Otunba (Dr) Gani Adams is the National Coordinator of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC). A delegate to the 2014 National Conference, he spoke in this exclusive interview on the state of the nation, why his group supported former President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 presidential elections, agitations over Nigeria’s restructuring and other issues, and the Senate’s call for legislative action on the 2014 confab report.
As a delegate to the 2014 national conference, what is your reaction to the call by the Senate on the Presidency to resubmit the confab report as a Bill?
It gladdens my heart and I want to use this medium to commend the National Assembly for its decision to recall the recommendations of the last National Conference that took place in 2014 with a view to adopt some of the recommendations documented after the confab. I believe the composition of the Conference was the best so far in Nigeria and it is better than any other political gatherings that the county has ever assembled. The future of Nigeria is in the hands of the federal lawmakers. We should stop deceiving ourselves, the future of Nigeria as an entity can only be guaranteed if the various yearning of all components of the Nigeria union has their agitations met. It is only wise for the federal lawmakers to critically look into the set out recommendations of the confab which I have the honour to participate in so as to pacify everybody. Aside assurance of national peace, it will also aid the rapid development of the nation.
By this action, the 8th National Assembly is on the verge of writing down its name in gold as the saviour of the unity of Nigeria. They should move beyond paper talks and be proactive and adopt the needed agitations which will assure all to want to remain under the union called Nigeria. Since they are the real representatives of Nigerians, it will be a plus for them to be on the side of the people and move the country forward he opined.
You campaigned for former President Goodluck Jonathan during the 2015 presidential election. Two years after, many Nigerians are groaning over the change they are receiving from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) under President Muhammadu Buhari. Can you say you have been justified?
First of all, let me make a clarification here. It was not the entire South West that supported President Muhammadu Buhari during the 2015 presidential election. We can easily quantify it as ratio 60:40. 60 for President Buhari and 40 for former President Goodluck Jonathan. Even when you look at the overall result of the election, it was still 60 to 40. The APC had 60 percent votes while the PDP and those who voted for Jonathan, who was seeking re-election as president, had 40 votes. I believe it is only an insane person that will not agree with me on what I said before the election. Everything I said then was just like a prophecy and they are coming to pass now. I have nothing personal against the person of President Buhari and I don’t have anything I am targeting to get from Jonathan if he had won the election. We were pushing our position based on ideology. Since it was a two-horse race between Jonathan and Buhari, we placed both candidates on a scale and weighed them; the one who believed in the ideology of restructuring of Nigeria and the other who doesn’t believe in it. I have been fighting this cause since 1993. One of our cardinal aims and objectives is restructuring of Nigeria. Even before 1993 that I joined the struggle, the issue of a national conference has been on. It was an idea from the late Alao Aka- Bashorun in 1991 and we all believed that it is the only panacea to the myriads of problems confronting Nigeria as a nation. Now, we see a president (Jonathan) who gave us a blank cheque to go to the conference and discuss anything that needs to be discussed in moving Nigeria forward, except the indivisibility and unity of Nigeria, which is non-negotiable. Throughout the five months we spent at the conference, he (Jonathan) did not interfere in the discussions, he did not bring his personal agenda. Even when his people in the Niger- Delta went to him asking for support on the issue of derivation formula, he refused, saying that he will only abide by the decisions taken by the entire country at the confab. He vowed that he will not use as his power as president to influence any decision or suppress any section. He told them to go and fight their case at the confab. At the end of day, we agreed on 633 recommendations that will move this country forward.
But some Nigerians have also wondered that if truly Jonathan was sincere about the implementation of the recommendations, why didn’t he implement it before leaving office?
When Jonathan started his campaign for the presidential election, he promised that he will implement the recommendations of that confab if Nigerians ask him to continue in office for another term. On the part of President Buhari, he was silent about the recommendations throughout his campaign. Even when we were having the conference, he condemned it in its entirety. The National Coordinating Council of the OPC now saw between the two candidates, someone who believed in our ideology of moving this country forward and another, who does not; who has a centralist-minded ideology. That was our yardstick in declaring support for Jonathan and it was not only my decision. Take the recommendations for example; the recommendations were divided in three parts- One for the executive arm of government, one for the legislative arm and the third for the judiciary. The Federal Executive Council approved that of the executive part of the recommendations. When Jonathan was voted out, he gave the documents to Buhari, telling him that it is the most important document among every other thing he is handing over. So, he has played his part and I don’t believe those who said he deliberately failed to implement it before leaving office.
What really do you think made Nigerians who have always wanted true federalism vote for Buhari who was silent on the issue?
I believe our people were blindfolded; and it will be unfair to blame them. This is because our people, especially those in the diaspora keyed into the garbage propaganda of some of our selfish politicians in the South West. Some of this propaganda includes the one that says $49b was missing in the NNPC; another is that of the abduction of Chibok girls. We also have the issue of insecurity especially as regards the Boko Haram insurgency in the North- East. These are the three primary issues they used against Jonathan that made him lost out in the election. We know all these allegations were false and a calculated attempt to remove Jonathan from his position. We told our people all these but unfortunately, they refused to listen to us. They recruited some young guys who are adept in the use of the social media. They put these ones in situation rooms; tell them what to write, tell them who to abuse and also feeding young ones with lies and propaganda and so on. A lot of lies were peddled against me especially by then spokesman of APC, now Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
What are some of these lies?
