by Tunde Fagbenle
We need not detain ourselves with the antecedents of Chief Gani Adams. Suffice it to say that he is the leader of a faction of the (once?) dreaded Oodua Peoples’ Congress known by the acronym OPC, an ethnic organisation he reportedly co-founded with Chief Frederick Fasehun, a medical doctor turned political activist.
A child of circumstance, OPC in its early days (of years now gone by) was the ethnic militia that stoutly defended the Yoruba (Oodua) people’s interest and territory whenever and wherever that was individually or collectively threatened, particularly in the horrifying years of the late maximum ruler, General Sani Abacha.
Their method and means were traditional orthodoxy – a reliance on native charms and amulets (juju), local and modern weaponry, and large doses of myth. By and large, they saved the face of the Yoruba even when many of us (especially of the educated elite) frowned on their emergence, their import, and the future ramifications.
It wasn’t long before a crack appeared in the “freedom fighters” leadership leading to their breakup into two factions, one led by the educated and “moderate” Fasehun and the other by the then barely literate and ostensibly more radical Gani Adams. (Since then Adams has sent himself back to school to beef up his English if not much else). But, either as a result of the fissure or of changed circumstances soon after Abacha suddenly and mysteriously died, the “freedom fighters” had neither freedom nor fight left in them, and their OPC became as tepid as their separation – in appearance only.
On the part of Fasehun, he overnight shockingly turned coat first pleading and fighting the cause of Major Al-Mustapha, the arrowhead of Abacha’s murderous goons who was facing murder and sundry criminal charges, in a manner that made many wonder what age had suddenly done to his faculty. Not done, and evidently broke, he has been running to Abuja and parleying with the Federal Government of President Goodluck Jonathan for succour, something that has now handsomely paid off for the OPC (both factions) in the alleged multi-billion naira contract for “pipeline security” of the South-West zone.
For those who had been observing the turn of circumstance and of mind of Fasehun, the mouth-watering contract didn’t come as a surprise. What was little known was that Gani Adams had also long shed his “radical” toga to partake in the booty, and on account of that ready to support and defend Jonathan’s second term ambition.
Adams did not deny OPC getting the multi-billion naira contract. Facing television cameras during Monday’s Anti-Jega / Pro-Jonathan mass demonstration in Lagos that paralysed the commercial and business metropolis for most part, Gani Adams attempted to justify their new wealth and political position. I took the trouble to transcribe his outburst to capture what sense or nonsense lay within. Hear him, verbatim:
“The allegation is that the Federal Government gave us a contract, pipeline security… most of the security agencies responsible for protecting the pipeline have failed. People are dying every day. Nigeria are losing more than N3b every day from illegal vandals.
“The agitation of that contract started from Dr. Frederick Fasehun about three years ago. You know bureaucracy of Nigeria ministry. It is a process they have just granted it. And it will empower nothing less than 5,000 from my own side. When you collate it together it’s about 15,000 job for Yorubaland. Will you deny Yoruba youth to get a job of 15,000 because of politics?
“…We have our own right, as a citizen of this country. We are not part of amnesty. The Niger Delta have been enjoying amnesty packages in billions of naira which dime was not even given to OPC. And we have paid our price, supreme price. The casualty we have in the struggle is more than Niger Delta. So what is the benefit for the Niger Delta that should not come to South-West?
“This is a process to empower our member and our youth. And the job will go beyond the member of OPC, non-members of OPC who belong to that area will be incorporated. So why are they crying foul on spilt milk? It’s a process to empower people, to even bring all these hooligans out of the street, unless they don’t want good Nigeria because of politics.”
Mumbo-jumbo? Methinks not. Rationalisation? Yes, of course. But it will be wrong to dismiss Gani’s logic completely. As I was saying to a group of dons at the University of Ibadan senior staff club during their usual lunch time chitchat on the country’s affairs, implausible as it may sound, Gani and his OPC may have come to the conclusion that Nigeria is going nowhere and their best bet is to partake in the booty whilst it lasts supposedly to help in their “Oodua” cause.
But the Monday demonstration spearheaded by Gani Adams, under the banner of a newly contrived “Coalition of Concerned Nigerians,” belied any altruism. First and foremost, Abuja is the seat of the Federal Government (and Jonathan) to whom the demonstration was being addressed, not Lagos. Secondly, Monday is the most important day of the week for a working Lagos and that was the day Gani and his horde of protesters chose to paralyse Lagos and inflict untold hardship on his people. Some of the so-called protesters were menacing, carrying assault rifles, cutlasses and other dangerous weapons – yet unmolested and without check by lawful security forces.
The Yoruba that Gani Adams and his OPC swore to protect bore the brunt of the mayhem unleashed on their Lagos. But also, as another don at the UI staff club sniggered, “Gani and Fasehun must be trying to impress on Jonathan: ‘see your money at work o! ” Sadly, the reversal of roles is complete!
What the demonstrators that looked more like hoodlums were ostensibly protesting against was the continued retention of Prof. Attahiru Jega as the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission that would supervise the forthcoming elections. Their attempt to disguise themselves as non-partisan but for a “free and fair” election fell hollow as some protesters (rumoured to be more hired outsiders than true OPC members) went about destroying some billboards of the All Progressives Congress, the opposing political party to Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party.
Gani tried to cloak any ulterior motive with a veneer of justification when the interrogator asked him why his organisation chose to stand Lagos still.
“We are doing that to register our displeasure against the activities of Prof Jega of the incoming election on January 28 (sic). We realise that there are 6 million South-West have not got their PVC. In the South-East, about 22% haven’t got their PVC; South-South about 25%. And the election is just 11 days to go. So we are calling on president Goodluck Jonathan to remove him immediately. He should proceed to terminal leave on the 24th of this month so that credible person can organise this election. We don’t have trust on Jega anymore, with his activities. We have a lot of people in my house that doesn’t have their PVC. We have some estate that they are crying. When they went to INEC they said their system is corrupt. So for you to deny nothing less than 15m their right to franchise, definitely he’s not competent to be in that position. He has been infiltrated. And for the past 3 days APC as an opposition started defending him. That give us an insight that what the ruling party say against them that they hold meeting in Dubai is true. Because they don’t need to defend Jega, Jega have enough resources, they have the media department to defend himself. We are telling government that we don’t want crisis after the election, we don’t want chaos, we want the president of this country to remove Jega immediately. At least on the 24 of this month, so that a credible Nigerian can conduct this election. The process is on; it cannot be truncated. The template is there. But he at the helm of affairs he’s going to be removed (sic).”
When asked if he was aware that the president could not constitutionally sack Jega, Adams waxed lyrical, of someone confident in his mission:
“Based on terminal leave, he has the right. On 24 of this month he have the right to be removed and somebody can take over. It happened when the CBN (governor) got to a stage of terminal leave he was removed and another person took over. The president have the constitutional right. But he may not have the power to remove before on 24. But on the 24 he has the power to remove him (sic).”
The remorse in Yorubaland is how the land has come to this? Would the Gani Adams and Frederick Fasehuns of this world be the new face of its leadership and bulwark against the threat to its competitive advantage and prosperity? That much concentrated the thoughts of a Yoruba summit convened by Gen. Alani Akinrinade in Ibadan on Thursday, March 19. As for the elections still holding? The jury is out! And that’s saying it the way it is.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija