GANI ADAMS: MY NAME RINGS LOUDER BELL THAN SOME GOVERNORS
(Continued from last week)
He was one of the gadflies that the agitation for the revalidation of the June 12, 1993, annulled election threw up. When it became obvious that the Ibrahim Babangida military junta was not going back on the cancellation that jolted the world, Gani Adams joined the Campaign for Democracy, a non-profit organisation, headed by the late Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, to press for justice for the winner, Bashorun M.K.O Abiola. The young activist was just 23 then.
But the fire of activism in him did not die even when Abiola died in the gulag after drinking a cup of tea. Rather, he became a Yoruba phenomenon, emerging as leader of the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, and a rallying point for a new generation of leaders in the region. Last week, he traced the genesis of his incursion into political activism, shared some intimate secrets on the operations of the organisation and why it would forever remain unyielding as far as Yoruba interests are concerned.
In this concluding part of the interview, Gani Adams speaks more about his life and the struggle for a just and equitable society, and shows his displeasure at some leaders who he feels haven't measured up to expectation in this dispensation.
Enjoy the encounter.
The perception of people about you outside is that of a young man that is so powerful. Here, you living room is decked with many pictures of you meeting with paramount rulers in Yorubaland, and many other very important people in Nigeria. How did you get to this stage?
Well, I have paid my dues. When Obasanjo was in power I was in the villa through the National Peace Forum. We were over 30 with him on that day. We were together at the International Conference Centre to discuss how to achieve peace in Nigeria. Even President Goodluck Jonathan, I have met him twice. I was with his wife in two meetings, one of them-African First Ladies Peace Mission.
So, you don't expect reasonable thinking people to underrate or ignore somebody like me, somebody with my antecedents, a very good organiser, a very good mobiliser, somebody that has heavy leadership potentials, somebody leading about five million people. No reasonable Nigerian will underrate that kind of a person. If you see anybody who says: 'who is he?' definitely that person is a political illiterate. Definitely, that person is ignorant; the person is not current; and the person lacks the vision to know what will happen in the future.
Even my name rings stronger and louder bell than some governors. For years, I have been leading a group that cuts across about 33 states in Nigeria, and have members in more than 34 countries around the world. As governor, you are only leading a state, and some states near you may not even know your full name. But talk of Gani Adams, it's synonymous with OPC. Talk of OPC, you are talking of Gani Adams. This is the power of God, not of any man. This can only happen through the intervention of God Almighty. It's beyond my own intervention. It's beyond my own thinking because I was so young when I made my name. I started making my name through a crisis in OPC. But then, many people did not understand what I stood for then. Even the media misunderstood me. The media said I hijacked OPC from Dr. Fasheun.
Oh my God, how can I? How can you expect somebody like me who didn't have money, somebody like me who didn't even have N200, 000 by then, somebody like me who age didn't favour, compared to Dr. Frederick Fasheun who was in his 60s then, and somebody like me with low educational background compared to Dr. Fasheun, a popular medical doctor, how can I hijack a group from that kind of a person? It's impossible. All over the world, history has always favoured underdogs, somebody who is lower to another person in personality, in everything, in financial capacity…
Naturally, a reasonable thinker will realize that this is not the making of a man. It is certainly not the making of this guy. It is God's doing. Because for you to hijack a group from an elderly person, who is more educated, who is richer, who has a larger network, then I must be of the same level with him. But I was much lower. I was living with my father at the time I was being elected as leader, and people said they didn't want Fasheun again.
So, why did they say that they didn't want Fasheun again?
I don't want to go to that because it has been over-flogged. We have written a book on that and there has been reconciliation in 2005. I don't want to open an old wound. I don't want to bring a crisis. But I want to say, if anybody is calling Fasheun a founder, he is calling him at his own expense. For you to call somebody a founder, that should be somebody who has spiritual knowledge of founding a group, somebody who have the real spiritual insight to decide on the name single-handedly, somebody is the sole financier, the only person to bring money to fund the group, who, by then, has already registered the group; and, after that, he called people to come and join.
To me that is the real founder. But this one is quite different.
We were nine people that sat down in a room at number 110, Palm Avenue Street, Mushin, Lagos, on August 25, 1994, and named an organization called OPC, Oodua People's Congress. Two names were suggested but seven of us voted for OPC. For you now to say you are the founder, we will not contest that. Even the reconciliation meeting we had with Otunba Gbenga Daniel, he (Fasheun) couldn't sign as a founder anymore. He was signing as a founding father and spiritual leader, while I signed as the national coordinator. So, a reliable person, who signed his signature, who has integrity must not work against the document he signed on.
Is he against that document?
He is working on it.
Is he working against it?
He is working on it; he is working against it.
By proclaiming himself as the founder and the national president. I don't want to go in to that. He is still working against the agreement by himself a founder and the national president. I will give you the document he signed. I have known Dr. Fasheun's signature since 1993, and he didn't change his signature when he was signing the document. And when he was signing, there was electronic media there. So, he can't deny it now that somebody forged his signature. When we signed, there was a lot of electronic media coverage. There were a lot of pictures.
From what you have said now, it seems that you and Dr. Frederick Fasheun still don't see eye-to-eye?
No, we see eye-to-eye. I am just answering your question. If I don't make a statement to that question, that means I am guilty of everything that happened. I told you I don't want to open old wounds, but at the same time, I must throw light on darkness for you to see things. Maybe you don't have information about it. We see eye-to-eye. We don't have anything we are dragging. The level we are now, our names speak for us. The name of Dr. Frederic Fasheun speaks for him. The name of Gani Adams speaks for him because we have already had a platform that built the name for us. The names have gone beyond the platform. So, for us to be fighting over the organisation that built the name for us, it means we don't know what we are doing. That means we are not moving forward.
How often do you normally see?
We normally meet at occasions. If we don't agree for total reconciliation, total harmonization of the group, then, there is a problem. But it is not a problem to us, in as much the two groups live peacefully. There is no crisis. There is no accusation against each other. You, Mr. Oshunkeye, you brought out this because if you didn't ask me about Dr. Fasheun, I will not talk about him.
A while ago, you said the strength of your OPC is about five million…
Actually, it's more than five million.
How do you get the resources, the money, to maintain such a large group?
When you have a group like that and they are paying their dues, you don't have any problem.
How much per person?
Per person per month, it's about N500. Even then, it is not all members that pay. It's not that they are not able to pay, but it's not all members that will pay. And that puts a pressure on the group. It's not everybody that will ultimately pay. But the few that pay is even enough, and from the patronage the leader has to run the organisation… For now, we haven't involved ourselves in physical projects. Most of what we are doing is programmes, programmes, programmes. Some of our members contribute to them and we mobilise the resources.
When I came on Wednesday I saw a large gathering, and you were like teaching or preaching a sermon. That seemed strange to me. When did that start?
It started a long time ago. There is this meeting that we normally have. We call it national coordinating council general meeting, and we have it every Tuesday. We normally rotate the meeting among the different local governments. We rotate it. We can do it Ikeja today, Shomolu tomorrow. We can go to other states. Whenever it comes to the turn of a particular local government, that local government, that is our members in that local government will host us. The membership of the local government and the general membership. All the committees, up to the national council, will be there. And we normally give them lectures for four hours. After that, the leadership of the organisation will now go to the executive meeting of the national coordinating council for another four hours. We hold that meeting every Tuesday.
That makes eight hours…
Sometimes, it could be more. So, how do you expect that such organisation will not be properly organised? That makes us different from the Fasheun Group. We have a very organised and well-structured group. We have a five-finger structure. The highest one is the national executive council; the second ruling body is the national coordinating council; the third is the state coordinating body that administers the leadership of the state; the next is the local government coordinating council, while the fifth is the zonal coordinating council, like three streets can join together to form a zone. The minimum number of people that constitutes a zone is 30.
What kind of lecture do you deliver for four hours?
We talk at different levels. We talk about discipline. We talk about humanitarian services. We talk about charities. We talk about family, relationship. How you can relate with your family. How you can have a very good relation with the public. We talk about the state of the nation. We talk about the spiritual aspect of lives. We talk about how you can be highly connected internationally.
We talk about a whole lot of things that are beneficial not only to our members but to the family as unit, and the nation as a whole. The direction of the talks depends on the mood you are. Sometimes, may not even pick any topic. We may just call about 10 people, and ask them to talk, and I round up. So, while they speak, I can pick from what they have said, or I will have my own agenda of what I want to discuss. Normally, at the end of the day, even if a person has a dull brain, he will improve at the end of the meeting.
How much cooperation do you enjoy from Yoruba leaders, and this includes Yoruba governors?
