Otunba Gani Adams will today be installed as the 15th Aare Onakakanfo of Yoruba land, one of the most prestigious traditional titles in Yoruba land, last held by the late philanthropist and billionaire, Chief MKO Abiola and chief SL Akintola before him. In this interview with PATRICK OKOHUE, Adams speaks of the importance of the title and what it means in Yoruba land and the difference he will bring to bear as the Aare Onakakanfo of Yoruba land, he also promise to leverage on his new position to encourage more investment by non Yoruba in Yoruba land.
********It will not be gainsaying that you have done well for yourself, is there anything in your past that suggested that you will come to this level of fame?
I never thought I would get to this stage, the only thing I know is that I love my race, I love my country, I love being part of justice and I love a situation where I will defend the interest of oppressed people. There was no premonition, no signal, the only thing that my parents told me, my mother when she was alive is that when she gave birth to me I was in a poll of blood and she was bleeding seriously, and they took her to an herbalist in Omu-Ekiti, after stopping the blood, the herbalist later told her that this child will be a great child, that there was something he can describe as a global star on him, my mother told me this in 1989, and we lost her in 1993.
That was the only thing. The second thing was something I still remember vividly. There was a prophet in our community called Stokoro, Stokoro came to our house I think around 1977 when I was five years old and he said there is a child in this house with a very big star, that they had to take me out of the community within three days or else something bad will happen to that child, that they have to take me out of Arigidi, that was what led me to reside with my grandmother in Irisu Akoko, and that happens to be the place of my mother besides Arigidi, that is all I can remember.
*******At the time this OPC first started, Gani Adams was known to be very militant, you have much troubles with the Police and other security agencies, when you recall that period can you relate it with what is happening now?
That is the foundation of every struggle all over the world, there is no good struggle that will not have their rough beginning, the background of your struggle if you are genuinely fighting for the interest of the people, at a stage the oppressors will provoke you and within the turbulent period you learn lessons, you will know your friends, you will know those who love your race and the cause you are fighting for.
All over the world that is the trend. When you read Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela you will realise that the ANC was formed around 1904, from 1912 to 1950 Mandela was not a leader, he came into the picture in the 1950s, to change the course and the process of changing that course led him into trouble and he was in prison for a period of 27 years, there is no genuine struggle all over the world that will not have its rough stage, a time will come when the government or the state will want to provoke you, at a time you may not have learnt your lessons so that you can apply strategy to your cause.
Even the IRA in Ireland, Gerry Adams, when you talk of liberation in Europe, like Russia and even our independence, the colonial masters called our leaders militants. I could remember from history that Adelabu of Pekelemesi fame, will go to Ikoyi and start drumming on the head of the colonial masters, inconveniencing them in their environment.
We do not get liberation on a platter of gold. When you put your mind so much at what happened in the beginning you will lose a lot of friends, because those who misconstrued you in the beginning may be genuine, but maybe they didn’t understand you. Definitely my beginning is part of the struggle, what happened then are part of what I am today, many Police officers that maltreated me then are my friends now, even many journalists that wrote very negative stories about me then now write very good stories about me, because they were not well informed, so there is no permanent enemy in life, Obafemi Awolowo said there is no permanent enemy in politics and there is no permanent friend, your enemy today can be your best friend tomorrow and your best friend today may be your worst enemy tomorrow, so, definitely you must have a past and if you don’t have a past you will not have a book written about you. It is definitely a part of the routine.
*******At what point in life did you realise that this is the area I have to face in life?
That was in 1993. After the annulment of the June 12 election, that was what led me to the struggle, because that was the first opportunity I had to exercise my franchise as a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and after the annulment I joined the struggle through the Campaign for Democracy. That was the time I built my philosophy and ideology.
******The discussion to become the Aare Onakanfo at what stage did it start with the Alaafin?
It was in May last year, 2017, when I signified my intention that I want to vie for the position of Aare Onakanfo, His Imperial Majesty was laughing, but he later came back to say you have the myth, the spiritual myth, and you have the structure, which is OPC, OPU, Olokun Festival Foundation and with the spiritual myth and the structure you can be the Aare Onakanfo, but I will consult, let me consult the stakeholders in Yoruba land, like the Obas, because I have the prerogative of giving it to you, but this is a title of all Yoruba land. So, it took His Royal Majesty, the Alaafin of Oyo five months to call me back to say that I have consulted the who is who in Yoruba land and now gave me a letter of proclamation on October 15.