If you remember, two days to the presidential election, Lai Mohammed said we have recruited some OPC members that will be given army uniforms in order to rig the presidential election. When such a weighty allegations is leveled against someone, ethics of journalism requires that you call the accused to hear his side of the story so as to have a balanced reporting. But unfortunately, most of our media did not bother to confirm from us and rather allow the lies to fly. By the time we want to make our clarifications, they will tell us that the false statement from Lai Mohammed has already gone into press. Two days to the governorship election, another story emanated from the same Lai Mohammed that I, former President Jonathan, (Musiliu) Obanikoro and Chief Bode George held a meeting to rig the governorship election against (Akinwunmi) Ambode. We also tried to state our side but the media did not publish it. On the day we were planning to hold a protest against some loopholes which we believed will lead to electoral malpractices such as over-age registration, creation of additional polling units in the North and shortage of Permanent Voters Cards for the entire South, Lai Mohammed also issued another statement that I collected N9.6b to organise protest against APC. After the protest, they also lied that we deliberately destroyed the billboards of Buhari and Ambode. They also said that we were brandishing all kinds of weapons and turned Lagos into a war zone. What we had was peaceful well-coordinated protest. The last time we had that kind of protest was in 1993, following the cancelation of the June 12 presidential election. Nothing less than 300,000 people turned out for that protest. They did all sort of things to tarnish my image. They even gave money to some OPC members that were expelled as far back as 2007 to be organising press conference abusing me. One of them, Shina Akinpelu, was even issuing statement from Ibadan challenging my authority and the media machinery of APC was coordinating it. We got wind of their spokesman in Lagos (Joe Igbokwe) who organised a press conference for them in one hotel located at Acme Road. When you use propaganda to clinch power and you don’t desist from that propaganda, it will turn Nigeria into a laughing stock in the comity of nations and that is already happening now.
Don’t you think the conference is flawed because many leaders in the South who have always called for restructuring don’t want the report implemented?
I was so surprised that some of our people that fought against military rule, that even went on exile are supporting what is happening now. Look at someone like John Odigie- Oyegun; he was a prominent chieftain of NADECO. Now that he is the national chairman of APC he came out to say that he does not believe in true federalism, which was one of the main agitations of NADECO then. What has changed between then and now for Oyegun to come out and say ‘Restructuring Nigeria is not APC’s priority for now?’ Oyegun should realise that he is getting old. He should be concerned about what posterity will say about him. He is not the only one; even some of our senators are saying toeing the same path because of party affiliation. There is a difference between party affairs and ideology. Look at someone like Shehu Sani, he is an APC Senator, yet he still follows his ideology. He is still very consistent with his beliefs. Look at what Atiku (Abubakar) said on true federalism. In fact, he was very detailed than many of us that call ourselves comrades. He gave a detailed explanation on concept of restructuring and how it will work. So, for President Buhari to come out and say that the outcome will be kept in the archives is worrisome. This is a document that 492 eminent Nigerians sat down to work on. Amongst them were three retired Judges of the Appeal Court, one or two retired Supreme Court Judges, lots of retired Federal High Court judges, 15 to 20 Senior Advocates of Nigeria, more than 50 professors, more than 25 permanent-secretaries, some of the retired service chiefs were also there. We also have first class monarchs from the six geo-political zones, civil society groups and elder statesmen, including my humble self were there. Within the period of five months, we reached consensus on 99 percent issues at that conference. The only issue that almost caused crisis was the issue of resource control. To solve that, we gave a blank cheque to President Jonathan to establish a technical committee that will advise the presidency on it. And to imagine that this is a recommendation that President Buhari said will be kept in the archives. I believe the voice of the people is the voice of God.
What is your perspective on the anti –corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari?
Obviously, the anti-corruption crusade is one-sided. Every day you get pissed off with what you read in the media about the anti-corruption war. War against corruption is a welcome development but don’t use it to witch-hunt. When former president Jonathan was in power, he never tried to shield anyone from prosecution. Even his party members were prosecuted. We expect a holistic fight against corruption, not by shielding some people or lying that there is no single corrupt person in your government, even when people have the dossier about these corrupt persons. Even when some people forwarded petition to the EFCC on these corrupt officials, the presidency refused to give clearance for their probe.
Lastly, what advice will you give to President Buhari going forward?
President Buhari should try and write his name in gold in the book of history. Those who are advising him today because he is in power will work against him tomorrow when he is out of office. Look at majority of the people who were members of former president Jonathan’s kitchen cabinet; they have decamped to APC now. I was so surprised when I heard what one of Jonathans’ strongest ally, Chief Edwin Clark said about him just three months after leaving office. Most of the people that Jonathan empowered have left him for APC. Even some senators that were appealing to us to support Jonathan then are now in APC. That is politicians for you. I am advising President Buhari to carefully read the history and antecedents of our politicians. They will misadvise you and when the problem comes, they leave you in the lurch.Share on Facebook