From the beginning of age, Yoruba don't normally accept leadership like that. Awolowo was accepted as Yoruba leader only when he came back from prison. When Awolowo died, Ajasin was not accepted immediately until when the issue of June 12 arose. That was why I said earlier that Yoruba normally reacts. It was only when June 12 broke that the people now accepted Ajasin because he took the bull by the horn. When Ajasin died, and Baba Adesanya was installed as the chairman of Afenifere, he was not accepted initially. He was resisted until they shot him, sprayed his car with bullets and he did not die.
They now knew that this is a strong man. That was the time they accepted him as a leader of Yoruba. And since the demise of Pa Adesanya, there has been a vacuum in Yoruba leadership, and people started suspecting anybody that is leading one group or another that has a structure in Yoruba land. Even two governors in Yoruba land were being suspected that they were aspiring to be leaders in Yoruba land. And a Yoruba leader is quite different from other leaders in Nigeria because immediately you get to that position, you are there until you die. There is no room for any convention to remove you. There is no election to remove you. The moment you get to that position, that is it. You can only attain the position through destiny, through the intervention of God, and Oduduwa, the messenger of God. It is through their intervention that you can become a Yoruba leader.
You are saying there is a vacuum now…
Yes, there is a vacuum. There is no Yoruba leader now.
What about Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu? Is he not Yoruba leader?
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu cannot be Yoruba leader.
He does not have the charisma to be a Yoruba leader.
What kind of charisma are you talking about?
He is a socialite. Apart from that, he doesn't have the spiritual means. Awolowo did not spend money for people to follow him before they followed him blindly. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu does not have the spiritual means to be Yoruba leader.
Yes. You can't be a psychedelic leader and you are claiming to be a Yoruba leader. You can't be a Yoruba leader to the extent that you can say go and give some one N500m because you want to capture a state. You don't buy peoples conscience to be a leader in Yoruba land. It's a matter of time. And you don't impose people to be a leader in Yoruba land. In those days, if you wanted to contest, Awolowo would say go to primaries. Even though he had interests in certain persons, he would not say it. He would tell you to go to your local government, your ward.
You have to be popular in your ward, your local government and the state before you can be popular as a governor. It's not that someone will just sit down in one place and give an order that go and impose him, and nothing will happen because the party is in power. It's unfortunate. It's giving us sleepless nights because he was a person we trusted before and many people have known us as very close allies. So, such a person doesn't have the quality to be a leader of Yoruba land.
Once upon a time, you believed so strongly in Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Not any more. What has changed?
It's not as if we believed strongly in each other, we only happened to have shared the same antecedent. He was a leader in NADECO, and he played his role then. He paid his dues in the struggle. But when he got to power, he made money and he became another thing.
What kind of thing?
He became another thing because most of the things he said, the ideologies he professed, he couldn't follow them through. We believed that Tinubu is a Yoruba irredentist but by the time he got the power and finished his second time, he was a completely different human being. Forget that we have got five states in Yoruba land. That's not the issue. If care is not taken some of the governors he installed will become his enemies at the end of the day. Tinubu owns more than 50 percent of anything that is good in Lagos State. He owns the best hotel in Lagos
State. Before his death, how many properties did Awolowo have?
This was a man that had been reigning since 1947. The Egbe Omo Oduduwa was formed in 1947; Awo brought the name to Action Group between 1951 and 1952. But what did Awolowo have before leaving life in 1987? How much does a person like Prof. Wole Soyinka have that he is being so well respected? How much did the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi have that people still sing his praises? Didn't you see Gani's burial? Didn't you see the crowd, the glory, and the good things people were saying about him? How much did Chief Obafemi Awolowo have before his death in 1987? We are talking of integrity. Abacha was sitting on money, still, a lot of people said 'we don't want you'. He (Tinubu) should learn from past leaders. He should not be carried away by the power in a state. He should be very careful.
The way you are talking, are you not concerned that people will think that you have an ambition?
No. I am doing my job. What am I aspiring to? There is election coming up in my state, Ondo State, next year, do you see me coming out, saying I want to be governor? What am I aspiring to? I come from Ondo State. If I want to aspire to any position, it must be from my state. I don't have any political ambition, because, truly speaking, the system is not okay yet. Anybody that goes into politics now will consume himself at the end of the day because we can't go on like this unpunished. Most of the people that have power and are using it to make money will be punished at the end of the day, because they are not doing the right thing for the people. They are not serving the people. They are merely serving their pockets. It's just a few people in government that are doing the right thing. Others are just carrying on as if they own the world. They forget judgment day. They forget the day of reckoning is coming. And the day of reckoning is coming soon in this country.
