Leader, Oodua Peoples Congress, Otunba Gani Adams, in this interview with ADEOLA BALOGUN speaks on the controversial contract for the protection of pipelines in the South-West, his disagreement with OPC founder, Dr. Frederick Fasehun, kidnapping and his family life
Now that kidnapping is taking place in the South-West, which is the home of the Oodua Peoples Congress, what is happening?
It is happening because we don’t have proper backing from the governments of the states in the South-West. For any security organisation to be successful, there must be some backing from the government. The state governments of the South-West, except maybe Osun, don’t think that OPC has anything good to offer. Even where I’m living in Lagos, the governor of the state has not called me as the leader of OPC to ask my opinion about Boko Haram or kidnapping. A very good leader should be able to carry along all stakeholders for a successful administration, especially on the issue of security. But in a situation where they display a nonchalant attitude, what can one do? There was a time I called the governor and told him that I wanted to have a discussion with him, he didn’t give a damn. When the former governor was there, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, within three months, he would call you and ask you what you thought of the goings on in the polity. He was accessible but I don’t understand the present governor, Raji Fashola. I know of a number of important personalities that have called me to ask whether I could help them have access to the governor but I told them that I don’t have such access. So, when you don’t have access to a governor, it is difficult for you to offer any form of assistance on the basis of security. We have played our part without any support from government. The government of Lagos State is not encouraging us at all. If Mr. Kehinde Bamgbetan (Ejigbo Local Council Development Area chairman) had been kidnapped during the administration of Tinubu, he would have called me to ask what I thought about it. If he didn’t call, his works commissioner then, who is now the Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, would have called me. But there is nothing like that in the present government of Lagos State; they carry on as if our group does not exist. Even when the issue of Boko Haram happened, the governor consulted with only the RRS, the Neighbourhood Watch, we only watched it on television. You can secure an environment in both modern and traditional ways. For most Lagosians to employ our members to secure their areas shows that we are effective. So if our low cadre can secure streets without incidents, why can’t we the leaders do more at the state level?
There had been reports that OPC warned Boko Haram members to keep off the South-West. The impression has been that you work hand in hand with the state governments.
We are working within the resources at our disposal but we need more to build on our capacity to be able to help the entire South-West. This is not the issue of money; I’m not saying we don’t need money but this is not the issue of money alone. We are talking of encouragement and recognition for what you are doing. It is not that I need any recognition from any government; God has been very kind to me. But in a situation where you think you have money to set up RRS, Security Fund and have your officers as LASTMA, it means you don’t need us. But the only focus we have is that we have vowed to protect the interest of the Yoruba people. We cannot say we are packing out, we need encouragement.
Is that why you applied for pipeline security job from the Federal Government?
The issue of securing the pipelines is a different thing entirely. Securing the pipelines is an empowerment programme for members of an organisation that has been in existence since 1994. There is nothing wrong for leaders of such an organisation to apply for that because they have suffered detention and illegal arrests in the past and have been brutalised. For a group that has been doing a lot of things for the society free of charge, it is not too much to apply for a security job. Protecting pipelines is not a rosy job too because it involves lives. If OPC is offered the job, I don’t think it is asking for too much. Most of the people in government have business connections that cuts across party affiliations. We know some governors in PDP and some governors in ACN that have shares together in the same companies and when they are talking about their business interests, they don’t clash. They know how to resolve their differences when it comes to business issues. The pipeline security job is purely business; it is not as if we are asking for free money. OPC getting involved in pipeline protection is not a bad idea; for any organisation to be accepted, it needs empowerment. Let me tell you something people don’t know; I was expecting Dr. (Frederick) Fasehun to throw more light on it but he didn’t have information regarding that. For a period of eight years, our low cadre officers secured the pipeline from Sagamu to Ore. It was just last year when the police bid for the job that NNPC gave it to them and they began to have vandalism issues. The pipeline that passes through Imota from Ikorodu, it is OPC that is securing it. But when the problem of Arepo happened, we then decided to write a proposal to the NNPC and the minister of petroleum that OPC has the capacity to secure the entire South-West. Dr. Fasehun sent a proposal but I don’t know whether he was aware that I sent mine; you know we have two parallel groups. Since the reconciliation, we still have OPC led by Gani Adams and the other led by Dr. Fasehun. The former governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel, saw to the reconciliation that made me the national coordinator and Dr Fasehun as founding father and spiritual leader. Nobody made Fasehun founder of OPC, I will give you the document that we jointly signed together.
Are you saying that each of you sent a proposal asking for the security job unknown to each other?
I don’t know whether he was aware about my own but I heard that he sent a proposal to the government. There is no group that can secure the entire states. The job given to Tompolo is just for about two states, some part of Ondo and Delta states for about N8.5bn. The one given to Asari Dokubo was for part of Rivers State for the sum of N1.6bn and the same job was given to self determination leaders in Bayelsa State. So when you are talking of the South-West, I’m not saying you should give me everything. They should share it between us.
Have you got a response to your own proposal?
You know how government bureaucracy works. We have sent the proposal and we have discussed at the level of the presidency. We are still expecting a response.
But Fasehun said if you don’t want the two of you to work together, he could give you 30 per cent of the job.
Maybe he doesn’t have the information that I have sent my own proposal. How can he say he will give me 30 per cent of the job when I have more than 90 per cent of OPC members as my followers? Even if they give the job to Dr. Fasehun, he does not have men to do the job in some areas. From our intelligence report, he is using the pipeline contract job to mobilise some people now. Even those who are not members of OPC are scrambling for membership forms from him now and paying. With due respect to Dr. Fasehun, he blew the issue out of proportion. Did you hear from me that I sent a proposal? When you bid for a contract, you don’t make a noise until the approval is secured. Did you hear it anywhere when Tompolo or Asari Dokubo were applying for the pipeline job? Even the people that got the job in Bayelsa, I can’t tell you their names here, I was informed that they had been given the job.
