‘Annulment Of June 12, 1993 Elections Got Me Into This Struggle’

Last week, Otunba Gani Adams, leader of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) marked his 40th birthday with a week-long schedule of activities. Afterwards, he spoke with SEYE OLUMIDE and OLAWUNMI OJO on his life, his leadership of the socio-cultural group, OPC, his liberation struggles and a litany of national issues. You recently celebrated your 40th birthday. How would you reflect on the life you have led so far?

That is somewhat difficult to do. It should be done by people and not by yourself because it may look as if you are blowing your own trumpet. However, I am a simple person who believes in justice and I always have it in mind that no matter the situation in life, the truth would prevail. I believe that anything worth doing at all, is what doing well. I believe in the liberation of my people. I believe that one of the assignments given to me in life is to be part of the people that would liberate my people. I believe in the identity of the Yoruba people.

You have been in the vanguard of liberation for the Yoruba race and fighting the cause of justice. Why did you choose to toe this path?

I think I got into this struggle as a result of the annulment of the June 12,1993 elections. In the aftermath of the annulment, I joined the civil society group, Campaign for Democracy (CD). From CD, we now founded Oodua Youth Movement, from which we later founded Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC). It was not an accident to have become an activist because I had been a radical from my youth.

By and large, I do not regret what I am doing now because you cannot write the history of Nigeria without June 12. And there is no way you can write the history of June 12 without remembering the role of OPC, just as there is no way you can remember the role of OPC without remembering the role played by Gani Adams in OPC. So whatever one does is for the records. I have no regrets.

So far, has there been justification for your decision to toe this path?

There have been lots of justification. When you trace the history of Yoruba, you would find that our race has been deprived of their rights in the politics of Nigeria. We remember what happened during the imprisonment of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo from 1961 to 1966. There was a lot of injustice done against him and we know how they used the Yoruba against him. We realised that certain tribes were behind the ordeal of the Yoruba because Awo’s travails went up into the 80s.

In 1993, another Yoruba person decided to contest an election to be the president. He contested and won in the most free and fair election to be held so far in this country. But again, the election was annulled. So my generation felt that if we fold our arms and not start agitating for the interests of our people, it would be difficult for us to get out of bondage. I do not want my generation and children to be in bondage. This is why it is imperative that we liberate our people. So from all these facts, there has been justification for us to fight for the interest of the Yoruba.

One of the fronts you use in the struggle for the emancipation of the Yoruba is the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC). Has the group achieved the objectives for which it was set up?

The coming of OPC has given the security advantage to our people in terms of internal security of lives and property. In terms of identity, we have tried to re-establish our culture. This is an organisation in the crusade for the preservation of our culture; we even encourage others to do the same. For example, most of the festivals that have been forgotten because of the religions are now being resuscitated and those who have abandoned their heritage are waking up from their slumber.

As part of these efforts, we played a major role in ensuring that the Osun-Osogbo festival assumed a World Heritage status, we started the Olokun festival, we partook in the Olumo festival in Egba, we established Okota in Ondo and Oke-Ibadan in Ibadan and we also helped the Oodua festival on to the limelight such that it is now becoming a global festival within a short time. We have done a lot of things to change the erroneous perception that our heritage is devilish. The impression some religious leaders create that most of what belongs to our heritage is devilish is wrong.

We have also been encouraging our people in the diaspora to come home and be part of the rebuilding process of our dear nation.

In terms of contributions to national development, how impacting has been the OPC?

We were very active in the campaign for Sovereign National Conference (SNC), which is a conference that would resolve the many problems of the nation. We have been involved in the national peace forum; I am an ambassador in the forum. Alongside other groups, we have acted as checks and balances in the polity.

How has your relationship with other socio-cultural groups been?

It has been cordial but our ways of operation and approach differ slightly. However, most of these organizations also believe in true federalism and SNC.

At 40, who in your family and the society has contributed so much to your success in life or would you regard as mentors?

The late Chief Obafemi Awolowo remains my mentor even in death. The foundation built by him is what we are building on. I would also thank late Justice Adewale Thompson because he was the main person who kept encouraging me to press on with the struggle. While he was alive, he also gave me allowances monthly to support the initiative. I have not had the opportunity to repay the family. I also cannot forget Chief Gani Fawehinmi. He arranged lawyers for me during most of my trials, though he was not physically on ground. Fawehinmi was like a god to me, I will never forget him and his family.

Barrister Femi Falana too has been very instrumental to our success. I recall when a book was to be written and reference was made to the OPC crisis in 1998. He was the one that told Chief Fawehinmi that the records must be set straight. He said people must be told that this boy, Gani Adams was the one that led this organisation before Dr. Faseun came from detention. He said let everyone know that this boy was the one that built the foundation of the organisation. Falana has also been supportive morally and financially, not forgetting the times he has stood to defend us at the law court. Baba Omojola, who taught me the importance of traditional religions in the struggle for liberation, is appreciated. I thank Primate Olabayo for standing by me all through the testy times. The list draws on almost endlessly.

Today, you are like a bridge between the youth and the elders. What do you think has been responsible for the lack of confidence and distrust the youth now have in the elders?

Without doubt, the older generation has disappointed us. Those entrusted with leadership positions in the past have betrayed that trust and as a result, the quality of life generally has greatly nosedived. Unfortunately, most of those who have failed us are still within the corridors of power. The youth must however not give up on this nation.

At this point in the nation’s history, how best can the leadership successfully steer the ship of state?

It is a dicey situation and we must be ready to do things right. Most importantly, we must pay attention to the electoral reforms so there could be credible elections come next year. President Goodluck Jonathan must brace up to this challenge and refuse to dance to the tunes of his godfathers.

Talking about power challenge, infrastructural decay and other limitations, we must get serious with a resolve to recast the foundation of this nation if we must witness true development again. We run a federal system of government but when you look deeply, Nigeria is being run like a unitary state. There is an urgent need for restructuring in different facets of our national life. For instance, the power challenge can be resolved if we decentralize and allow each state to develop their independent power structure. Why can each state not have its police force? We are preparing for election but without adequate security, it cannot be a success.



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