It is no longer news that the National Co-ordinator of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Otunba Gani Adams has been appointed the next Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland by Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi. But only very few people know him inside out. Only few remember the heroic deeds of these tall activist during the post June 12, 1993 pro-democracy struggle when the June 12 elections of that year was annulled.
Who is Otunba Gani Adams? He is the young man who rose to become one of the founding fathers of OPC. Very many years ago when many of his age mates didn’t understand what the whole concept of leadership and political struggle was all about Gani Adams was already in th e trenches fighting the military.
Today he runs the OPC and another big organisation called Oodua World Congress Union with branches all over the world. Two weeks back in his Lagos home, he told City People Publisher, Seye Kehinde the story of his life, from Grass to Grace and how the Arigidi-Akoko big boy came to Lagos and became an instant star whilst he was in his 20s.
Each time you look back to how far you have come with OPC and how you lead millions of Yoruba world wide, how does it make you feel?
I will just relate it to my destiny. Because I became the leader of OPC at the age of 29 years. I couldn’t finish my secondary education by then. I was not a graduate. I couldn’t rent an apartment. By then I didn’t have up to 5 clothes. Meanwhile people that have homes and own 4 to 3 cars said you have to lead us.
They started asking: where is this guy coming from to come and lead? They called me different names but my destiny had already played out. In the process, I went to Iseyin to write NECO exam, to further my education from NECO, I wrote WAEC. I enrolled into Lagos State University; I enrolled for Diploma in International Relations and Strategic Studies. I got the diploma, later I now went for Political Sciences at LASU. I was there for 7 years and the constant strikes affected my course. I would have finished earlier. I passed out about 2 years ago. Before the diploma in LASU, I did some courses in tourism. I have a certificate from International School of Aviation in Ghana at Thema.
I did some courses there on Tourism. I did different courses. I have honourary doctorate degrees from 3 Universities.
Destiny played a role in my life. I am used to meeting people. I am used to resolving issues. I have solved a lot of problems in many lives. When people say this thing is not possible, I will tell them it will be possible and it will be. And God will do it for me, Atimes it happens to us when we have programmes. We may be broke and we want to organize an event that costs N4 to N5 million. And I might not have N500,000 in my amount. I will tell them don’t worry we would do it, God will do it. And truly God will do it. Within 3 days to the programme things will take shape.
Apart from OPC, in 2011 I announced to the National Convention that I have decided to set up another group called Yoruba People In The Diaspora. They thought I was joking I stood at my Balcony at my former house and I start thinking: How about Oodua Progressive Union? The group we have in Nigeria is Oodua People’s Congress I called my contact in the UK, in India and Brazil. The UK said they are ready. Those in India said they will put some people together. So the first launching was India. I could not go. I sent Captain Adetokunbo Adesina to the place. They launched it. From India, we started moving to different continents, we spoke to people in Germany, Holland, Brazil. We launched in UK, Germany, Brazil, France, and Holland. We launched all these within 3 weeks. That was how the group spread to 78 countries now. I believe God. prepared me for my current role.
Where were you born? What sort of family do you come from?
I was born into a very moderate family. My mother was a trader. My father was a transporter. I was born in Arigidi Akoko in April 30, 1970. My father moved from Arigidi to Otunpko. So I started school at Army Children School, from there my dad relocated to Lagos and took me to the hometown of my mother at Erushugi. Erushu is beside Arigidi. Its called Erushu Akoko. I spent 3 years there. From Primary one to Primary 3. That was at St. Thomas Primary School, Erushu Akoko. From there, they said I should join them in Lagos. I started my primary school in Lagos at Municipal Primary School, now Adeniji Primary School, in Obe Odan, in Surulere. From there I went to Ansarudeen Secondary School before becoming an Activist.
I now continued my education at Lagos State University.
At the time you became an activist, what prompted you to become an activist?
It was because of the annulment of June 12. That was the beginning. After the election was annulled I said Nooo. I have to join them in this struggle. So, I started with Campaign for Democracy, under the leadership of Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti in 1993. After a year, we decided to form a group. We called it Oodua Youth Movements in April 1994. A man just came to us. Tony Ngurube. He said youth can’t do it alone for a broad-based organization that we should bring elderly people and youth together. So we now formed Oodua People’s Congress on August 25, 1994 and Dr. Frederick Fasheun was the first convener. We were 9 people that sat to name the group Dr. Frederick Fasheun became the leader.
