Otunba Gani Adams, Culture Ambassador at the vanguard of growing phenomenon Oodua People’s Union raises vital issues limiting national development, as well as provides solution to them in this insightful interview conducted by a group of journalists and made available to societynowng.com
Que, How would you justify the recent position of Yoruba leaders and elders on the activities of Fulani herdsmen in the south west?
Ans, What we said at the meeting was that as citizens of Nigeria, we have right to protection. We realized that the Fulani crisis with our people has been on for close to 18 years and there have been lots of incidents that attest to that.
We also realized that most of the kidnapping in Ondo, Ekiti and Oyo states are being perpetuated by Fulani herdsmen. We took a decision that if the Federal Government fails to protect us, we have the right to self determination.
We are not saying anyone should leave the South west because we want development and the contribution of non -Yorubas cannot be quantified. But that does not mean that some of them should threaten our territories.
We have so many Yoruba people in the north and I have not heard of a situation where a Yoruba man will kidnap a commoner not to talk of a personality. They will not go beyond their boundaries. We cannot say because we want development, we should therefore allow our territory to be threatened.
It is uncalled for that the caliber of Chief Olu Falae, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, should be kidnapped.
After paying ransom, he was released and some few days later, the Fulani herdsmen still invaded his farm and destroyed his crop.
Any sensible race will not keep quiet over such an incident. Three days after the Yoruba summit, the kidnappers were apprehended by the security agencies. We have right to self determination and it is a position that we will continue to push if the federal government refuses to provide us with enough security. The south west is the economic nerve centre of the country and when you allow such security lapses in the south west, it will affect the country.
Que, The former governor Kano State, Senator Rabiu Kwakwanso recently justified the activities of the Fulani herdsmen, arguing that they needed education, what is your take on this?
Ans, I agree with him (Kwakwanso) that the Fulani herdsmen need education. Most of the people, who are educated in the south west did
not get that with the help of the government, it is an individual effort. How states in the south provide free education to its citizens? It is an individual or family effort.
But for Kwakwanso to condemn our position, he does not have the right to do so. I have never heard or seen Kwakwanso condemning the activities of Boko Haram. For him to support those who kidnap in the south West, it shows that he would not have been a good leader if he had emerged president of Nigeria. I will advise the former governor that he should be careful with his words because Yorubas are too sensitive. Can anyone from the south west go to Kano and make statements against the Arewa Consultative Forum and not be lynched? How can someone come to the South west and condemn what its leaders and elders have said? Yoruba is a unique race that anybody should toy with because we contributed to the survival of democracy.
I am disappointed that some younger Yoruba people supported what Kwakwanso said. Some of them do not have political orientation, all they do is support any cause without having any background information. One of them is Professor Daudu Noibi, who in an advert in one of the national newspapers, hurled abusive words at Yoruba leaders and elders over their position.
He is disguising under a religious organisation to make his comment but this is not a religious issue. Where is he coming from to condemn the position of Yoruba leaders and elders? Why is he pretending to be a Yoruba person? Why must he say that those that kidnapped Chief Falae are from Niger Republic and not Fulanis? The Fulani in Nigeria did not deny that those arrested are not Fulani herdsmen.
I see him being used for political gain and money. I know some people are using this Professor Noibi for political gain but he should be careful and I also want our leaders and elders to beam their searchlight on him. There is no way you betray the Yoruba race and go scot free.
Que, If an Olu Falae had been kidnapped in the 1990s, what would have been the reaction of the Yorubas then?
Ans, Well, I think the reaction would have been the same. The Yorubas have a way of fighting their cause, our way of fighting our cause is different from the way other ethnic nationalities fight their cause.
When you are fighting a cause and you fail to carry your people along with you, they might go against your cause and not support you. By the time you sensitize your people, they will back you up. Olu Falae is a former SGF and it is unfortunate that he was kidnapped.
We believe in diplomacy in fighting our cause because we cherish the lives of our people. We have to be careful in engaging in a violent struggle, you must do it in a tactical and intelligent way.
