Chief Ayo Opadokun, a former Secretary- General of pan – Yoruba socio- political organization, Afenifere and National Coordinator of the Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reform (CODER), in this interview with DAILY INDEPENDENT, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, countered some claims made by the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin on his exit from the group, allegations of anti-party activities and alleged money received from former President, Ibrahim Babangida.
Yinka Odumakin said you never took him into Afenifere. He claimed he had been in JACON where he had close relationship with Afenifere leaders and that he and some other young men were openly received at a rally in Oworonshoki which was recorded by the media. What is your take on that?
The young man is a fraudster, mercenary in all his ways. There is no truth in all that he has concocted. Now that he has presented himself to the public over time as a very senior leader of Afenifere, he has even been charitable to himself to make dubious claims of what he does not represent. I saw one interview that he granted where claimed that he had been in activism for more than 30 years and that if he has any grouse with anybody, it is on principle. Let me tell give you the real picture of what happened. When General Abdulsalami Abubakar released me, after weeks of discussion between the Afenifere leadership in Nigeria and those of NADECO abroad, it took us a long time to decide whether or not to participate in Abdulsalami’s transition programme. When we did eventually, we decided to form a party. The nucleus of what was known as Alliance for Democracy (AD) in Yorubaland, it was the list of the executives of Afenifere in every ward, local government in Lagos and in other Yorubaland that were used to composed the executives of AD in Yorubaland.
The truth is that Odumakin and Dr. Bunmi Omoseyindemi had been visiting me over time. He will come to tell tales about every other person. He was always there when every other person was doing one thing or the other or speaking from the coded information that he gathered. But I tested him by giving him some little writing to do and I thought he could be assisted to grow before I decided to approach late Senator Abraham Adesanya. All the leaders in Afenifere knew that my work schedule was becoming too heavy for me, so they allowed me to bring him in. it was at the same time after we had won the election that some Yoruba young people who are professionals and who are chief executives of their various companies formulated themselves into what they called New Generation. These were by-products of the oppression that Abacha unleashed on our people. So, these young professionals started coming to me.
Initially, they were led by former Ogun state governor, Gbenga Daniel. They come to express their gratitude to what Afenifere has done for the Yoruba nation and that they will like to complement whatever we are doing because they have found us to be trustworthy, efficient , capable and to be able to stand up for what is right at all times. After almost three to four months of their pressures on me, eventually I was able to persuade a meeting of Afenifere leaders that the next phase of our struggle certainly will require much more than what the elderly can cope with. If these young people who have come to appreciate us for what we are doing are of such opinion that they want to come and join us and contribute whatever they can, why not try them? The meeting eventually agreed that I should ask each of the group , because they were two groups namely New Generation and Idile , that both groups should send five representations each into our meetings. That was how they got into Afenifere.
In one of the pan- Yoruba conference that we usually hold in Ibadan, that one of year 2000, Gbenga Daniel gave us a mounted generator on a vehicle which we took to Ibadan cultural centre, that was what we used and didn’t rely on NEPA because of the epileptic nature of power in the country. The programme went smoothly and nothing was amiss. This is to show you how much these young professionals contributed to the group. It was when Daniel now went to contest for governor on the platform of PDP that Jimi Agbaje was asked to be coordinating them. That was the circumstance through which these ones come into Afenifere. I am saying to you that it was Omoseyindemi that brought Odumakin to me and after the trial, I took him to Afenifere. They were under National Conscience Party (NCP) before. When they listened to me and were able to interact with me, we launched the first rally of AD in Gbagada truly. But I don’t know how a Chief Ayo Adebanjo can receive an Odumakin that they never knew before into Afenifere. It just doesn’t make sense. The young man is overpunishing himself because of the consequences of his dishonesty.
Could you please shed light on the allegation that you took money from former president, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida in the tune of N40m?
You as a journalist have a duty to crosscheck that from IBB. I know that in my life, I have never had any close relationship with IBB. What business would I have done to merit IBB’s N40m then? One funny story they brought out then was that I wrote something funny about the Yoruba nation to IBB, when I was General Secretary of Afenifere. And I said that that was insulting and unreasonable. Of all Yoruba people whom IBB has enriched, they cannot write for him. What is so secret about Yorubaland that it is only Ayo Opadokun that can say or write it to IBB? You can see that it doesn’t make sense. Odumakin cannot prove anything, what was the currency of the money? Or was it through cheque? That was a sweeping generalization being made by him. As far as I am concerned, Odumakin is a fraudster. I don’t know what claim he has beem making at Jonathan’s circle. He must have been dramatizing his importance and capacity in Yorubaland.