********If I get you right you were the one that made the first move
********What does Aare Onakanfo mean to you?
Aare Onakanfo means a lot of things in Yoruba race, it is a platform to unify Yoruba people, it is a platform to defend the interest of the Yoruba people on the basis of justice, it is a platform of a statesman in Nigeria, nobody becomes an Aare Onakanfo without being a statesman, starting from Chief SL Akintola in 1965, he was a statesman, Chief MKO Abiola in 1988 was a statesman, so definitely it is a position that transcends sectional part of the country, it is a platform that you have to look beyond Nigeria, you have to look at the interest of black people all over the world, so it goes beyond Yoruba race. This is a position that has been in existence for about 558 years. How many communities did we have in Yoruba land 558 years ago? The first time they installed Kokoroigongon of Iwoyi, definitely the position is older than many communities in Yoruba land, so it is a title that goes beyond chieftaincy, it is the most respected chieftaincy title in Yoruba land. It is the title that every Yoruba recognises as their own.
You can call yourself by any title in Yoruba land, but it is the only title that every remote village in Yoruba land accept that this is our title, although Kabiyesi Alaafin has the power and prerogative to give it to anybody who deserves it. Kabiyesi consulted with highly placed obas in Yoruba land, he consulted with some stakeholders not only with obas, I am privy to those information, even those who wanted to give some contrary reasons he convinced them otherwise, that this man has done a lot for our interest, even if you are not looking at the struggle, what about the promotion of culture. Promotion of culture and tradition is part of our liberation, he has done well for period of years without any sponsor and he even gave them my actions in OPU which is in 79 countries of the world now, that was the clearance for the general acceptance by the Yoruba people and in the history of that title, we may not know too much about others, but this is the one that is generally accepted by the people, even the government, I am even surprised about the comment of stakeholders and important personalities in Yoruba land.
********When Abiola was installed there was a lot of issues, hues and cries, but your own seem to have general acceptance, how were you able to achieve that?
Well, we have to give glory to God, it goes beyond me to say anything about that, all thanks and adoration goes to the almighty God that allowed that. Because Yoruba is a diverse race, it is such a race that even with what seem like a general acceptance you still have critics, even in a community, we have to give thanks to God and give glory to our ancestors, it goes beyond me. But I will say that the issue of Abiola was a minor issue, just a small case in court and was resolved and the second day he became the Aare Onakanfo.
It’s a title that has precedents, serious precedents, there is no room for argument or unnecessary questions about it, I am the 15th and it has a very strong precedent, Aare Onakanfo has saved Yoruba from a lot of civil war. The only time we lost Yoruba land that was when the Fulani killed Aare Onakanfo in 1824, that was as a result of crisis between Alaafin Arole and Afonja, when Afonja did not take clearance from Arole to attack Iwereinle and in the history of Yoruba land you don’t attack Iwereinle, it is an abomination. It is forbidden for you to attack Iwereinle during war, I don’t know what happened, Alaafin Arole said Afonja should not attack Iwereinle, that was the beginning of their crisis and that crisis later caused Afonja his life in 1824 and because there was no Aare Onakakanfo on ground to protect Oyo empire, to protect the Yoruba land, in 1835 the Fulani went ahead and burnt the entire Oyo empire, that is one of the major reasons we have three Oyo now. Because after that the empire moved from the old Oyo besides Bacita, Oyo Ile and now moved to Oyo Igbowo, then to Oyo Atiba where Alaafin is now. The vacuum of Aare Onakanfo caused the problem, so, when the next Aare Onakanfo was installed, they could have taken Offa from us, the Aare Onakanfo led their warriors to subdue those planning to overrun Offa and Oshogbo, it was through the intervention of Aare Onakakanfo and his warriors and, even before the Kiriji Ijesha war, that was the time we had a serious crisis that the Ijesha voted against Laato Osha, that led to the splitting of Kiriji in 1886, that was the time, that was when the Yoruba stopped their internal civil war and we pray that there will no longer be internal civil war in Yoruba history.
But my own Aare Onakanfo has a precedent of modern Aare Onakanfo, from the time of SL Akintola in 1965, he was not a warrior, he was an astute politician and lawyer, he was given the position because of his quality as a politician and Chief MKO Abiola was not a warrior, he was a philanthropist, politician and businessman, he was given the title. I am coming at the background of activist and cultural promoter. Every Aare Onakanfo has his own unique attribute that can be the reference for approval by the Aalafin. Cultural promoter and the person fighting for the interest of the Yoruba race as an activist, that is my own reference of approval.
*********Mention Otunba Gani Adams in any circle, one of the things that come to mind is that of a modern warrior, it is like you are now shifting to a cultural ambassador, is there any link?
