resources. People believe that when they have access to me, all their problems are solved. Asides money, they believe I can connect them to anybody and even beyond Nigeria. As much as I’m in a position to help, I can’t grant all requests. I can’t answer everyone at once. I mean, I’m just six months old here; there is a limit to what I can do considering the loads of demands being pushed to me. When you are in a position, you grow with it.”
It is usually said that money answers all things and no entity can survive without money, in as much as the position he occupies does not have any business ties, money is definitely needed to carry out roles. He responded thus: “A poor person cannot be an Aare. One has to be wealthy to an extent before one can be considered for the position. Don’t forget that I’m a business man from beginning. I’m into real life estate. I’m also into haulage and beverage business. Other than that, I also live on patronage even becoming an Aare, I get support from people who appreciate my efforts.”
As a matter of fact, he plans to revive his interior decoration deal any time soon. “For any reason, I can’t allow the dream to die because it is my first love. I am planning to build a modern interior decoration firm. I played it down because I don’t want people to see me as a full contractor. This is because if you are into such business, you will have to move about to search for clients and in the process, may compromise your stand which was what I avoided.”
Life some say is an ecstasy; it is as sweet as nitrous oxide and much sweeter with wealth and class. It is thus natural that when one advances in life, especially when one attains the self-actualisation stage in the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model, certain things change about one. For the Yoruba Generallissimo, it is not unexpected, in as much as he’s got cutbacks right from his days as the OPC leader, his new responsibility demands more from him. He reveals: “Even before now, I don’t visit the market, the last time I visited the market was say 20 years ago. My wife does all my shoppings for me except if I’m outside the country, I can just take a break to the mall to pick wristwatches and eye glasses.”
Can he dance in the public? “Why not? Nothing stops me from dancing in the public although I’m not good at dancing but at least I shake my body. I love music a lot. Another thing is that I’ve lost my privacy when it comes to movement. I can no longer go out on my own without escorts except if I want to sneak out, situation demands such at times. It is confidential. Moreso, I am now selective on the type of event I honour.
“You know, the Aare title is just like an Oba. As it is now, I can’t open my head in the public again. Even at home, my head is always covered, even if I open it in my bedroom, I’m always cautious. As a custodian of Yoruba culture, automatically, my dressing should depict that. For me, English wear is a no go area.”
Nothing good comes without an element of sacrifice. Living his life as the Supreme Warrior of Yoruba land, he is paying some prices so also is his family, his wife in particular. He carefully bares it: “I can no longer live my private life. I’m responsible to every Yoruba and I’m obliged to attend to their needs. I don’t decide my schedule any longer. The society does. Ever since installation, I get nothing less than 60 invites in a week. Out of these 60, I can’t turn down 30. I try as much as possible to be diplomatic with the invites. But certainly, I can’t attend all. In a situation whereby I can’t attend maybe due to programme clash or other assignments, I send people to represent me. At times, I send up to three to four people to represent me in a day. My wife and kids are also paying the price by tolerating my tight schedule. I do tell them, it’s either they sacrifice for stardom or live private life.
“If anybody sees my wife now, he or she will address her as the wife of Aare. My not being around her all the time is a price she has to pay for the title. Beyond my tights schedule, you know that as a custodian of Yoruba culture, I’m restricted to native attires. Well, it’s not because I don’t like English wears, but I have to live and act what I represent which is the Yoruba tradition. I have limited time to unwind now. The only time I unwind is when I attend event. At times, when I have function outside the country, I seize the opportunity to take my family along for relaxation.” The discussion dovetailed into his daily routine as he gladly lets it out: “Situation determines my schedule at times. Other than that, I have a fixed schedule. I wake up 7:30 or 8am, I start receiving calls from the time I wake up, say my prayers for one hour, I pray in three ways – Christianity, Islamic and traditional. When I’m praying, my priorities are Yoruba land, my family and well-wishers. After prayers, I attend to visitors. That lasts till 2pm, before I take my breakfast.
“As an Ondo Man, my favourite food is pounded Yam, but I don’t like it when a food is dished in large quantity. It scares me and makes me lose my appetite. As much as I’m not a food person, I love it when food is dished moderately and I eat it gradually. My typical day is all about meetings and receiving calls till around 11:30pm or 12amwhen I sleep. I wake again by 3am and stay glued to social media for information on happenings around the world. I do this till 5am and sleep for another one and half hour. A person in a position of authority needs not sleep too much otherwise, the enemies may take advantage of such to plan his downfall. So depriving myself of adequate sleep is another price I’m paying for the seat.”
Six months on the seat of the highest chieftaincy title in Yoruba land, what are his achievements, since it is said that the measure of a man is in what he does with his power while the sole advantage of power is to do more good. To him, the time is not ripe for such question considering his duration on the seat. In that same looks, he answered: “I feel we should be talking about my achievements when I’m one or two years on the seat. Regardless, I’ve done my bit in strengthening unity among Yorubas and the Obas. I realise that unity is one of our major problems in Yoruba land. “I was privileged to be a delegates in confab 2014, there, three issues surfaced – the Yoruba agenda, governor and Lagos agenda. Meanwhile, the entire south and even the middle belt were looking forward to what Yoruba was bringing to table. Immediately they realised we were divided in the plenary, those who we were trying to sell the Yoruba agenda to became discouraged. This is happening also among our Obas. The councils of Obas have divided our Obas. Gone are the days that we have Yoruba council of Obas, the states have divided our obas and now most of our Obas except few, concentrate on their respective states much more than the general interest.
“Another problem is that we are fast losing our identity and I’m working to revive it. You can imagine that most of the elites in Yoruba land don’t speak Yoruba language to their children, this is not too good. An Igbo child born in Lagos speaks Yoruba fluently but a Yoruba child born and bred in Shagamu, Ogun State can’t speak her language. This is too dangerous for our race. A lot of us don’t know the difference between culture, tradition and religion. Religion is about communications with God, culture is about the way of life and tradition is about heritage. Tradition is very key to every community. Unfortunately, some of our monarchs have exchanged tradition for religion. You will see some Obas who have spent three to four years in stool now start acting like a Pastor or Imam, yet, they still expect people to prostrate or kneel down for them. I am not condemning religion here because I also practice it but all I am saying is that religion should be practised in moderation.
“It is only here in Nigeria that business structures are converted to religion centres. Quote me, Nigeria is a country that is highly religious but not spiritual. God will be happy with a country that pays attention to the needy not just about praying. Country that doesn’t practice religion in moderation will have economic, social and security problems. I am also working on some initiatives that will turn out to help Yoruba land in future.”
Asked if he has any plan to take a second wife since he is permitted by tradition, swiftly, he answered, “My destiny will decide that in future, for now, I still have one wife.”
Talking about dressing in only white cloths, he noted that many people had labelled him a cultist as a result of that. “I must say here that I’m a spiritual person but I don’t belong to any secret society. If I belong to any society, I may have been set up. I go for white because my star is tied to it. It is what my guardian angel likes.”