Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) leader and the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land, Gani Adams has allayed fears on the increasing rate of security threats in the Southwest in recent times. In this interview with Sunday Sun, he bared his mind about the ugly situation, the efforts the OPC is making to tackle the menace and the way to move Nigeria forward. Excerpt:
It has been noticed that kidnapping which is alien to the Southwest is now rampant, to the extent that the son of a former minister of health was kidnapped. As the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land, are you not disturbed about these happenings?
I am highly disturbed because it is becoming very worrisome. As a matter of fact, we haven’t experienced these kind of security threats since the emergence of Nigeria as a nation; since independence. It is something that is so strange to the Yoruba people. Fulanis have been living with us since the 18th Century and we haven’t witnessed these kind of ugly incidents from them. But, we realized that they are not the Fulani that were living with us then. These ones are intruders that came from the North, some of them came from Chad and Niger. We are putting every measure within the bud. What we are trying to do is put our house in order. We are trying to operate so that we would be guided by the law. We don’t want a situation whereby we do something that will be contrary to the law and that would boomerang at the end of the day.
Some people are of the opinion that the potency of OPC is going down and this is why these are happening. As Aare, what is the way forward?
The potency of OPC is not going down at all. The only difference is that OPC is more organized and more coordinated unlike before that we didn’t put a very good structure on ground. Years back, anybody can act without proper coordination. For example, a guy gave an ultimatum in Osun State to the Fulani herdsmen in Oshogbo. We have called the OPC in Osun State to reply him. The guy is either in Fasheun’s group or any other group. He should not put us in a situation they would be looking at us as a race that is not organized. One thing I hate in my life is issuing an ultimatum and not carrying it out before the expiry of the ultimatum. The OPC we have now is more organized than what we had in early 2000 when there were unnecessary and unwarranted crises. We have put our house in order. We have built another group which is different from the OPC, where we have educated people and we are scattered in 86 countries. Notwithstanding, our approach now is quite different. In the past, we approach issues wrongly, which gave a serious bad image to the organization. You could only sustain yourself in Yoruba land with a very good image. No matter how powerful or wealthy you are, the Yoruba believe in image, the Yoruba believe in name. The Yoruba love groups that are well organized. That is what we are working towards. By the time the synergy we are planning with the police works out, you will see how they would be flushed out of Yoruba land. Early this week, Chief of Staff to the Inspector General of Police came with the message from the IG, that they need the cooperation of OPC and other socio- cultural groups concerning security matters. We met for two hours, the OC SARS, Lagos State was on the entourage. We are trying to put things together so that we don’t work against the interest of the government. Don’t forget, the federal police are agent of the Federal Government. We have the governors who have security advisers and also have their security strategy in their states. There must be a synergy between the federal, state and local governments with relevant organizations. That is how things are done in good civilized society. You don’t just take bow and arrow and go to the bush; in the process if 50 lives are lost, the government can castigate you of killing innocent people. They can use it against you. That was exactly what we are guiding against. People are already calling Aare, Aare everywhere to act. I’m the traditional generalissimo of Yoruba land, but the Aare of nowadays is different from the olden days Aare of Oyo empire. Then, Aare could just go into war or fight the people causing menace with the approval of Alafin and the Oyomesi and other Obas in Yoruba land. But the new model Aare from the time of S.L Akintola, MKO Abiola and myself, we have to follow a procedure. I’m very lucky that I have a group on ground that has footprints in all the nooks and crannies of Yoruba land. That was the advantage the third model Aare of Kakanfo has, but you don’t overplay that advantage; so that it doesn’t lead you into trouble. You have to take a normal protocol and normal process before anything is being done. Now, we are sensitizing our people that they have to be security conscious and its implications. Even, the Federal Government does not know the implications. Any security threat that happens to Southwest here would affect the entire Nigeria because 75 per cent economy of the nation is coming from the Southwest, especially Lagos and Ogun states. Definitely, the Federal Government must take this issue seriously beyond our own imagination as a government that serves the interest to protect the lives and property of its citizen.
In this case, what advice do you have for the government?
I think this issue is beyond the government security agencies. All hands must be on deck. Security agents are not spirits. If they do not cooperate with relevant organizations that have elementary security experience, it will be difficult for federal and state security agencies to succeed. The traditional rulers, the hunters, OPC, different organizations must be incorporated. It is about our lives and property. It is about dissuading people to go into farming. People have fears monitoring their farms now. When you lose food security in your country and famine takes over, then serious insecurity will emanate because someone who has not eaten, who does not have money to buy food would definitely turn into a criminal. Southwest is the hub of the media. Any small thing that happened in Southwest, the media would emphasis on it because most of the media headquarters are in the Southwest. The international community will be tagging Nigeria as unsafe and that would discourage investors. Even when our people are traveling abroad, the kind of security scrutiny at the point of entry is not encouraging. In the process, it would embarrass some of the government agencies going to different countries and it would affect the issuance of visas in most of the embassies here. So, the disadvantage cannot be quantified. The issue of security is very paramount in any country.
Since you became the Aare and also the death of Dr Faseun, people are saying that OPC has been factionalised, is this true?