So definitely, a region like that has to be very, very careful in involving itself in a violent struggle. A struggle is in sequence, by the time you are pushed to the wall, you can now over- react, but if they are still pushing you gradually, you fight gradually, not by saying you bring gun, how much are they selling gun? You can get gun everywhere but the consequence is very grave. You can prosecute your struggle through the use of gun, but the consequence is very grave and how are you sure you will win the struggle? So we have to be very careful, we have to do it tactically and intellectually, because it is not only Yoruba that are living in the South- West. What of other ethnic nationalities living with us who may not even share our ideology. So we have sensitise them to share our ideology so that we can have tactical support from them. Even though they may not join us directly, we have them in the media, at least, 70 per cent of the war is being won through propaganda. We have a lot of Ibos, Niger- Delta as editors, so when you don’t sensitise them, they won’t support you. They support you in the media without joining you as an organisation unlike the cultural promotion and OPC, we have a lot of non- Yoruba who are even more sympathetic to us than even Yoruba and by the time we send our stories, they celebrate them. And we have some Yoruba who do not believe in our cause and they are Yoruba, and because of one political reason, will play down our stories. Definitely, you have to move and sensitise them and gain their support because no matter what you do, anything the media push to the public is what the public would understand, no matter how powerful you are, all over the world, the Fourth Estate of the Realm is very, very important to be your partner.
Que, The issue of Fulani herdsmen destroying farmers’ farms is not peculiar to Yoruba race, but in this situation, what do you think is the lasting solution?
Ans, So I think, to solve the problem, the Federal Government has to look into the recommendations of the National Conference. I think the recommendations of the National Conference is about providing good security arrangement for the country because when you are talking of State Police, it is one of the factors out of several factors that would solve insecurity in the country.
I think going by the recommendations of the National Conference, if Buhari means very well for this country as he is mouthing anti- corruption war, he should implement those recommendations; we are watching. You have corrupt people, including former governors, some in the board of parastatals, who have been in the system for a long time and yet you shout anti- corruption. You have some people in the Senate, who are former governors, some of them have ruined their states. We have some people in the House of Representatives who are of questionable characters and you are saying anti- corruption. We have some people in the Judiciary who want to make money at all cost, so you will ask yourself, where would this man start? Where will he start to fight corruption? The aides surrounding him, they don’t have the same mindset that Buhari has. A tree cannot make a forest. I, as Gani Adams, if I have an ideology and Segun (his aide) does not have the same thing, I am in trouble. So definitely when you are talking of anti- corruption, the first thing you should try to change is the system, so that the institution can work better. Then the institution would shape most of the bad products in the system. But by the time you want to use the same system that drove them to corruption, there is no way you can make any headway. I have never seen the angel that would stop corruption in this country.
The institutions are the structures. When you see the contents of the recommendations of the National Conference, you will see that we fell back to just the way we took the federalism from the United States. That is not the way it is being operated in Nigeria now; what we are operating in Nigeria is completely Unitary System of Government.
I am living in Omole here, hardly do we have 10 hours of electricity supply in a week, you can see my two generators. What is electricity generation and distribution doing with the Federal Government? Why can’t we allow Lagos State government handle electricity matter of its state? What is the Ministry of Water Resources doing with the Federal Government? What is the Ministry of Agriculture doing with the Federal Government? Why can’t we have Federal and State Police and even Local Government Police? Why are we having only one Supreme Court with all these Tribunals that we have in different places? We have only one Supreme Court and we want to have quick dispensation of justice and most of the justices there are elderly people, Why?
We have land matters, we have criminal matters, we have litigations in different angles and one Supreme Court, how can we attain justice in this kind of a country? Some states don’t have Appeal Court till now; a good example is Ekiti. Maybe Ekiti State would now have an Appeal Court. When you file a case to Appeal Court in Ekiti, you have to go to Ilorin. I am not a soothsayer, there is no way Buhari can move this country forward without approving and implementing the recommendations of the National Conference. We will be deceiving ourselves, how many thieves can Buhari arrest, how many people can he jail?
By November 29, Buhari will be six months in power and that is one eight of his four- year tenure. Some of them in office now, including those in the Senate and House of Representatives want to make money, so if he doesn’t change the system through implementation of the National Confab report that would touch on the institutions of government, there is no way individual efforts can make any meaning to move this country forward.