How has it been running all these groups you formed?
It has not been easy, especially if you don’t have money to fund the groups. It is self-funding and contributions from the organization. But it is good for an organization to fund itself.
It will make them more independent, efficient. It can’t be easy for any body to wake up and destroy the organization for his personal interest. That was what stood OPC led by Gani Adams out. We were a self-funding group we operated on the basis of our limit and capacity. We were so consistent on what we were doing. We did not Chicken Out no matter the tribulations and impediments on our way. We had a vision and the vision has now become an advantage to us today.
When we were promoting Culture people felt why were you wasting your time? We have some people who said which Culture? Why not turn it into a Political movement? I said Noo. Not yet. The main problem of Yoruba race now is because we have forgotten our roots. People no longer take it serous. We have totally forgotten our roots. And most of the things God created for us naturally that we can’t see are angry. This is not the issue of Religion. I am a Muslim by birth. My father is a Muslim. He is still alive. I lost my mother in 1993. She was a Christian. So she put us through the Christian routine. I know a lot more about Christian routine than Muslim.
I still went to lesser hajj in May. I don’t usually miss the 30 days fasting at Ramadan. But not withstanding, no matter how we appreciate Christians and Muslims we should not forget our tradition. It must not be banished. We must not demonise what God gave to us. We can remove the part that is not good out of it. Because we have ignored our heritage, and we normally use the 2 religions (of Christianity and Islam) to curse them and abuse them and they are angry. There is no race in the world that is operating at the high level that will make progress in life. You can have progress in terms of infrastructure but different things that you don’t expect like hunger, famine, killings will be happening. That is one of the reasons we are so determined to promote the culture of Yoruba race.
We need to change and reorientate the mind set of Yoruba race through the curriculum in the schools. They have brains-washed our children to the extent that it is becoming difficult for our children to speak Yoruba. They see it as negative. Britain didn’t throw away its heritage to adopt other peoples heritage. We need to keep our heritage. They have repackage their heritage. They repackaged Nothinghill Festival. In the west side of Britain the British government celebrates about 18 festivals. They now turn it into Eco tourism. Here people are so illiterate about Religion. They say some people are idol worshippers.
We are idol worshippers? What is an idol? How can you call your heritage an idol? In Yorubaland there are gods you need to appease to get things going well. Even the soil you plant things on you need to appease Alade in Yoruba. That is why our Agricultural potentials are dwindling. Because in Yorubaland we have deities you consult and appease, we call them Oritsha Oko. There is the Alale that we use to farm. Ekiti and Ondo were the largest producers of Cocoa to Western Region in those days. We used to go to farm with our grandfathers then. They will do some appeasements by the end of the yeas everything will come out well. The harvest will be rich. But the white man came and brainwashed us. Now all the Cocoa plantations are dead. The production is no more like before. Where is Kola? The Northerners have hijacked it. In those days the Western Region Collects 5 to 8% of the budget on Agriculture. Now, we are buying food from the North. A lot of villagers no longer farm. They go to buy farm produce in the cities when it should be the other way round. Those in Arigidi will say they want to go and buy food stuff in Ikare. What they are going to buy in Ikare is coming from the North and the East. Before, they will say let us go to the farm and bring Yam, Coco, Banana but now people will tell you when you get to Arigidi Akoko that they are going to Ikare to buy what I will cook. No farmers anymore. We have only few big time farmers in 1986 when we went for Xmas, the farmers that bought brand new cars because of the rise in the cost of Cocoa in Arigidi were not less than 70. I am talking of Peugeot, 504 cars. New ones. I am taking of only Arigidi alone, not other things from the proceeds of cocoa in 1986. We have to sit down and think. What is happening to us? That is one of the reasons that we are organising these festivals. Religion does not mean you should throw away your heritage, culture and tradition. Religion is about how to communicate with the Almighty God. Religion is about how to imbibe morality, about how to be righteous, how to know the uniqueness of God Almighty. It is not about how to destroy your heritage or culture, tradition and norms. If not because of OPC people hardly recognize what is coming from tradition. It got to a stage that when you wear our traditional fabrics and put beads on they will say you are Ogboni, Alawo. If you wear this my kind of cap, Fila Abeti Aja people will say you are an Ogbon Man. We have been correcting this impression. Lets identify with what God has given us.