Maybe Dr. Fasehun was forced to reveal it when he was accused of using the money from the security job to fund a party that would challenge the Action Congress of Nigeria in the South-West.
Well, that is where Dr. Fasehun missed the point, to the extent that those who want to give him the job are confused. Yoruba say you don’t put two irons in the fire at the same time. Although there is nothing wrong with Dr. Fasehun resuscitating the Unity Party of Nigeria, which was one of the best parties that ever ruled in the South-West, but we as OPC led by Gani Adams are not ready to join partisan politics.
So you are not part of that?
No, we are not ready to join partisan politics now. Any member of OPC that is partisan belongs to Dr. Fasehun’s OPC. Let me tell you something, if Dr. Fasehun gets the contract, he will not give even one per cent to anybody.
Are you talking from experience?
Of course, yes. He was my leader from the beginning and he is someone we know very well. Initially, I did not want to join issues with him and Lai Mohammed and the ACN that has now seen OPC as an enemy. So we had to be very careful until Dr. Fasehun raised some wrong issues that he gave me the post of the national coordinator of OPC and I thanked him. That even Governor Gbenga Daniel thanked him also. It is wrong; there was nothing like that. That day, Gbenga Daniel was on seat, so also was Niran Malaolu, Wale Adedayo, Engr. Bayo Banjo and the two of us were there. The governor asked me to say what I wanted and I told him that the only thing I wanted straightened out was the issue of Fasehun calling himself founder. I said nine of us founded OPC together and I suggested that we can call him the founding father because he was the oldest and most prominent among us by then. That was how it was agreed that he would be the founding father and spiritual father while I would be the national coordinator. I told them that I was not bothered about any position they gave me but my name. There is a written document that the two of us signed and I don’t expect someone who is about 80 years to twist history. There is no rancour between us but we have to set the records straight. Another thing he said was that some people want to be using me for some nefarious things; how can anyone use me? I am the most independent person; I have never held any rally for any political party before. But he has done that many times. He held more than two rallies for former President (Olusegun) Obasanjo. Even when Gbenga Daniel was launching PPN (Progressive Peoples Party of Nigeria), I was invited but I turned it down even though I took him as a mentor. Fasehun was there with his boys and then OPC still remained a non-partisan organisation. I have never aligned with any political party and I have never worked for one.
But people have always taken members of OPC as one.
No, we have two parallel organisations. After the reconciliation, Dr. Fasehun did not allow us to merge the two groups. After we left Abeokuta, the venue of the reconciliation, Engr. Banjo called us together at the LTV8 for the merging of the two groups, but his man, Toyin Jomoh, truncated everything. Fasehun did not do anything to stop him. We managed the issue so that it would not turn to a crisis then, at least to respect those who tried to bring us together.
Why are your members so loyal to you?
Sincerity, honesty and being open to everyone. That is why I command unflinching loyalty from my members. I open my doors to all of them and I’m a leader that is easily accessible. I make sure that I reach out to the people and I make the issue of finance open. I have a very robust relationship across the place with market women, the academia and the artisans. If I met the President today, I would tell them. I would not wait until they hear it elsewhere.
How have you been able to develop yourself educationally?
I have a diploma in tourism management from International Relations School in Ghana; I have another diploma in International Relations and Strategic Studies from the Lagos State University. My degree in political science at LASU is in view. By next year, I will round up the programme. I develop myself by reading and learning from leaders and people that are more knowledgeable. Before I leave my room, I would have read about four newspapers at least and I don’t like to be lagging behind in information.
What would you say is your own weakness as a leader?
I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and I don’t fornicate. I don’t think you have read anywhere of any scandal involving Gani Adams. My integrity is very important to me and I guard it so jealously. I sometimes take a glass of wine; that is all. I have never smoked in my life and if you are a drunkard or a chain smoker, you can’t be very close to me. I don’t quarrel with those who smoke, I don’t do that.
When you wanted to get married, did you have a problem in choosing someone?
I believe that what happened was what God had ordained for me. It was beyond the issue of beauty or any other considerations. I met her when she was studying accounting at Kwara State Polytechnic and I had the feeling that she would be my wife. I watched and investigated her background and found out that she was from a highly religious background. Her mother is a prophetess and has churches while her father is a lawyer. I met her when I was declared wanted when Okiro was the commissioner of police in Lagos State. She was surprised that I could be declared wanted from the way she met me. When I explained to her why I was declared wanted, she said what I was doing was noble and she gave me her support. In fact, she was always with me in the car when I was mobilising underground during those tough days. Although her mother expressed some fears initially, that passed away after she had prayed about it. Her father did not have any hesitation at all and he gave his blessing straight away.
What religion do you practise?
I practise the three religions. If you go downstairs now, you will see Muslims holding prayers. Every Thursday in my house, both Muslims and Christians hold special prayers and vigil. The traditionalists too come to hold their own too. I have many prominent sheiks and prophets praying for me. Last two years, my wife went on pilgrimage to Mecca. Although people expect me to go, I am careful so that people don’t see me to be partial to one religion. But if I go to Mecca, definitely I will go to Jerusalem. I can pray more than many pastors but because I am not too knowledgeable in the Quran. I can pray in the Islamic way to an extent. For the past three years, I never miss 30 days of fasting. My father was a Muslim while my mother was allowed to take us to church. But all of us would not miss the fasting period.