‘restructuring IS IN NORTH’S INTEREST’
Otunba Gani Adams, National Coordinator, Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) was part of the struggle that gave birth to the present democracy. In this interview with REMI ADEFULU, he reflects on his support for Ex-President Jonathan’s second term bid and more.
You have not been talking lately, what happened?
Well, it depends on what you feel you can react to. In a situation where I said at the beginning that if we did not handle our country properly, the sort of things we are seeing now may happen, what else do you expect from me? I am not a soothsayer but with my little knowledge of Nigeria, I had said that if this country is not well structured, we can never have a nation we can be proud of. If you reflect on the last election, most of the things we said are coming out now, though some shortsighted people were abusing us then. This is a country where we love deceiving ourselves. Most of our words are short of truth. We have some of the best brains in Africa, even in the world, but we fail to tell ourselves the truth. We push our position based on personal, economic and political interest. It will be difficult to reckon with the country globally. Each time we travel out of the country, it reflects in the way we are treated. Our media is no longer as radical as it used to be under the military. Most of our media practitioners have relaxed. The media has a role to play in the society because whether we like it or not, the opposition must be heard in the society. The civil society must be heard. Even those who believe in self-determination must be heard, likewise the government. That will give will us a better society.
You pitched your tent with former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, why?
We have to put what happened in 2015 behind us. In another two years, we will be having another election. Personally, before I take a decision, I make sure I won’t regret it. From what is happening in the country, I have no regret about that decision. Most of what I said has come to pass. The issue of supporting Jonathan was based on restructuring. When you are an ideologue, you believe in certain ideology or philosophy. When you see somebody who shares same philosophy or ideology with you, you have to support him. We have a cause that we have been preaching since 1993. We now have somebody in power who agreed with us that he would organize a national conference, and I was lucky to be among those who represented the Yoruba race at that conference. He gave us a blank cheque to recommend what can move this country forward. Jonathan followed the path of the rule of law, which was also keyed into by Yar’adua. I have never been to any PDP secretariat. I don’t know the secretariat in Abuja or anywhere.
How do you react to allegations that you were induced with dollars to back Jonathan?
Where are the dollars? Where is the money? All those information was to mislead the public. It’s garbage. It’s from enemies of the people who call themselves, politicians. We have a lot of enemies of the people who twist information in the media to mislead the people. When I go through what is going on in the social media, these people keep deceiving them. Some people during the last election recruited some undergraduates to work in situation rooms, registered all manner of facebook names to dish out false information. That was the strategy they used to win that election. Close to that election, if anybody supports Jonathan, you see several people attacking such person, meanwhile, it was just one person sending those messages. That was part of their strategy. Unfortunately, the media was also influenced that we needed change. Our media is one of the most respected in the world, but some practitioners believed PDP had stayed too long in power. Even, false information came from former CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi to tarnish the image of Jonathan. He first alleged that 49 billion dollars was missing from the treasury, but when the Senate invited him, by the time he got there, he said it was not 49 billion dollars, but 20 billion dollars. Later, he narrowed it to 10 billion dollars. It eventually turned to roforofo fight with the then opposition backing him. Second is the issue of Chibok girls. We are talking about over two hundred schoolgirls kidnapped. That issue made enemies for Jonathan globally. Many asked, how could a sitting president watch as Boko Haram took these girls to an unknown destination. Those two things affected the image of Jonathan seriously. We are in a learning process of democracy. I am sure others will learn from his mistakes. It’s something that can happen to anybody. Personally, the current Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, peddled a lot of lies against me. He said army uniforms, had been given to OPC at Odogunyan barracks to rig election. Second, he said we were given N9.8 billion for the protest we organized against Jega. The N9.8 billion he was talking about was the total package for the oil pipelines security contract for South-West and South-South given to about seven companies, which included my company. No penny was given to us. As I am talking, we have not been given a penny. As I am talking to you, we are still trying to reach an agreement. Unfortunately, the media published the story without hearing our side. Three days to the governorship election, the same Lai Mohammed lied again that former President Goodluck Jonathan, Obanikoro, Bode George and I wanted to rig Lagos governorship election. Did I rig election? I was very close to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, very close to Lai Mohammed before. When did I become an election rigger? How can you rig an election without having massive resources, without being a political player? We did not rig for Jonathan, how could it happen in the governorship election? Many things coming from this government are not to be taken seriously. Before, when you hear the Information Minister talk, you believe you are hearing it from an authority. Even when the current Minister is saying the truth, people will not take him seriously. 78 percent of the information is fallacy, it is the same for other officials of the government, because people believe this government is all about propaganda. Two percent of what they promised Nigerians has not been executed in two years. We are just watching. Let us keep on watching them. That was one of the reasons I reduced media interviews. If not for the pressure from your side, I may not even grant an interview. I am somebody nobody can cow. I have been in this struggle for the past 24 years, some of those who call themselves elites even behave like illiterates. They don’t understand when people are deceiving them. You see such people celebrating lies of the government or celebrating lies of a political party. I still have friends in APC and PDP, even Labour, although I don’t belong to any political party. I don’t judge people with party. I judge you with your character. I judge you based on ideology. We still have some very good people in APC. We still have some very good people in PDP. What is the difference between APC and PDP? Most of those who ran away from PDP are now in APC. Apart from Osinbajo and Buhari, who is in the present government who was not a member of PDP? Most of the governors were in PDP. Even our former president who tore his PDP card very close to the last election, and people followed him. This was somebody who was a PDP president and leader for years. The cane used to beat the elderly wife will be used to beat the younger wife. The same people who destroyed PDP will destroy APC. APC has to be careful with these decampees. When they realize APC is in trouble, they will decamp again. The center in APC is not holding. The factions they have in APC are even more than that of the PDP. No party believes in ideology in Nigeria. Progressive ideology is dying in Nigeria. The conservative party will be on for hundred years. Do you know how long the party in Britain has been in existence?