There’s no group that has potentials within the period of five years that would not be factionalised. If you do not have a pronounced faction you would have underneath faction or a serious caucus that cannot be merged. I believe the issue of OPC will sort itself out. When you have a very unserious element and a serious element, it is the public that would judge. When you have an original, there’s no way that you wouldn’t have the counterfeit. May the soul of Dr Fredrick Faseun rest in perfect peace. He has done his own part. My own decision now is even greater than OPC as an organization. Only that Aare Ona Kakanfo cannot do without having a structure. These days, people are challenging Aare Ona Kakanfo not because I’m the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba, but because of the potentials they saw in me as the leader of OPC. When I became the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba, they said I should resign as an OPC leader? Now, they have seen the reasons that if I had resigned, it could have been suicidal for the Yoruba people. I know our people, not that I don’t trust some of them, but immediately they have large group and followers, they would compromise, looking for avenues to make money. Assuming, we have some trusted people who could do it, I would have raised myself to a certain position, I would still be a leader, but from my past experience, I have seen a lot of things from my people. So, we have to be at one side monitoring the people so that we could be useful for the Yoruba race. OPC is not only about fighting, fighting, fighting. OPC has done a lot of good things for the Yoruba race. OPC is the one that gave birth to Olokun Foundation in 2003; I was promoting 18 festivals in Yoruba land. The job of OPC is not when an armed robber strikes; and they arrest and apprehend them or when Fulani came, they should attack them through militarily and paramilitary to defend the interest of the Yoruba people. These groups have far different advantage for the Yoruba group in terms of promoting our culture, promoting our identity, in terms of political consciousness and in terms of being a watchdog to the general interest of the Yoruba people. Our people don’t cherish what they have. They will use their tongue to destroy what they have when and problem arises they become empty. Some people don’t like OPC because of their religious background, but when problem of security arises they want OPC to rescue them. Even some churches are being protected by OPC, if not the main church, they protect the streets of that church. Definitely, it’s time for us to cherish what God has given to us. The bad side of it should be removed. It’s not playing lip service and because of politics, you indicted the group that is fighting for your cause. If not by God’s grace, the organization could have gone down. But the structure is even stronger than when they thought there were crises. Now, we know how we approach our own issue. Although, there are some skirmishes, but it is just verbal words and we manage it. It is a good advantage for the Yoruba to have the OPC which came up in 1994 as an offshoot of the annulment of June 12 elections. It has served its purposes and would continue serving its purpose not in self-determination of fighting, but to promote culture and tradition through Olokun foundation.
Are you pleased with Buhari proclaiming June 12 as Democracy Day?
Yes. He has written his name in history; whether he didn’t perform economically, whether he didn’t perform security-wise in four years, but he has written his name in history by given Chief MKO Abiola GSFSR, giving him post-humous honour and also declaring June 12 as a public holiday. Declaring June 12 as a public holiday is awesome. Either you like June 12 or you don’t, on that day, you won’t go to work. The students would know its June 12 we are celebrating as our Democracy Day. That is awesome of President Buhari. If I criticize someone I’m always objective about my criticism. If you do the right thing, I will praise you, if you do wrong thing, I will say so. It is someone who doesn’t have conscience that would criticize and condemn everything that is coming from him. I don’t criticize based on political motivation.
How did you see the issue of the next president coming from the Yoruba race as being said by some people?
I think all these issues of 2023 should be put on hold. When President Buhari has spent two years in office, then politics can start. Even politics shouldn’t start from the incumbent, but from the opposition and those who are willing to occupy the office when he leaves. It is a serious diversion to talk about that now. What we should be thinking now is how to move this country forward. How the country would be restructured on the basis of true federalism. That the issue of insecurity would become things of the past and the issue of unstable economy will be sorted out by each region. The issue of infrastructure in certain regions should be worked on and the issue of building a very good image for our country should be the concern for all stakeholders. I don’t want a situation that would overheat the polity. It’s not even necessary. The only time the polity of any nation is being overheated should be one year to the election and not the beginning of new tenure. Anybody trying that is over-ambitious, that person did not even have the interest of Nigeria at heart. Everyone should work in its own level of governance to make sure that we move this nation to one year to the time of election, by then, we should be talking about politics. The only solution to even save Nigeria for three years is for Nigeria to be restructured because every region in Nigeria now has security threats. Southwest is a region that has less security threats before, but the issues of Fulani bandits have imported these problems to the Southwest and we are nursing it to the extent that it has got to a stage that the Federal Government is concerned. This is the first time that the Inspector General of Police is sending a representative to my house. Definitely, it shows a lot of concern from the Federal Government. For the Inspector General of Police (IG) to send someone here, he must have got the clearance from the presidency. Definitely, our target is to ensure that the country is peaceful, the country is moving and the country is well coordinated. Also, our infrastructure that is highly decayed should be put into order not causing a diversion. You have given a mandate to a person for a period of four years and that person has not run it for two years and someone is talking about presidency in the Southwest. I see it as a selfish ambition. I believe our country must move forward first, and after one year to the election, anybody can come out. I’m not particular on who will be the president in 2023; I’m particular of how my country will move forward and be proud of my country wherever I am. I’m a regular traveller. I travel to different countries and I saw the impression people have about Nigeria. Some people even mock us about how big the country is and nothing is working. It got to a stage that we don’t even have a perfect defence for our dear nation. As one of the leading forces with a very big group in Nigeria, I can’t defend my country. So, I believe we should proffer a proper solution before talking about the ambition of 2023.
Do you believe that power should go round the three tribal zones?
I believe in zoning, but I believe in true federalism before zoning. I believe that this country should be restructured to regionalism. Every region should develop at its own pace. That was how we got our independence. After independent, our political leaders in 1960 wrote a constitution in 1963, called Republic Constitution. The military incursion in January 16, 1966 brought us to this problem. When they brought us to this problem they stopped federalism and brought unitary system of government. Since then, Nigeria has never known peace. I believe in zoning. But before zoning, let’s restructure Nigeria to true federalism.