By Ishola Balogun & Ebun Sessou
National Coordinator of the Yoruba Socio-Cultural group, Oodua People’s Congress, OPC, Otunba Gani Adams, in this interview reveals that his rusty relationship with the leader of All Progressive Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was as a result of his resolve to free himself and his group from the servitude of the opposition.
He discloses how the leader of the party truncated the peace move brokered by Governor Aregbesola of Osun State; the pipeline contract President Jonathan awarded OPC. This interview was on the eve of the last Presidential election. Excerpts.
OPC is believed to be a social cultural organisation, but the recent rally organised by you in support of Jonathan shows that it has become partisan. Why is OPC delving into partisan politics?
Well, every human being is a political animal. Politics is everywhere even in your homes. If you have four children, there is possibility that two of them will support everything the father does while others will pitch their tent with the mother. That is politics within the family.
]You also have politics with your community or in landlord associations, social clubs including your business ventures. We were only supporting a candidate without involving in what went on within the political parties. Here in my office, you cannot see anything reflecting PDP as a party. We also did not use the symbol of PDP, or that of any other party. I am a leader of Oodua People Congress and convener of Coalition of Concerned Nigerians and the Convener of Oodua Progressive Union in abroad as well as the Promoter of Olokun Festival Foundation and Chairman of Donyx Global Concept, all these are non-partisan organisations.
Human resources are the most lucrative resources in the world but we don’t even appreciate the value of what we have. In the 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 elections, we did not issue a statement that we were going to support candidate A, B or C. Our followers were scattered in all political parties without co-ordination. We later realized that when these politicians get into power, they don’t even bother to know whether we are existing, they don’t even believe we are relevant with our human resources.
How do you mean they did not believe you are relevant?
We gathered from a reliable source that ACP as a party, under the instruction of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu will not empower Gani Adams and OPC. The belief is that Gani and OPC are growing and you can only stop him when you starve him of their needs. Six months to the end of the tenure of Bola Tinubu as a Governor, he asked Dr Fedrick Fasehun to collapse his structure into the then ACN and promised he would provide everything he (Fasehun) wanted. Fasehun ignored him and you know no reasonable person will honour that agreement.
Somebody asked him to contact Gani Adams’ group who has 90 per cent of the men, Tinubu maintained that Gani was stubborn and he would not accept that arrangement but resolved that the only option was to starve the group of funds, drain their pipe of resources and they will come begging. This was shortly before Tinubu’s exit as the governor of Lagos state. We realised that somebody who could go to such extent can do anything to suppress you.
The truth also is that, there is hardly anything you do without money, just like the Bible says ‘Money answereth all things.” So, an organisation that has over 6million people with structures in over 33 states needs money to survive. Any part of the country that you have Yoruba, you will have OPC led by Gani Adams. We dissipate a lot of energy to mobilise people. We work not like those who do theirs on pages of newspapers. What you saw on the Monday we demonstra
ted was just three per cent of our members, about 300,000.
How did your relationship with Tinubu get to this point?
Nobody was close to Tinubu than I was. I used to stay with Tinubu and I would be the last man standing with him. We ate on many occasions around 3am on the same table. Most of my meetings with him were during the wee hours. I know Tinubu very well and Governor Aregbesola of Osun State.
My take is that you cannot continue to enslave me. I am a breadwinner of my family. I am a stakeholder in my State and my community. My followers also want freedom. We give them various opportunities to make a living and they are happy with what they get.
I cannot continue to donate my resources to somebody who do not want to empower me. Politics is about interest. It may interest you to know that about seven to eight months to the election, the president sent some people to consult me in Lagos on his intention to run and seek my support. I immediately debriefed the National Co-ordinating Council on the issue, we deliberated on it and we agreed to support him.
Did you consult with other Yoruba elders before taking that decision of supporting Jonathan?
Do we have a Yoruba leader now? There is no Yoruba leader. And on what capacity do you call the Yoruba elders to take a decision on election? It has never happened in the history of Yoruba and I don’t think it will ever happen. This is because if you have 70 per cent going a particular way, you will have others going another direction.
So, you will still have majority and minority decisions. You saw there was a summit in Akure, another one in Ibadan and yet another summit in Lagos formed by the APC where they goofed by saying Olubadan endorsed Buhari which was immediately refuted by the monarch through a paid advert. So, it is not easy as you said but the limit we have is our own organisation, OPC.
Why didn’t you meet him on your grievances and reconcile with him?