Que, Buhari’s admirers would say he has done very well within the time limit and that solving the nation’s problem requires gradual approach, even as they laud him on anti- corruption war which they say is not lopsided while citing Senate President Bukola Saraki’s case with CCT as an example, what do you say?
Ans, What do you expect of politicians? Politicians are the greatest liars in any sector. Most of the things they promised before the elections, do they follow them now? Buhari told us that technocrats would be his ministers, how many technocrats can you find out of the 36 ministers he nominated? He said there would be free meals in the schools, does he talk about it again? He promised that he would give those who don’t have jobs N5,000 monthly, do you hear about it again? And at the same time, he said he would reduce the pump price of petrol. A lot of things were said and he promised that within two months, they would do them. They brought video clips, we watched all these promises made on You- tube in their campaign,.
Although I did not support or canvass for Buhari as president, but I respect him in certain aspects. But when Jonathan was there, do you know how those who had patronages in PDP were praising him, it is the same way they are praising Buhari now. So what do you expect from APC? Their own interest supersedes those of other people’s. For instance, look at the people that did not support Saraki as the Senate President, when they realised that Amaechi is their interest, they united together to make sure they confirmed him. So after they had confirmed Amaechi, they would now go to different camps again to fight Saraki. So that is the way they operate. They can’t think about Nigeria’s interest, it is their own interest first before any others. Once they get to Abuja, they have a different mentality, they can’t think the way Lagosians think anymore. They think about themselves only.
So when you are talking of politicians praising Buhari, they would praise him. After Buhari would have served two and a half years, you will now see different colours in them, maybe because the government is unable to meet their expectations. You will now see them decampping and praising PDP or another party. You can’t judge with their tongues now, just wait for two and a half years after Buhari must have been in power, you will now see the real colour of those who are talking.
Is it not those people in PDP who even committed a lot of atrocities against PDP and were abusing PDP when they got to APC? About six to seven powerful governors left PDP for APC. Some other were in PDP working for APC like the former Niger State governor and they have rubbished him now. You can imagine what happened in the North, some of them worked against Jonathan. When it now came to governorship election, some of them tried to fight back to restore their interest and the people that they had made to embrace APC couldn’t go back again to vote them or their cronies in office. That is what is working against Sule Lamido, look at the way they rubbished him. He tactically went for Northern Agenda and forsook the interest of his party, he thought he owned that state. Immediately the APC won, they put him on trial. I don’t think Sule Lamido has ever gone to detention in his life, himself and son were detained- one of the most sophisticated politicians in the North. You can see what has happened to him. The same thing happened to former Katshina State governor, look at him today. The lesson is that when you are digging a hole for your enemies, don’t dig it too deep because you don’t know, maybe you will fall into that hole at the end of the day, be very, very careful.
It is unfortunate that our politicians don’t play their politics on the basis of ideology and manifesto of their parties. Most of them do not believe in their parties, they just use the platforms to get to where they are. By the time the interest of the party conflicts with theirs, they jump ship. And that is what has happened. So when they are talking, look at the people in the change circle, those are the people we knew before in PDP and those who were not PDP but overran their states under the party they belonged to. That was one of the reasons my mind could not be changed, my mind was not changing, that I don’t trust these people. I trust Buhari based on his fight against corruption but Buhari cannot flight a plane alone. You need air hostesses to take care of the passengers, you need some crew to work with you. If you don’t have the same mindset, it would be very, very difficult and in a situation where we recycle those who destroyed this country, you can’t have a meaningful thing done.
I still commend him on certain aspect that he tried to whittle down the influence of some powerful people in APC by not picking their nominees for ministerial and other positions, but not withstanding those he picked, how is he sure they would not join the bandwagon at the end of the day.
Que, From your position and with your experience what do you think is the real enemy of restructuring ?
