Otunba Gani Adams is the National Coordinator of the Oodua People’s Congress, OPC. In this interview, he absolves the OPC of any form of attack during one of its rally in Lagos.
He also reacts to the allegation by the All Progressives Congress, APC, that it collected N9 billion from the presidency to destabilize the South-west. Excerpts:
Angry reactions greeted the protest rally your group organised in Lagos, but what informed this rally?
We protested against the shortage of the Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs. More than 5 million in the South West have not gotten their PVCs, likewise, there are shortages of the PVCs in the South East and South South. In the North East, which is the base of the Boko Haram insurgency, INEC has says it has distributed close to 90 per cent. But in the South west, states like Lagos state has not gotten up to 60 per cent of the cards, it is only Ondo State that has gotten up to 75 per cent of their PVCs and the elections is just days away.
The second issue is that of under aged children, who have been registered in the North which is against the stipulated age of 18 years who are eligible to vote in Nigeria. Another is the illegal creation of the 30,000 polling units for the north by the Professor Jega-led INEC. These three cogent reasons, if not solved can affect free, fair and credible elections on March 28.
But why are you just protesting now?
We addressed a press conference believing that Jega will address the issue. Rather than address these issues, the Arewa Consultative Forum decided to portray us in bad light saying that I was seeking relevance.
But the All Progressives Congress, APC, accused President Goodluck Jonathan of funding the OPC to destabilize the South West, how true is this?
The APC should be very careful with their remarks. These are childish allegations. Because we held a peaceful procession, the APC spokesperson issued a statement that the Federal Government has given us a N9 billion contract.
But is this true?
There is actually a contract but it is not N9 billion, the contract is to secure the pipelines in the South west. People in the South south have been benefiting from it, the contract issue did not only arise now. The APC had earlier raised alarm that the federal government should not give us the contract and that was when the Navy and Army were brought in, but when the damaging of pipelines continued, oil theft and vandalisation in places like Arepo, Atlas Cove, they realized that this job should be given to the communities. They also realized that the OPC has members in all of these communities, government decided to approve the contract.
The contract is only meant to create jobs for the unemployed and save our common wealth. We are talking of losing N1.3 trillion annually from theft of crude oil and they believe that the money is not too much to protect our pipelines.
That is the reason APC is raising dust that N9billion was awarded. The contract will be three months for test running.
The APC decided to misinform Nigerians so that those who would want to join the rally would believe it withdraw. They wanted Nigerians to believe that the rally was economical but it is not. We thank that God put them to shame.
But is it true that during the rally, some of your members vandalized billboards of the APC?
Sensing that they did not succeed in stopping the rally, because they felt we did not have large followers, they sent pictures of a rally that was held in 2011. This was a rally held in 2011 by a group to protest that Boko Haram should not come to the South west.
It was alleged that some traditional rulers were financially induced to endorse a president Goodluck Jonathan’s second term ambition. What is your take on this?
That is one of the damages the APC is doing to Yoruba land. Where is the evidence that traditional rulers were given $250,000? Have we gotten to a stage where we damage the integrity of our traditional rulers?.
The late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, did not abuse any traditional ruler in his days. The traditional rulers are fathers to all irrespective of party affiliations and their subjects have a right to bring their candidates to pay homage to the monarchs.
Nobody stopped Buhari not to visit the Ooni of Ife, the Obubadan of Ibadan, the Soun of Ogbomosho. I don’t know where the APC got the information that our traditional rulers got $250,000 to endorse Jonathan. WhT is $250,000 to the Ooni of Ife? The monarch is a multi billionaire even before he became the Ooni of Ife. Likewise the Alafin of Oyo, the Awujale of Ijebuland, Alake of Egba land. What will they do with such paltry sum?
With due respect to the APC, they should not derogate our traditional institution. They are the custodians of our tradition and culture, they should not damage our traditional institution because of their ambition. You have the right to convince anyone who does not support you but you should not assassinate someone else’s character because he or she did not support you.
The APC should desist from these acts because we have done a lot to propagate the culture of Yoruba land and sustain our heritage. I don’t see any reason that anyone who did not support Tinubu or Buhari’s ambition would be alleged of financial inducement. That was how they alleged that Afennifere and Yoruba Council of Elders collected from Jonathan. They even accused the President of frequenting the South-west.
I was coming to that, why do you think the president has been visiting the South-west at the slightest opportunity especially in the last three weeks?
When you know the importance of the zone, you should constantly visit the place. As a good politician, you have to seek support. Jonathan is not the kind of person that will sit somewhere and expect to win. For you to judge your popularity, you need to meet the people and interact with them because the last chunk of the votes comes from the South west especially Lagos State.
The president has realized that he must not lose Lagos and that is why he is consistent in Lagos state to meet the people. I think that is part of his strategy and I think the APC can borrow a leaf from them, they are too confident in themselves.
But why is the South west divided between Buhari and Jonathan?
It has always been like that. There is no candidate in the history of Nigeria that a zone will have hundred per cent support.
In the 2011 presidential election, we had some people in the South-west who voted for Buhari, Ribadu and Jonathan, it is always like that.