We met about three years ago when Aregbesola tried to broker peace but Tinubu was not ready to reconcile with me. His response that day proved that he was not ready for reconciliation. He justified his position that he had assisted me on several occasions and saved me from possible death. I tried to make some comments but Aregbesola stopped me, asking me to accept everything Tinubu said for peace and I obliged. But, Tinubu himself truncated the peace move.
During my 43rd birthday celebration, I was advised to meet him and I went to him, gave him an invitation letter. I waited at the reception for about three hours. I couldn’t have waited like that to see Jonathan. When I eventually saw him, he called one of his aides and said: “Dare, give him N1million” Then, I said, it is not about money, but your presence or you send a representative.
Then, he said, he would send a woman to the ceremony. But surprisingly, nobody came. The Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola also did the same on my 40th birthday. I called him severally to the wee hours of the day of the programme. He assured me of his presence, but he later disappointed me. My investigations showed that he was instructed by his boss not to honour my occasion.
The Speaker of Lagos State, Ikuforiji also did the same. His was very surprising because, he had already sent his advance team to the occasion, an indication that he would come, but he did not show up and his advance team left suddenly before the end of the programme. It was only the then Governor Gbenga Daniel that attended that occasion. As a Yoruba man, we value recognition more than money.
Another scenario was during the burial ceremony of his mother. I was offered a seat by one of the honorable members but I decided to go and greet him (Tinubu). To my greatest surprise, his head of task-force, Bayo Lawal stopped me while Tinubu watched. I was surprised to see Tinubu behave as if nothing had happened. I walked out of the place immediately.
It is not in my character to hero-worship. If I don’t have enough money on me, I swallow my pride and stay at home. There are other issues that I cannot tell on the pages of newspapers for now so that, people will not think I am being petty. As Yoruba, we should strive to lift one another.
Tinubu was assisted by Afenifere and within one and half years that he got into power, he kicked them out. Within two years, he impeached the main Afenifere product, Kofoworola Bucknor. He used three deputy governors during his tenure because of his intolerance.
The only people Tinubu wants are boot- lickers, paupers and people without conscience. The Yoruba race is being misrepresented by those who profess to be Yoruba leaders. I am a long runner and a trained fighter, you can’t rubbish me. I have more than 20 means to fight my enemy, not with weapons but with different strategies. I have the structures on ground and I will use them to the letter.
About the pipeline contract
They are only calling for change on the basis of fallacy. We are not fools, we are not desperate. We did not negotiate with Jonathan. The pipeline issue they are talking about started two years ago. Several organisations submitted proposals to NNPC and because the heat was so much then, they slowed down the process.
They arrived at a conclusion on it last December and we could have gotten the contract in December, but it was delayed because of logistics. The problem was that the Bayelsa State Governor insisted that they should incorporate some guys in the project, which was one of the reasons for the delay in President’s assent. It was not awarded for the purpose of election and it was never made to induce us to compromise our principle. If it was because of the election, the President would have given cash, if not in naira, it would be in dollars instead of contract.
I have been in relationship with Jonathan since he was vice President. He knows how to manage people and maintain relationship. He would call me and say: ‘Gani, how are you doing?” Ask Tinubu who is a Yoruba man, the last time he called me. Only Aregbesola and Gbenga Daniel do that. Daniel is wonderful, he will tell you the last time you called him or visited him and ask you if you are angry with him.
Late Agagu was another caring person. I was in Brazil sometime ago when he asked Femi Agagu to call me to send the CV of my candidate, and he gave Segun Ajiboye an appointment. So, if we play politics like that, we will not hesitate to die for you, we will stick out our necks for you. You are now complaining that Jonathan gave us contract, a contract that will empower no less than 15000 youths in the South West.
The leas will get N50,000. As big as Lagos State, its work force is not up to 30,000 and how much is the minimum wage? The people of the Niger Delta have been enjoying these benefits. The budget of amnesty is about N90billion every year and they have been disbursing this money to that region for the past six years. We are not part of the amnesty package because there was no reason for that. We are only freedom fighters.
Thank God for that and that was the reason we were favoured. At least the presence of OPC has helped other agencies to reduce insecurity even on the meagre allowance of N15,00 to N20,000. Now we have to empower another 15,000 young men. My group is 5000 men, Dr. Fasehun has 5,000 while Gen Shuwa in Ondo has 5000 too. Do you know how many families that will touched? They tried to stop it two years ago and now they are harassing again. You do not empower us and you don’t want Federal government to do so.
If a Yoruba Governor did not empower the Yoruba and someone from South-South decides to do so, I wonder what such people want. Anyone who is against the pipeline contract is an enemy of the Yoruba.
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