Ans, The real enemy or problem of restructuring is selfish interest. Even when we were at the national conference we realized that about 80 to 90 per cent of the northern delegates wanted status quo to remain. I was surprised after we left conference that most of them were talking about changes . Those who do not want change in the constitution, those who do not want change of policy , those who don’t want change of institutions, after we left confab last in August some of them now become APC and they were now shouting change and I said are these not the people that we were together at the confab . Some of them are senators now . Two of them are now governors, these are delegates who were against change in the content of what makes a country . They don’t even want to hear anything about change in the constitution. And politicians were not the people that wrote the constitution. The military wrote the constitution, the Armed Forces Ruling Council under General Abdulsalam Abubakar . Luckily for us we have the person that drafted that constitution, a professor as a delegate at the confab. He fought tooth and nail that we should not touch that constitution . And one of the impediment to our progress as a nation is our constitution, because the constitution does not allow the states to develop at their own pace. The constitution has so many important things that would have been controlled in the states at the Federal . A president can easily punish a governor through over influence in security through over influence on police , he can easily destroy a state . But in most of the countries where we have democracy something of that nature did not happen . Nigeria president is the most powerful president based on our constitution. In most of the developed countries that practices democracy, the power is divided. Even in Britain, the House of Lords and the House of Commons are even more powerful than the Prime Minister . They used to summon Prime Minister every two weeks to come and defend different issues . And by time they told the Prime Minister don’t do that , he must not try it . Look at what is happening in America too, the Senate and the House of Representatives checkmate the president at the right time but in Nigeria for our president the hard way is the only way . So what we are saying is that one of the reasons why some of them do not believe in the recommendation of the national conference is that they believe that the recommendation is part of the revolution that will change Nigeria . Not only the APC but even the PDP members then. When Jonathan took the bull by the horn and organised the national confab they were not happy. He caught them unaware, assuming he consulted them very well in the PDP they would have advised him against the setting up of the conference. But he just announced it in his speech during the October 1, 2013 that he would organise National Conference. And from the feelers we got some people trying to convince him that he should not hold the conference even from the PDP. So this is not a party issue but those that have made money through the wrong system do not want the new system that will move this country forward. What we are saying is beyond APC as a party. You recalled when Jonathan picked delegates and the APC said it was a Greek gift , even Buhari as a candidate then condemned it . Some PDP people were silent on it, few of them supported it. This is because an average PDP believes they have been using Federal Police to harass other party members. They don’t want state police. Some of them because they are contractors believe most of the power should be at the centre, there should be no devolution of power. Some of them do not have jobs they will just go to NICON –NOGA and be getting LPO from the ministries. Those people do not want changes because they are enjoying the system, either it is wrong for the country or not they know few of them are benefitting from it . And it is happening all over the world, when you don’t fight for change in institutions or in policies or in constitution there is no way the country will move forward. I am just appealing to the president to take his policies softly because we have a lot of policies that is coming out now . When you see somebody at the airport travelling you see 4,000, 5,000 dollars on him and you started questioning him how he comes about the money and with the delay some people miss their flight in the process. Those who did that they called them Presidential task force in Custom. I am not saying we should not sanitize the society but we should not intimidate those who come to this country for holidays and are going back because if they are intimidated they will not like to come to their country anymore. We are still appealing to our people abroad that they should come back home, when we were abroad we don’t tell them anything negative but we encouraged them to come home. But with this policy they have been calling on us that they are working abroad and they are not drug baron so they should treat them well when they come to this country. Nobody wants law to be bent but we must not use draconian policy to intimidate and suffer our people. I think people voted for change, they voted for change to enjoy their country. The president should know that those who voted for him, he should not make them regret that they voted for him.
I am not saying that the president should not move against those that looted our treasury because without doing that he can’t run his government successfully.
Que, You were a member of the last national conference; with your experience don’t you think the National Assembly would be in a better position to amend the constitution?
Ans, We are not talking about constitutional amendment. Nigeria’s problem is beyond the issue of constitution amendment. The constitution was written by about 26 army of occupation. It is not a constitution written by Nigerians from different geo-political zones or decided by different people from various backgrounds. We can even say Nigeria does not have constitution. Look at the constitution it says ‘We the people of Nigeria ‘, who are we? The constitution was produced by Abdulsalam when he was head of the military government . So what we did at the national conference was to review some aspects of the constitution subject to the approval of the national assembly. Nigeria is a nation of nations . We have many countries in Nigeria. So our mindset, our thinking, our interests are quite different. And that is why it will be very difficult if care is not taken to move this country forward. This is because everybody has his own interest. Politics is about local interest.