Is it true that you backed Jonathan because you got a pipeline protection contract
It was just a three-month contract. The contract terminated June, 2016. We were in Cote D’ivore when we read the news online that nine DSS officials were killed and their ammunition taken from them in our former station. Since then, the area has not known peace. When the crisis escalated, it shook two states to the extent that a first class Oba was kidnapped. The family of the Oba said they paid N14 million as ransom. Between June and September last year, Lagos and Ogun lost up to 145 people, until we rose to the occasion. You can see what it cost the government because they are playing politics with security. How much are they giving to us that caused a lot of embarrassment to them? The NNPC called us to do the job. How many villages got burnt? How many places witnessed crisis during the period? It was calm, siphoning of fuel reduced drastically. The record is there in NNPC. It is not only the militants that are involved in the illegal business; we have some Yoruba people, some highly placed people, some chiefs. Even security agents connive with them. It’s a job that is highly tempting. It’s a job that if you are not committed, you can’t succeed in securing the place. Unfortunately, some Yoruba politicians played politics with it because they feel we would make money from the job. I am sorry for Nigeria.
What is your assessment of the Buhari administration?
Do you know how people perceived Buhari when he was campaigning? They thought when he became president, dollars would become one to five naira. That was what they sold to them. Nigerians, especially those abroad believed three million people would be gainfully employed within one year. They thought saints without traces of corruption will serve in Buhari’s government. Nigerians suffering abroad thought if Buhari can rebuild this country within two years, they will come back home. Buhari got to power when it was less than N200 to a dollar. The price of goods has catapulted to about three hundred percent. Bag of rice got to twenty something thousand naira from less than ten thousand naira. In Yoruba land, gari used to be taken by the poor. The price has risen by about 400 percent now. The hardship is seriously biting. I don’t know where those who said Nigeria is coming out of recession got their information from. We are tired of intellectual exercise.
Nothing has changed yet. If anything has changed at all, it changed from bad to worse. We could have regretted supporting Jonathan assuming Buhari had done what he promised Nigerians. We would have apologized to Nigerians by now. How many times have we seen our president speak to Nigerians? Have you been seeing our president since he came back from the UK? This is what people had seen during the campaign, he spoke less than ten minutes. Even when Yar’adu was having health challenges, he still had media chat.
How do you see the anti-corruption campaign?
I see the anti-corruption campaign as a witch-hunt and mostly targeted at the opposition. It’s becoming a complete propaganda. It’s becoming childish diversion. Who will take them seriously? There have been not less than three major incidents of recovered money and we don’t know the owners of the money. Are you sure they will not kill the whistle blowers?
How do you react to the comments of some northern delegates to the National Conference?
Their reaction is absolute rubbish. They did not show that they love this country. The consequence is that Nigerians will not take future conference seriously. They don’t know the implication of what they are doing. If you don’t want restructuring, you are encouraging secession. Canada has gone for referendum. Turkey has gone for referendum, Spain is preparing for it. Scotland has done two in four years. Referendum is even faster than national conference. The conference did not dwell on restructuring alone. It is the totality of problems affecting Nigeria. It is all because Buhari is in power. All we debated was accepted through voice vote. Buhari will not be in power for life.
What agenda do you think Yoruba should adopt for 2019?
Yoruba should continue to fight for restructuring. What did we achieve after voting in 2015? The North has the largest solid minerals in this country; they also have the largest land. Without restructuring, they will not be better coordinated to exploit what God has given to them. They will depend on Abuja. Abuja politicians will continue to steal their money. They will continue living in poverty. That is the implication for the North.