Even with the antecedent, do we wage war against any ethnic nationality without any provocation? You have to trace my history, even when OPC was founded in 1994, OPC started reigning and gaining popularity in 1998, did we intentionally wage war against any tribe without provocation? In Yoruba land we have been living with a lot of ethnic nationalities, most of the businesses, about 40 percent of businesses in Yoruba land is owned by non Yoruba, do we provoke them, do we victimise them if they are not trying to provoke us. Even in their own land, do Yoruba provoke any ethnic nationality they are living with, do you ever see any Yoruba person rising up in the North against the Northerners, do you see Yoruba in the East rising against the Igbos, do you see Yoruba people living in the Niger Delta rising against the people there, so, even with my recent history and popularity as OPC we do not provoke people, I have more friends among the Igbos and Niger Delta than Yoruba, I have some friends of Northern extraction, I am not a tribalist, I am a person that believes in justice, I hate injustice, I will not say because I am the Aare Onakakanfo I will encourage Yoruba to maltreat any ethnic nationality living within our region.
It is against the will of almighty God, every human being is created by God, if you say you want to maltreat other people living with you what about Yoruba people living in US, living in Ivory Coast, Benin Republic and the rest of the places. Any injustice you do against a people living with you, God will do it against your people living elsewhere. A good leader should try to be part of the builders of the nation, I do not know the tribe my children will marry at the end of the day, I am not a tribalist, yes I believe in the cause of the Yoruba, I will first be a very good Yoruba before being a very good Nigerian, but not on the basis of injustice against others, or maltreating others.
Since I was proclaimed the Aare Onakakanfo, I have had more people from other ethnic nationalities that visit me, surprisingly some youths who I have never known came from the North to present me an award and they read a very beautiful speech right in my house, they just called me that they wanted to come and they came from different states, well learned youths, I was surprised and the Igbos residing in Lagos, they came also and you have Joseph Evah leading different ethnic nationalities from the Niger Delta, 71 of them, matured men and women, retired top military men and other professionals, they came here last week, so why should I have ulterior motive about the people living with us. Even in our house here, we have non Yoruba working with us here, even in my business I have many non Yoruba working with me, in my own community most of the people that sell drugs as pharmacy are not Yoruba, we have a lot of them in Ikare Akoko. Yoruba is always very accommodating, it is in our spirit, in our history and in our background, we normally allow non-indigenes to thrive in our communities, in our states, we are not hostile to them and we will not be hostile to them, because anybody who is hostile to non-indigene in his community his place will not develop.
*******After your installation what should the Yorubas expect from you?
Unity, number one, I will pray for unity of the Yoruba race and will work towards it, I have my strategy in my chest, I will make sure I work for the unity of Yoruba race, we have every, because God has given to us, that only problem we are having is that we do not have a united Yoruba race, we will synergy between our people in homeland and our people in diaspora, we will not leave our people in diaspora out of what we are doing, we will carry them along. Yoruba race is about 260 million people all over the world, we are about 60 million in Nigeria, we are more than 200million in diaspora and we you, about 45 percent of people in Benin Republic are Yoruba, 15 percent of the population of Togo are Yoruba, even in Ghana, we traces in Kumasi, when you see our dressing, the similarity in high, in Coite D’voire we have not less than six to seven million Yoruba living their, people who have left Yoruba land for more than 200 years, they can’t even speak Yoruba very well, they speak French and their native language, we have them in Gambia and even in Mali. 18 percent of Brazilians accepted that their ancestral home is Yoruba land, Cuba is like that even majority of blacks in America have their ancestry from Yoruba.
So, that potential is huge for us to develop and manage and even develop Nigeria, not only Yoruba land, we have to build synergy across and give them an atmosphere to convince that that it is safe for them to invest here
Aare Onakanfo means a lot of things in Yoruba race, it is a platform to unify Yoruba people, it is a platform to defend the interest of the Yoruba people on the basis of justice, it is a platform of a statesman in Nigeria, nobody becomes an Aare Onakanfo without being a statesman, starting from Chief SL Akintola in 1965, he was a statesman, Chief MKO Abiola in 1988 was a statesman, so definitely it is a position that transcends sectional part of the country, it is a platform that you have to look beyond Nigeria,
my beginning is part of the struggle, what happened then are part of what I am today, many Police officers that maltreated me then are my friends now, even many journalists that wrote very negative stories about me then now write very good stories about me, because they were not well informed, so there is no permanent enemy in life, Obafemi Awolowo said there is no permanent enemy in politics and there is no permanent friend, your enemy today can be your best friend tomorrow and your best friend today may be your worst enemy tomorrow