You can see what is happening in global politics. We have seen people who were in power and behaved like small gods, and were very corrupt in the 1980s now facing trial, now being brought for judgment day many years after they had left power. The president of (Ukraine) was recently sentenced to seven years imprisonment. See Mubarak (in Egypt), Ben Ali (in Tunisia), and Gaddafi (in Libya). See what happened to all of them. While they were there for decades, they carried on as if they were gods, as if nothing can touch them. They never thought anyone could can challenge them, let alone make tem face justice. But see what has been happening. Nobody can stop it when God's time for punishment comes.
I don't have the mind to go into politics. If not because of the festival, when last did I travel to my country home in Arigidi? I couldn't get involved in anything they are doing. The position God gave to me is bigger than going into politics. I have my followers, I have my contacts all over the world. Apart from OPC in Nigeria, there is OPU (Oodua Progressive Union) in other countries. So, what am I looking for? At the end of the day, EFCC will be detaining you and alleging that you have embezzled billions of naira. And the image you built for eight years will be destroyed in one week. They will be putting you in dock because of Code of Conduct and all that. It's not worth it. If they put me in the dock as an activist, people will know this is an activist, and he is being tried not for stealing people's money but for his principles and ideology. Even if you kill me for that, I don't mind.
You are very active and involved in activism and Yoruba matters. How do your activities affect your family?
My wife is used to the system. She has her own NGO, Oasis Women Organisation. They assist the less privileged in the society-widows, orphans and generally defend the interest of women. She is used to the system.
Used to your activism?
Yes, because I have been detained twice since I married her. I married her in 2003. When I was about to marry her, I was declared wanted by Mike Okiro in Lagos. In 2005, Fasheun and I were detained again. I was released in 2006. Most of my family members, even my extended family members, are used to the struggle. I have spent more than 17 years in the struggle. I joined the struggle in July 1993.
When you started people were saying this young boy, this illiterate, what could he teach us. But before everybody's eyes, you became a phenomenon. How did you do it?
I think that is the normal way of speaking for human beings. When Jesus Christ started his miracles, from when he was just 12, people did not take him serious. People only began to take him serious when he turned 30. Unfortunately, he died at 33 years. I am not relating myself to Jesus Christ. I'm just trying to make an example. Anthony Enahoro moved the motion for Nigeria's independence in 1954 at the age of 23 years. General Yakubu Gowon became Head of State at 29 in 1966.
Even Obasanjo became Head of States in 1976, he was just 39 years. Most of the governors - Donald Duke, and co, became governors at less than 40 years. Bukola Saraki, at early 40s, 41 or 42; Turaki before 40. We have about six of them becoming governors of their states before they turned 40. So, how can you see someone who joined the struggle at the age of 23, and you will not take him serious? I am 17 years in the struggle. I clocked 41 last April. Next year, I will be 42. Even if somebody were a dullard, his brain would have changed all this while to become brilliant because we meet people everyday. We listen to many people everyday. We do research everyday. We have challenges everyday, and we solve them well. All these things build you for future to become what you are. Talking of facts and figures, its only when you are not taking the struggle serious that you will not be very accurate in what you are saying.
What are the fears you have?
The only being I fear is Almighty God. I don't have any other fear. If I am doing the right thing I will be bold like a lion. And anything that I am doing that I cannot defend, I will not do it, no matter my economic problem. I wasn't born to worship money or material things of life. And I do not struggle for anything. My things come to me naturally, without looking for a wrong way of getting them. And any position I will attain in life, I don't attain it on the basis of ambition. Just by miracle, I will get it once I'm right with Olodumare (God Almighty). Before I became the leader of OPC in 1999, I was pressurised for nine solid months but I refused about six times until they threatened me that they would destroy the group.
I said 'okay, but can you bear the consequence? This man that you all want to take the leadership from is a mean man. You may see him as a soft-spoken person, but he is a mafia. Just mark what would happen to most of the leaders.' And they happened just like I predicted. Things began to happen when the crisis started. I don't normally do anything I will regret because I usually like to take my time to think things out. And I don't join a group that I don't know its people and antecedents. I always join a group that I know its antecedents because I don't want anybody to rubbish my image.