As the countdown to next year’s general elections gather momentum, President Muhammadu Buhari has reportedly appointed Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo (SAN), as the Director, Strategic Communications for his 2019 presidential campaigns. By this appointment, Keyamo becomes the official spokesperson for Buhari’s campaign for the 2019 presidential poll. The letter informing him of the appointment was…
National Coordinator of the Oodua Peoples Congress, (OPC), Otunba Gani Adams was recently installed the 15th Aare Ona Kankafo of Yoruba land. For him, the new position is not business as usual, and not to be likened to when he was co-ordinating OPC (Oodua Peoples Congress) and OPU (Oodua Progressive Union). He said in this interview with Sunday Sun that it’s a huge responsibility that will keep him on his toes to protect and project the culture and tradition of the Yoruba race more than ever before. He spoke more about his new office and the state of the nation.
Congratulations on your installation as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo, What does that title mean to you?
Let me take it like this. It’s a title of all Yorubas irrespective of the community you belong, and it’s a title that binds Yoruba people together, traditionally, culturally and even in terms of progress and potentials. It’s a traditional title that has been in existence for a period of about 558 years. Luckily, I’m the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo. It means a lot in terms of status. Even though you are a president of the country your status has changed. If you are a president of a country, the highest as a president will be eight years but Aare Ona Kakanfo, its only God that will determine it, and the time of your death. So, it’s a unique position that every living Yoruba that is bold and brave, will like to attain.
What responsibilities does it come with? What are you expected to do?
I think the first thing is about the unity of the Yoruba race. Second is about the cultural evangelism because a lot of Yoruba do not know why we are having major problem. Some Yoruba people do not know the difference between culture and religion. Some even, because of religion they attack their tradition. Everything that comes with tradition and culture about Yoruba, because of religious fanatics they demonize it. Before, we were doing this, we changed the perception of certain people in Yoruba land. And we made sure that we encourage people about our identity and try to sustain it in future. Our mother tongue is very important. We have to give respect to our mother tongue. Not that we won’t recognize the global language which is English and all those who speak Arabic language based on their religion, notwithstanding our mother tongue, our language is very important and we should be promoting it. The attires of Yorubas, we have to encourage our people that we have to identify with the attire of the Yoruba race. I won’t say you must put on Yoruba attire when you travel in winter. You can keep yourself with any foreign clothes, but when you are still in Nigeria, if you are not a banker, an independent minded person, you have to encourage Yoruba clothes. We have a lot of clothes, Ofin, Sanyan, Alari, even lace, it’s not our products, but Yorubas have taken it over. Ankara, Kampala all these things are very important. Some people may not take it serious but it’s a content of our liberation. Emancipation of Yoruba race has content. You can’t just go on the basis of political agitations. There are certain things that will help your agitation, that will help your struggle to emancipate your people. When your people do not even agree that they are core Yorubas, it will be very difficult for you to change their cycles. They will even be betraying Yorubas. They won’t take it seriously. So, all these contents have to be followed in sequence. And the issue of encouraging our people from abroad and discovering of some potentials. We have a lot of potentials all over the world. Some of the best doctors in Saudi Arabia, in Europe, in the Uk, USA, some of our best products are in the Caribbean countries what have we done to encourage them to come back to the country? What they are listening to abroad is negative news about Yorubaland and Nigeria. As Aare Ona Kakanfo, I will move closer to them to convince them, and talk to our governors and the Federal Government. These are assets for our dear country. Most of the things you look for in expatriates, these people can do more than expatriates because they have been in some countries for a period of 35 years and they have mingled with the system. They are potentials of that country and we can use them here too. We tried to research on our history because there are lots of fictions about Yoruba history. The one we read when we were in school, the one we read when we were learning history is quite different from what we saw when we were moving from community to community, especially Ile Ife, the source and the cradle of Yoruba race. We have to make sure we give our erudite scholars give an authentic history of Yoruba race. Some of the unique communities in Yoruba race, their history has to be documented and put it in Aare ona kakanfo foundation websites. Even the history of Aare Ona Kakanfo we have to work on it. A lot of people believe that when you become Aare Ona Kakanfo you will not live long. I have to correct these wrong impressions. Many Aare Ona Kankafo stayed long in their reign. Like Oyabi; he became Aare Ona Kakanfo in less than 40 years and he left this world in his 90s. Latosa was more than 100 years and lots of them like that. And the issue of Yoruba tradition, casting fetish on us has to be discarded because there is no race in the whole world that does not have their own tradition. The word fetish in someone’s tradition is a process of slavery. There’s no race or tribe that does not have a tradition. Any race or tribe that does not have a tradition has already been in extinct. You must not call my tradition fetish tradition. It’s an insult. When we are running religion, we should use our common sense and wisdom. We don’t put ourselves in slavery because of religion. God created us for a reason, God gave us our culture, gave us our language, and our tradition and part of the structure of our tradition gave birth to traditional rulers, the obas. Are you saying all the obas are fetish products? Are you saying the process of becoming an oba that there is fetishness in it? These are grassroot leaders in every community. The word government in Yoruba was coined out of Ijoo Awon Oba. Ijoba. Definitely we have to correct that impression. Then the issue of looking for those who will reconcile our obas and our stakeholders. I read it in my speech that I want seven of our elders who are less partisan to be either the council of advisers for Aare Ona Kakanfo. Or we call them council of reconciliatory organ and department; they will be saddled with the responsibility to reconcile our royal fathers first. After doing that we move to the next stage, our politicians irrespective of political party.
Is there any conflict among the royal fathers?
We have to expect that. We have nothing less than 6,000 royal fathers. You have to expect conflict among them. Even if we have 100 Obas in Yoruba land they can’t agree for a period of 3 years. Either through history, through boundary, through political differences, they will disagree. So, there must be a standing structure that will move in and reconcile them. A certain structure was not created for it. That was one of the reasons there was vacuum for crises. So, I will try my best in that regard. Communities that have oba are more than 4,000; the ones with baales are more than 2,000. Definitely, you will expect some disagreement, some misunderstanding, and disparity in them. We have to make sure we address it. Even your children at home, within three months they will disagree. There will be a faction among them. Some will say I love mummy, some will say I love daddy. Some will say I don’t want to watch this TV programme and this will cause disagreement. Then the parents will come and resolve it. There’s no zone in Nigeria that does not have their own issues.
What would you say about the Fulani herdsmen killings, because they appear to be instigating war?
I don’t believe in fire brigade approach to issues. An organized society should find a main solution to issues. This is a country and we realize there’s a serious problem and God has given us a solution to that problem but we are reluctant to solve the problem. Don’t forget, we started with the issue of Niger Delta in the beginning of year 2000 and from there Boko Haram surfaced. The government will move to Niger Delta and negotiate with them, they will play down their struggle and when the government does not agree to their terms at the end of the day, they start again. When the Boko Haram came, it was not easy stopping their activities it was purely like a guerilla war. Jonathan managed it and left power. In the inaugural speech of the president (Buhari) almost seven or eight lines were on Boko Haram. He will deal with Boko Haram and he said he will move the headquarters of the Nigerian Army to Bornu State. Everybody was happy that he will find a permanent solution. And the number of people that have been killed even within two years, eight months of his government is more than what happened at the beginning of Boko Haram. Now, we don’t know what is happening. Maybe the same Boko Haram disguised as Fulani herdsmen, because the state agents DSS are saying they come from other countries as Islamic States. How did you allow them in? We are having influx of these people in different states. The report on our desk indicate day by day unknown faces, they can’t speak Hausa, they speak French, and they are bringing like 10 trailers to Yoruba states almost every week. And these are people that do not have any handwork. They are not technical people, they are not shoe makers, they don’t know anything and some Hausa people are accommodating them. The issue of Middle Belt, Taraba, Nasarawa, Benue, if Nigerian government do not take it seriously, the world powers will come in because the quantum of lives that have been lost in that zone is becoming a genocide. Human beings are not chickens. The lives that have been lost in Benue, Nasarawa, and Taraba, if we put them together, will be almost 4,000 people. So any serious government will not sleep on that issue. We saw a signal yesterday, one of our leaders in Yoruba land, former finance minister and secretary to the government of the federation, SGF, Chief Olu Falae about 5 hectares of his farm deliberately they burnt it. This is a retired civil servant. About three years ago, he had issue with these Fulani herdsmen; they encroached on his farm, destroyed his crops and drove away his security. We engaged OPC to secure that place. Was it not three of our members in Akure, they just came overnight and killed the leader and they ran away. That issue brought a serious tension in Akure. The former governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko moved in immediately and pacified the family and members of OPC in Ondo state to the extent they gave the family over 1 million naira, and promised that the government will take over the payment of school fees of their children. Definitely, the issue of Fulani herdsmen is serious. We must not take it lightly. And we don’t know what will happen in the other states. If they could have confidence to come to Ondo State, the state capital that has State Police Command, what will happen to Kogi? What will happen to Edo? I read in the newspapers that three suspects were arrested as bombers who are trying to bomb Edo State. All these issues will not encourage investors to come to Nigeria. I think all hands must be on deck to ensure the menace of the Fulani hersdmen is stopped. We have to try everything that is possible. It’s an issue of security; you don’t know who will be the victim tomorrow. When you are talking about the bushy areas in the rural areas, what of the Fulani and Hausa living in normal areas. They can play funny within the urban area. I learnt that the Senate was planning Security Summit. Some say the Presidency is trying to frustrate them. The summit will unravel a lot of things and information that will help the security agencies to stop this incidence. You don’t need to play politics with lives and property. Look at how the advanced countries handle the issues of politics, issue of light, security, if 10 persons die in the US with a population of 312 million people, it’s always a national issue and if 150 or 200 die in Nigeria it doesn’t catch the attention of the state talk less of the national government. All this are sons and daughters of Almighty God and you are expecting God to reward the country and move the country forward. So, we don’t know what we have done that put us in this mess. Put us in a state of economic comatose. Making every sector of the country stagnant, no light, no water, and the infrastructure cannot be compared to even a country that we are giving money to survive. Definitely, our government has to look inward. The issue of security is very sensitive. Some people said Aare Ona Kakanfo should rise. There’s legitimate security on ground, the government agency. When you rise beyond your power you will run into trouble. We have to be tactical and have the right approach about it. So, definitely we are not happy and we are seriously concerned about what is happening in the country.
Some people say it will come down to South-west because the Afonja of Ilorin years back was killed by same Fulani herdsmen? Are you taking any kind of precaution, working with the government?
It will be a joint effort. It’s not something Aare Ona Kakanfo can just take a decision like that. We are planning, calling ourselves, we plan a meeting of Nigerian leaders to meet and discuss and take a cogent decision. Even in the communities, if the issue of security arises, an Oba cannot just rise up and say you want to do something without calling the chiefs. Even the Balogun of that community cannot just rise without an agreement and instruction of the council of chiefs. So, we know how we will approach issues in Yoruba land. We approach issues robustly not doing something that will be counterproductive. Definitely, we will meet before the end of the week and take certain decisions on it.
Preparation for 2019, Buhari may decide to run again, what is your take on that?
I don’t have comment on it. Anybody running an election that’s not my own business for now. My own business is about protection of lives and property of Nigerians and my people. My own business is how our people will not lose their identity; my own business is about how we can move Nigeria forward and our people forward. I think Nigerians will decide on that at the right time.
Can you comment on the new political party, known as Nigerian Intervention Movement or Third Force?
My attention is not going there right now. Fani kayode is my brother. The new position will not allow me much to speak on partisan issues publicly. There can be a strategy underground but it will not allow me to speak on partisan politics publicly because we have Yorubas in different political parties, we have to be very careful. This is Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland that is speaking. Not when I was the national co-coordinator of OPC. I’m still the national co-coordinator of OPC but this position supersedes any other position. I am as a leader in the organization. I have to exercise discipline, I have to be cautious, think twice before making statements because anything I say will be taken seriously. I don’t want to talk about partisan politics for now.
Talking about OPC they have been quiet for some time, how have you been able to hold the group together to make sure they don’t act out of order?
Thank God for this new position. It will allow us to rub minds beyond party lines. So, definitely, we know our ways and we know how we manage these elections. When election is coming you will be hearing different things. The day of that election, everything will be silent; people will go to their polling stations and cast their votes. By 6.pm people are expecting the results. After results you will be congratulating the winner of the election. It’s always been in the system of any country. It’s most unfortunate that the violent approach has not been eradicated in Nigeria compared to US. US is even bigger than Africa as a continent in geographical spread but they will hold their election without even two, three people dying, but Nigeria as a nation with about 10 percent of geographical spread of US, you notice that in the presidential election, we lost 70/80 people. Figures scattered in different states and local governments. We should know how to minimize crisis. There’s no environment without crisis but the crisis control management is very important. Intelligence gathering by security agencies is very important. You have to nip it in the bud at the right time. Not that when the crisis happens you now move in mobile police. The mobile police at times may not even know how to manage issues. They may approach it militarily, whereas the normal police will know how to persuade them and round them up or use tear gas to dislodge them. Definitely life is very important. The first major responsibility of any leader is to protect the lives and property of its citizens. Anything short of that from the beginning, there will be a minus to the leadership.
How do you spend your time?
The level we are now is different from when I was the leader of OPC and the leader of OPU. (Oodua Progressive Union) You know we are in 79 countries now. And I have a cultural platform called Olokun Festival Foundation. I have my foundation based on charity, Gani Adams Foundation and I have my business, Donis Global Concept. With Aare Ona Kakanfo on board now, it’s a huge responsibility. Definitely, I have to brace up and make sure I meet up with the responsibility. Unfortunately, I was installed when there are a lot of challenge in our dear nation and our own race. So, I have to be meeting some think-tank so that we can prepare for all these issues. It requires a lot of financial responsibilities, sometimes it’s not about money but it’s about strategy and tact, it’s about approach, it’s about the way and manner you manage a position. I have already registered a foundation immediately I got a letter of proclamation. The foundation will have it’s own office which we will call office of Aare Ona Kakanfo. We have different departments that will be working on different issues. With time, I will not receive many visitors in the house. I had my office before, but it was very small, it can’t handdle the responsibility of this new position so, we are getting a new office that will be well equipped for this new position.