But the truth is, he never knew what we were doing in Afenifere before I took him into the place. Because he has capacity for great mischief, which I never saw before, and the mercenary in everything, he takes delight in hobnobbing around someone today and singing your praise if he can get something from you. Immediately he realizes that your own is longer suubstantia, he jmpos to the other side. Take a look at his journey, from Afenifere to Pastor Tunde Bakare, from there when Afenifere Renewal Group was formed, he was the Publicity Secretary, lambasting the elders in Afenifere, this uncultured, unrestrained, delusional young man who feels everything was about money and power. Remember all what he said about those in Afenifere, but now I don’t know what turned him over that he has now gone back to the people that he has abused thoroughly. People you have called all manners of yunprintable names in the newspapers, you are now their spokesman. One of things I can say to you is that that young man, Yinka Odumakin is not only an ingrate, he is an inveterate ingrate. Ingrate in every sense. I leave him to God. What God has used me to do in his life. I have no skeleton in my cupboard which Odumakin can reveal because I have never done anything in the closet which I cannot defend in the open.
But what makes you think he is an ingrate? Is it because he refuses to accept that you brought ghinm into Afenifere as you claimed?
When I say he is an ingrate, I must substantiate it. People like me don’t just speak without facts. When he started coming to me, one day he came with his left hand very heavy. And he told me that he and his wife bought a land somewhere and they went there for inspection. It was after visiting the land that his hand started swelling up. He said he had visited surgeons both in UCH and in UNILAG, but they were yet to give him a date when the hand will be operated upon. Meanwhile, somebody introduced a magnetherapist to Odumakin in Ijebu- Ode. So, he went there and had to be in that place for about three months. I will still go there to visit him and give him money. Somehow, he returned from that place, but the hand did not heal up. He came to my house. About two hours after he came, that arm broke apart, blood was gushing out in large quantity. The blood that came out of Odumakin that day was more than a gallon. My steward Segun was there and he is still with me today to corroborate my claim. If not for Segun’s courage that night, it was going to be difficult for me in that house. The bloodstain was just so much. Even Odumakin himself had been totally soaked in his own blood. With God’s help, we managed to contain the situation that day because with the amount of blood he lost, what would I have said if he had died at my place?.
A week thereafter, his wife Joe Okei- Odumakin called me that that hand had started issuing out odour and that it was becoming problematic in their home. She also told me that the magnetherapist in Ijebu-Ode had recommended that if they could visit India, perhaps the unorthodox practitioners might be able to do something about it. Then I was still in Obanikoro and there was no mobile telephone like we have now. I had to send this gentleman here, Comrade Popoola Ajayi to go to Odumakin’s place and give him a letter because immediately after my discussion with the wife, I called then Governor of Lagos, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and discussed the whole issue with him. He then told me that if that was what I wanted to take care of Odumakin’s hand, I should ask him to write a letter to that effect in request. So, Popoola took the letter to his house.
Now, the wife wrote the request letter and went to the governor’s office but they won’t allow her to see the governor. So, when she called me from the governor’s office, I had to talk to the ADC that I have already spoken to Tinubu over the matter, so she should be allowed in. And that was exactly what they did. You can also confirm from the wife if I lied on this. Immediately, she came in, Governor Tinubu invited his Commissioner for Health and his Commissioner for Finance to go and do whatever they had to do in order to get both Odumakin and his wife visa and other necessary things needed for them to visit India. I was told by the magnetherapist that they will nothing less than N2million for the whole treatment. And that was exactly what Governor Tinubu did and Odumakin travelled a week thereafter.
He was the one who told me his experience in India that out of the five doctors, it was only one that said let them open the hand first. The other doctors were asking the wife to sign that they will need to amputate the hand. But one of them insisted that they should first of all open the hand, perhaps maybe not all the two bones had been affected. Fortunately for him, only one of the bones had been affected and the surgery was successfully carried out and the hand was not amputated. That is why till today, he cannot stretch the hand.
But what do we see today? There are no evil things Odumakin cannot say about Tinubu and Opadokun. Let his conscience be the judge as he is reading this. Do we deserve such from such a man? That is to show how ungrateful and mercenary that young man is. Also confirm this from his wife, I was virtually his father on the day of his wedding in Ilorin. Nobody showed up. My friend, Prof. Olu Obafemi from University of Ilorin was there with me when we did the ceremony. I can’t say everything here on the pages of newspapers but people like us, we don’t lie. There is no basis for me to peddle any falsehood against any human being. Now, the reason Odumakin and his ilks were disparaging me was because I have exposed them for what they are as mercenaries, that Yoruba nation did not send them to endorse President Jonathan based on the reason they gave for the endorsement. I have not said anything that is untruthful. For Odumakin to say I have poked my finger into his mouth, let him say anything he knows about Opadokun. All I know is that I am fortified by God against human mischief. It has never paid before and it will not pay now.
What about the allegation that you were engaged in anti-party activities and that when you were summoned to appear before the committee that was set up, you refused to appear which led to your expulsion?
I was not Secretary to late Adesanya, I was to Afenifere. Sometimes in 2000, Offa Descendant Union under the leadership of Chief Emmanuel Adesoye of Okin Biscuit set up a committee to propose to the general house about Offa’s future, politically and economically. That committee’s recommendation was that Offa people who have always been for the progressives and the people they have been cooperating with, that is the western part of Nigeria since the Third Republic have never shown any interest or even recognize the pressures that Offa people are making. They consider that it was in the best interest of Offa people to collaborate with former Mohammed Lawal, he first Ilorin Parapo foundational Ilorin owners offspring, who was then governor of Kwara State. They agreed that by the time he finish his second term, they will support another authentic Yoruba side of Ilorin to run for governorship. When I was given this information, I said this is a very serious matter, having regards to the role that God is using me to play in Afenifere. I told them that I will like them to come and meet with the leader of Afenifere, Senator Adesanya. I brokered an appointment for them and they came.
Senator Adesanya said if that is the general opinion of Offa people and they want to utilize Lawal to reclaim the glory and honour of Yoruba people in Kwara state and Ilorin in particular, that is okay. He even said they should invite him and he will come and campaign. That was all that happened. In that circumstance, Chief Cornelius Adebayo strongly believe that if the Offa scheme was taken up very strongly, because the people in Offa set up what they called Kwara South Self- Determination Group, so Adebayo thought that if the scheme succeeded, whatever political image he has might thin out. I also remember that before we commence one Afenifere meeting, I told him about what my people have said.
From all information I have gathered now, it was Adebayo who went to call the people I sponsored into office as chairman and councilors. I was the one who financed the entire thing in 1998 for us to win the local government council, two seats in the Kwara state House of Assembly and we won everything. At the rally, Adebayo went to meet with them that they should write a letter of protest that I was no more fraternizing with them and that I have been offered the post of deputy governor to Lawal after the election. Now, the Kwara Self Determination Group decided to organize a reception for me. That day, they invited Lawal and he was with us from 12 midday till about 9pm.
When I was invited to make a remark, I told them that ‘you know I am an Afenifere to the core, that is where my orientation lies, but you as a person whatever you want me to do, not as a partisan ANPP person, but on a personal level, let me know’. That was how some people started shouting that I was encouraging Offa people to go to ANPP. I now told them that you have contempt for Offa people, they cannot be led by the nose. Why can’t you set up a committee here to go to Offa and ask Offa people? A committee was truly set up under Ganiyu Dawodu, Olu Falae and Dayo Adeyeye was asked to be the secretary. But instead of going to Offa people to ask them, they said how can they go to Offa? So, they went to Ilorin which Adebayo provided for them and they asked me to come to the place. But I said I will not allow myself to be humiliated. They were not the ones who brought me to Afenifere. When those people came with their reports, they said Senator Adesanya, Ayo Adebanjo and Opadokun should lead the Afenifere people to go and appease the Offa people not to go to ANPP, that was the recommendation read by Adeyeye. But Papa Adesanya flared up saying ‘he will not do anything like that. How can a General Secretary be encouraging people to go to ANPP?
That was on a Monday. That night, I saw that we have come to an irreconcilable position. I am first of all an Offa man. What happens to my community is of greater importance to me than any other thing. So, I thought I had to call it a date and separate myself. I wrote a letter and I asked Popoola to go and give it to Senator Adesanya at his home. He delivered the letter to Head of Chambers and he promised to give it to Adesanya. Only for them to go to Ijebu- Igbo and when Adesanya’s attention was drawn to the fact that I had resigned and it was even published in national dailies, he said he had not received any letter and they said they removed me from office as Secretary General of Afenifere. At that reception, every attempt was made to make me disagree with Adesanya, but I rejected it. If the likes of Opadokun now claim that I was sacked, it is unfortunate. I am not jobless as they are.
Odumakin also said you removed a page from your memoir Freedom Jail which indicted Tinubu on Ejigbo NNPC fire. How true is that?
That was false. That is why I said that boy is full of mischief and he is a serial fraudster. It doesn’t make sense for me to do that. Can you now sell such a book? It was the same Odumakin as one of my assistant for the launch of the book at Muson Centre handing over the books to people. Why didn’t he boycott it out of principle?